Storia personale di Wangdi Sangbo, primo medico della Regione del Mustang
I was born and grew up in a small village along the riverside, north to the ancient walled city called Lomanthang, which lies at an altitude of 3800 meters in Mustang District of Nepal an hour drive from Tibet-Nepal border. When I was a kid, I spent summer time in village school and helping out my parents with their daily chores such as working in farm, collecting dungs for fuel and grasses for the domestic animals and things like that and as school closed during winter for four/five months because of the cold and harsh weather my family and most of the people from Upper Mustang Migrate to southern part, mostly India, Kathmandu and Pokhara. My family used to go to India for sweater business which we buy from Punjab state of India and sell them in another state called Varanasi, our family used to make a little money from a lot of hard work in this business which was not enough to make things keep going, so my family had to engage in agriculture and other small business which most of the people in our village do. So during winter I used to help my parent with the sweater business, and I was kind of my father’s secretary as I know how to read, write and mathematics and he is illiterate. During my childhood and till the age of 18, I have done so many things that makes me smile sometime even now, like selling eggs to the two popular restaurants in village, selling firecrackers during famous festival called Tiji but I felt the importance of education early in that age, specially in becoming a medical person and I was very fascinated towards English language. Being from poor, remotest part of the country and so called low caste family; my childhood was not like these days kid’s childhood. But I think it taught me so many things that todays school cannot teach. There is so much discrimination in the name of caste in our village, like we can not build two storied houses, we can not ride horses during Yartung festival, we can not wear this and that and the list goes on.
When I was a small boy, my younger sister died of infected wound in her neck; there was nothing we could do. There was not a proper health facility in village. People were dying of diseases that could be prevented and treated. I thought of becoming a medical person when my younger sister died. I worked hard in school and I was good in study but not in sports. I got lots of prizes for titles like, the first in the class, scoring the highest marks in the school, quizes, regular student, most discipline student like that but I never got prize in sports. I was not sure what to do after school; there were few people who have obtained higher education so there was lack of advisors. After passing my SLC (School leaving Certificate) or grade ten, I got scholarship to study proficiency certificate level in general medicine in the year 2003, funded by American Himalayan Foundation (AHF) through (Annapurna Conservation Area Project) an NGO working in Annapurna Conservation Area with the theme “Conservation for Development”. I completed the course in 2006 with lots of hard work. At the beginning in college I was kind of lost, being from government school my English was very poor and I had to spent lot of time learning English to study English medium course but with tenacity and hard work, I did it with good score and returned to my village and served my fellows lowas. During the service in Mustang I felt like, to provide quality health service to people I need to enhance my knowledge of medicines and skills. But to do that I had to do the course MBBS (Bachelor in Medicine and Bachelor in Surgery). A boy from low socioeconomic background cannot dream such thing, as it is extremely expensive to join medical school. It cost millions and millions of rupees and my family were not in position to afford in fact my family didn’t even know how many zeros are there in one million. During my work in Upper Mustang, sometime I provide health service to the tourist who comes to enjoy the landscape and “travel back to time” I guess. One evening, a girl who works as a cook for my friends Luigi, Federica and Davidae from Italy who were restoring centuries old monasteries in my village, came to my house and asked to come their place and see a tourist who is quite sick. I went and I see two gentlemen who looked like father and son and a lady and their guide told me that the lady was not feeling well. I went immediately and did my job and explained the situation and prescribed some medicines. And my Italian friends introduce me to the gentleman who was interested in helping someone from Upper Mustang.I came to know that his name is Alfredo, his son is David and his wife name is Eliska and their guide is Mr. Kumar who talks very fast. He asked me about my goal in life and I told him I want to be a doctor and he gave me his card and asked me to write him an email and he will see what he can do. I emailed him couple of days later and I got reply and he asked to wait for sometime. That winter I was doing one month long in-service training in Kathmandu and I got his reply saying that they are willing to support for my medical education and asked me to move to town as soon as possible. But I was in the middle of my contract with AHF funded job in ACAP, and I felt I should not betray them, I promised them two years of service in Mustang after completing the health assistant course. So I emailed back and told them that I have to finish the contract first.
Moment that changed my life:
The Italian friends have become like my Aki (Father in my own mother language) – and my second family.
So we were in touch through email and I completed the contract moved to Kathmandu, done the three months long pre-requisite course and spent another two years in premed education in Kathmandu. Finally in the year 2009 I got admission in KIST medical college and teaching hospital in Lalitpur, which is in Kathmandu valley. During these five years in medical college, I was in touch with my generous sponsor, through emails. We email every week or so and share news and communicate, for me honestly speaking, Alfredo and his family is like second family, a second parent; they have done so many things for me and my family. And I will never ever forget their support and love and care. In one email I shared him this tragic and very discriminative story that happened last year in my village, which made me question so many things and hurt and wounded me so deeply. What happened was, there was solar electricity project funded by government of China for the whole Lomanthang village, which includes our village too. Lomanthang was already lighted with 29 kW capacity hydropower. The well-established and key persons of the Lomanthang village said to our folks that they are not going to distribute solar energy to our little village, because it’s not enough, a diplomatic way to say ‘you people are lower caste and weak and we can do to you whatever we want.’ This raised a question in my mind if 29 kW hydropower is enough to provide electricity to whole village then how 70 kW solar energy is not enough? Despite so many polite request, and then protest and meetings with conservative minded people they didn’t distribute the solar energy to our village. Instead of helping those who are poor and socioeconomically weak, which is what they are appointed for, they choose to suppress and discriminate the weak one. This is just one example; lots of discriminative acts have been happening in the name of so called ‘CASTE’ in my region. After hearing this story and other discriminative story in my place, Aki was really saddened and advised me to keep studying and do post graduation after completing MBBS course, become a specialized doctor and show the people of upper mustang a good example, a source of inspiration. And I said, “Aki, you read my mind”. I am going to do post graduation and become a specialized doctor it doesn’t matter how many years it takes, how many sacrifices that I have to make on the way, I am going to show the people that with tenacity, hard work, intelligence, and lots of sacrifices you can do something great.
Future: Specialization In Germany
After completing my MBBS course and becoming a registered doctor in my Home country Nepal, I decided to pursue my medical carrier in Germany. I chose Germany, because it has a world standard health system, has contributed many break through in medical field and it lies very close to Italy where I can meet Aki and his family now and then. I could have continue my post graduation studies in Nepal but somehow I was not happy with the health system of our country and on the other side it was so difficult to get place for your choice of specialty, even if we get a place, we need to pay millions of fees. I was totally against paying fees to serve the people. So I started learning German at Goethe Zentrum in Kathmandu intensively, four hours of teaching at the language center and another 4-5 hours of self-study at home. I became a father during this time, on 9th of December 2017 my Wife gave birth to our Son Tenzin. Now as father another responsibility came upon my shoulder, a responsibility to give my son a better future. I told my self I will never make my son to experience what I have experience in my Home country. I will take him to a place where people have no idea what CASTE is. Where people judge another human being on the basis of their act and behaviour, not on the basis of caste. I study German language very seriously and intensively every single day. After doing almost one year of German course in Kathmandu and completing all the available language level in Kathmandu, I came to Germany at the end of 2019 and did hospitation in Donau-Ries klinik in Donauworth for almost month.
After that I joined four months of German medical language course in München. I told myself in Germany, I will speak only German, hear only German and read only German. I was totally in German mode. Changed all my computer and mobile setting to German language, listened to German radio, watched German Television shows and news, watched Hollywood movies in German language in Netflix. After doing so, my language improved dramatically. Unfortunately, my four months course extended to seven months because of the Corona pandemic. In August 2020 I passed the Fachsprachprüfung (German medical language test) and got the temporary German medical license for two years. I had already job offer from the Hospital where I spent some months as a hospitant. I was missing my family and home country so much during this period of time, specially my son whom I have not seen for years but I was unable to travel back to Nepal because of exams and job search and travel restrictions and bans of the pandemic. I could not even visit Aki and his family, as they belongs to risk group because of the age and I did not wanted to spread the disease to them and live all my life with regret. So I decided to join the job and move forward. I started working as a assistant doctor in Donau-Ries Klinik Oettingen since November 2020. At the beginning, it was so difficult I was totally new in German medical system and my language was not on the level to communicate without problem. But I found the German very patience and motivating regarding the language. They understand our situation and helped many times when I make mistakes, so in this way my patience became my German language teacher sometime haha. Again unfortunately, there was COVID-19 out break in our hospital as well and I was also tested positive. I had fever, joint pain and headache and I lost my smell and taste. I remained quarantine for a week. Oh my God, this week tried to bring my confidence level to the ground, I was already alone in a foreign land and this virus pushed me even isolated from the people. I was so down emotionally and scared. Fortunately, Aki and his sister called me every day and everyday asked how I was feeling and suggested to remain positive and strong. During such a period even a short message has a giant effects on us that I realized. It was difficult but I remained active, did some meditation, read books, talked to my family and friends every single day through whatsapp and keep pushing myself. Fortunately the test after 7 days came negative and I went to work and keep learning, serving and remained occupied. After two years of lonely life in Germany, my wife and son got Visa to move to Germany for family reunion. I was so happy to see my wife and my son; tears fell down from my eyes seeing my son so happy to see his father. I thought he would not recognize me but he proved me wrong and called APA with joy from almost 7 meters of distance in the Airport. Time passed fore by, I got date for Kenntnisprüfung which is knowledge exam to get Approbation (Permanent German medical license and permission to get specialized in Germany). I worked very hard every single day. Woke up early, went to bed late. I studied most of the time outside my rooms, as it is not possible to study at home when you have three years old full of energy son who wants to play with you all the time. Sometime prepared in the Garden outside, sometime in Children Park. On 12th of October 2021, I passed the exam on my first attempt with excellent remarks at TUM, rechts der Isar in Munich. Three professors from Internal medicine, general surgery and radiology departments were the examiners. Now I am doing my specialization in Germany with my Approbation.
I met Aki around 13 Years ago in Mustang as a Tourist, later as time passes by he and his family became like second family, second parent to me. This Journey could not have been possible without his support. The pathway to getting specialized in Germany not only cost dedication, hard work, determination but also cost lots of money, lots lots of Euro. To be honest, even a very rich family from Nepal would think thousands time before they decide to send their son or daughter for further education in Germany. I could not find a proper word to express how grateful and thankful I am for Aki and his family for their tireless, unconditional support. Once Aki told me during a hike in northern Italy, you have to help other human beings in the future, that word really touches my heart and soul. During these 13 years of in touch with Alfredo, I realized a human being can be compassionate and kind without having any religious drama as well. A man can be compassionate and kind without any blood relation. You have saved a soul tormented by social discriminations, neglected by political system of the country and helped him break the chain of circle so that the coming many generation does not have to go through the path that this Wangdi had to. I remember of you every time I try to help a patient at present and will continue in future as well. I will never forget your support and your soul touching word that one needs to help another human being in need.
Thank you so much once again for everything.
In future as a world citizen, but still with a heart in Mustang.