Sunday, February 24, 2013

Holy Crap, I'm in India....

So, I've been here two months and I've had no problems. I haven't been sick, robbed, or anything I feared prior to coming which is mostly due to my living conditions. I live on a beautiful campus with clean water and bathrooms and I have a native with me anytime I leave campus to work; so, I would have to make a real effort to get in any sort of trouble.

I went on this field trip the other day and I think I'm still in shock. It was a 12 hour trip through rural Tamil Nadu to help research out some new leprosy colonies and do shoe measurements for the patients. You can only imagine the anxiety I was feeling prior to going. The colonies we visit regularly have pretty bad ulcers that go untreated- remember the maggots? I could not even imagine what kind of wounds we were going to see when we got to these colonies who have ZERO medical treatment. To make things more stressful it was just me and the medical team who have very limited English.

The craziness of this trip began once we drove out of my familiar territory. I drive about 2 hours a day to and from colonies and I've started to memorize the area around campus, so I have felt very comfortable on the crazy roads and the landscape. I got really lost about 2 and a half hours into the trip. We were on the largest highways I have seen and I felt like I was in India for the first time all over again. I had NO idea where we were going because everyone I was with didn't speak English. It was a very quiet trip for me...  I must have had my mouth open for most of the trip in shock because the nurses kept asking me what was wrong (even though they couldn't even understand my answer). We drove through fields full of burning garbage, power plants that have been flooded and were still functioning? We got off of the highways and were on dirt road through sewage swamps and towns selling fish. You can only imagine the smells. That's the kind of India I was expecting to see but where I live is relatively clean and I didn't realize it.

Here's a video of the garbage fields. This is small in comparison to the mountains burning before it but I think it gives you an idea.

I think this explains why the power goes out 25 times a day.

The colonies were not as traumatizing. There were no maggots or any infections as far as I could see. I got to play soccer with the kids in the streets and some of the adults joined in. I was really worried because everyone kept asking the medical team why they brought a white person- and I thought I was getting so tan. I was happy to know that they said I was apart of the medical team and not a volunteer playing around. I'm not going to lie I was pretty uncomfortable the whole time I was there because the people were really tense and you could feel it. Due to the social oppression these people have become very calloused and a bit hostile. I was worried when they were all staring at me that some riot was going to happen- I have seen a few village feuds since I've been here.  Fortunately, they were okay with me being there. There was just a differently feeling because our other colonies are used to the volunteers and welcome the openly because they know they're just there to help. This colony still had their guards up.

I made it through the first 4 hours of driving and the first colony and then we stopped for lunch. I made my own lunch because I didn't know what the food situation was going to be so I was shocked when they pulled out this bucket of newspaper-lunches. I was kind of excited because Wednesday is my favorite type of curry so I was expecting that... when I got my exceptionally heavy lunch I opened it and was horrified. It was briyhani, my least favorite meal in India and I basically had to eat it. The nurses essentially shoved it in my face. The natives love it because it's pretty much the only dish that comes form this area. This is one of the moments I was happy to have been in India for awhile because I had to act like an Indian. There were no utensils so you have to eat with your hands which is a sport in itself. I survived eating about half of the rice and I couldn't bear it anymore. So I went to throw it out to the stray starving dogs when everyone in the car yelled at me. I was really confused but they just wanted to give me some rice dessert. I swear, I will never eat rice again after this trip.

Newspaper lunch also known as sack lunch. 

The Briyhani... Still warm after 6 hours. I think it was because it had been sitting in the hot car. 

Dessert. Not entirely sure what it is. 

The feast for the stray dogs. 

The most exciting part of this trip was the bathroom situation. I have been fortunate enough to have toilet paper on me at all times or a decent bathroom nearby, but there's a first time for everything right? Being without TP would happen when I am as far away from home as possible. I swear I had toilet paper in my backpack but I left it in the car. The nurses would just lead me to this hut and tell me to go to the bathroom randomly in mixed tamil-english, so I couldn't really go get my bag. The first place we stopped didn't have bathrooms which is normal for India apparently. So this one lady brought us to this stall that was used for showering or something, I still don't know. There was a crappy clogged drain in the corner, a faucet which only let out dirty sea water, and a whole lot of scary bugs. I think I can say that I can pee just about anywhere because you have to squat regardless of the bathroom so I didn't have too much of a problem. The second bathroom we went to was in the leprosy colony, it was a squatty-potty but once again no toilet paper. We wont get into the details but I feel like I'm really getting a real Indian experience now.

Yes, I took a picture of the bathroom. The nurses thought I was weird.
Well, the rest of the trip was fine because I had already been shocked to the point of no return. I think I'm prepared for just about anything at this point in my trip. I pee in fields, see dead bodies often, clean oozing ulcers every morning, and live with monstrous spiders and poisonous centipedes. I think I'm getting this down.

Speaking of spiders, look at the nice one that was hiding in my bucket right before I took a shower.
That's a super-plus tampon to help you judge the size... it was the only thing I could find in the bathroom worth sacrificing. I hope whoever it belongs to isn't upset. :) 

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Anita, it looks like you are having quite the experience!
    PS Miss you!