Monday, May 20, 2013

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GOS - May 19 - Staying Healthy in Nepal

The plan is coming together. 

The Operation Restore Vision ophthalmologists from New York Eye and Ear Infirmary arrived today from Kathmandu and Scott has gone ahead to scout the route to Tukuche, concerned early monsoon rains may have washed out some roads.

I'll follow him on Monday in the second wave from Pokhara, accompanied by the eye docs and videographer Dan Byers who is producing an 8-min. documentary about this year's project. 

I'm the new guy on the Gift of Sight team and have been soaking up health advice from the others. I learn food hereabouts isn't praised for being delicious or wholesome - cleanliness is what matters most. 

The body is under attack from all sides and my tender Connecticut stomach is unaccustomed to this onslaught. 

The hands are deadly weapons, threatening to transmit pathogens from tables, door handles, sinks to the nearest bodily portal. Don't bite your nails, don't touch your face. Travel with a king-sized bottle of Purell. 

"You want to be careful that what you eat hasn't been blessed by flies who've just danced on yak dung," expedition leader Scott Hamilton jokes, except I realize it's not a joke. 

Tap water is liquid death, I'm advised. Shower with the mouth closed, head down, and don't trust bottled water unless it's safety sealed and you've checked the cap by holding it upside down and squeezing it. 

Food has to be piping hot. Toast is fine. A big open bowl of yogurt not so good. That craving for a chef salad will have to wait until I return. 

There is no OSHA here. If the hotel room phone has a steady ring, don't answer. It's likely a power surge somewhere up the line ready to zap. 

There are strange wires in the room, phantom switches, and the plug sparks when I charge my phone. There are also lots of sharp edges. Best advice? Take cuts seriously and disinfect immediately. 

Finally, Scott advises, "never ever pet a dog in Nepal. Don't even think about it lest you contract rabies. Don't go near the monkeys either - they're mean little buggers. Back away and let them think they're the boss."

Wise advice for someone new in town. 

- Jeff Blumenfeld

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