Flat Tires and Plumpy’Nut


[Ryan’s Story]  During morning update meeting on Sunday, Dilly, the ambulance driver, informed the group that our ambulance had gotten two flat tires the previous night while on the way to pick up a patient.  The first flat tire had been changed on the road, while the second had been discovered that morning.  Upon discussing how to remedy the situation (being that we only have the one ambulance, which is actually an old diesel Tata SUV), it was agreed that we would take the hospital’s motorbike, and that Dilly and I  would carry the tire down to Sanfe Bagar to get it fixed.  After a 20 minute bike ride, we reached the tire place in Sanfe, where the tire was then manually changed.  The phrase “manually changed” includes using the weight of three people to pry the tire from the rim using a homemade hand press.  Then, as opposed to having modern tubeless tires, the tire turned out to have a tube that had already been patched at least 12 times.  The process of putting the tire back on consisted of a lengthy session of prying with crowbars and utilizing a tank of air without a compressor.  As we contemplated how best to carry the repaired tire back to the hospital, we were thankfully able to arrange its transport on a tractor that was headed in that direction.

My next escapade began in a similar fashion, when someone at morning meeting announced that we were completely out of Plumpy’Nut, and that an immediate trip to the District Health/UNICEF office was necessary.  The destination was in Mangelsen, which is an hour and a half away by motorbike, and is home to a government hospital and related offices.  The road to Mangelsen passes over the top of a mountain, down and across the holy Kailash River, and then back up the other side of the massive valley.  The city consists of dirt roads and run-down or destroyed buildings.  Prikash (below) and my first stop was at the UNICEF warehouse, which was about to close (at 1:30 p.m.).  Our contact person was nowhere to be found.  After visiting three other offices, we were finally allowed to collect one box of Plumpy’Nut—not two—with which to restock our hospital.  We were assured that another box would be sent our way in the next few days.

On the way home, our first stop included a snack of momos and “cold drink” (which is a novelty in an area with such sparse refrigeration).  Our next stop was at the Kailash River, to sample the “Peas” I had been told marvelous things about the whole way there.  As it turns out, “Peas” is the way one pronounces “Fishes,” when using a language that does not include the letter “F.”  While our “Peas” were cooking, I received a history lesson about Shiva, who lives atop Mount Kailash, which drains into the Kailash River.  The “Peas” were delicious, spicy, little fish, fried whole.  We ate them, bones and all.

Our next stop was at the community health outpost in Jayaghad (pictured above), where we drank chiiya with the Community Health Worker Leader.  While HIV medications were handed off, I watched the antics of a group of nearby pigs, chickens, dogs, goats, and children, who were being harassed by storekeepers in the streets.  After taking a GPS reading (for one of Jess’ research projects), we proceeded down the road to a temple, where we hung out for a few minutes.


By late afternoon we returned home, and delivered the precious peanut product to our hospital’s storeroom.  Mission accomplished.