ladakh valley

i decided to be a dental hygienist after already completing years of schooling in other fields for the sole purpose that i wanted to do more humanitarian work. it's true. (and the significant pay raise wasn't too bad, either…) i didn't think i was very good at what i was doing with my education, and i certainly didn't feel like i was helping humanity. so, i did as i do, and jumped ship, or rather, jumped on the dental band wagon. luckily for me, my dad was looking for a new hygienist, so i was employed right away after dental hygiene graduation. ty and i were newly weds, ty was still in school, and it took a couple years for me to find my footing enough to do another humanitarian trip.

i presented the trip to ty something like this.

"i think we should go to india because we are young and childless and we don't quite have the concept of saving money yet so before we grow up, let's go! i can do dental work, you can help, we can see india, and we'll take lots of amazing pictures, so let's just do it."

he said, "um…ok."

i signed up immediately with global dental relief before either of us could think it totally through, and we were suddenly in the throws of planning our trip to india. 

we would be there a month. we would have two weeks of exploring on our own, and two weeks of dental work with GDR. we would have only one carry-on each for easy travelling. india has no immunization requirements, so we were set medically. all i had to worry about was keeping my insulin cool.

nine days before departure, we found out i was pregnant.  and we didn't tell anyone because we didn't want anyone to tell us not to go (sorry, mom).

but we added a few things to our original two carry-ons. not only was i pregnant, but i am also diabetic. put the two together and we had an entire massive duffle bag of medical supplies in case i was hospitalized (i even brought my own needles and saline solution…), and another massive duffle bag filled with food (what if i had morning sickness and couldn't eat a single thing?! so costco-sized boxes of granola bars and cliff bars and skittles would solve that problem, right…?).  it was the most stressful nine days of my life thus far. 

but we lugged it all to the airport and we were off, with tiny asher growing bigger each day. 

and all together we were able to fulfill my dream of doing more humanitarian work. it was made more amazing that i could do it with my own little, growing family.

so we flew into northern india with the dental team.  we were to work in leh, a small town in ladakh valley near the pakistan border, in kashmir, india. people we spoke with in our earlier travels in central india told us that kashmir was the most beautiful place in the world, filled with heavenly scenery and glorious himalayan mountains. they were right. being in ladakh valley, although 11,500  feet elevation, was fresh and beautiful. it was a different country than the india we had been in.  i could wander the spice and tibetan markets that spread through the streets all day. i love our rocky mountains, but the ancient himalayans are a sight to be seen. and the people of ladakh, i love them so much. we got to know a store owner so well that he would trade skittles and granola bars and flashlights for trinkets and ancient coins we had been eyeing since our first day there. and they just let you explore secret passageways and entrances in castles built sometime in early 100 AD! we didn't even have to be sneaky!

and oh, the food. the food was divine. a beautiful marriage of indian and tibetan cuisine. and i think i ate my and asher's weight times ten of jalebi. so. very. delicious.

we toured many buddhist temples and was amazed at the intricacies of the ancient religion. so beautiful and complex. as with our explorations in the hindu and jain temples, i was in constant awe of the dedication it took of the followers to build and love such amazing structures. 

we were able to do dental work for hundreds and hundreds of children.  i cleaned as many teeth as i could with my little hand pump cavitron.  we sterilized our equipment in state-of-the-art converted pressure cookers. our team was dedicated and gentle and hard-working. ty even got to pull a tooth! and every evening was lively and refreshing.  

i am grateful i was able to be a part of that team and experience serving with them.  they were inspiring and i hope i can do it again one day.

and here are some pictures of our time in northern india.

so, for now, julley from leh.


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