At eight a.m. we venture out for breakfast. The streets are relatively sleepy compared to last night. Only a handful of cars weave through the streets and we can walk normally across the ring road. At various intervals along the sidewalks, people huddle around temporary fires built from scrap wood, and I wonder if they have been there all night. On the street corners, clusters of people gather around other fires with milk tea in hand, while a someone makes chapati, a flat bread, in the center.
Andrew, one of the Acupuncture Relief Project’s founders, takes us past the former emperor’s palace as we walk out of Thamel. We pass a small pond guarded by a gold naga, an ancient snake spirit that guards the waters. There are steps and benches where people clearly honor the naga, and I make a mental note to learn more about the naga. href=”https://stickoutyourtongue.files.wordpress.com/2013/01/20130116-231925.jpg”>
After a twenty minute walk, we arrive at Mike’s, an expat restaurant that used to be the British embassy. We sit in a courtyard ringed with flowers. All the seating appears to be outdoors. We can see our breath, but there is a large fire pit smoking away next to our table to help those of us with weaker constitutions cope. This courtyard is a small haven that feels safe, calm, and completely tucked away from the vigilance of walking throughout the streets of Thamel. We order coffee first, then breakfast.
Like all of our meals together, this is not a simple sit down affair. Since the moment we landed, each meal has been an opportunity for Andrew to train us and discuss what it means to be a practitioner. Today’s breakfast topic: care and compassion versus wisdom. “What is care?” Andrew asks, once we all have our coffee. We mumble various answers, since the questions seems so simple. Most of us relate care with treatment and our normal treatment room interactions. We are not far off from the answer. But in Andrew’s opinion, care has nothing to do with treatment, and he wants to emphasize that point. In his view, the concept of care combines many actions. It involves listening to the whole story, no matter how long. Care involves staying present in the moment. If you’re mind starts wandering to what acupuncture points might work best for the patient, then you have mentally left the person in front of you and are no longer present. Care involves knowing when you are not the best option for the patient’s health and it is your ethical responsibility to refer out. Care also involves comforting people and explaining what is going on in their bodies. In Nepal, most people have limited knowledge of anatomy and physiology. You will hear them in your treatment room talk about heart pain and as a Westerner, you’ll start rushing through all the diagnostic signs of a heart attack, when in Nepal heart refers to the entire chest and abdomen. Their heart pain could be colon pain. Care is a complicated blend of comfort, communication, education, and listening.