How Did We Make So Much Laundry??? Dirty, Dirty Girls

Today was our last full day in Nepal and it fittingly began by washing clothes and scrubs in the bathtub. It was following washing clothes that we realized how dirty we have been. The brown/black bathtub water and sand/gravel/dust that coated the bottom of the tub reminded us of how much we still love to play in the dirt. After double washing and rinsing the clothes and scrubs (and the water STILL not being clear), they were hung outside on the clothesline on the balcony. Thankfully there was no one below to receive the shower certain people got last week.

After breakfast of rice and curry, we decided to do some shopping on the street (by ourselves!) and compile a few items for the girls of our host family in Nuwakot (Binita, the 14 year old daughter of Sudarshan’s oldest brother, Pabrita, Sudarshan’s youngest sister-in-law, and Sudarshan’s oldest brother’s wife). We were proud of ourselves that we were able to shop and walk in the streets without being taken advantage of (Gin spent a LOT of time bartering), or being run over by the very eccentric (i.e. crazy) drivers.

Back at the house the package was wrapped for the girls of our host family using left over fabric shopping bags (they give them for every major purchase!). It consisted of 3 English books (they were very interested in practicing English, especially Binita who often walked around with a Nepali/English dictionary), 3 specialty pens, 4 scarves, and 2 tennis balls. We did a little packing and planning for the next day, then left the house to meet up with Sangita. She had high hopes that we would be fluent enough to be able to catch a bus to where she worked on our own… we were not.

Instead, we compromised, and walked to the corner where the bank is – a major crossroads where all kinds of routes drop off/pick up. Given that tomorrow we will begin looooong journeys stuck with lots of people in cramped spaces, we elected to take a taxi for about 45 minutes to get to a tourist favourite of Kathmandu, the Monkey Temple. Our taxi driver was a super star and could easily have been a stunt driver in many action films, including any of the Fast and Furious movies.

The Monkey Temple gets its name due to all the monkeys running freely around the temple. It was quite the sight to see, especially if you are not used to monkeys as the standard wildlife. In addition to monkeys, stray dogs and a few 8 week old puppies were wandering around the temple. It was very interesting to see dogs walk through a group of monkeys, like the monkeys were not even there. We think it would be beneficial if the monkeys picked external parasites (such as fleas, ticks, and sarcoptic mange mites) off of the roaming dogs in addition to picking parasites off themselves (no more need for Ivermectin!). The temple was very interesting, and the best part was that we climbed hundreds of steep stairs to get to the top to be able to admire a view of Kathmandu. The view from high up was the first time we were able to get a decent idea of the city layout (and size! It is massive!). However, we continued to be confused by the city layout and were no closer to understanding the area of the city (or where we live), nor the logic used to design it, after viewing it from above.

We were able to purchase several paintings of Nepal-inspired subjects and landscape from a local dealer (and Gin put her skills to use – but we aren’t sure if that just meant that we paid what a Nepali would pay, or if we got a deal), then rounded the traffic circle yet again (in a taxi) to return to the house. While waiting in a traffic jam we saw our first horses of the entire trip. Two police officers or military personnel were riding Bay (brown with black points) horses, one man per horse, down the middle of the crowded street against traffic. This seemed like a bad idea to Gin and Tonic, however not out of the ordinary for the Nepali people (according to Sangita – who barely looked up from texting on her phone).

After dropping off all of our merchandise at the house, all of us then walked down to Sangita’s favourite Thai restaurant to meet up with Sudarshan and Rabindra for a final supper in Nepal. While we were waiting for the boys to show up, and downloading pictures and videos from Sangita’s phone, a fly flew by then seemed to drop dead in midair and land in Gin’s water. It was quite funny but unfortunate that we needed to discard most of the water in the glass (which was expensive bottled water). On a positive note the incident provided more than half an hour of conversation, and interesting acting out and hand signals as Gin and Tonic, the witnesses of the incident, tried to explain it to Sangita, the waiter, the host of the restaurant, a second waiter, and Sudarshan and Rabindra (when they arrived). The joys and challenges of language and culture differences continue!

We gave the package for the girls of our host family to Sudarshan (i.e. to Rabindra to remind Sudarshan) so he could take it to his extended family the next time he went home or find someone traveling in the vicinity to pass it on to. After supper Gin and Tonic tried to arrange a taxi cab (with Sudarshan and Rabindra’s help) to the airport the next morning. The problem was that most cabs were very small (think hobbit or clown car), and could not fit the one remaining bin (we managed to downsize!) and our large packs. Apparently the larger cabs, like the one we took from the airport when we first arrived, can only be caught at the airport. Also, there is no way of contacting a cab driver (i.e. by phone book, 411, or cab company) unless you know the cab driver and his phone number.  Rabindra suggested (and Sudarshan finally agreed) to go to the airport and get the number of a cab driver with a larger cab, and then text it to us. Yay!!! Hopefully this works!

Packing continued after we returned to the house, and Gin madly tried to finalize details for putting her house on the market back in Canada, then Gin and Tonic both coughed themselves to sleep. We are not sure if we have the combination of a “cold”, and inflammation/irritation of the trachea and lungs from the smog and dust ,or just the latter but we have been congested and coughing since we returned to Kathmandu after our stint in Nuwakot (Tonic even began wearing a mask in true Asian fashion!) Anyway, this seems quite normal since most of the locals seem to have a chronic cough.

Take care!!

Love Gin and Tonic

Money, Money, Money and Noise, Noise, NOISE!

Thursday morning began with a trip to the bank to withdraw some Nepali rupees so we would have enough money to pay our interpreter, buy food/meals, pay for transportation, and buy local Nepali crafts and/or art to display/auction off at V.A.S.T. fundraisers. The loud city sounds, and smoggy and dusty air seemed more noticeable today compared to the quietness of the hilly countryside where we spent last week. The mooing, blaaaaating, cockadoodling, and groaning (buffalo) have been replaced by horns honking, and the occasional siren. The ominous singing and preaching from hillside temples (5:40 – 6:15 am) replaced with dogs barking, people talking, and soooooo many motorcycles.

We had an interesting discussion with our housemate (another Canadian, teaching school aged children grades 5-9) about teaching grade 7 and 8 children a Justin Bieber rap song (God help us all!). Apparently the Biebs is popular amongst Nepali children. Juanita, the teacher, said the grade 5 class is difficult to control, and she would like to take a fire hose and spray the whole class every morning to calm them down. At that juncture, Sangita arrived (preventing possible inappropriate suggestions) and we left the house for more adventures in Kathmandu.

The carrying of boxes continued, as we (of course) left the house with a box of left over veterinary supplies to donate to a lucky Nepali veterinarian. Our amazing tour guide/interpreter Sangita, was actually able to hook us up with a veterinarian at the only vet college in Kathmandu! It was an exciting visit and a guard even met us at the entrance to the campus (and Gin voluntarily relinquished the box she was carrying to be examined).

The school is actually an agriculture/vet school where students can choose to complete a three year agriculture degree or continue on following the three years of agriculture for two more years to complete a Bachelor of Science in Veterinary Medicine. We enjoyed a tour of the school and noted the pickled animals, parasites, and tumours in the various labs. The ag students were participating in a lab where they were making sausage and dressing chickens properly. Don’t be fooled, a properly dressed chicken is not one wearing a suit and tie, but naked with no feathers. Apparently aggies everywhere know how to have a good time.

Following the tour we had tea and a very productive discussion with the small animal vet/professor and the directorate of animal health for Nepal (at least we considered it productive – poor Sangita was wishing that she hadn’t found the school!). We discussed the work we had done in the Nuwakot district of rural Nepal, disease concerns in animals in Nepal and Canada, and funny (subjective term) vet horror stories. The visit to the vet college lasted a little longer than anticipated (as mentioned Sangita almost feel asleep), but it was well worth it given the information exchange, networking,  and the potential for future collaborations.

We continued on our journey (without the box) to a non profit organization call SAATH. We are not sure what that stands for however the organization works with marginalized children, women who are in the sex trade, children affected with and effected by HIV and AIDS, and people affected by the April 2015 Earthquake. (SAATH loosely stands for “Support Together”). We had a tour of the several story house-like building where women were sewing clothing and bags and other members were practicing drama, given to us by the founding woman of the organization. The facility was very inviting with bright colours and motivational quotes decorating the walls (how can you go wrong with a motto like “hakuna matata”??). There was even a music room with instruments where people in the program could go to relax and rock out. Many of the women had no skills initially when they began the program, however, following a year of training were able to sew clothes and bags. The clothing and bags even have an official tag on them with the name of the group. The kind and inviting women in charge of the program told us about an upcoming fundraiser and quenched our thirst with mango juice boxes.

We enjoyed a late lunch following the SAATH visit at a restaurant with a sketchy curtain and back room. Only time and the toilet will tell if that was a good idea.

Darkness enveloped Kathmandu by 5:45 pm, and we enjoyed watching the night life on the streets while looking for calcium citrate for Gin (she has consistently had low calcium since a thyroid removal 7 months ago), and art or crafts to bring home to Canada to be displayed or auctioned off during V.A.S.T. fundraisers. Tonic attempted to convince her that she should go and get checked, since there had been some numbness and cramping in her hands and feet, but true to form Gin bolted the opposite direction every time we neared a clinic.

We made our way back to the house by a combination of bus and walking. The moon looks amazing tonight since it is about ¾ full and orange. We are not sure how Orion is hanging out in Canada right now, but here in Nepal he is lying on his side, like a centerfold pose for a pornographic astronomy magazine (damn the fact that he isn’t an actual person).

Good night and don’t let the bed bugs bite (although they may have been biting Gin last night given the welts on her legs)!

Love Gin & Tonic


Savage is the word of the day, or at least the word of the morning. We were leaving Nuwakot district at 10:00 a.m. and had a large list to accomplish before doing so. We started the day by randomly stuffing belongings into our hiking packs, hoping we were leaving out the materials needed to finish the morning’s activities (because being bin-less for the last few days we have started to become somewhat OCD with nothing to rearrange or pack).

At 7:00 a.m. we began the assembly line shot gun approach to medicating every animal related (not related by blood, since that would be a Disney movie) to our host family. This group of outstanding animal individuals included about 15 goats (blaaaaatt), 2 buffalo, 2 cows, and 3 calves (2 bovine and 1 buffalo – to our surprise they listened to us!! And the calf not only survived but is thriving!). Of course to Tonic’s dismay, there was no time to treat the chickens and roosters. However, the chickens and roosters looked the healthiest of them all; ignorance is apparently bliss as well as health. We finished all of those treatments in a record time of 1 hour, possibly a veterinarian Olympics record. Suddenly… just as we were prepared to raise our arms in triumph… there were two more buffalo to be examined and treated, each in different locations living on the hillside. We knew there was no time to do the sudden buffalo vet work and catch our ride back to Kathmandu, however there was also no way people would understand that explanation. So we explained the situation in English, so no one could understand, then hurried away down the hill… sliding down the very steep parts on our bums like any good Canadian tobogganing in the winter. No wonder we are known as the weird foreigners.

In true savage fashion, we prepared for our showers at the communal water pipe and packed up our garbage from the week to burn on the way to the water. A hole was dug in the soil, the garbage was placed in the hole and a fire was lit. We felt guilty using that method to get rid of the garbage, but the locals said they often just throw the garbage in the river. Gin also burned all of her clothing, except the clothes she would wear after the shower. She had to get rid of the clothes anyway before flying to New Zealand, and it made sense to burn them rather than carry additional weight in her pack during the hike to catch our ride. Hesitantly, we listened to the locals as we left the unattended fire to clean up in the outdoor shower and finish packing – this went against every instinct Gin had, given being raised in the mountains with fire awareness coursing through her veins. Sometimes however, it’s really fun being so irresponsible, especially when you can blame it on cultural differences.

Yet again, we left for our ride before Sudarshan and Rabindra did, and showed up at the school (the location we were supposed to meet the driver) unsure of what time the driver would show up. After the heavy lifting and reorganizing of the bins had been completed, the boys appeared… acting as though they had planned to arrive at that time. Being polite, unassuming Canadians, we finally realized it was time to start assuming. The boys never did intend to help us, and spent the entire week conveniently avoiding any physical labour required to help out. At least Sudarshan’s youngest bro was very helpful with the farm animal treatment, and very polite.

Had we known what the ride back to Kathmandu would entail, we may not have been so eager to catch it. We may have done more than dilly dallied on our way. We thought we had experienced it all in Haiti; however we had some harrowing adventures yet to be experienced. Too many sharp corners and steep cliffs with shifting sand dunes for roads brought a whole new meaning to the phrase, “arrive alive”. Since when is it a full body workout simply being a passenger? At least our driver was a rock star, and received more phone calls during our 4 hour, 35 km ride back to Kathmandu than Justin Trudeau did after Trump won the election… (Did that really happen or will we find out it was just a really bad dream? For both of the previous comments.)

On arrival, we discovered that not only did we not have a key to the house, but we didn’t have a key to the main gate. Sudarshan had left his motorcycle in the yard while we were away, and was somewhat dismayed at the idea of having to come back for it. So after Gin manhandled the motorcycle through the narrow human gate, with Tonic giving directions regarding the angle for the front wheel (seriously who are these guys?) so they could leave, it was time to begin the overall disinfection process. This occurred out in the front yard in full view of the boys hostel next door, where a number of the residents have taken up hanging out on the balcony and watching what the crazy foreigners will do next.

In the week since we have been gone, the house has become a haven for opera singers fronting as folk singers, and loud mouthed gypsies practicing yodeling in the middle of the hallway. Our excitement about empty and clean zip lock bags continues, however they may be used (not for their intended purpose) to suffocate loud people over night. On that note have a great sleep. We hope you trust your neighbours.

P.S. We learned today that a woman was the first person to climb Mount Everest. Apparently she was Nepali. Unfortunately, she died on her descent due to bad weather and never had time to celebrate.

Love Gin and Tonic


Another Day, Another Goat

Tonic started out the morning washing socks on the rocks… which is really nothing like whisky on the rocks… nor is it as fun as it sounds, as you precariously balance on the slippery side of the mountain while trying to ensure that everything is clean but you don’t get soaking wet. While she was doing this, Gin somehow got roped into treating 5 goats in the front yard… which also led to her examining the youngest child who had been up all night with a fever. Unfortunately there was little that could be done for any of them.

After this, we waited for breakfast until 9am – but the entire household had disappeared. This was problematic as we had made an appointment to see a buffalo at 9:30am… 50 minutes away.

So being worried about being late, we left without breakfast… only to be called when halfway there because apparently Sudarshan’s mother was worried about our lack of nutrition (and more about the potential wasting of food). We arrived at our clinic site, but of course we were the first ones there. Our Western concern for timeliness is obviously misplaced here.

The clinic today was also delayed as we needed to shift a huge pile of scrap metal to make room for a safe place to hold it. Ironically despite moving it, people kept attaching their goats to it and left them to roam over top of it. This was somewhat frustrating, as every time the goats got spooked, they tried to bolt and sent chunks of metal pipe flying, causing tetanus hazards for everyone around. Somehow the clinic had also been placed in front of the local “watering hole”, and beside the school toilet, and so we had a consistent trail of random adults and students trailing through the workspace – that we also had to worry about ducking the metal missiles.

This clinic, patients had to be coaxed to come – and so when they started, it was kind of like diarrhea… they just kept coming all at once, and wound up overflowing everywhere. We mention diarrhea somewhat facetiously, since there has been a lot of it in the week we have been here… (not us yet, knock on wood). And a crazy number of people arrived without animals, just wanting drugs. We have apparently become the doctors for all species on the hill… which included everything from cats to people… and a few hobbits and Gandalf as well. However unlike the true Gandalf, this one expected us to treat his calf for him.

On the way home we stopped for tea yet again at a student’s house. Interestingly, everyone in this community seems to run a shop from their house. Very entrepreneurial really… While roaming the mountainside on the way back, we discovered that for some reason the bins followed us, despite our agreement that they could stay where they were to be picked up by vehicle tomorrow on the way back to Kathmandu. So confusing.

We spent a couple of hours sitting and chatting with the family this evening, about life, and politics, and the future. And we had another dance session with Binita – which was mostly her firing Nepali words at us and demanding to bhangra (dance).

We also discovered that our previous driver decided to bail on us, and so a new one had been found. However this one has decided to arrive at 10, rather than 1pm… which rather upsets our morning appointments (and hoped for shower).

So we have made friends with our gecko Gregg, and he is back to spend the last night with us… which is probably a good thing as otherwise we might find ourselves carried off like in Gulliver’s Travels – except this time by ants. Which we have discovered it is not fun to have ants in your pants….

Anyway, tomorrow needs to start early as apparently we have a zillion exams to do before 7am.

Sleep well…

Love you all.

GTS xoxo

Onwards and Upwards… Again… And Again… And Again…

Workshop number 2 was to begin at 9am… which meant we thought we should eat at 7am, so that we could begin walking at 8am, to arrive by 9am. However, due to technical cooking difficulties (which we don’t really comprehend) breakfast wasn’t started until 8am, which meant we ate at 8:30am and didn’t leave until 8:50am. Ironically we were still the first ones there…

In fact we had time for tea, and for the headmaster to clean the area we would be teaching in, before the first participant even arrived. We discussed randomly going out and grabbing people to participate at one point because we didn’t want to talk to the wall, although we would have been willing to talk to the goats. They potentially would be more excited about everything we say than some of the people we talk to.

The group this time round includes a woman, which we were very excited about! And some very interested young men. It also includes an older gentleman who because he has a friend who is a “veterinarian”, feels he knows everything there is to know about all things medical. So far we have managed to rein in our urges to keep him under control. Tomorrow during the clinic may be a different story.

Discussions today were a little more like pulling teeth than our previous group, however this bunch has a much better grasp of English, and so they seem to understand what we are saying and only look to Sangita for details in translation. This has caused some hilarity as they understand what we are saying, and we have no clue when they are making jokes (sometimes at our expense).

Throughout the day Tonic had a devoted group of child followers… this included the walk to the school, as well as during the sessions, and going home. The most interesting situation occurred when she attempted to go to the washroom, and wound up with what amounted to a small village escorting her there, and then patiently waiting for her re-emergence from the building. One almost expected them to break out into applause and song and dance at her appearance. Gin got to go alone.

The practical sessions also didn’t go quite as planned, as the initial exam was to be on a buffalo. Unfortunately the one we were going to look at wanted to kill us, so we were deciding what type of restraint to use when suddenly some random guy decided to go get his buffalo because she was “well behaved”. So after finishing the exam on the calf, we went to the main square where he had brought his cow and she was definitely NOT well-behaved. Add to the issue there was no where to secure her, and a pile of rusting metal bars that were tetanus wounds waiting to happen, and WE were having none of it. So the gentleman suggested we go to his house where he tied her to a short stake…. And still there was nowhere to restrain her, and no one was willing to assist in tying her. Needless to say we did not examine a buffalo today. We did get to examine a very patient goat. Her kids were not patient, and seemed to understand what was in store, so every time they were caught, they ran away. Even the chickens made themselves scarce, which is the first time we have ever seen chickens disappear here.

After the session we were asked to go visit some sick goats. We said no. We were very proud of ourselves, since this was the first time we have been able to use that word here. Of course the only reason we felt comfortable doing so was because Sudarshan’s brother had asked us to look at his buffalo, who supposedly had a prolapsed uterus. On arrival, she too wanted to kill us (what is it with all of these herbivores wanting to eat meat… the community doesn’t eat them, so really they should be much more loving towards us). However, she was moving around enough Tonic could assess that she was not in a poor state. Her calf on the other hand was trying to die. Gin’s examining of it elicited an attempt to nurse, however it was very weak and dehydrated. This made Tonic excited at the potential opportunity to tube feed it, but no one was capable of grasping either the necessity, or the action. So… it is likely we will be passing a dead calf tomorrow…

Our walk home today was actually in daylight! And we were escorted all the way by Tonic’s entourage, which seems to grow and change like an amoeba with every few steps. At least we are feeling well loved.

Now we are contemplating dirty socks and smelly scrubs. But washing things is somewhat more complicated than simply throwing them into the machine – and the idea of trekking over to the communal shower pipe in the dark for clothing is less appealing than when it was about us getting clean. So it is likely we will just continue to be smelly.

Hope you all are feeling as well loved as we are today.

More soon.

GTS xoxo

Who Needs Rest Anyway?

Today we were supposed to dig a hole (for a toilet for the school), ascend a mountain (to see the view), repack the bins (to get organized for tomorrow’s workshop in the next community), and play Dr. Doolittle (by visiting all the sick animals on the hillside). However we realized early on that this list of things was unlikely to happen, given the length of time it takes to walk up and down the mountain…. So unfortunately our trip to the summit got discarded.

Instead we had a bit of a lazy morning, slowly getting organized… and finding a variety of small tasks to complete. However in the midst of doing this, we were horrified to discover our wee family member (who is maybe 3) happily playing on some logs full of rusty nails. This is in direct contrast to yesterday when he was happily bouncing on a string of fence wire on the side of the cliff, or the day before when he was poking corn cobs into the fire… Obviously the Nepali custom of child rearing is a little more laid back than a more Western view – and this child is completely unafraid of death and is living life to the fullest. Either that or he has decided to become Evil Knaevel reborn, and his family just can’t keep up.

In an effort to be absent should disaster befall little E.K., we left to go to the school to complete our first tasks (dealing with the bins, and retrofitting the bucket with the filter that Ritual Energy provided us with). We hadn’t gone more than 1/3 of the way before we got kidnapped to go deal with a sick buffalo. Since we had disappeared, the guys sent frantic texts wondering where we were, thinking perhaps we were lost somewhere on the mountain. Apparently the answer “Lila’s house” was sufficient to tell them exactly where we were, as Sudarshan and Rabindra arrived within a few minutes. While at “Lila’s”, her next door neighbour came over and reminded us that we needed to all go see her buffalos as well. However given that Gin was also busy treating Lila’s daughter (who had had a nail stuck in her foot a few days past), this took a little while.

These two households had the most unimpressed buffalos ever… But it was not even 10am and we had three animals already examined, with treatments done.

We finally got to the school, where it took us longer than anticipated to sort through the bins and deal with the filter. We were actually trying to make it easier – so that only one bin would need to be carried to the next community, rather than both. This meant that the bin ended up being a little heavy… so feeling bad, Tonic fixed our box from the vet store (it had fallen apart) with several layers of duct tape (only Canadians!) and we put half of the heavy stuff in it to distribute the weight.

Once done we gave the filtration bucket to Laxmi Miss (the head teacher), who seemed somewhat confused but tried to look grateful. At the same time, we somehow agreed to go look at her cow (actually we think that Sangita, Sudarshan and Rabindra just randomly agree to our help for us… and we are gullible enough to just follow along).

While waiting to go to her house we ended up somehow going halfway down the mountain (WTH??) to go look at another buffalo and some goats. The path to this house was somewhat precarious and Sangita slipped and fell several times. This was concerning to everyone as we had visions of her tumbling all the way down the mountain and needing more help than we were carrying in our little backpack (since all of the medical supplies other than ivermectin were still in the bin in the school).

At this point Sudarshan was feeling badly that we wouldn’t have the chance to see the view from the very top of the mountain, and so he took us up a small hill (where apparently the very first Nepali king won his major battle). Of course he couldn’t help himself, and had to try to convince Tonic to climb the side of the hill that was a sheer rock face… only to laugh hysterically at her hesitant response.

This brief rest was only preparation for a climb back up the hillside to see two more buffalo and a cow. By this time our supply of both ivermectin and patience was starting to run low, and when we had to spend half of our time trying to get small children and chicks out from underneath buffalo hooves, we were a little bit short.

This was the point that the guys decided to leave us to go make sure that everything was arranged for tomorrow. Meanwhile we trekked over to Laxmi’s house to look at her cow, and have tea. It is the custom here that everyone offers a meal and tea if we even walk past their house, and especially if we have examined their animals. This is very humbling and generous, and incredibly difficult to refuse, and has meant that most days we are returning home in the pitch dark. If you could see the paths that we walk, you would understand why this is a concern.

Thankfully, we arrived home with enough time to get to the communal showers (and interesting experience in and of themselves – where you attempt to get clean while still wearing all of your clothes) before full dark. However the walk home was made in the dark, and for Gin in bare feet, as someone had borrowed her thongs and the ones she was wearing were somewhat slippery. She is now a true Nepali, having negotiated a trail in bare feet.

At the house, we spent an hour or so having a Nepali-English lesson with Binita (Sudarshan’s eldest brother’s daughter). She is very interested in us, especially Tonic, and spends as much time as possible engaged in attempted communication. We then had dinner and a long conversation about Nepali customs, and what had actually occurred as far as schooling, marriage, and family with all of the “wives”. It was quite the eye-opener, as it was also shared that it is believed that white people are emotionless droids that promiscuously share partners randomly every night… so much for wholesome American television sharing the American dream.

On that note, it is time for us to go engage in our own nightly dreams…

Sleep well – don’t let the ants bite…

Love to you all

GTS xoxo

Loud and Yet the Silence is Deafening

Crickets are loud…

Especially when there are millions of them echoing off mountain peaks…

It was yet another day just begging for a number of stinging nettle encounters and half-assed tumbles/slides down hillsides. Not that we don’t love it here, however we are discovering all the things to avoid through practical experience… multiple times. Unfortunately this includes plant materials, substrate, and insects who appear to have a hate-on for Canadian veterinarians.

That said… the people seem to love having us here – especially since we appear to also be fodder for much laughter on their parts. We are actually very proud of our workshop trainees – they did a phenomenal job, and were very engaged throughout the entire experience.

Today began with utter confusion as we had absolutely no idea what time we were starting or if there would even be any patients. But since we figured that maybe it should start at the same time as the workshop had, perhaps we would aim to be there by 10am. So we left for our “10 minute walk” at 9:15am… since we have discovered that here in Nepal you multiply length of distance in minutes by 5 to 10. We got there at 9:50am 😉

Only to discover that the trainees (hereafter called dwarves) figured it was starting at 10:30am (which means they wouldn’t be there until 11 or 11:30am). This meant that Tonic had time to head up the mountain to check on an immovable buffalo, while Gin attempted to get organised. By the time Tonic got back, two of the five dwarves had arrived and they and Gin had seen 5 patients. Tonic’s arrival coincided with the appearance of the rest of the group. This meant that after a quick briefing, the entire show was off to a crazy start.

The focus of having the dwarves really practice everything they learned meant that things were sometimes painfully slow, however by the end of the day things had settled into a working rhythm that resembled something similar to organised chaos. But people were happy (except those we told their animals were likely to die), dwarves were happy (except for the one whose animal had a deformed testicle), children were happy (except for the ones who got told off for running straight through the examination area and causing a mini-stampede), and we were happy (except when getting gored by rambunctious mini-goats).

Despite the fact that we truly feel that farmers generally know their animals well, there were many times when we had to simply put our foot down and say “no…. this is NOT normal… and I took an oath… I am now a doctor… and I cannot say this is normal. You might not need to worry about it… but… it’s not okay.” This was generally in response to being told that “this is normal in Nepal….” Cause no…. retained testicles are never normal…. Umbilical hernias are never normal…. Deformed or missing epididymi are never normal…. Anemia is never normal…. Etc….

Once the clinic wrapped up (and of course we ended with a herd of 12 goats… all suffering from diarrhea and coughing), we headed over to the house of one of the dwarves, where his buffalo had been speared in the inner thigh with a bamboo. He had asked for help cleaning and disinfecting it, as there was no way to do it on his own. Luckily we were able to rig up running water, which made the process a little easier, though we really would have preferred to be able to hobble the bull (to prevent him from kicking). As it was, we created a long handled scrub brush using the same piece of bamboo that had actually speared him, and a surgical Betadine scrub brush. Ironically we were informed that in Nepal bamboo is poisonous – after all, that must be why the wound wasn’t healing. As we were explaining that the wound needed to be kept clean and free of flies, our intrepid trainee decided that included keeping the tail away from it. So he grabbed the scissors he had been given in his training kit and began hacking away at all of the tail end hair…. It was both startling and hilarious at the same time (since that really wasn’t what we meant for him to do… nor the purpose of the scissors). It all worked, he was happy, and yet again we were invited in for tea, requiring that we make the trek back to our house in the dark.

Somehow we had forgotten that this might happen, and had neglected to take our headlamps. This time however, the route was straight down, rather than a zigzag path… which resulted in several slides, some mad scrambles, and a whole lot of praying (Rick would be so proud). We got back to the women of the house doing a mad cleaning (likely because all of the men had been up having tea with us – so they were finally out of everyone’s hair). We tried to hopscotch over their cleaning to avoid disrupting any piles of dirt, and sat down to take a look at the photos from the day. While doing so one of the girls decided to join us, and now we have been christened with new names “Monkey” and “Dog”. We will leave it to you to figure out who is who….

Time for bed,

Love you all…

G&T xoxox


ps… if you don’t hear from us again it is because on a daily basis we discover new and bigger creatures entering our window… It began with tiny ants… then large spiders… and now lizards. While we are fully aware that the natural order of things requires that the ecosystem remain in balance (i.e. the ants will be eaten by the spiders, and the spiders by the lizard), we are somewhat hesitant to discover the next animal as they are increasing in size exponentially….

Walking, Workshops & “Why Not?”

So we left off while waiting for our ride to Nuwakot…

Eventually the driver arrived… and a little while later Sudarshan and his best friend Rabindra did too. To honest, we were somewhat frustrated as we had wanted to arrive early afternoon in order to get a sense of where the first workshop and clinic would be held (we had hoped to leave Kathmandu by 8:30am). Unfortunately since we did not leave our place until 12:45pm… that was unlikely. Multiple other stops meant that we did not leave Kathmandu until close to 1:30pm.

It was agreed as we went along that this had been a terrible delay, as we discovered Haiti does not have the market on impassable roads when headed to remote locations. In fact our driver finally refused to go any further for fear that his vehicle would be unable to get back out. Between the sand hills, large boulders, river crossings and sharp drop offs, we really couldn’t blame him. However, this meant that there was still another 3km to walk with all of our gear – over very rocky, sometimes treacherous, and generally steep trail. Somewhat thankfully our arrival had been noticed by the school children… as a result we admittedly engaged in child slave labour, as each of the young boys took turns lugging the bins of equipment up the hillside. Even their enthusiasm waned after 20 to 30 minutes of back breaking work, and randomly we lost them… one by one. Perhaps if we had thought to bring candy along we would have stayed more popular.

After awhile Sudarshan gave up and suggested that we just leave the bins in the middle of the road… and he would send his brothers and cousins to come and collect them. As he has 5 brothers and innumerable cousins, this seemed like a sweet deal. And given the bins ended up exactly where we needed them, we can’t really complain. Lol…

Getting to his house, we met Amma-gee (his mother), two brothers, several sisters-in-law, and a seemingly endless stream of cousins and other relations. Everyone was incredibly friendly and helpful, and eager to tell us all kinds of important information… (such as “don’t fall off the mountain” and “you should have come by the other road”). All laughs aside, they have tried hard to include us and make us feel like family. We even spent a couple of hours sitting all bunched up in a small room watching Nepali soap operas. Gin kept everyone entertained by providing a synopsis of the storyline based on facial expressions alone – to the extent that at one point Sangita elbowed her and told her she needed to stop because if she laughed anymore she would wet her pants.

The ladies of the house had been fasting with prayers to Lord Shiva, to ask for their husbands’ long life and good fortune. We were lucky enough to get to participate in the breaking of their fast and were included in part of the ceremony. It was very special. Tonic especially loved the popcorn.

After such an arduous day, we exhaustedly fell asleep at 10pm… in a room where we even had beds! Sudarshan’s family’s home was completely destroyed in the earthquakes, and they are still in the process of rebuilding. But with such a big family they have made sure that there are plenty of beds, and so we have our own little room at the top of the house – which is comfortable and warm (did we mention how lucky we are?).


Today dawned bright and early, earliest for Tonic who got woken up by both Sangita and Gin’s side effects of being sick (between coughing, stuffy breathing, etc… the two of them apparently sounded like hibernating bears). The view however was spectacular – and worth getting up for.

The trek to the school, where the workshop was to be held required that one was equal parts mountain goat, acrobat, and log runner… and very reminiscent of the first community visited in Haiti. At one point Gin’s thought process ran along the lines of “this is beautiful… ok… this is crazy…. Ok I am crazy…. What the hell was I thinking?? I am sick… am I going to die here? I am dizzy and I am going to fall off this mountain…. Even though they told me last night not to….”

On arrival at the school, we were greeted with smiling children excitedly presenting us with saipatri (garlands of marigolds). They were over-the-moon to have us using one of the classrooms at the school where they were also learning. Within an hour we had a full room of listeners, in addition to the 5 workshop participants being trained. And over the course of the moment we were informed numerous times how happy and proud they were to be there. Apparently this is the first time that any real capacity building and community empowerment has occurred for them. We were simply happy that they were interested, engaged, and willingly discussed any and every topic that we threw at them. And because they had been so attentive, when it came time to the practical portion of the workshop, they were all fairly quick studies. Hopefully that learning carries into tomorrow’s community clinic.

We wrapped up the workshop a little later than expected, as our patients kept wandering off… as roaming animals are apt to do. However, even once headed home, random and sundry people kept popping up to ask us to stop and examine their “sick” animals. It became simply expected, as our entourage’s attitude was “why not? That’s why we are here…”. In the end it wound up being good practice, as the participants were able to see the concepts we had discussed applied to real cases.

And apparently it is an honour to host us, as we have already been asked to stay for meals, tea, and overnight in multiple other people’s homes. We even received the gift of a chicken for dinner from one student, while sitting and having tea with another student Krishna and his wife. It was dark by the time we headed home, and even though it was only perhaps 200 yards away, it was a 10 minute walk, as we had to negotiate rocks, several cliffs, and a stream.

It’s now late (10:30pm!!) and we are all nodding off… Life starts early here and tomorrow is another long day. We are all sick now (hopefully just sinus colds) so we had best get some sleep.

Love to you all

GTS xoxo (we thought Sangita deserved to be included!)

Leaving on a Jetplane

Hi everyone!

So another V.A.S.T. journey has begun following a short night at the Days Inn in Calgary… after a music/silent auction/V.A.S.T. fundraiser/post PhD bash for Jasmine at the Car Club in Airdrie, Alberta (an amazing venue by the way for anyone looking for a cool place to party!). Jasmine, Tyra, and the infamous V.A.S.T rubbermaids boarded a shuttlebus to the airport at 5:10 a.m. along with some very patient individuals waiting to load their few, paltry belongings on their ways to sunny holidays. The poor porter had to actually stand on one rubbermaid to ensure that everything fit inside the luggage rack.

However despite this VAST (pun intended!) quantity of luggage, thanks to the wizarding Black Magic of a friendly Westjet employee, Carolyn, no luggage fees were required and everything was checked all the way through to Kathmandu. Our attempts to repay her with a juice box were in vain as she had already disappeared into a poof of smoke. The other employees looked at us in suspicion as we offered the juice box (who was not invited into security) to them, thinking we were out to poison the team. Believe it or not we both managed to make it through security without any undue excitement or scandal.

Ironically it was Tyra who took a little bit longer boarding the plane, since someone had tried to change her name (and steal her juice boxes!) without her knowledge. The previous long days (weeks!!) of insanity finally hit as both of our eyes closed prior to the plane wheels even leaving the tarmack. In Vancouver we had to walk 3 miles to get to our next exit gate (going from one end of domestic arrivals to the far end of international departures), however, it did not matter since no food was available yet. We could buy alcohol, chocolate, and imported Venetian blinds but no breakfast… So now we are currently in search of Nemo, within the Vancouver airport… while waiting for the next leg of the adventure to begin. We will have patchier wifi access than we did in Haiti, however we will update as often as possible!

lots of love,

ty & jas

And We Are Off… Hopefully?

So today started early… not having completed our ritual daily packing/unpacking of the bins, Gin could hardly sleep. Add to that the uncertainty of a ride, and what time the transport would actually arrive, and the anticipation was too much. So while Tonic ran stairs (creating antipathy with our previously “socialized” neighbour), Gin attempted to create a tetris-like packing of the bins to accommodate the extra supplies that were purchased…. unfortunately she had already accomplished this and there was no additional room to stick anything else. So instead the famous “buckets” became a source of focus… and these tentative diamonds in the rough/wannabe bins were put to use as inanimate sherpas (sans donkey).

Sangita arrived at 8:30am, after an exhaustive night of translating all of the necessary workshop and community documents into Nepalese (unfortunately this is one language we cannot help with). Since we received a phone call indicating Sudarshan was stubbornly sticking to his 11:30am arrival, she was encouraged to take a nap. However she is having trouble sleeping due to our intermittent giggling. If Pierre-Richard and Phillip were here, we would definitely be told to stop showing our teeth.

So we will pick this up when we return!


G&T xoxox

Medications… and Boudhanath

In preparing for our trek to the communities, we started the day with laundry… this involved hand washing in the bathtub… which actually lead to Gin doing some bathtub slam dancing (think winemakers squashing grapes) when her hands became tired from squeezing. After the rinsing was completed, the laundry was hung up outside to dry. As most people who have ever hung laundry know, the moisture drips to the bottom of the garment… and given Gin’s hands were tired, the clothes weren’t necessarily wrung out as thoroughly as they could have been…

Now downstairs from us an older Chinese gentleman stays… who randomly goes to the washroom without closing the door, and spends a considerable amount of time snorking (if you don’t know what that is… you are better off not knowing as it causes Gin to retch every time she hears it). Anyway… suffice it to say this individual has not endeared himself to our heroines. As the laundry was drying both Gin and Tonic would periodically go outside to squeeze the excess moisture. However, on one such occasion Gin did not realize that the said gentleman was actually outside under the balcony getting organized to leave for the day. as she squeezed her hoodie, about 500ml of water cascaded down onto his head. She had already turned away as he jumped startled staring at the sky to question where the sudden rainfall had appeared from. Meanwhile on the balcony across stood a Nepali man watching, who called his wife out to enjoy the show of the strange foreigner who was creating localized showers over poor unsuspecting travellers heads… His wife just shook her head, likely thinking that these girls had been poorly trained if they couldn’t even properly wring out a t-shirt prior to hanging it on the line.

While the laundry was drying we attempted to get somewhat organized for the day, however we were derailed by news that Trump was winning the election. This caused a reaction rather like that of individuals watching a python strangling its prey… grotesque but you simply can’t tear your eyes away. Thankfully Sangita arrived in time to distract us, and we headed off to buy drugs (veterinary of course). This lead to a bus ride of epic proportion as rather like a clown car, more and more people ended up sitting on Gin’s lap.

We spent considerably longer at the pharmacy than intended, as they didn’t have exactly what we were looking for to get rid of parasites and so there was considerable discussion regarding what we wanted to teach and how much…. of course it didn’t help that we also engaged in a political discussion with the guys in the shop once they announced that Trump had actually won. Seriously??

Anyway, we were quite excited about our purchases, and even more excited to learn that there was actually a veterinary pharmacy shop quite near where we would be teaching our workshops – so the participants would actually have fairly good access to what we use during the clinics. On the way back to the house we attempted several times to catch a taxi, however none of them wanted to stop as it was such a busy street. This turned out to be lucky for Tonic, as she had the opportunity to see her first free-roaming monkey. Of course it also meant that she had her first opportunity to jump madly out of the way as said free-roaming monkey made an attempt to snatch her hair at the same time Gin was taking a picture. Truly one of those moments you wish the camera had been rolling…

After dropping our packages back at the house we ventured into a different dining establishment, figuring 3rd time lucky. And we were! Almost everything on the menu was capable of being gluten-free with little discussion. A great meal, and then we hit the road to go see Boudha… an older, spiritual and historical area with a large temple and statue which devout individuals circle multiple times while praying. We made it around twice before deciding to wander through the shops in search of buckets.

These buckets had been Gin’s focus for several hours, however Sangita had held them hostage as a carrot for good behaviour. They will be a part of the structure of the water filters that we are providing to the communities due to our sponsorship by the guys at Ritual Energy. After finding the buckets we had wandered so far away that the buses would no longer pick us up and we had to walk back to Chabahil to find one. However the promised 5 minute walk resulted in an hour long trek to a place where a concerned Sangita finally put us on the public transport and hoping we would get off in the right place. Thankfully a nice Sikh lady took pity on us and pointed us in the right direction once we had ridden to the end of the line.

We got back to the news that the driver taking us to our community tomorrow had backed out. Sunisha, her father, and a number of other family members had spent a number of hours trying to find a replacement that wouldn’t cost hundreds of dollars. The problem is that the road is still fairly hazardous, and few drivers want to risk their vehicles on this road. So we are paying “danger” pay to anyone who takes the risk. The upside is that because it is so much more expensive than originally budgeted, an unplanned trek will likely happen next week as we are leaving.

Which brings us to an important point – we will still be writing our blogs while away, but unfortunately will have to upload them as a big batch next week when we have wifi access again. Keep your fingers crossed that all goes well!

lots of love

j&t  xoxo



After the journey of what seemed to be a thousand nights (seriously! most of the time when we looked out the window it was dark! We left in the dark… transited in the dark… arrived in the dark…) we arrived in Kathmandu. In Nepal, everyone without a Nepalese passport must get a visa. This process is somewhat nebulous (requiring lineups for pictures, payment and processing), and it was interesting to watch ordinarily intelligent individuals move around like lemmings, following from one lineup to the next, regardless of whether they understood what they were doing or not. Thankfully, we had some prior knowledge of the process, and so had already brought along our pictures. Additionally Tyra saw some assured looking individuals picking up forms from a really laid back guy in a t-shirt and jeans… which just happened to be the intake form. So we were only half-lemming! 😉

(But we could also talk about China… and an airport where when you are there on a layover you exit onto a tarmac… get into a bus… and then are shuttled to a security and customs lineup to prove you are not a threat, nor are you planning on staying… before being permitted to race to your departure gate in the hopes that you haven’t missed your plane… we were very lemming in that case)

Anyway… once we had our visas everything seemed very unstructured… we went and collected our gear but then just walked out of the building, only having to stop and show our baggage tags to prove that our bags belonged to us… it all seemed somewhat suspicious but we were too tired to care, and so beat it the hell outta there!

Outside Sunisha had organized that Sudarshan (whose family we will be staying with in the communities) was there to meet us. He and his friend Ravinder were there proudly holding up a sign that said “Jasmine”… but they were somewhat hidden by all of the taller people standing in front of them, so it took a few minutes to see them given all of us are somewhat vertically challenged (except for Tyra who was still inside guarding the bags… and growling at people walking by in a Seinfeldesque tribute to “Back off… and get your own bags”. This was in response to an elderly man who was having difficulty driving his cart and kept attempting to run over bags, people and everything else in the way). Anyway… our gear easily fit into a jeep taxi (who knew these things existed??) and we clambered in while Ravinder roared off into the night on his motorcycle.

At the house we encountered Deepak (Sunisha’s cousin)… who had patiently waited for our arrival despite being incredibly ill with a sinus infection (in his words “I am not well”). While unloading the luggage, Jasmine inadvertently emasculated the driver by hoisting out the rubbermaid bins (which had we known that we would be climbing three flights of stairs with them may not have been packed as completely as they were). The room we have is lovely and we feel very spoilt as we have been repeatedly asked if there is anything more we need. It was at this point that Deepak, Sudarshan and Ravinder repeatedly wandered through asking if we had seen Ravinder’s helmet. Tyra helpfully looked in all corners and behind curtains… however the helmet has been “disappeared” where all lost socks go. Thankfully it was only just 11:30pm and so we could exhaustedly fall into bed to get a proper night’s sleep at the right time.

This morning, Tonic (i.e. Tyra) decided it was a beautiful day and that she only will live in houses that have a balcony from this day forward. (aside: From the balcony we have had the opportunity to play both Juliet and Rapunzel already today – who knows which characters we will be tomorrow…)

Breakfast was interesting as we journeyed in both Fred Penner and Hobbitlike fashion to get to the cafe where we ate. Walking a desolate winding, twisting road we eventually materialized on the busiest street in Kathmandu and then disappeared into a building fronting as a dry cleaning shop. Suddenly there were stairs… and then tables… and food showed up in front of us. It was all very “majestical” (if you have watched The Hunt for the Wilderpeople, you will understand). We were just happy that there were bananas. 🙂

After breakfast we went in search of money… which theoretically shouldn’t really have been that hard. Especially since Deepak escorted us to the bank. However, Gin (i.e. Jas) was so used to going through security by this point, that she allowed herself to be scanned for weapons to simply enter the ATM (this is required only if entering the bank). It was only after screening that anyone informed her that this security measure was unnecessary for her transaction. At the ATM station it took a few moments to not only figure out how to open the door but also how to switch the screen from Nepalese to English. Since she didn’t have a million dollars in the bank, it was critical to find the right buttons so appropriate currency numbers could be generated.

On the way back to the house, G&T left Deepak to get his medicine and go to the hospital. We decided it was imperative to reorganize the bins – in true VAST fashion. Given we have established the ritual of spending 2-3 hours per day reorganizing bins, why would this trip be any different?? Our new friend and guide/translator Sungita arrived to discover the floor and beds somewhat in disarray, although the majority of the work had already been done and we were simply trying on scrubs for size (and fashion!) when she got here.

Sungita’s arrival marked the beginning of fun times, as she escorted us through the historical areas of the city that had been most devastated by the earthquakes. Still beautiful this area has gorgeous temples and buildings, and the mountains peek through every space.

Lunch was an experience as Gin managed to find that every dish in the restaurant somehow had “gluten” in it, in one fashion or another. In the end we settled on chicken satay (without peanut sauce) and plain rice, by which point bark would have been satisfying as our stomachs were digesting themselves. Tonic was simply excited at the appearance of a plate of rice.

By the time we were done walking around it was full dark – and ironically only 5:45pm. So given Sungita lives in the opposite direction, she sent us home in a cab and left in a van… which we hoped was not an unmarked, vehicle heading for disaster… but instead a pseudobus designed to get people from smaller suburbs home. We recognized enough landmarks from our walks with Deepak earlier that we could even give the cabbie some directions! Now, given we have fallen asleep three times while typing this, perhaps it is time for bed.

Hope you have all had as experiential a day as we seem to have!

love you all

G&T xoxo