Sunday, January 27, 2013

Sundays: long drives, dead bodies, bathroom issues and elephants.

(you can scroll to the bottom if you just want to look at pictures. I wont judge).

So, today was absolutely insane and felt the need to write it down. Erin (my roommate) and I teach primary at church... soo all of the little Indian kids who barely speak English and definitely don't know big church words. That alone is so draining; I eat a whole pack of cookies to recover. Today we were trying to teach them a song with an activity. Of course, we have no supplies including pencils, papers, or anything so I provided the pens even though I really didn't want to. I can't find pens anywhere so I'm treasuring the ones I have.

The person trying to conduct needed me to sing along loudly so the kids would actually join us, which is torture alone. But as the song started I just sat there stressing about my stupid pens so I wasn't singing very well. I wanted to make sure I got them back because I don't have anymore. Stupid, I know, but for some reason that was a big deal. I watched mothers put them in their purse, kids chew off the rubber grips, and throw them around around. That wasn't even a problem in hindsight. (I got all but one back and most of them are in one piece). The best part of the song was at the chorus, when I was supposed to be singing the loudest, the little girl next to me stood up and peed right there on the floor. Her mother was sitting next to her and watched the whole thing and she didn't do anything. Not even a second glance. I'm sure my mouth was wide open and that's when I just stopped singing for the rest of the song. I was a little distracted. This church building is the nicest building I've been in since I've been in India and someone just peed on the carpet and no one cleaned it. But then again, I'm pretty sure there was nothing to even clean it with and people just pee wherever they want outside so bathrooms aren't something that crosses their minds.

Then the car ride home we were driving on the highway and our driver pointed out this truck ahead that had an elephant on it. I made him weave through traffic so we could get a picture. And yep, there was an elephant just standing up in the back of this tiny truck. My roommate took a video that I'll get posted. That was exciting and one of the most random things I have ever experienced.

After that, the driver pointed out an accident on the road. This may sound crazy but I've been here a month and that was the only actual car accident I've seen. I'll post a video of how insane the traffic is here. There are no lanes or signs. Stop signs are actually randomly placed speed-bumps. People walk across highways and I'm just trying not to look out the window. This accident we passed was really really bad. 3 cars, 2 small ones, and a large truck with pipes on the back. There were no visible bodies in the cars and I was worried that there would be dead bodies on the road but my driver said that an ambulance had already come. There was a hospital up the road? But looking at the cars, there was definitely a fatality. Lots of blood, totaled cars and I know that no one wears seat belts here. It was disturbing. Way worse than anything I've ever seen in the states. Dead bodies aren't really scary here I guess. I saw one the other day on the back of a cart- funeral ceremony? They throw the body on a cart, put some flowers in their mouth, follow the cart with some drums and haul him off for the burial/cremation ceremony. Nothing like the states.

Then I came home and played with crazy kids and laughed the stress off. Sunday is just insane. 2 hour drive to Chennai means 4 hours in the car, 3 hours at church... 7 hours later... yeah.

That is urine on the floor in the church classroom. Lots of people walked through it....

I sponsor this child. K. Vignesh. I asked him to smile for me and he wouldn't. I asked why and everyone started yelling "he has no teeth!". I made him smile anyway. He was excited about the letter I wrote him. :)

I want to take this child home with me!!! Thiyagarajan. :) I drew him this picture and told him it was of him. He colored it and has kept it in his pocket for days. As have all of the kids who I have made origami or drawings. 

And there's the elephant. Indian Highways.... 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Reality Check...

My Indian Friend :).  
So, I've been here almost an entire month! Where has the time gone? I feel like I just got here yet I feel like I've been here for ages. I also just finished visiting all of the colonies. There's only 10 so somehow I missed colony visits every Wednesday for the past month. They all are great and now I know what to expect from each.

Today I cleaned some of the largest and most infected ulcers I've seen yet. The smell is the worst part but you just have to throw on a few extra masks and that problem is mostly taken care of. I just feel so bad for these patients! I just try to imagine living a life where society has condemned you to an isolated colony, you have very little job opportunity if any, you have no toes or fingers, and you're going blind. Not to mention the festering wounds on your feet, legs, and hands...

The other day I went to a colony and I just like to sit and talk with the patients. Well, I try to talk with the patients, they speak like 4 words in English and I speak 5 words of Tamil so it's mostly hand gestures. I was teasing one of the older men and we were all laughing and then he just started crying. I still don't know if it's because he was so happy or because he was in pain. But he apparently fell the other day and skinned his knee and was just having a lot of problems with his vision. This place is so humbling. In America, people would be sedated for the treatment we provide at the colonies. It can sometimes get bloody and some of the infections are awful. This people are so tough and just deal with the pain.

There are so many medical issues everywhere though. Now that I've been here long enough I'm no longer looking at the flowers and pretty buildings but more at the poverty. I see people with tumors, deformities, wood planks used for legs, polio, TB... just about everything I've learned about in my classes. It's a rough life here yet the people are amazing. The kids are folding laundry and cleaning at ages 3 and 4. They don't cry unless they're literally broken in some shape or form. The other day at play time this kid fell, ripped his knee open and it was bleeding down his leg. He just ran to a bucket and washed it off and started playing again. No crying, nothing. We are so spoiled!

Okay, enough of the sad stuff. Here are some fun videos and pictures from the week.

 How Indian children dance with pillow cases on their heads. 

The long lost child...wearing a pillowcase. 

Superman Monday. :) The kid on the left is the one who ripped his knee open and just bounced back up. Tough kid. 

My favorite old men playing games and jokes. The one in the middle was singing, buttoning his friends shirts (even though he has no fingers) and just teasing everyone. I couldn't stop laughing at him. I wish this was a video but he was bobbling that guy's head back and forth singing some chant while the other guy sat there laughing. 

Can I keep this child?

 I was supposed to be taking people's blood pressure but it was slow. So we played with my phone instead. She got a little excited.

  MOORTHY! This is the guy I was talking about earlier. So handsome. Also, all of the kids called me a grandma because of my outfit that day. I can't escape that nickname no matter where I go. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happy Pongal!

So this week is Pongal, the multi-day holiday where the people consecrate their last harvest to the God's. I'm pretty certain it's only for Hindus but everyone celebrates by dressing up and taking time off of work... to eat? That's all I see happening probably because most of the people I see aren't actually Hindu. It's like Christmas in America. You celebrate it with lots of food and family.

Well, due to the holiday I haven't been able to visit any of the colonies. So, I've just been sitting around for days and I can only entertain myself for so long. I've started my taxes, I emailed important people, I'm starting personal research projects about leprosy. I've read all about Dengue Fever, Japanese Encephalitis, and TB. I've almost memorized all of the mosquito types that carry certain diseases. Yep...One thing I should work on is getting the lice shampoo out of my hair. We did some delousing with the kids last week and afterwards I usually head home to a shower and I use lice shampoo (just in case the buggers decided to jump into my hair as I tried to kill them). The first few times I treated my hair it was fine. However, the last time something was different. I feel like I put super-glue in oil form in my hair. I've washed my hair probably 10 times and I still have gunk in it. Buckets showers just aren't good for things like this I guess. At least I wont be getting lice stuck in there anytime soon. :)

Lots of fun things have happened this week despite my nasty hair and weird hobbies. We went to a really small colony last week and we danced with the patients. Probably one of the greatest things I've done so far in India because they actually joined us for some dancing. I could not stop laughing. This place is just funny to me. All of the people just want you to sing and dance, not with them, but for them. And this may sound rude, but it's not, it's just how it is. I have never met so many tone-deaf people in my entire life. I'm laughing every time we sing a song together because it's just all over the place. I'll have to record it sometime for all of you to understand. It's just great. I have finally found a place where I don't feel stupid singing in public. It's just fun here. I can't tell you how many solos I have been singing for the kids. Particularly the Baby Bumblebee song as well as I'll make a Man out of you from Mulan. They also love Call me Maybe and Justin Beiber but who doesn't?

Dancing in the colony. 

 Some cute village kids leaving for the long weekend. 

 Got me a flower to match my Chuididar.:)
 More dancing :)

I promise I don't wear the same clothes everyday. I just happen to be wearing the same thing every time we have our cameras out. 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

New Year Greatness

This week is a new wave of silliness. The kids keep asking me what my American name is... it blows their minds that English and Tamil overlap. It's mostly just fun to watch their mouths drop in surprise. I've been playing so so so sooo many games. And my roommate and I were in charge of choir this week. Games and choir.. not super good at either of those things. I'm musically incompetent and I just hate games. I'm just forcing myself to get over a lot of things. I may just come back a new person. I might even change the spelling of my name to Anitha (silent H).

 I've been here two weeks and I no longer am afraid of everything that moves... until this morning. The neighboring village likes to wake up at 5 am and play this really loud Hindi music that isn't that great, mostly irritating. Usually I don't mind it but this morning it just sounded like people being tortured. I honestly thought someone was dying until I realized through my sleepiness that it was just the music. The music just freaked me out though. I just kept getting more and more scared and I had to walk across campus in the dark to the car so we could go to the airport to pick up the other volunteer. I started to think of a plan to make it across campus without being mauled by a monkey/cobra (yes, I got a little overboard). I get outside of the house and I go to close the door and something was hiding behind the handle and I touched it!!! So much wiggling in my hand...It was a gecko... a freaking gecko. I lost it and just started speed walking through the dark to the car. My driver wasn't there yet so I stood in the dark... afraid of life. He showed up on his motorcycle and all went well after that. But I just scared myself to death this morning. I have to think about happy things all of the time or I just start thinking about tuberculosis, occupational health standards, or the zombie apocalypse. I think the next season of walking dead should take place in India because that would be the most terrifying thing I could possibly think of.

Okay, pictures!

Gokulraj offended by our terrible singing. Everyone is tone deaf here so I fit in just great :)

Our attempt at choir. We just kind of gave up after a certain point and danced to American pop-songs outside. I'm sure once the actual teacher comes back she'll hate us because they'll be begging to listen to Justin Beiber, Jai Ho, and to be outside... I'm obviously helping a lot here.

My watercolor that I found in my luggage today. Forgot I even put it in there. :) 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


So, India just gets better and better the more I'm here. I can actually say some people's names and I know like 4 words in Tamil. I get to spend the morning working in the colonies massaging people's feet and training my groupies. The last group that came in were so amazing. We had two families, a high school teacher, and a  fellow BYU student who just came for a week. It was a blast. We played cards every night and went out during the day... I'm sad they left.

One of the best parts of this trip is the fact that I get to play with kids all afternoon. There are 223 students here and they are all sooo adorable! I've never met a group of kids so outgoing and sweet. It's just so validating to have 200+ kids yelling your name and all wanting to play with you. I teach them weird children's songs and we play games. The other day we took old water-bottles and filled them with rocks and used basketballs for a game of bowling. They loved it except there was a lot of fighting over who got to roll the ball which was more like them chucking the ball at the bottles and rocks were flying everywhere. They all crawl all over me and grab my face... although physical touch isn't allowed in the culture the kids love to hold hands. It's okay for kids to do it but after a certain grade they're not allowed to sit on our laps and such. But the young ones are so fun.

The kids all know my name at this point because apparently, Anita is an Indian name. (Anitha) It's also a Hatian name, a Spanish name, an Nepali name...I am the uni-race. They all run up and ask me what their name is... I'm wrong a lot of the time. There are just too many names to remember in a week but I'm in love with so many of them. I'll post some pictures and a cute video of a kid's science project for you all to enjoy.

The village kids

 This cute boy gave me his science project because I loved it...Telephone cups. 

 I still don't know what the rocket had to do with his science project. He was identifying bugs. Get excited for the video explanation of the project. It's the cutest thing ever.