Our Intern Carlotta Reflects on Her Recent Trip to Janakpurdham, Nepal

On February 12th I embarked on a journey that would take me halfway across the world. My month in Nepal was everything I expected if not more; I have personally, professionally, and culturally gained so much that it is hard to put down into words.
The main purpose of my visit to Nepal was to visit the Binaytara Foundation Cancer Center in Janakpur, where I would conduct research on palliative care; but I also had the opportunity to visit other parts of Nepal and see a beautiful and diverse country.

I have been fortunate enough to have traveled quite a bit around the world, but on February 12th I landed with the smallest airplane at the smallest airport I’ve ever been; but as soon as I saw the “welcome to Janakpur” sign I felt like this was going to be an interesting and unforgettable adventure. The first day I arrived, I visited the BTFCC right away, the difference in infrastructure from a US hospital was clear from the beginning but having visited before a couple of hospitals in another developing country, Ghana, the impact was not as overwhelming as I thought it would be.
I spent the next few days settling down and figuring out my way around Janakpur, I visited the Janaki Temple, and learn my way to and back from the hospital. During my days at the hospital, I was able to observe the doctors and nurses working on
patients, and their dedication and passion for the success of the hospital were outstanding. Everyone was mainly involved in getting ready for the ICC which was going to be taken place toward the end of my stay in Janakpur. I would describe the infrastructure of the center as very basic but functioning and with great prospect of growth and improvement in the near future.
While at the center I had to conduct my research on palliative care; I had a questionnaire prepared and usually a nurse or one of the doctors would help me with the interview by translating the questions for me. It was definitely hard at times to get a response, but we made it work and got some responses and data; hopefully in the next months they will be able to gather more data.

I have also met a couple of graduate students who helped me sending out a questionnaire on the knowledge of palliative care among undergraduate medical students to students in their school. The 3rd International Cancer Conference lasted two days and was followed by a research symposium. More than 100 physicians, nurses, medical students and researchers from Nepal, India, the UK and the US gathered to attend a premier meeting featuring lectures from experts in the field, discussions, and scientific
abstracts presentations. The engagement among the attendees was high, and the Q& A sessions were lively, and the discussion was always captivating, showing interest in the content of the conference among the audience. I attended all the lectures, and while most of the topics were out of my field of knowledge it was extremely interesting to see how the attendees were eager to learn, and the lecturer were able to keep them focused. In between the two days the attendees were entertained with a gala dinner, during which we enjoyed a beautiful cultural performance, and delicious food. During the month I was there I decided to take small trips to other cities.

The first weekend I went to Chitwan National Park, where I enjoyed nature and was stunned by beautiful landscapes. During my stay there, I went on a Jeep and an elephant safari, which I would have never thought in a million year to happen.

The second weekend I visited Pokhara, a beautiful city that lays adjacent to a big lake and is contoured by mountains. All of the main sites I visited were beautiful, but The World Peace Pagoda was the most stunning one.

I was lucky enough that The Festival of Colors (Holi) happened to be during my stay. It was beautiful to see everyone in Janakpur playing with colors and celebrating it, even at the hospital. A truly unforgettable experience.

Lastly, on my way back I stayed 2 days in Kathmandu before returning to the US. In Kathmandu, I visited its many temples, monasteries, and walked around the rich architectural and cultural areas of the city. I got lost a couple of times walking around, but it ended up being the best way to see every part of the city. The Monkey Temple was definitely the most stunning place in Kathmandu, and the stairs climb was definitely worth it!

This was a humbling and profound experience; and to whoever will go there next, keep an open mind, be ready to experiment new delicious food, and be amazed by the stunning landscapes and the warmth of the people. Last but not least, I have to mention how grateful I am of how welcoming, generous, and nice Binay’ s family were with me while I was there. They were
always available and made me feel at home. I read somewhere once on a wall: “all I see are colorful people, inside and outside”; I truly believe this reflects my experience in Nepal more than anything, along of course with experiencing firsthand the healthcare system of a developing country.

– Carlotta Bellon

Binaytara Foundation