Monday, December 31, 2012

Day One

My first experiences have kind of been a shock which I think has helped me acclimate a little faster. My first meal I pulled bone and cartilage out of just about everything (I gagged a little). The first night I found a mini tarantula in the bathroom and I took my bucket shower with a nice little frog. My first day in town I saw several naked men. I'm not just talking about them urinating on the side of the street or just wearing underwear. They were straight-up-naked and like 4 feet from me. I was a bit uncomfortable but what can you do? I also had to ride a motorcycle with one of the native workers but you're not supposed to touch the opposite gender or show any affection, or even be alone with them. I could not hold on the bike because the roads are SO AWFUL so I put my arms around him... let's just say that was another moment I'd like to forget. So, I'm embarrassing myself like a normal American.

I don't know if I have explained to people what I'm actually doing here... I'm working with an organization called RisingStar which is stationed in Provo and here in Chennai. They primarily work with curing leprosy as well as local construction projects and they have their own school here on campus for the children of leprosy affected families. It's actually a really nice school and they even have people in the area trying to get their children in it. The reason why is because here they teach English which will improve the job options of these kids tremendously and because class sizes are smaller. There are only 20 kids per class here and in the public schools they have 60-70 kids in a class. People from all over the world pay to come volunteer in the school/colony and my job is to be their coordinator. I'm in charge of the leprosy colonies so I take the volunteers out daily and teach them what to do and help them become comfortable with the people they work with. I also help in the school and with anything else they need.

The colony I visited yesterday was quite the experience. I don't have any groups at the moment so it was just me and the medical team who went so I did just about every station. In the colonies we take their glucose level to check for diabetes, take blood pressure/pulse, remove bandages, clean wounds, oil, and then wrap them up and send them off with medication. I'm in rural India so these colonies are just isolated villages. They have their own businesses and such going on so they're pretty functional. The problem is that Indians think leprosy is a curse and not something curable so they shun them from society. Many will not get treatment because they are afraid to admit that they have it. So this is where RisingStar comes to help. I feel so bad for the patients though. It looks so painful. They have no fingers or toes. Their eyes dry out and they go blind. Yesterday I cleaned out huge ulcers on their feet... many were infected and oozing. But they can't feel them so I guess I shouldn't feel so bad. It was really fun believe it or not. I'll post some pictures of the colony next time when I'm not so busy working the stations.

Here are some pictures of my house/campus.

Mango/Coconut Orchards. We're on 14 acres of land in the middle of nowhere. It's gorgeous! 

The School (The Gem of this side of town)

 Soccer field/track for the kids
Where we get the water...
 Beyond the wall of campus. Cobras, scorpions, monkeys, you name it. 

Welcome to India! I will post pictures of the colonies as soon as I get them. Happy New Years! (I just slept for New Years... there was NO way I was leaving campus and I was tired). 

Sunday, December 30, 2012

21, 22, and some

I suck at this blog thing. I never wrote about my last two accomplishments prior to my 22nd birthday. Fortunately, they are related to what the blog will NOW be about. 21: apply for India program. 22: Choose a place to go for Winter (I almost changed my mind for South America).

Guess what? I'm in the scary place of India and I have no idea what I have gotten myself into. I was secretly hoping that India ports would be shut down so I had to spend the next four months in Germany. I had a minor meltdown on the way from Denver to Germany. And everything worked out sooo I'm here and it's exactly what I expected. Super humid, dirty, busy, and weirdly gorgeous!

I'm afraid that I have blood clots from my flight over here. I slept the ENTIRE time in the sitting position... how can someone sleep for 22 hours on a plane and then get home and sleep more? This morning I'm having weird cramps in my hips. Let's pray my body doesn't hate me enough to produce a blood clot! Well, if it doesn't now then it will eventually.

My coworkers here call this fat-camp because you lose so much weight. So we will see how much weight I actually have to lose. I may come back a skeleton. This one time I went with my friend to the vet because her dog needed a shot or something. The vet told me that their dog was super overweight.... which it was, and they said the best way to tell is when you pet the dog you should be able to feel their ribs but not see them. If you can't feel their ribs then they're too fat. It can't be too much different for humans, right? So if I see my ribs then I'm too skinny... but not until then.

Overall, day one is good, a little stressful because the accents are really really thick. Much more than Trevor Carver's (my friend who served his mission here who likes to speak with an accent sometimes). I cannot pronounce ANYONE's name, unless they're Christian and their name is Elizabeth Mary (that's a real name). Here are some of the kid's names... Rajamanikan, Jeevanantham, Vijayalakshmi, Manodhaya... Yep. I'll probably get it when I'm leaving. Maybe. But the kids are soooooooo cuuuuuute. They all have lice so I have to scrape my head daily. Another worry to add to my list. But it will be great! I'm excited. I head to one of the leprosy colonies tomorrow to meet my new friends. I will be sure to write about any of my experiences. From what I hear, it can get nasty -- like maggots in wounds nasty. I'll try to spare you any gagging details but I will definitely inform about the general idea. I'm just hoping I can avoid getting some parasite, living in the bathroom for the entire trip because of the food, getting lice, or Japanese encephalitis/malaria. Lucky me we live next to rice patties. What did the vaccination nurse specifically tell me to avoid, yep, rice patties. Wish me luck!

Let me leave you with a list of things to have while on a long flight. This will save your life.
1. Take baby aspirin prior to flying: it will prevent blood clots.
2. Head/neck pillow. I paid $15 for one at the airport and was kind of mad about it. I could not have spent a better $15. I slept so much better and I didn't have to lean on the person next to me.
3. Snacks. The airplane food is awful. Like MTC food reheated 10 times and left to boil in pulper water.
4. Empty water bottle. You can take it through security, fill it up while you're in the airport and then you don't have to pay for a water bottle! OR dehydrate when you arrive in your country and can't find a store.
5. Over-ear headphones. After about 3 hours your ears will be screaming if you have in-ear headphones. And if you have a flight like mine... there were so many freaking children. Headphones saved me.
6. Put spare underwear and your meds in your carry on. I lost my checked bag in Mexico... I wore the same clothes for two days and it was... interesting to say the least.