Monday, July 30, 2012

Ulcers and Fingernails

Day 18 - 30Jul2012

Today was my last day of medical.  We went out with a bang!  Today was absolutely unbelievable.  We arrived in Bethel Nagar not knowing how many patients we'd treat.  We unloaded the van with an assembly line as usual.  We waited for a few minutes and all of a sudden patients started trickling in.

I was at the oiling station for the first part of the day.  Patients would have their old bandages removed, their feet washed, and then they would see me.  I rubbed paraffin oil all over their feet and up their legs to about the knee.   Some of the patients were nervous that the oil was some kind of medicine that would be painful so I tried to talk to them in a pleasant way while I applied it.  They didn't know what I was saying and I had a face mask on, but I hope they could see that my eyes were smiling and that I was friendly.  I tried to massage their tired feet and legs.  Some of them smiled at me, but I don't know what they were thinking.  I must have oiled 15-20 patients' feet today.

Two patients stood out to me.  The first was an older gentleman.  He spoke very good English.  His eyes had drooped and I don't think he could see.  He and his wife were being treated today.  He did not have any fingers or any toes.  He had lost them to this horrible disease.  When he was finished with his treatment, he sat by the entrance while his wife finished up.  I sat next to him and talked with him.  We held hands as we talked about his family.  He has a son and daughter who live not far from where we were.  I can imagine the sweet spirit that resides in his very debilitated body.  A spirit, that for whatever reason, was chosen to come to India at this be afflicted with this disease.  He was an amazing man and I feel blessed to be able to serve him, even if it was only for a brief time.

The other patient that stood out was an older gentleman as well.  He was our very last patient.  I had traded stations by this point and was now doing bandage removing.  When he lifted his foot, I could smell his ulcer through his bandage, his shoe, and my face mask.  I knew this was going to be a challenge.  I removed his shoe and noticed that the discharge from his ulcer had actually soaked the bottom of his shoe.  I started to remove the bandage.  It was stuck onto the wound and I had to cut the bandage all the way around it before I could remove the main gauze.  Right before I did, the smell overtook me and I had to turn my head away.  Unfortunately, I could not hold back the urge to gag.  I felt awful because I'm sure he knew how terrible his infection was and I didn't want to make him uncomfortable.  I readied myself and held my breath to remove the final bandage.  Once the bandage was removed, I could see that he no longer had toes and that the ulcer was to the bone.  I sent him on to washing.

He had a difficult time walking, so I helped him up.  After that, we decided to move all stations to him so he didn't have to get up too many times.  I sat with him during oiling because he was having some pain.  I held his hands on his laps and he kept looking at me and smiling.  He spoke in Tamil.  I did not understand what he said, but I did understand when he performed the sign of the cross.  He is a Christian.  He lifted his hands to the sky and continued with a prayer of gratitude.  Once again, I did not need to understand Tamil to understand his prayer.  After he was finished with all stations, I helped him put his shoe back on.  I helped him stand and walk out of our clinic.  Before he left, he took a few of us, including me, and gave us a hug on both sides and touched our heads and then raised his fingerless hands to the sky.  Such expressions of gratitude...I was emotional at that point.  What a wonderful feeling.  I didn't do much...I cut his bandage off, helped him with his shoes, and helped him stand and walk.  In the grand scheme of things, I did nothing, and yet for him, it was everything.  This just goes to show that service does not have to be grandiose to have meaning.  He continued his prayers until we drove away in the van...

Being on the bandage removing station, I also had the opportunity to cut nails.  It is a task they don't trust to just everyone...because you have to use a nail clipper for pets.  Of all the assignments I've had, that was by far the scariest.  Two men had pinkie nails that had grown so long and curved, that the nail was actually physically digging into the opposite sides of their fingers.  One man cheered when I was finally able to cut it to a normal length for him.  It took some interesting angles and I used instruments not meant for nail cutting, but I did it!  He was so happy!
After our water fight...we are soaked!  Little punks!

Overall, this was the best, most fulfilling service experience I have ever had in my entire life.  I hope I can have more experiences like it.

When we got back to the Elephant House, it was time for a water fight with the kids.  The kids are ruthless!  I learned that Jayanthi has a sister that also attends Rising Star.  She is older and is a very pretty girl.  The water fight was our play time.  Dinner was fun...can't believe we are so close to leaving.  I played cards with Ranjith and Peter again tonight during family time.  They always.  It was our last family time.  I said goodbye to them all...but I'll see them tomorrow.  The kids know we are leaving so a few of them were a little sad.  But soon, they will have new volunteers to play with.  I can't dwell too much on leaving them.

Day 18 - Complete

Firsts/Realizations:  It does no good to dwell on how deprived the lives that people have here are.  It is all they know and therefore, they do not realize how little they have.  To them, they have everything they need...and they are happy because of it.  

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Saris At The Mall

Day 17 - 29Jul2012

Today was Sunday and I woke up super early to get ready for church.  I asked one of the house mothers to tie me in a sari for church today.  It was a process!  The sari is so much fabric!  The belly shirt goes on first and then the sari is tucked and pinned all over the place.  Say goodbye to going to the bathroom...literally!  I had to ask to have the sari tied higher than usual so it would cover my garments.  Usually, the entire stomach is uncovered so you can see it from the side.  It was really fun to get all dressed up.  The little Rising Star girls loved seeing me dressed up too.  Seven safety pins later, I was ready.  I even put on some makeup that I borrowed from my roommate!  

We drove the two hours into Chennai to attend church services.  My chapel at home is five minutes away.  Just another reason I am so blessed.  Three missionaries spoke in sacrament meeting.  Two of the missionaries were from India and the third was from Washington state.  Everyone spoke in English. The Rising Star members doubled the size the of the branch.  The members were extremely friendly and helped some of the other girls out when they had issues with their saris.  My sari was too pinned to move so I was just fine.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is true in India.  That is really all there is to say about it.  Very cool experience.

After sacrament meeting, we went to Spencer's Mall for a brief shopping day.  The mall was really cool!  And, as always, we were a spectacle.  EVERYONE wanted to see the white girls in saris.  A few men even made eyes at us.  I bought a few chudidars to wear in Delhi since I won't have the nice Rising Star closet with me there and I didn't really bring any outfits from home besides construction clothes.  The mall had Pizza Hut and you'd better believe we got some.  I found that I could find better prices at the mall than on the streets.  We shopped at the J. Crew of India - FabIndia.  I wish we had had more time to spend at the mall, but it was soon time to head back to Rising Star. 

The kids of Rising Star put on a talent show for us tonight.  A few of them sang and other presented their drawings.  It was really cute to see how excited they got about it.  The volunteers even performed a song and dance.  It was one of those moments that I just had to forget that I don't like being in front of people and just go all out because they're just kids.  They loved it.  After we performed, the talent show was over.  The dance director put some music on and the kids went CRAZY.  Some of them can really bust a move.  My camera died before I could take any pictures of the mad dancing skills that I observed, but it was fun nonetheless.
I played that crazy version of the card game "War" that I mentioned a few posts ago with the boys during family time.  They cheat!  And Ranjith actually slapped me when I beat him to the slap.  That is such a habit for these boys and he quickly apologized.  I'll miss those little boys.

India has definitely rubbed off on me.  When I first got here, if I felt a bug on me, I'd quickly slap it to get it off of me.  Now when I feel a bug, I take time to look and see what it is first.  If it is a non-scary bug, I brush it off without killing it.  If it is a scary bug, it deserves a little harsher treatment. ;)  I do the "ok" head bob on a regular basis.  I can handle eating with an ENORMOUS number of flies flying around me and landing on me and my food.  Smells go unnoticed.  I can sleep while driving in the middle of the crazy traffic without a worry in the world.  And cows?  What about 'em?  They are everywhere.  Isn't that just normal?  And the heat...I know it is hot, but I don't dwell on it anymore.  It is amazing how your mind and body can adapt to a new environment.  

On the other hand, my roommates and I keep getting sillier.  The weirdest things are funny and the inside jokes abound. 

Day 17 - Complete

Firsts/Realizations:  I don't fear change, I fear being stagnant.  

Saturday, July 28, 2012


Day 16 - 28Jul2012

I slept in this morning and took time to reflect on who I am and who I want to be.  I have never been so sure of myself and yet so unsure of myself.  I know that doesn't really make sense, but it means that because I am so sure of myself, I have never been more acutely aware of where I am lacking and what my flaws are.  I guess I needed to come to India to learn that...

Today is Saturday and I have the weekends off, but today was a special day.  The children still had school and although I didn't wake up intending to tutor them today, that is what I did.  I headed over after recess and tutored during the last two class periods.  Reading and math.  My first student did NOT want to read today.  I wouldn't want to be in school on a Saturday either.  My second student was a boy from Basha's what did he call me?  Yup, Lady Grinch.  I don't think I'll break away from that nickname anytime soon.

Today is special because the Marriott came out to host lunch and a cricket game with the kids.  The lunch was a little different than was NOT curry!  I ate in the dining hall with all the kids and I decided that today, being a special day....I would eat with my hands!  Yup, no utensils for this one.  I made sure my hands were clean first. :)  It experience that's for sure!  The kids laughed at me like they usually do when I try to be like them.  And they corrected me when I ate with both hands.  You should only eat with your right hand here in India.  I didn't know that, but I do now!  I talked with Mymonisha and Jayanthi.  A few days ago they asked me to bring back "so many chocolates" for them from Mamallapuram.  And sure enough, they asked me if I had fulfilled my promise.  I did. :)  I gave the chocolates to one of the coordinators to put in the Star Store.  The Star Store is based on a point system.  Each student gets star points for doing well in school and behaving in the hostels.  Once they have enough stars, they can purchase different things from the Star Store (like candies or toys).  This helps the children understand that they need to work for what they want.  Hopefully this will aid in breaking the cycle of begging that most of them are familiar with.

M. Nisha

After lunch, our boys' cricket team faced off with the adult Marriott players.  It was obvious how much the kids enjoy this yearly event.  The excitement was in the air!  M. Nisha found me and sat on my lap for a long time.  Nisha is the albino Indian.  She has such a sweet personality.  We talked about her sponsors and I learned that she wants to be a scientist.  I told her that I was kind of a scientist in America and she was really excited about that.  I don't think she can see very well, but it doesn't stop her.

I didn't eat much at lunch so I was starving by dinner.  We had chapati (Indian flatbread).  It was delicious and my banana leaf was as clean as could be by the time I was done.  Because it is Saturday, it was movie night tonight.  I watched "Cars 2" with the smaller kids.  Jayanthi wasn't there because she was being punished for doing something earlier in the day.  Mymonisha was there though.  I followed Mymonisha to her hostel to say hello to Jayanthi for a few minutes and to ask a house mother to wrap me in my sari for church tomorrow.  I have to wake up super early to let them beautify me before church.  So it is off to bed!

Day 16 - Complete

Firsts/Realizations:  I did the "ok" head bob today without thinking about it.  

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Ocean - It's What It Does

Day 15 - 27Jul2012


We drove to the beach town of Mamallapuram today.  We were able to spend the morning shopping and then hit the beach at the Ideal Beach Resort.  Sarah and I were separated from the rest of the girls when we stopped at a shop to buy pillow cases and jewelry.  The man running the shop was a very nice man and an extremely good salesman.  We must have spent an hour just in his shop.  When we left his shop, Sarah and I started walking in the direction that we had last seen our group go.  We were encouraged by a street vendor to look at this huge government pond with lily pads.  We entered and took a picture with the "guardian."  A woman gave us a lily pad with the water from the pond on it.  It was some kind of holy water...I'm not really sure, but I spilled it...oops!  As we went to leave the guardian kept touching my arm and asking for something.  He wanted to be paid for that lily pad!  20 rupees later...we were allowed to leave.

We knew a few of our friends were going to be eating at a restaurant called the Blue Elephant so we asked one of the shop owners where the restaurant was.  He pointed us in the right direction and we finally found our other two roommates.  They were on a street that we should have been shopping on the whole time!  We visited a few shops and I ordered a chudidar to be made to fit my body.  I bought several awesome souvenirs.  We stopped by the ruins for a few minutes and then hitched a ride by taxi to Ideal Beach.

Ideal Beach was exactly that, an ideal beach.  We paid about $8.00 to use their beach and their swimming pool.  We changed into our suits and dove right in.  It's not every day that you get to swim in the Indian Ocean.  Sarah and I had a grand old time playing in the water.  The rip tide was VERY strong so we didn't venture out past our belly buttons.  The beach was phenomenal, but the sand was less the kind.  The sand for the Indian Ocean is large and grainy.  We played in the water until our food order, french fries, and Miranda (yup, same stuff as Romania).  Delicious!  We order American food every chance we get!  We spent about an hour enjoying the ocean.  I felt like the newness of India has faded and therefore the shopping experience we had today was not as spectacular as it was in Pondicherry.  While we were sitting at the beach, I mentioned that the ocean had made my entire day.  Everyone agreed.  The ocean - its what it does...

After we had our fill of the beach, we bathed in the resort's swimming pool.  If I were to take a vacation in India, this is where I'd stay.  The pool was breathtaking.  The water was divine.  It was a much needed break from the sweaty lives we usually lead here.

We stopped for paratha on the way back to Rising Star.  We got home late.  The day was glorious!

Day 15 Complete

Firsts/Realizations: A bird pooped on Sarah's head.  Funniest thing that has happened all day!

Also, I was told that the snake from "Snake Wrangler" was poisonous today...yikes!

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Leprosy Art

Day 14 - 26Jul2012

I was on construction rotation today.  The last time I did construction was the first full day here and after two days in a row of tutoring, I was ready for a break.  We headed out to a colony to work on installing a few bathrooms.

Our first job split our team up.  I was assigned to work with three paid Indian workers with two other volunteers.  Our job was to help the workers move the dirt they had dug up for the bathroom.  At first we formed an assembly line to pass the dirt in these huge bowls to each other.  The Indian workers didn't speak any English so eventually they just motioned to us where they wanted us to stand and where they wanted us to throw the dirt.  We worked liked this for a couple of hours.  To pass the time, the other volunteers and I started singing primary songs.  I know the workers couldn't understand us, but there had to have been some spirit surrounding those songs that they could feel.  I felt it.

About half way through this assignment, the little old woman who lived in the house we were building a bathroom for came out and talked to us in Tamil.  Since we definitely do not speak Tamil, we just acknowledged that she was speaking and she left.  When she returned she had orange sodas for us.  We were grateful for the sodas!  However, we soon realized that the glass bottles the sodas were in were not for the drink she gave us...Pepsi is not an orange soda...we drank them anyway even though they had probably been refilled because we didn't want to be impolite.  We figured that the carbonated water would kill anything that would hurt us.  It has been over 12 hours now and I have not had any symptoms...dodged another bullet...hopefully!

The art school.
We broke for lunch and enjoyed about an hour break to explore the colony.  We were able to visit the art school in the colony.  The art school is a place where leprosy patients can paint and then the school sells the paintings.  It is a great way for the patients to earn some money since most are not permitted to work anywhere else.  The wonderful thing about the art is that most paintings are done by patients that are missing fingers.  I bought a beautiful painting that I love and was able to meet the painter.  She is a beautiful woman.  I'll love that painting for many years to come.

After lunch we went back to work.  This time we used these weird shovels to shovel rocks into gunny sacks.  We then hauled the sacks to various houses for the bathrooms.  As always, it was extremely hot and I was extremely sweaty by the time we finished.  The work here is hard in a good way.  Romba Kaaram had a great time working today.

On the way home, we stopped at "the junction" for some of the girls to buy henna.  I saw a monkey climb down from the roof of the shop.  Scared me to death!

In the evening, I added my name to our portion of the wall.  Our theme is "It's All About Love."  Family time was really fun tonight.  I played a version of the card game "War" that I've never seen before.  The rules these kids make up are pretty cheeky.  It took me about 10 minutes to understand all of them.  It doesn't help when they try to explain it to me in Tamil.  And just when I think I understand, I'd make a move and then they would tell me I couldn't do that.  I kept telling them that I thought they were cheating and they'd just laugh at me...I think they were taking me for all I had.  I shuffled the cards at the end of the game and they really liked that.  I tried to teach Vicky how to do it, but his hands were a little too small.

Tomorrow we are going to Mamallapuram for shopping!

Day 14 Complete

Firsts/Realizations:  Everyone squats differently while using the squattie potties.  I believe my squatting technique is the most efficient.  Also, Top Ramen is the most delicious food item on the planet...right now. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Lady Grinch

Day 13 - 25Jul2012

I was on education rotation again today.  I spent the morning tutoring kids in reading and math.  During math class tutoring, I met the most interesting of kids.  She goes to school at Rising Star, but does not live in the hostels.  She goes home after school in the village closest to us.  She is an albino Indian.  Her name is Nisha.  She has the whitest of white skin (even whiter than me, which is saying something).  Her hair is brown instead of black and her eyes are hazel instead of dark brown.  She is the most exotic looking person I have ever met because besides that, she has extremely Indian features.  She is a sweet girl and we sat and talked with each other during recess.  Two boys came up to us during recess to point out that our skin color matched.  I can only imagine how she must be teased here by the other kids.

I tutored Captain Karan today - yes, that it his name. :)  Funny name for a funny boy.  It must have been an off day for him because he did NOT want to read.  I also tutored Agalya.  We worked on phonics and every time she finished a page, I'd make my fingers into an "ok" sign and say "super!"  She loved that.  Such a sweetheart.

I had my first food dream during a nap today.  We were having a BBQ here in India - hamburgers, Dunford donuts, and seven layer dip (great combination!).  I was pretty upset in the dream because the chips were gone and I couldn't have any seven layer dip.  Needless to say, the curry tonight was less satisfying than usual.

UKG through II Standard (Kindergarten through second grade) had a fun craft class today during play time.  They did finger paintings.  Annu and Jayanthi picked flowers for my hair and we took some photos.  Several of the girls snapped some candid photos of just me which I love and others were not so candid ;)

During family time, I noticed a bug on my leggings and Sathish quickly killed it and made a funny noise.  I asked him what it was and he made a creeping motion with his fingers and pointed at his head...lice.  I thought for sure that I had it this time, but I was checked and I'm lice free!  Dodged another lice bullet ;)

Day 13 - Complete

First/Realizations:  The nickname "Lady Grinch" has stuck and all of the boys from Basha's house call me it. :( I did learn that it has to do with the outfit I was wearing a few days ago though and not for any other my attitude.  Because I've been most happy and content here.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Serious Matter

Day 12 - 24Jul2012

I was on education rotation today.  Not my favorite of rotations, but I had a better time doing it today than I did last week.  I've gotten to know most of the kids now which makes tutoring fun.  Before heading to school, I was able to Skype with my mom.  She had some great news for me!  I've been accepted to the LSAC (Licensed Substance Abuse Counseling) program at the University of Utah.  I made her hold the letter up to the camera so I could read it for myself.  I'm really excited, but also really nervous to go back to school.  I never thought I'd go back to school after getting my bachelors.

I tutored mostly in reading today.  I was able to tutor my favorite girl, Jayanthi.  I know I shouldn't have favorites, but I do.  She is behind in her reading abilities, but it was fun to have her sound out a word and then recognize the word later on and read it without sounding it out.  Tutoring kids for five hours can be draining, but it is very rewarding.

It was too hot to play "catcher" during recess so I sat on the steps in the shade.  Jayanthi and some other girls talked to me about my face.  They wanted to know what the dots on my face were (freckles) and they touched my fake eyelashes.  Then the grooming began.  They went through my hair looking for bugs.  Lice is such a common occurrence here that all of the girls know how to do checks.  They didn't find any lice, but they did find a mole that they seemed quite concerned about.

I took my iPhone to play time...big mistake.  If I bring my camera or phone to play time, that is all the kids want to play with.  My phone is in one piece and working perfectly, it just causes drama.  For example, if I have the rule be that each kid can take five pictures, without a doubt one of the kids will break the rule and make the other kids upset.  That happened with Anitha.  She took 20 pictures.  And when I told her that wasn't fair and that she would not get another turn, she was upset with me.  Jayanthi came to me and pulled me away from the other girls for a "serious matter."  The "serious matter" was that Anitha was no longer going to be my friend.  Such drama with these girls!  I've decided not to take my camera or phone to play time from now on.  I'll just have to get pictures from other people.

Family time was better than usual for me.  I sat with a small group of boys and folded paper into those four square mouth you know what I'm talking about?  I used to make them in church with the sacrament programs.  All of the boys really liked that and I made one for each of them.  The boys were really mellow tonight.

I took my usual nightly shower, but the power went out.  It was out for about five minutes and I showered in the dark.  Power outages are common and happen multiple times a day.  They usually only last a few seconds, but sometimes it can be minutes.  I figure I haven't really taken a bucket shower in India if I haven't done it in the pitch black.

Day 12 Complete

Firsts/Realizations:  I feel like I've lived here forever and yet the days have gone by so fast.  

Monday, July 23, 2012

Snake Wrangler

Day 11 - 23Jul2012

First off, I'd like to say a big THANK YOU to those of you who are reading my blog.  It is nice to see so many followers :)  I haven't been physically writing anything down while I've been here so this really is my journal.  I'll try to be funnier or more...inspiring maybe to keep you entertained and wanting more.  I'm sorry that some of them are so long, but so much happens in a day!  Also, the internet has been really slow here so I haven't been able to upload pictures to my blog. Please check facebook for pictures.  Thanks :)

Today is Monday and I got the fine privilege of being on medical rotation (my favorite!).  I kept having dreams of lice last night so I didn't sleep very well.  I had a lice check as soon as I woke up and I'm lice-free :)  I had a delicious breakfast.  Did you know that I love Nutella?  I had never tried it before coming here, but I brought my own tub of it.  D-E-L-I-C-I-O-U-S.  Can't get enough of it.  I had it on toast with bananas this morning.  So good.

We headed out for the colony around 9:00AM and we had the spectacular privilege of having Anan as our driver (more on his shenanigans later).  The colony was fairly small, maybe 10 houses on each side of the street.  We arrived about 10 minutes before the medical team van.  We had the opportunity to walk the full colony.  At the end of the street, a woman with a five day old baby boy came out to greet us.  She invited us in.  We met another woman with an eight month old baby in the house.  We spent a few minutes doting over the cute infants.  The woman holding the younger baby asked me for "prayer."  I wasn't really sure what she meant so I looked at her questioningly.  She demonstrated that she wanted me to touch her child's head.  Umm...ok...I did and thanked her and told her the baby was beautiful.  She nodded and thanked me.  The people here really like it when white people hold and touch their children.  I don't fully understand why.

Once the medical van arrived, we walked back to the other end of the colony.  An old woman hurried to greet us.  She did not have any fingers or toes and she wore sunglasses.  She went around hugging each of us individually.  She was so happy and grateful to see us.  It is an amazing feeling to be loved by a stranger you have never met just because of the work you are doing.  We set up our mobile clinic and the patients started trickling in.  I was on the eye-drop station for most of today, but I did wash one patient's foot.  As I was sitting on my stool waiting for a patient, a patient was already sitting at another volunteer's station.  When Emily started to wash her foot, she pointed at the cross that hung on the wall to let us know she was Christian and performed the sign of the cross.  She then closed her eyes and began to pray.  She brought her fingerless hands together and raised them as she spoke very softly in Tamil.  She then pointed at each us (myself included) as she spoke.  She did not open her eyes.  The rest of the room was silent as we watched her.  I didn't need to speak Tamil to know what she was saying.  She was offering a prayer of gratitude.  She was asking God to bless us.  Even now, as I write this, I am overcome with emotion.  This was the most sincere offering of gratitude I have ever witnessed.  I was in tears by the time she finished her prayer.  I think we all were.  Why are we not more openly grateful?  Why do I not show my gratitude as often or as much as I should?  Am I not more blessed than she?

We provided medical services to about 10 or 12 patients today.  Some caught the disease early and have not be ravaged by it's effects.  Others are missing fingers and toes or both.  All were grateful.

On the way back to Rising Star, Anan had a little surprise for us.  Shenanigans!  He took us to Pizza Hut!  Or IPan in India ;)  It was the same though and so amazing!  A personal pan cheese pizza for me! I also experienced using an ATM today.  I felt rich withdrawing 6000 rupees (about $100).  After that, Anan took us to a different temple.  Shoes had to come off as always!  I have no idea which god this temple was dedicated to, but I was blessed nonetheless.  After the temple...well, let's just say that I have coconut cookies.  That story has to be told in person ;) Anan sang "Who Let the Dogs Out" for us again.  He is such a funny man.

Jayanthi trying to teach me Tamil
Play time was fun.  Jayanthi and Mymonisha stole my camera away from me for a while and took a lot of candid videos and pictures.  They get good photos...sometimes.  Jayanthi tried to teach me Tamil...again.  I don't think I'm a very good student.  The kids made fun of me for still having my bindi on from the temple.  They told me I shouldn't have one because I'm Christian.  Such smarty pants!  I tried to explain why I had one to them, but I couldn't.  Near the end of play time, I participated in a little group work out in the dining hall.  Pretty funny experience.  I work out at home (CrossFit Sandy!), but this humid heat literally kills me.  It was interesting to say the least.  Family time was also fun.  The coordinators reminded us that we need to be mellowing the children out so I tried reading with them.  They lost interest pretty quickly and decided to color instead.  I've heard Ranjit can speak in an American accent, but I haven't been able to get him to do it in front of me.  

When family time was over, it was time for a shower.  I headed into the girls bathroom with Amy.  She walked into her shower stall to find...a snake!  She screamed and then I screamed.  It was just a tiny green snake.  It wasn't any longer than two feet, but we were terrified of it.  Cassie tried leading it outside with a hanger, but it hissed and striked at her.  I decided to take on the snake.  I stared that thing reared it's head and tried to strike me...but it was tiny and was I was a lofty opponent.  He wasn't even close!  I used the hanger to wrangle the snake into one of our buckets.  Success!  I took the bucket to a coordinator.  She freed the little demon just outside our compound.  The others wanted to know what the screaming was all about.  And then I became known as...the snake wrangler!

Good day!

Day 11 - Complete

Firsts/Realizations: Pinch kiss!

Sunday, July 22, 2012


Day 10 - 22Jul2012

Today is Sunday and I had the day off to do whatever I'd like.  A small group got to go into Chennai for church, but I didn't make the sign up in time for that.  I stayed back at Rising Star.  My room slept in a bit and enjoyed a free schedule.

A small group of those that didn't go into Chennai for church decided to go on a little stroll to a village near to Rising Star.  There were eight of us (five girls and the three boys).  We headed out to experience India separately from Rising Star.

We stopped at several interesting roadside places along the way.  First up was a well.  I found a crab skeleton there.  We also found a Christian cemetery.  We know it was Christian because a cross adorned the entrance.  We continued on...

Once we arrived at the village, everyone came out of their houses to look at us.  I felt like a celebrity.  As we walked down the street, a group of men called after me, "Photo!"  I turned back to let them take a picture of me, but that is not what they wanted.  They wanted me to take a picture of them with my camera.  There was one man in particular that the others kept pushing forward to me and laughing at.  I asked him if I could be in the picture with him.  They laughed.  It is hard to take pictures with people here.  I need to respect their culture so I never know how much I can touch them or not.  The picture is a little awkward because I'm trying to lean into the picture, but not actually physically touch him.  Just then, a mother walked over to me with her small child and placed the child in my arms.  I held the very confused four year old for a couple of minutes and set her down.  I don't know what they wanted me to do with her.  I got a picture though!  Another man asked us if we had "finished lunch."  We lied and said we had because we didn't want them to feed us.  I have to be very wary of the food you eat here.

As we continued on, more people came out to see us and take picture of us and with us.  We were quite popular!  They led us to a Ganesh temple.  When we were about to leave an older woman came over with a key to unlock the gate to the temple.  She said something to us in Tamil in a very upset tone of voice.  I'm still unsure about what she was wanting.  But she blessed us by placing white chalk on our foreheads and then used red chalk to make a red dot on the white.  She then lit a match and lit some kind of substance on fire.  She showed us that we were to pass our hands through the flame and touch our heads.  I participated in this blessing.  I'm not really sure if what I did was sacriligious, but I figure that I was just experiencing a culture.  The woman again proceeded to yell at us.  We were able to figure out that she was unhappy about us putting our shoes back on so soon and that we did not "donate" money or pay her for the experience.  We gave her a few rupees and she seemed satisfied, but she kept yelling at us about our shoes until we reached the road.

They led us to another temple.  They told us that this one had been completed only a couple of weeks earlier.  This temple was dedicated to their village god.  We had a take off our shoe again.  This temple was beautiful!  It was extremely colorful and vibrant!  Statues of Lakshmi adorned the gated entrance to the shrine.  The old woman wouldn't let us go in this one, but when we finished she was there to yell at us until we "donated" again and put our shoes on at the appropriate time.  After spending two hours in the village, we decided to head back to Rising Star.

As always, it was really hot and I was extremely sweaty by the time we got back.  When we got back to the Elephant House, the rest of the volunteers had arrived.  We had a couple of hours of free time before we ate dinner with the kids.

Eating dinner with the kids is an experience.  They use their hands to pick up massive amounts of rice and curry and then they stick out their tongues and plop the rice onto it.  Beside their hands, they don't really get dirty.  It is pretty amazing and disgusting all at the same time.  I really didn't like the curry they served tonight so I didn't eat much.  Jayanthi and Mymonisha made fun of me for not eating.  They were appalled that I didn't finish my plate.  I felt bad, but wasn't going to force myself to eat it.

At family time, I played thumb wars with Kristraj.  A couple of the other boys taught me how to play their version of marbles.  It really is amazing the type of things they come up with here to keep themselves entertained.  I sat and read a book to Harikrishna (yes, that really was his name).  He is one of the younger boys.  He said, "Auntie!"  I looked down and he pointed to my water bottle.  I told him that it was mine and they I saw him pull some pretty sneaky moves.  He looked at his house mother and quickly lifted the straw, then he looked at me.  I was curious about what he was going to do so I smiled.  He looked back at his house mother intently and then at the water bottle - back to his house mother.  And then, before anything could be done, he had his mouth on my straw and was taking a huge sip of my drink (which was blue Powerade).  He set the bottle down and made sure that his house mother hadn't seen him.  I looked down at him and asked him if it was good.  He gave me the slyest smile ever and did the head bob to indicate that it was.  So cute!  I laughed out loud.  I continued reading to him and saw him take two more sips.  He thought it was hilarious!  Naughty boy.  Don't worry, I washed the water bottle before I filled it up again.

I loved being immersed in the culture of a village today.  And I loved being so warmly welcomed.  I never felt threatened or unsafe.  But that is just the kind of people they are.  What a great day!

Day 10 - Complete

Firsts: Eating with the kids. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012


Day 9 – 21Jul2012

Didn’t wake up until 7:00AM today :) I’m getting better at this whole sleeping in thing.  I had Fruit Loops for breakfast, but the milk was warm.  I’m not really sure how I feel about that.  We had morning conclave earlier than normal today because we went to Pondicherry for a shopping day.  We get the weekends off.

Pondicherry is a beach town about two hours from Rising Star.  All of the volunteers got to go together in the three Rising Star vans.  I was hoping to get Anan as the driver, but I was in a different van.  I wore my turquoise buff today with an orange chudidar.  While we were stopped at a light, a man in the bus next to us (which was altogether way too close to us) was making googly eyes at me.  He was mouthing something at me and smiling.  I smiled back and waved.  He smiled even more and made some hand gestures that I didn’t understand.  I don’t care what he was saying, I just felt pretty special that out of a bus full of really attractive young women, he picked me out ;) Unfortunately, I lost that buff in Pondicherry :(

We arrived right on the coast of the Indian Ocean.  We were dropped off at a statue of Gandhi.  As soon as we got out of the bus, the street vendors attacked us - jewelry, key chains, fans, bindi powder, and flowers.  It was funny to have the natives take pictures of us like we were the sight to see.  But I guess having 30 plus white people all in one place is a sight to see here in India.  I climbed to the statue of Gandhi to have my picture taken.  An Indian man was lying at Gandhi’s feet and would not leave for the picture.  We were told that there was a temple in which we could receive an elephant blessing.  We headed there first.

As we walked into the city, the street vendors followed us.  When we reached the temple, the street vendors there mauled us again.  In America, we say, “yes” by nodding our head and “no” by shaking it.  Well in India, “yes” is kind of a combination of the two.  Nodding your head from side to side is “yes” and from what I can tell, “no” doesn’t have a head gesture.  You just say “no.”  Because of this, when I shook my head without verbally saying “no,” I was in danger of being misunderstood.  I found myself having different souvenirs already in my hands before I had time to think.  I didn’t want to buy anything here because I thought I could get a cheaper price if I went further into the city. 

When we reached the elephant temple, I had street vendor trying to sell me bindi dust.  A bindi is the dot that you often see in between the eyes on the forehead.  He wanted me to buy that dust so badly that he demonstrated it on my forehead.  But once he did that, I didn’t need to buy the dust anymore.  The elephant temple did not open for another 20 minutes so we decided to walk around the little shops for a few minutes.  While in Pondicherry, we had to stay with at least one other person, but I was in a group of four (Cassie, Sarah, Amy, and myself).  We found a little shop that sold pants and scarves and trinkets.  We were soon out of time, though, and didn’t left without buying anything.  We told the man we’d be back, but we didn’t come back.

When the temple opened we checked our shoes at the door in order to walk inside.  All of the signs were in Tamil so we didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into and the other volunteers were not there.  We figured out that we were supposed to get into this line.  When we moved forward we inside some kind of shrine.  The workers yelled at us to put our cameras away though so I didn’t get any pictures.  When we got the shrine, holy workers in loincloth things were passing out white chalk, flower petals, and grass.  They just shoved it into my hands.  And then they said, “You pay.  You pay.” over and over again until I handed them 10 rupees each.  I still don’t really know how much those items were supposed cost.  I’m pretty sure I overpaid by quite a bit.  Once we were out of the shrine, we walked around the temple to find the elephant, but there was no elephant to be found.  We asked a worker and he took us a golden elephant chariot and a silver elephant chariot.  Had we really just paid 20 rupees for this?  We left the temple and went back to get our shoes.  Amy sneakily got hers back without paying, but once I asked for mine, he wouldn’t give them to me unless I paid him.  I only had large bills and there was no way I was going to pay 100 rupees to get my shoes back.  The man was quite angry with Amy and kept yelling at her.  We didn’t know we had to pay to check our shoes!  Sarah had a 10 rupee note so she gave that to him in exchange for all of our shoes. We left the elephant temple and tried to find out if we were even in the right place.  We asked one of the street vendors, but he didn’t speak very good English.  A nice tourist translated for us and said that we were in the right place, but that the elephant wasn’t feeling well and that she was not going to be blessing people today. :( An elephant blessing consists of getting a tap on the head by the elephant’s trunk.  I really wanted to experience that, but the elephant was sick. :( I didn’t know what do to with my “gifts” (if that is even what they were).  I was afraid if I threw them away I would be offending the culture.  I asked a beggar if he wanted them and he took them from me.

We continued on our way through the shopping district.  While we were walking we saw Anan.  I was so excited.  He is a driver, an interpreter, a protector, and a friend.  He had led some of the other girls to a chudidar shop (he knew a guy).  I looked through the chudidars, but didn’t find any I absolutely loved so I didn’t buy any there.  We asked Anan to point us in the direction of good food.  He led the way.  Every once in a while he would stop and tell us to be careful.  We had to walk single file along the road or we’d be hit by the traffic.  Pedestrians definitely do NOT have the right of way.  He took us to a French cafĂ©, but we decided that we wanted Italian food instead.  We heard that Don Giovanni’s was a good place to eat so headed there.  Don Giovanni’s is on the roof a hotel in the middle of Pondicherry.  We arrived there with a few of the other girls, but they decided to wait for the elevator and we took the stairs.  We walked up to the top floor to find a door.  We were not sure if we were in the right place or not, but we opened the door anyway to find the restaurant.  We sat ourselves down.  The waiters looked a bit confused.  They told us “12:30.”  And it was only 11:50 so we figured that they were not quite open yet.  We asked if we could wait and he said that was ok.  We took pictures from the rooftop.  The city is so busy!  It is much busier than Salt Lake.  The horns never stop honking.  It sounds a bit like New York.  We waited for only a few minutes and the waiter returned for our order.  He didn’t make us wait until 12:30.  I had bruschetta, a four-cheese pizza, and a coke.  I don’t normally drink soda, but when you can’t drink the water, soda is really the only safe option.  The food was delicious.  Again, I don’t know if that is just because I’m here and I’m sick of curry or if it really was good in comparison to American standards.  Either way, it was a much-needed break from the curry!  Some of the other volunteers finally made there way up to the roof when it actually opened, but we were finished.  They had gone shopping for a few more minutes.  They showed us their goodies.  Some had bought some really cool and genuine items.  Others had been scammed.  One girl bought a “real silver” and “real turquoise” ring for 1600 rupees or about $30.  I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the likelihood of her buying “real” jewelry here was slim.  She made some street vendor very happy though! 

The girls had tried to give us directions to the store, but the directions were flawed.  We spent about 40 minutes trying to find it.  We walked back and forth, but never found it.  But guess who we ran into?  Anan!  He showed us a few streets that had good shopping and told us the “we go.”  He said he couldn’t come with us because it was his lunchtime.  We made our way to the Grand Bazaar.
The Grand Bazaar is a giant fish market, fruit and vegetable stand, and all around flea market.  The smell made me gag at first.  The flies were everywhere.  It was a maze of different stands.  Spices and pasta were everywhere.  We didn’t stay in there very long. 

We started heading back to the statue for pickup.  On the way, we found a store that sold pants, bed sheets, table clothes, scarves, and trinkets.  I bought about $40 worth of goodies in this store.  I’ve been able to talk down all of the vendors to prices I like.  I saved about $10 at this store.  My favorite purchase has been my genie pants.  We continued walking back to the beach.  A man selling elephant paintings on silk stopped us.  I noticed that his hands were missing fingers.  No doubt a lucky one that had been cured of his leprosy by organizations such as Rising Star.  I asked him if made these paintings himself and he said that he had.  I had to buy one…so I did. :) He followed us on his bicycle back to the beach. 

We took jumping pictures on the beach of the Indian Ocean!  Afterward, Sarah thought it would be good idea to get our feet wet in the water.  As we climbed down the water, a swell came and the ocean sprayed us.  We were soaking wet!  It felt so wonderful though in the heat.  We bought some ice cream along the beach and a couple of young men asked to take their picture with us.  We waited at the Gandhi statue and I made a few more purchases of things that I wanted earlier, but didn’t want to carry around all day.  The man with the elephant paintings held shook my hand with both of his and gave me the sweetest smile.  The people here are amazing.  The van was nice and cool and within a few minutes of leaving, the entire van was asleep.  It had been a very long, hot, and sweaty day!

We had dinner on our own tonight.  It was movie night with the kids.  I headed over and found Jayanthi.  The kids were watching an older movie I had never seen before about an air race.  A girl I had never met before (her name was Navida) sat in my lap.  Jayanthi held my hand.  Mymonisha had gotten in trouble earlier in the day and was not able to come to movie night.   Jayanthi told me that Mymonisha was my friend again though.  That was good news!  All of the girls got haircuts today.  Some of them were quite interesting, but they are still adorable. 

We lost our internet connection tonight so I haven’t been able to get online.  I’ll have to post this tomorrow. 

It was great day today!  I loved being immersed in the culture of the city.

Day 9 Complete

Firsts: I saw a monkey today.  I had only heard them before. 

Friday, July 20, 2012

98% DEET

Day 8 - 20Jul2012

I woke up this morning with my alarm at 6:00AM.  I was able to Skype with my family and FaceTime with a friend.  It was fun to talk with them face to face.  Romba Kaaram was assigned to education rotation today so we headed to school at 9:00AM.

Today I tutored in reading and math only.  My first assignment was going through a book with an entire class by myself.  I was at the front of a classroom with eight kids and their regular teacher.  I would read a sentence out loud and they would follow along and then they would repeat the sentence back to me in unison.  After that, we went through the worksheets about the book.  The book was about the moon and the phases of the moon.  So I drew three circles on the blackboard and we colored in a full moon, a new moon, and a half moon.  The other worksheet was practicing placing quotation marks at the appropriate places in a sentence.  I wrote all the sentences on the board and then called on students to place the quotation marks.  It was the funnest time I've had tutoring this whole time.  I was able to tutor my favorite girl, Jayanthi.  I quickly realized that she is behind in her reading abilities.  She is II Std. (Second Standard = 2nd Grade) and should be able to read fairly well without having to slowly sound out every word.  However, she can't. Every word was slowly sounded out and it took her a few seconds to realize what the word should be.  Harder or longer words were sounded out correctly, but then she couldn't remember the sounds long enough to put them together.  On the plus side, she comprehended everything that we read and did really well on her worksheets.  I just love it when she holds my hand and smiles at me with her huge brown eyes.  And she has the cutest gold nose ring.  I also tutored Mymonisha in reading today.

During recess, I came back to the Elephant House to fill my water bottle.  When I got back to the school, a couple of the other volunteers said that a couple of girls had asked about me.  It was Jayanthi and Mymonisha :)  At lunch, I have the option to eat with the kids or come back to the Elephant House.  I came back to the Elephant house and ate EasyMac.  Food from home tastes 10 times better here than it does at home.  After lunch, I was in the computer lab tutoring math.  School ended at 2:00PM and I had free time until 4:30PM so I took a nap and it was glorious!

At PT, I started to play tag or "catcher" with Mymonisha and Jayanthi, but a few other little girls came up to me begging for my attention.  I played with them for only a few minutes, but that was enough time for Jayanthi and Mymonisha to be upset with me.  They did not like sharing me.  So much so that when I tried to go play with them again, they would run away from me.  I finally caught up with Jayanthi and told her that it was not nice to ignore someone and that if she was mad at me, she should talk to me about it.  She said that she did not like "this girls."  I told her that I would sometimes have to play with other kids, but that it didn't mean I did not like her anymore.  She smiled at me and wouldn't let go of my hand after that.  Mymonisha took a lot more convincing.  At one point she even cried.  I had Jayanthi talk to her because she wouldn't talk to me.  Mymonisha would come over and talk to Jayanthi in Tamil and then stop, glare at me, and continue talking.  It was difficult to understand what the problem was, but I think I figured it out.  A couple of days ago, I took a video of Jayanthi, Mymonisha, and Annu.  Every night, I download all of my pictures from my phone or camera to my computer so that I have all the memory card room I can for the next day.  So when I went to PT tonight, the video of them was not on my camera.  Mymonisha was upset because she thought I had erased the video.  I tried to explain to her that I transferred them to my computer, but she didn't understand.  I was not able to get Mymonisha to talk to me again tonight...maybe tomorrow.

Dinner was delicious tonight.  We got an order of bananas in.  I love them!  And we had tortillas with rice and guess what else?!  Curry!  I know, I know, pretty amazing.  It was a good type of curry though.

At family time, a boy that is not in my house named Basha, told me that I was a grinch.  And he went on and on in broken English about me being a grinch.  He laughed and laughed when I told him I wasn't.  He brought his friend, Vijay, into the conversation and they spoke in Tamil and laughed at me. I still have no idea what they said, but I punished them with by tickling them :)  Ranjit had to do some homework tonight.  He was doing his times tables.  He had a little eraser that was in the shape of a flip flop.  I put the flip flop on my pinkie toe and they all thought I was hilarious.  I also took song requests tonight.  The usuals came up - The Itsy Bitsy Spider, Jingle Bells, Row Row Row Your Boat.  Another volunteer got henna on her hand from the house mother.  I need to buy some henna so mine can be done.  I'll probably do that tomorrow.  The bugs in the kids' hostel are the worst.  I finally remembered to put more Jungle Juice (98% DEET!) on before heading over.  After about a half an hour, I looked at my arms and they were covered with the carcasses of dead insects.  Gross!  But better dead than biting me!

Now I am all showered and ready for bed.  I feel like today was pretty uneventful.  As I lay here contemplating the day, I recognize some qualities about myself that I need to improve.  I need to be more outgoing.  I get pretty quiet when I'm in larger groups and I think that makes me seem standoffish when I'm not.  I'd really like to get to know the other girls that I'm volunteering with better.  I know my roommates really well, but I haven't really talked to other girls much.  I also need to work on my gratitude.  I am so blessed!  And I don't feel like I show my gratitude as much as I should.  This has already been such an amazing experience and I can't wait for what next week's service will bring me.

Tomorrow we are going to Pondicherry to shop!

Day 8 Complete

Firsts: I discovered Nutella!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

"Every Day Is A Good Day"

Day 7 - 19Jul2012

I was awoken this morning in mid-dream to someone saying my name softly.  Because of my dream, I thought someone had died.  But it was Julie (the program director) and she had the most excellent news for me.  My luggage had arrived!!!  After six days (two of traveling and four here) of living out of my carry-on backpack, my luggage was here!   It felt just like Christmas!  It was 1:30AM, but I was oh so happy.  I went back to bed absolutely ecstatic.

I slept in a little more today and woke up at 6:00AM.  I spent the morning reading in Luke about Christ healing the 10 lepers.  I didn't wake up early enough to watch the sunrise, but I did take a few minutes to just sit and look at my surroundings.  It is still surreal that I am in the middle of India.  I ate breakfast and got ready for the day.  I was on medical rotation today so I was in a chudidar.  We had morning conclave and I packed my daypack for a day in the colonies.

We drove about an hour and were told that we were stopping at a school to do check-ups on some kids.    When we arrived, I quickly realized that we were not at an ordinary school.  We were at a special needs school.  The kids lit right up when they saw us and offered huge hugs.  It was a little intimidating at first because I have a hard time being myself around people with mental disabilities, but for some reason, I felt so comfortable with these kids.  Maybe it was the language barrier or maybe it was their obvious love for me.  I like to think it was the latter.  I sat with several of them for a while talking.  I had no idea what they were saying and they had no idea what I was saying, but we laughed and smiled a lot.  I held their hands and they climbed on me and sat in my lap.  These kids ranged from young (about three) to 15 or so.  There were even a few adults.  This school is a place where special needs kids go when their parents abandon them.  This was the first time Rising Star has ever visited.  We were there for about two hours.  We played "Ring Around the Rosie" and that was a huge hit.  And of course the cameras.  They loved taking pictures and videos.  We also sang "As Sisters in Zion" to them.  That was probably one of my favorite moments.  The spirit in the room was palpable.  Nine young volunteer women singing that song...speechless.  After the song, a little girl reached for me, asking me to hold her.  I sat with her in my lap for a few minutes.  She stared at me without a smile on her face.  I started tickling her back and she put her head on my shoulder.  A few minutes later she was asleep.  I don't think these children get a lot of physical contact.  That is one thing that stood out to me.  They always wanted to be touched.  A hand held.  An arm around a shoulder.  A head laying in a lap.  Unfortunately, I couldn't stay there forever.  When it was time to leave, I tried to lay the little girl on a mat to keep her asleep, but she woke up.  As I was saying goodbye, she reached for me and started to cry.  I held her hand for a few seconds, but I had to leave.  It is an indescribable feeling to leave a child that you barely know and yet have such a bond with.  I'll never see her again.  But it was off to do other good works :)

Our next stop was a preschool inside one of the colonies.  These children have parents with leprosy.  When they are old enough they will attend school at Rising Star.  We were warned that these kids were terrified of white people.  And they were...they cried when they first saw us, but they soon warmed up to us.  These children were also just getting check-ups (eyes, ears, weight, and vitals). There weren't very many kids so we didn't stay there very long.

After that, we went to a very small colony with only four patients.  We unloaded the van by an assembly line and set up each station.  The stations are as follows:

1. Blood pressure and glucose - BP is taken and recorded in the patient's chart.  A glucose test is performed because a lot of patients do become diabetic.
2. Bandage removal - The old bandages are removed by cutting or unwrapping.  The gauze padding is also removed.  Toenails are also cut at this station.
3. Washing - The limb (only feet today) is washed.  The ulcers are never washing directly.
4. Oiling - The leg and foot are rubbed with oil.  Again, the ulcers are not oiled.
5. Doctor's station - At this station, the doctor removes the dead flesh around the ulcer.  Medicine is applied and the limb is re-bandaged.
5. Eye drop station - Each eye received two eye drops to help clean them out.  Patients with leprosy lose their eyesight because their eyelids start to droop and they are unable to get a tight seal when they close them.  Infection sets in.

I was at station number two today.  I wore double gloves and a face mask the whole time.  I wasn't allowed to take personal pictures while treating patients, but Rising Star did take some that I will be able to get later.   I removed the bandage of one man and three women.  The first patient was a woman.  These patients are very familiar with the routine.  When I cut the bandage off and saw my first ulcer, I was shocked.  The ulcer went all the way to the bone.  I've seen pictures of it, but when the sore is less than two feet from your face, it is a whole different story.  My hands were a little shaky after that.  I felt uneasy not knowing what I was going to see under the bandages.  I helped the man next.  He was very talkative and knew a little bit of English.  He was very friendly and appreciative.  Both of his feet had ulcers.  The entire bottom of his right foot was an ulcer.  I watched his face as the doctor cut off the dead flesh.  Facial expressions for pain are universal.  Another lady had a really fancy boot that laced all the way to her knee.  She kept saying, "Shoes and socks."  All of the patients we treated today had missing toes.  This is such a sad disease.  Sad because it is curable and yet there are still people suffering with with it.  Such a humbling and satisfying experience.  I would do medical rotation every day if I could. 

After we treated all of the patients it was time to go back to Rising Star, but we made a couple of pit stops along the way.  Our driver, Anandan (we call him "Anan") asked us if we wanted to climb a hill.  He also said it was "just a little walk."  We agreed and he took us to climb a hill.  It was really hot, but it wasn't a bad climb.  At the top, there was a Sheeva temple.  We asked him who Sheeva was and he said, "I don't know.  Ask someone else." :) Before I go on, you must understand that Anan is the sweetest and nicest of all people I've met here in India and he smiles all the time.  Anyway, we also had to take off our shoes.  I did NOT like that idea, but what do you do?  At the top of the hill we saw the view to the city (hmm...I'll have to insert this later because I can't remember) and a lake.  When we headed down the hill, there were three men sitting on the side of the road.  Anan yelled at them and we quickly got into the van.  Once in the van, Anan said, "Bad guys."  We don't know what they were doing, but we trust Anan.  

Going on!  While driving, Anan said that he wanted to listen to his favorite song and then he made some weird "who-ing" noises.  We laughed because we had no idea what he was talking about.  But he played the song and it was "Who Let the Dogs Out."  We sang the song together as a van as Anan belted it out and snapped his fingers. :)

Next, Anan said that he saw Amy's (the medical coordinator) favorite fruit, the pomegranate, being sold on the side of the road.  So he decided to stop and buy us a few.  When he put the car in park though, it started to roll backwards.  Amy asked him if we could put the parking break on and he said, in the most loving and kind-hearted way, "Oh, shut up."  We all burst out laughing.  Instead, he placed a rock behind the tire.  Amy offered to pay, but Anan said, "I know a guy."  Anan cracks me up!  He knows a pomegranate guy!  

Then, still on our way back to Rising Star, we stopped at a restaurant for poritta (I think that is how you spell it).  Basically, it is a flaky tortilla that you wrap an omelet in and dip in curry sauce.  It was actually quite delicious!  While we didn't have any more stops, Amy asked Anan if he had had a good day and he replied, "Every day is a good day."  I am going to adopt that attitude!

I played with my usual girls tonight.  They are adorable and they keep trying to teach me Tamil.  They ask if I can switch to their house for family time, but I can't.  I wasn't really feeling dinner today.  I didn't love curry before coming and I don't love it now.  But it was hot and it filled me up.  We are out of bananas though and that makes me sad.  I guess we're getting another order soon.  Family time was short and the kids were surprisingly mellow.  Vicky wanted me to try "tooth powder" which I think is like tooth paste, but I didn't dare to.  So he wrote my name on my arm instead.  Another boy wanted me to write him some math problems.  So I did and he got every single one right!  Seriously, these kids are so smart!

And then I took a shower and headed for bed.

Day 7 Complete

Firsts:  I learned that there is actually a flush feature on the squatters and I've been doing it wrong this whole time ;)

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Education Rotation

Day 6 - 18Jul2012

I had a very early morning today.  I slept really well from 9:30PM until 4:00AM, but once I woke up, I was awake for good.  The first thing I did was go to the bathroom.  When I went in there, one of the other volunteers was laying on a pillow on the floor of the bathroom.  She was accompanied by one of the volunteer coordinators.  Apparently, she had been sick all night.  The other coordinators later came with a gurney to carry her out.  They took her to see Dr. Susan (she is the doctor for Rising Star) and then later they took her to the hospital.  I am so glad that I haven't been sick.

My head has been itchy since last night so I thought for sure I had lice when I woke up scratching my head.  So at 4:30AM I had a lice check done.  No lice for me! Yet.  I don't know why my head is so itchy.  I did get a lot of brick dust in my hair yesterday, maybe that's it.

After that, I laid in bed for another hour, but could not sleep.  So once again, I went up to the roof to watch the sunrise.  This time, Amy joined me.  We welcomed the gorgeous sunrise along with the birds and monkeys.  I spent the morning emailing family and blogging about yesterday's events.  I set up my FaceTime and Skype accounts so I can talk to my family in a couple of days.  I also ate breakfast around 6:00AM - Trix and boxed milk :)

At around 7:30AM everyone else started waking up.  So I got ready for the day and waited around for morning conclave at 8:30AM.  Getting ready consists of putting on my chudidar (traditional Indian dress - kind of like a really long shirt).  Rising Star provides them for us.  They are really comfortable and not super hot.  I wear them with the only pair of leggings that I have right now (still no luggage).  I ate another bowl of cereal (Frosted Flakes this time).  At conclave we said a prayer and discussed the day.  My team was assigned to the education rotation today.  However, the team that was supposed to be on medical couldn't go because Dr. Susan and the other nurses were all with the sick girl at the hospital.  So the other team joined us at the school.

I spent the day tutoring kids in reading, phonics, and math.  I started with reading.  Most of the students are really good at reading, but they read too fast and their accent is thick.  A little girl named Sangeetha stood out to me.  She was really good, but read really fast.  She was so fast that she got to go on to new books.  She definitely didn't like to be corrected though.  A little boy name Karthik finished his lesson too, but instead of going on he decided to draw me a picture of a sunny sky with clouds, a boat in the ocean with a little man on it, a tent on the grassy shore, and a shark with scary teeth swimming towards an octopus.  He gave me the picture to keep ;)  Then it was on to phonics.  The kids have a song that goes, The A says "ah."  The A says "ah." Every letter makes a sounds.  The A says "ah."  They do this song with every letter of the alphabet to help them remember the sound letters make.  All of them know this song and they refer to it often while being tutored.

I took my lunch break after reading and phonics.  Lunch today (because I still don't have my bag), consisted of a Clif bar, some goldfish crackers, a fruit leather, and a banana.  Not my favorite of meals, but it filled me up.  After lunch, I went back to the school for more tutoring.  This time I got to tutor the kids in math in the computer lab.  I like this much better than tutoring in reading or phonics.  I used to tutor in math so maybe that is why.  There was only one other tutor during this class period and there were about 20 kids.  They all called for me to help them, but when I went over to help, they already knew the answer.  They really just wanted the attention.  One particular girl all, but refused to work without me.  She followed me around while I helped the other kids and held my hand.  And she tried to take my shellac nail polish off.  But when I did help her, I realized very quickly that she was one of the brightest in the bunch and really didn't need my help.  During the last few class periods, I tutored in reading and phonics again.  I was lucky enough to tutor one of my favorite girls, Jayanthi.  She was really good at her phonics and sounding out words while reading.  And she was so focused!

Jayanthi, Annu, and Mymonisha
At play time, I was mauled because I took my camera with me, but I was sure glad I did.  Every kid that saw me with my camera asked to take photos or video.  I think I'm a bigger hit with the girls than the boys.  I played on the monkey bars.  And a girl made up an obstacle course for us to race through.  Then Jayanthi, Annu, and Mymonisha found me...and I was the permanent catcher for tag.  We played almost the entire time. Jayanthi taught me some new words, but I can't remember them anymore.  I do remember "nandri" which means "thank you."

At dinner we ate the same rice and curry as last night.  I know I am only on night 3, but I am already sick of rice and curry.  I'd love a juicy cheeseburger right about now ;)

Family time was bit interesting.  The boys were more rambuctious than normal because their house mother had the night off.  At one point, one of the younger boys, Vingnesh took his shorts and underwear off and was walking around lettin' it all hang free.  He was so proud of himself.  The magnedoodle made another appearance.  Kristraj was also on one tonight.  He doesn't have his two front teeth right now so when he smiles at you you can't help but smile back.  I was exhausted tonight so I wasn't my normal jocular self.  Waking up at 4:00AM will do that to you.

After family time, I took a shower and now I'm writing this blog.  I'm on medical rotation tomorrow, which I am really excited for.  This is why I came.  I really can't believe I'm here.  Even now, it feels surreal.  I love the simple life of everyone here.  And yet they are so happy.

I am happy too.  Volunteering here has given me a new perspective and a new understanding of myself - about who I am and about who I want to be and what I want out of life.

Day 6 Complete

Firsts: The first bug bite.