Abroad: Discovery and Dentistry in Nepal

By Hae Bin Kim

At first, I was only a self-obsessed city girl from Seoul, oblivious to the world around me. Even the scent of ink on newspaper brought fatigue to my eyes. Before setting foot on the soils of Nepal, I was completely immersed in my upper class lifestyle: shopping for coutures and luxury items, eating and drinking at leisure, mindlessly spending money with friends.

I had my first glance of Charikot, Nepal on July 13th, 2011. After an exhausting 9 hour bus ride through deep green valleys and annoyingly bumpy mountain trails, I finally arrived at my base camp. Staring off to the distant Himalayas, I watched the morning dawn rise amongst the foggy atmosphere, hundreds of meters above Earth. The scene was absolutely breathtaking and I was immediately awakened from my drowsiness.

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For three weeks, I spent nine hours a day at a temporary medical center as a dental assistant. My main duties consisted of suctioning blood, cleansing utensils, fetching instruments, and instructing the patients about proper hygienic care. If I may be honest, I will admit that I hated everything about that tiny hospital. How the hospital rooms stank sharply of disinfectant, blood and sweat. How the rooms filled with the piercing sound of metal on teeth and crying children; how the air was so murky because of the dust; how I couldn’t understand what on Earth the indigenous people were saying. I just hated this gloomy, foreign atmosphere.

One day, after a long, exhausting operation, I took a break in the corridor. As I took a sip of my Evian water, I gazed out out of a small window. I noticed that rain started to sprinkle down on the valley, drenching the soil with its clear droplets. Then, I spotted a gaunt figure, a small native boy, reaching down to a puddle on the ground to take a sip of that filthy water.

I was absolutely stupefied. I saw the contrast between my pure healthy water and his murky brown water and it hit me hard. For a moment, I could not process the fact that this small child had no choice but to drink this disgusting water from the dirt while I was carelessly drinking from my clean water bottle. I felt as if I had been knocked off my feet. I wanted to know why this child had to drink this dirty water. I wanted to yell at everyone, “somebody please show this child some mercy!” I wanted to run out and help him off the ground.

This was a moment that I will never forget, and one that changed my life completely. I felt the atmosphere of the hospital room change from misery to compassion. I had a legitimate reason — a passion — to serve at this small hospital. Every action and every word that came from me were attentive and genuine. After the three weeks at Nepal, I was a changed girl who finally broke through the egocentric walls and viewed the world in a whole new perspective.

After that day, I had an epiphany — to find order and justice in this world. Would I still be an innocent young girl, benighted to poverty? Would I still be stubborn and privileged, ignorant to the violence that prevails everywhere in the world? I decided that the answer to all these questions is would be no. I pledged from that day on to work towards finding world peace. Today, I am still inspired to become a journalist for the World Health Organization (WHO) to shine the spotlight on the world’s darkness and find the most promising resolution to the current problems facing humanity.

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