Apil Dev Neupane

01.12.2010 I was extremely lucky to participate in Medical Student Exchange Program “Medical Training & Social Activity” between Physicians for Social Responsibility Nepal, Student Chapter and IPPNW Germany. Traveling to foreign countries, that too during school days, and above all, a fully sponsored trip and stay, is something a Nepali student cannot imagine even in the wildest dreams! My warmest Thank You to IPPNW Germany for making this impossible possible.

Hospital placement and Social Project were extremely well organized by IPPNW Germany Secretariat Ulla Gorges, my German friend Katharina Chu and exceptional human beings Ernst-Ludwig Iskenius and Alex Rosen. I was lucky to have some additional participations while being there. Participating in 'Biking Against Nuclear Weapons 2010' and 'IPPNW Congress' in Basel. It was due to untiring efforts of Ulla that everything was finely tuned and made possible.

The time spent in Germany taught me unseen, unheard and unknown perspectives in human life apart from the medical exposure I got in Muenster Universtäts-Klinikum and a Social Project with Refugio in Villingen-Schweningen, a humanitarian organization with extremely hardworking and amazing creatures. I don't call them human beings, they are way above that. The rich culture Germany has, unique history it saves, and the powerful influence it has in European civilization. And a lot I had no idea of.

To be in Germany even for such a short time was extremely powerful academic experience for me. It was indeed a brilliant experience. It has an indelible impression in my understanding of our World, which I had previously enjoyed only through books. Life there is so much so different that even my Best imaginations turned out to be way behind.

I had an wonderful opportunity consisting of mixed experiences… spending time in the Hospital...biking along the Rhine for all the way up-to Basel! Extremely Surprised with huge, huge consumption, a consumer World, I can't imagine how long would this last with finite earth. I was extremely impressed by Post World war German People and Government who must have worked tirelessly, for incalculable hours to make modern Germany. I KNEW how much of Germany was completely destroyed by war and can't believe that There is no slightest hint of it in modern Germany, until one visits Museums. I bow to those nation builders.

"Culture", word I had heard since childhood, topic of quite a few Best essays I wrote while in High School Competitions, finally turned out to be something I had no idea of, an abstract entity without any dimensions until I went there. Now I have some tangible understanding of "Culture". For me it was an exotic world with strange, unique and yet vibrant ways of life.

I think it would make some sense if I recount a few of so many examples to clarify the dimensions of differences I observed. Village back in my country would mean a settlement without all of the following: access to road, safe drinking water, health care, school, communication, electricity. Remember, its ALL of the following. But a village in Germany would take into account of number of people which is fewer but with all those variables I mentioned! About 70% people in Nepal live in villages.

Having seen train for the first can imagine how I must have felt to be traveling by Duetsch Bahn and Swiss Rail whose accuracy and reliability still enthralls me.

I had 'heard' about the clothe washing machines back in Nepal but had no idea of anything like dish-washing machines! Pity me, I come from a country where the capital Kathmandu faces blackouts of 18 hours a day at times in winter! Let alone those machines. One of my friends had a watch on his wall powered by the electricity!!! Something not a SINGLE Nepali can imagine.

I was influenced by brilliant and vibrant presence of German language in virtually everything from books to products to services to whatever you can imagine. Back in Nepal we do not have Science in our own language!

And market price of goods and services, very expensive! Though well reminded by Ulla and Katharina  about not to translate in my currency while going out to market, it used to be like compulsion  for the first few weeks. One can imagine how it feels for somebody from a country where Per Capita is about 300 Dollars to be in Germany.

A pretty nice and motivating method of recycling water bottles by charging additional 25 cents at the first hand when you pay 19 for water and refund 25 when you bring back the bottle!

I had nice time spending with senior citizens who believed that young people should go to the cities and enjoy, have fun and have the time of their life away from families! Exactly opposite from what our people here in Nepal believe. When parents are old and children young, we have huge social and cultural responsibility to take care of our growing parents. So it basically entails living together under the same roof for ever! We do not have anything like social security or insurance system.

I was of course surprised and found it illogical to talk of so called 'privacy' in the western society when people walk/behave semi-naked or at times naked, where pornography is exhibited open in the streets. I was surprised when a girl who was playing volleyball with me in bikini didn't want me to hear her phone chat with her boyfriend.(Of course I didn't want to) I do not know what kind of privacy is this! It was for the same reason of 'privacy' that doctors kept on switching different rooms in Outpatient (Poliklinic) when patients would be awaiting. I would rather say that it was because there were enough Doctors to spend  time moving in and out.

Of course, the extreme use of technology in virtually everything from automatic doors and bulbs to toilet flush continued to amaze me. I continually envy the extremely finely tuned German system. Everything is so well organized. I hope my learning and exposure would help me change at least a small world around me and influence others and propagate the chain of change. And I am very much optimistic that positive changes will take place in our part of the world as well. It is just the matter of time. Today our priorities are different.

I know I can share many stories of the time spent in Germany all those weeks. It was during the lovely sunny days of summer that I was invited there. So I do not know how it feels to be  spending time in cold chilly subzero temperatures of winter. Yet, I hope huge and brilliant festive surroundings of Christmas and My warm wishes and Namaste to all known and unknown German friends will keep you warm. Hope not the electricity you get from Nuclear Power. Motto of our IPPNW.

Thank you.