Day 17 (Monday, May 19): Songs that Bring Back Memories

Woke up around 7:30am because I thought we had class in the morning at 9am, but walked to breakfast to see that no one from OSU was there. Breakfast was pancakes with onions and tea. I sat by myself for a couple minutes until Kelsey F. walked in. She tried eating outside, but it was too humid. Shortly after, Adam and Drew walked in. Kelsey informed me that Dr. Raj cancelled class for this morning. I was surprised because I was mentally prepared for some early morning learning. Kelsey asked if I wanted to go to the Manipal Store. Dan and I went along. The store wasn’t open yet, so we found the little shop where Sesen purchased her bangles. Kelsey bought some.

We walked back to the hostel, and I decided to try the laundry service for the first time due to the large accumulation of clothes from the weekend Mysore trip. I brought my clothes down to the first floor in a white bag, and the woman gave me a slip to return back to the room later that day around 3:30pm. Then, I walked back to my room and did some journaling and blogging. I also checked in with my mom on Skype for almost an hour.

Anna knocked on my door around 12:30pm to walk to lunch, and we stopped by Lauren’s on the way to get her. There was some very tasty limeade at lunch today. I drank two cups.

As I was leaving with Kelsey R, Sahanna told me Sesen spent the time creeping on me this morning to find the picture with Justin Bieber, but didn’t see it (I shared that I took a picture with JB before he got wildly famous when his song “Baby” came on in the van). Sesen said my Facebook pictures don’t reflect who I am and that it doesn’t even look like me. This got me thinking about authenticity. In BLF, we have explored this term in regards to leadership, and I believe we should strive to be authentic in all parts of our lives (i.e. not putting on an act for show). I recently had a conversation about this topic with a friend, and he refuted saying that the personal and professional sphere should be distinguished (i.e. you should act differently at home vs. work). I definitely agree with this statement also. So the conclusion I have come to is that your morals and values should transcend any roles that you play in life. Those should always be consistent, which is an important part of being authentic and genuine. This is not the first time I have heard a similar statement said about me. Introspectively, I told them that it takes some time for me to be completely comfortable with new people. I am working on this, but it’s in my personality and nature. As for the not looking like me bit, I suspect it’s the make up. I used to wear a lot more in my middle and high school days, but I like to keep it simple now. I didn’t bring any to India and went au natural, which was extremely refreshing.

Before class, Lauren, Kelsey and I sat in the first floor coffee shop to update our journals and download the lectures. I caught up through the second day of Mysore from drafts saved on my phone. Akon’s “Right na na na” came on over the music system in the coffee shop and pleasantly caused a flashback to Chand’s jams in the van. I really like when songs remind you of a moment in your life, for better or worse – such a unique human feeling. The nerd in me just decided to look up why songs evoke vivid memories. Here’s the neuroscience/psychology behind it: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201312/why-do-the-songs-your-past-evoke-such-vivid-memories
So neat that this phenomenon can be used for therapeutic purposes! #sciencerules

Lecture with Dr. Raj at 2pm was about communicable and non-communicable diseases. Communicable diseases can be described as contagious (e.g. hepatitis, HIV/AIDS, influenza, malaria, polio, TB). The spread commonly occurs via airborne viruses, bacteria, blood or bodily fluids. Non-communicable diseases are not passed from person to person and are also known as chronic diseases (e.g. cardiovascular diseases – heart attacks and stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory diseases – chronic obstructed pulmonary disease and asthma, diabetes).

Here are some lecture highlights:

– India suffers from more communicable diseases than noncommunicable (opposite is true of the US and other developed countries).

– Eradication is better than elimination.

– The flu vaccine given each year is a prediction of upcoming strains, so it is not a guarantee that you’ll be protected. However, people have said their influenza is milder if they received the vaccination.

– TB is caused by a virus. It is a big problem for India.

– For coinfection of TB and HIV, the TB is treated first.

– In India, HIV/AIDS is commonly contracted by sharing needles or heterosexual intercourse.

– Why don’t drug companies invest in Neglected Tropical Diseases? Drug companies won’t make that much money because it only heavily impacts certain areas of the world.

– Mental disorders in developing countries are heavily stigmatized. There are hardly any counselors or psychiatrists available.

Lauren and I picked up our laundry after class. The service cost 150 rupees. Some of my clothes/bath towel was tinted blue (suspecting it was the dye from the Manipal shirt), but I didn’t care too much.

Tea time around 4:30pm: fried veggies and ketchup. Kelsey, Lauren and I decided to check out Bombay Bazaar and took a rickshaw there. We thought it was further down the road from the university, but it ended up to be within walking distance. The driver charged 25 rupees. The bazaar didn’t really have souvenirs, but rather household items, such as cooking equipment, brooms, shoes, clothes, containers and simple jewelry. Then, we explored many of the stores surrounding Manipal. Lauren bought a collection of journals at a Hallmark store. Then, we serendipitously discovered a small clothes store, which had a whole plastic bag filled with scarves. Kelsey and I bought the same patterned scarf for 100 rupees.

I felt an immense headache during the shopping trip, so I took an Advil when we returned to the hostel. For dinner, Kelsey and I decided to try the Chinese food on the second floor at Yodragon. I was craving some stir fried veggies, but couldn’t really comprehend the menu so I just ordered Hong Kong chicken and noodles. Kelsey ordered honey chicken and noodles. Mine was in a dark soupy sauce, which I’m not fond of, but the food generally tasted good. Several people bought soft-serve ice cream for dessert, which persuaded me to get chocolate and vanilla swirl in a cup.

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It cost 15 rupees, which is equivalent to 25 cents in USD. I apologize for the lack of pictures in this post. It was a chill first day back, so I only took one picture the whole day.

Kelsey and Lauren showed me a WiFi spot at the back of the cafeteria. We sat on some steps and chatted. It was nice, except for the nighttime bugs. We had a heart-to-heart conversation about our feelings of homesickness towards the beginning of the trip, the out-of-body realization that we were in India at that moment in time and how we should make the most out of our remaining days.

Day 16 (Sunday, May 18): Blast from the Past

Woke up with my stomach still not feeling well, so I ate a light breakfast: omelet, one wheat toast and a handful of noodles. After breakfast, we began our journey back to Manipal.

We drove by the University of Mysore where Dr. Raj attended college. Based on appearance, the campus looked desolate, but Dr. Raj informed us that the students are on a break right now. During the drive, I noticed that seat belts are not mandatory. Our driver, Chand took off his, but quickly buckled up near a police blockade. Then, took it off again as we passed. We made a pit stop in the middle of nowhere, so the drivers can grab a bite to eat. I felt like I needed to go to the restroom despite seeing that the one nearby looked decrepit and dirty. It wasn’t too bad as I breathed through my mouth and ran out as soon as I was finished. From our vans, we observed several little girls peeing right outside the restroom alongside the road. They squatted for more than five minutes. We were trying to figure out why they didn’t use the facility.

At the first temple, we didn’t go in because everyone felt exhausted, so we just walked around the premise.

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The 2nd temple, we gathered enough energy to go in.

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I found my twin while in Mysore! Haha. Adam and I kept having the same vocal reactions to things we observed. For example, saying “oooh” to something at the same time. Taniqua caught it one time and said she wished she recorded it. I joked I needed to spend less time with him.

For lunch, the first restaurant we tried was too crowded so we went to a hut-style restaurant instead.

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It was a unique and picturesque set-up, but the outdoor environment and bugs made it hard to fully enjoy the food. Dr. Raj shared his two truths and one lie. From this, he shared his wisdom to explore the US. He told us he took a greyhound bus in his youth to travel the west. Dr. Raj talked about the MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) degree that’s equivalent to the US’s MD degree. In India, people become doctors after 5 years (4 years medical school, 1 year internship). After lunch, we were going to visit Dr. Raj’s friend from college. They met in language class, which they had 2x a week for a year. He’s now an ayurvedic doctor.

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Let me take a brief excursion to delve more into what ayurvedic medicine is. It is a system of Hindu traditional medicine native to the Indian subcontinent and a form of alternative medicine. Buddhism has also had an influence in the development of Ayurveda. It is well integrated into the Indian National health care system. Ayurveda believes that a balance of the three elemental substances (doshas) equals health and an imbalance equals disease. To achieve balance, one should modulate their behavior and environment.

– “Suppressing natural urges is considered unhealthy and claimed to lead to illness;[15] to suppress sneezing, for example, may give rise to shoulder pain.[16] However, people are also cautioned to stay within the limits of reasonable balance and measure when following nature’s urges.[15] For example, emphasis is placed on moderation of food intake,[17] sleep, and sexual intercourse.[15]

– They take a holistic approach during diagnosis and therapy – paying attention to personality as well as physical and mental health.

– They focus on the prevention of disease, promotion of optimal health and management of chronic disorders through natural approaches (ex. exercise, yoga, meditation, metabolism, digestion, excretion, hygiene).

– Plant-based medicine and treatment.

– Practiced in Nepal and Sri Lanka. Ethical and legal issues elsewhere.

– “No significant scientific evidence has shown effectiveness of Ayurvedic medicine for the treatment of any disease, although massage and relaxation are often beneficial and there are indications of health effects from some herbal products used.[64]

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ayurveda

Interestingly, OSU Wexner Medical Center offers Ayurveda Services. I was extremely surprised. Dr. Hari Sharma is on staff in OSU’s Integrative Medicine Clinic. They acknowledge that it is rare to find a doctor in the West who practices Ayurveda alongside medical doctors in a multi-practice setting and uses this detail to further the excellence of OSU’s medical center.

If you’re interested in reading more: http://medicalcenter.osu.edu/patientcare/healthcare_services/integrative_medicine/Pages/Ayurveda-Services.aspx

The food took longer than expected and attracted many flies as we were eating. Kelsey F. tried building a fly trap with a water bottle and pepsi. I ordered 7up and vegetable noodles.

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It took another 1.5 hours to reach Dr. Raj’s friend’s house = nap time. Most of the people in our van slept. I caught myself drifting off, but never completely went into deep slumber.

Dr. Raj’s friend was extremely hospitable towards all 20 of us. His family graciously invited us into their home and provided us snacks and refreshments.

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Dr. Raj had a chance to catch up with his old friend and family, while we sat in a room mingling amongst ourselves and reveling at the baby bananas (a safe fruit to eat!).

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Dr. Raj’s friend’s daughter recently had a baby, and we got to spend some time with her also. Before departing, we took a group picture together.

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The night drive was quiet in the van – probably from road trip exhaustion. At one point, we all were engaged in conversation though. We talked about old AIM screen names and singers.

We arrived at Manipal around 9:30pm.

Day 15 (Saturday, May 17): Adventures in Mysore + Life Musing

Woke up around 6:45am. Walked down to breakfast around 7:10am. Adam, Drew and Paul were the only ones there when Lindsey and I arrived. I hugged Adam because it’s his birthday! The dining area was immaculate and mostly white in color. Breakfast was buffet style and featured American food! There were an assortment of around 15 dishes, bread, an omelet station, pastries, fruit juice, cereal, milk, coffee and tea. I was craving cereal from yesterday’s noodle dessert that tasted like Frosted Flakes, so I had that along with potatoes, pancake, turkey sausage and a cup of tea.

IMG_0899First stop: Traveled to the top of a mountain to visit the Sri Chamundeshwari Hindu temple.

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Our driver asked if we were all Christian. He told us he’s Muslim. I greeted him with “assalamualaikum” (May peace be upon you) and he responded “Wa ‘Alaikum Assalaam” (May peace be upon you too).

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When we approached the golden temple, little brown blobs were moving around and they turned out to be dozens of monkeys.

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Second stop: Christian church. We explored the congregation area and the basement.

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IMG_1316Third stop: Silk scarf store. I believe the scarves were around 1000 rupees. I didn’t buy any, but quite a few people did.

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While driving, saw an area where a plethora of white sheets were hanging. I don’t remember who told us this, but this is their method to wash and dry hospital sheets.

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Fourth stop: Women’s Health Research Institute.

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After a brief introduction by three ladies, we received a tour of the facility. Most of us quickly realized that mostly women worked here, so someone asked if any men do. They said “yes”. The three guys work as the driver and food coordinators.

We met an intern from the US that’s studying TB at the institute. There is a $500 administration fee to ensure the interns are serious and not just here for vacation. We toured the kitchen for the interns. Before leaving, a group of us talked to the US intern. He’s from California and took a year off after graduating from UC Berkeley with a public health major. He will be attending Yale Medical School in the Fall. He was here for 6 months. Fun fact: he learned to drive a vespa here.

Interns in lab study various topics such as:
– Malaria and helminthes infections in pregnant women
– Joint Indo-US study of lactobacillus and its phages in bacterial vaginosis
– UTI
– Vit D deficiency in women with BV
– Dengue virus IgG ELISA

Research:

Lab
– Molecular epidemiology of bacterial vaginosis. Amsel’s criteria for diagnosing bacterial vaginosis (must meet 3 of 4):

1. Thin homogenous vaginal discharge.
2. Vaginal pH higher than 4.5.
3. Postive whiff test for amine with KOH prep.
4. Clue cells on saline wet prep

Lactobacillus research funded by NHI. Lactobacillus in vagina and urine testing. Post-test counseling and post-natal care (PNC).

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– Evaluation of rapid diagnostic tests
– Antibiotic resistance
– Community acquired resistant UTI
– STI

Community
– Maternal child health projects
– Women’s reproductive health
– Cancer prevention
– Immunization and children health camp

Clinic
– Longitudinal cohort studies on bacterial vaginosis, reproductive tract infections, cervical cancer screening, STI/HIV prevention.
– Obtain HIV blood from mother. Identify positive or negative. Counseling available.

How they build more awareness about their services to the community:
Collect list of pregnant woman from Anganwadi teacher. Go door-to-door (service at their doorstep). This makes it easier to motivate people to come to the mobile clinic in the subsequent days.

2nd day- Education for general public. Awareness program for blood pressure, diabetes, cancer, HIV. Pregnant women. Immunizations. Birth. Flip chart pictures and power points. Family planning.

3rd– Medical camp. Self-help group. Bring women to clinic. HIV stigma very high. ASHA linked to village. Mobile clinic. Given a place to set up like a school. General check-up. Consent. Antenatal exam. Blood draw, serum separation, blood grouping.

– They do not provide treatment, but focus on education, research, detection and counseling.

– The institute is linked to the government.

– Post-natal care follow-ups last up to one year.

– Serve rural areas. Have capacity to serve 144 villages, but currently it’s 82 villages.

– HIV in pregnant woman is decreasing.

– Highest cancer rate in India is cervical.

PAP smear requires a lot of trained workers and is typically administered by private doctors. The rural population needs sustainable tests -> VIA (Mysore is pioneering this) – visual inspection. Treated by cryotherapy and LEEP.

I asked the question “for young girls, is it common to provide preventative vaccinations for cervical cancer like Gardasil?” They talked about how expensive it is – $6000-7000, which is a challenge. Currently, it is not on the required immunization chart. Targets ages 9-30 years old. Research is currently working on a cost-effective approach to preventing cervical cancer. This is also a public policy issue. They need large interest groups to support the vaccinations.

Parliamentary is mostly men. Advocating for women is a constant struggle.

Saving Children Improving Lives (SCIL) is a successful strategy for increasing uptake of HIV/PMTCT services among rural pregnant women. Provision of conditional cash transfers to women’s microeconomic self-help group members to refer pregnant women for antenatal care and HIV testing.

Prerana women’s health initiative. Objectives: provide sexual and reproductive healthcare; physical, mental and family health; conduct research to provide evidence-based care and treatment.

Project Chaitanya: increase awareness and education around the prevention of cervical cancer.

Primary prevention: 1) Creating a peer educator model in rural villages by giving training and awareness about HPV, cervical cancer and vaccination.
2) HPV- Vaccine acceptability study by parents

Secondary prevention: collaboration with prevention international: No cervical cancer (PINCC) from the US –increase screening capacity of developing countries to screen women for precancerous lesions using simple methods

Train health providers in performing simple procedure like cryotherapy and LEEP on detection of precancerous condition.

Current cervical cancer screening program is on Friday (special clinic day only for VIA screening). IMG_0970The ladies were so hospitable in that they provided us delicious snacks during their presentation: samosa, chex-mix like dish, pretzel-shaped dessert and mango juice (I apologize for not knowing some of the technical names for the food).

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Fifth stop: Mysore palace tour. A headphone-guided version was available, but we just did a walk-through. We followed masses of people in the maze-like tour through rooms filled with replicas, paintings, photographs, memorabilia, trinkets and statues. Cameras were not allowed inside. Not sure how exactly long it took, but I would guess around 30 minutes.

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Sixth stop: Café Aramane for lunch. Our group opted to sit in the air-conditioned room because the restaurant environment was smoky and humid. I sat with Nikki and Xhonela, and we shared two platters (one North Indian and the other South Indian).

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Seventh stop: A quaint art gallery with a lot of ancient paintings. Dr. Raj informed us that a lot of the paintings correlate with stories in the Hindu religion. A couple of us observed that exposed breasts were a theme in many of the artworks, and I think Taniqua bravely asked Dr. Raj what that was all about. He informed us that sari’s back then did not include a blouse because blouses are a western invention.

Eighth stop: Pantaloon store at the mall. The department store was so large that we didn’t have time to peruse the other stores in the mall. I was looking for some Indian-styled shirts/blouses, but didn’t come across any that was a good fit. I found a light blue and white patterned scarf for 249 rupees though!

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Headed back to hotel for an hour. Lindsey and I decided to chill in the lobby and asked for the hotel’s wifi password. My phone was extremely slow, so I eventually gave up on accessing the internet.

Ninth stop: Returned to the Mysore Palace to watch the light show. There was a story line behind the light show, but we could only guess what was happening because we didn’t know the local language, Kannada. A few minutes before the show ended, it started raining. Fortunately, as we were walking back to the entrance, we had the opportunity to see the palace all lit up in golden lights. Such a majestic sight.

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We walked about 10 minutes back to the hotel, which was quite an adventure. Imagine a group of 20 students crossing a wide and busy Indian-style intersection at night. Not to worry – we all survived! Haha. I got an adrenaline rush from the experience.

We had some time to kill before dinner, so several of us played “Would you Rather?” in the lobby using a question bank from the internet. The one question that struck a cord with me was “would you rather have a bell ring every time you are aroused? or feel a sharp pain in your side whenever someone says your name?” I was surprised that everyone agreed on the sharp pain, but I would choose otherwise (I didn’t get to voice my thoughts at the time). I’m going on a tangent/a little TMI, but life’s too short to live dishonestly with oneself or to be afraid to tell someone how you feel. I read this relevant quote a couple weeks ago:

IMG_5926I think this message can go beyond a romantic context (I know. I know. The question above used the word “aroused” but forget about that for a second). You can let your family and friends know that you love and care about them. We often take for granted the people we see frequently, so it’s never foolish to remind them of their value in your life. In the case of romantic relationships, if the love isn’t reciprocated, at least you tried and won’t have any regrets. Living with honesty and openness and welcoming candid conversations is extremely liberating. This is what it feels like to be human. I am working on this myself. #gettingoffthesoapbox

Multi-cuisine dinner buffet. We all sang for Adam’s birthday.

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For dessert, I was tempted to try some fruit because I was missing it in my diet, so I ate five small pieces of the assorted pineapple, watermelon and papaya. Ice cream is my weakness, so of course I had some for dessert also. The flavors were vanilla, mango and chocolate. I even went up for seconds.

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The concierge encouraged us to go to the discotech club right outside the hotel.

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As a collective group, we decided to check it out. We only had to walk one minute to see a couple men dressed in black shirts stamping people’s hands with the words “the room” in purple ink. We walked down the stairs to approach a coconut door.

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On the other side of the door was a neon green lit up path that led to the dance floor equipped with a disco ball and everything.

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There were “no smoking” signs plastered on the walls, which was nice. Techno music permeated the room. We stood relishing the sights and sounds for about ten minutes. We went back to our rooms in the hotel. Coincidentally, our room was one of the closest to the club, so Lindsey and I could hear the pulsating beats of the music well into the night, but it didn’t bother me. I showered, packed and went to bed. Stomach wasn’t feeling too well during the night. Suspected it was the fruit. I’m not sure if I mentioned why we shouldn’t eat raw vegetables and fruits here, but it’s because of the water and the different bacteria in it that our stomach might not be used to if we didn’t grow up in the country.

Day 14 (Friday, May 16): Familiarity

*Real-time update: Completing these blog posts is actually more time-consuming than I thought so I apologize once again for not finishing on July 7, 2014. I’m sure none of you are on the edge of your seat waiting for me to write them all, so I don’t think anyone is too disappointed. I do promise to post at least one a day until I reach day 29 (woohoo half-way point) 🙂

Everyone in our 8-person room woke up within minutes of one other around 7:30am. Breakfast was delayed by half an hour, but Taniqua and I went down early to put our bags in Chand’s van. Then, we filled our water bottles. Shortly after, breakfast was served. Breakfast was on the heavier side with round soft bread, bean curry and basil-like sauce.

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I didn’t get too much food. Drank some coffee, which tasted good. Outside, Sesen asked me if I liked my seat in the van and I jokingly said “yeah you tryin to steal my seat?” She said no, she feels bad that she’s squishing Lindsey in the back and said I probably liked the middle seat because I’m half-sized and proceeded to tell people in the van the lunch story from yesterday. Haha.

First stop was Abbi Falls.

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The trail down to the waterfall was lined by luscious green foliage.

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Tibetan monks clad in their red robes were visiting the area that day. There was a bridge that people can stand on in front of the waterfall, which made for perfect picture opportunities.

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On the way back, Lindsey and I speedily climbed up the trail. It felt like running stadium stairs – great workout!

Second stop was an elephant camp.

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After exiting the van, our driver asked Sesen a series of questions: “what’s your name?” “what’s your religion?” “Are you married?” She joked to Alvian that she has another suitor. Several of us needed to use the restroom, and it was pay-and-use. Vlogged the mini boat ride across the lake/river to reach the camp.

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We waited in a long line for the elephant. At one point, an elephant got mad and turned around. Not sure what the context was, but made me think about animal treatment again. Lauren and I conversed with a couple next to us in line. They were curious about who we were and what we were studying in India. We asked them about where they’re from. I love spontaneous conversations with strangers. The ride was quick. I rode with Lauren, Adam, Kelsey R and Taniqua.

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An elephant sneezed on some of our students while they were riding it. Afterwards, we checked out the nearby elephant reserve. It was an open green field with one elephant and several cows/bulls.

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Then, we travelled by boat back to the other side and got in the van.

Lunch: first place was closed so we ended up at a hotel restaurant called Planter’s Inn. We got a balcony view on the fourth floor. Sat with Dan, Sesen and Alvian. Then, what seemed like fireworks resounded from below. Most of us got up out of our seats and peered over the balcony.

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A large number of people were gathered on the streets, and we were told it had something to do with the elections.

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I ordered mango juice and also had a sip of Sesen’s bottled coke. It tasted good, but I couldn’t compare it to anything because I stopped drinking soda many years ago. I got the Hong Kong noodles. Sesen got aloo palak (potato and spinach curry). Alvian got dragon chicken. Dan got Singapore noodles. Sesen and Dan ordered strawberry ice cream for dessert, and they offered a taste. The flavor was very artificial. I was pleasantly surprised the restroom had toilet paper and hand soap, but it was the ground type. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but it’s always a good idea to carry a stash of toilet paper with you at all times.

Third stop: entered Tibetan settlement to visit the Golden Temple.

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I jokingly said to Sesen and Alvian that I feel like I belonged here because I saw a lot of people of East Asian descent. Lindsey shared that she learned about Buddhism in her lit and religion course. Tibet is a country, but China is trying to claim it, so many have emigrated. I felt so enlightened at the temple because I knew I had some family history with the religion (my grandma use to practice when I was little and I remember her praying with incense at her Buddha shrine). We walked up some steps with a white lion statue and entered a doorway with an elaborate golden knob covered by a curtain of beads.

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Three intricate golden Buddha statues lined the front wall and the rest of the walls were filled with colorful patterned images.

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I wasn’t sure what type of ritual was taking place, but rows of monks clad in gold and red robes were sitting on the floor behind long tables. One person was rhythmically hitting a drum. Transcendental-like prayer/music permeated the temple and around its occupants. Two guys brought offerings to the crowd watching the ritual.

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Sahanna got one and asked if I wanted to split. I said “yes.” She took one bite and gave the rest to me. It tasted like some Chinese cookie I’ve eaten before – very good.

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We walked to another building to see incense and offerings on a table, which closely resembled something my grandma used to have at her house.

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Anna, Adam and I were having a conversation with Dr. Raj. Adam asked how he met his wife. At first, he was like “I don’t have to answer all these questions… but I will.” They met in Mysore with an educational purpose. He added he was the one to ask her. Haha. So cute. Dr. Raj was intrigued in listening to Lindsey talk more about Buddhism. She shared that Buddhists believe everyone is suffering and the way to go is to detach yourself from materialism. It’s a religion of happiness. At the temple entrance, we were all intrigued with a little shop there. They had lots of gift-able items, and I was so excited to purchase some for my family!

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Something I noticed at the temple is that people actually made eye contact with me, which is something I didn’t experience at Manipal despite the large population of Asian/Malaysian students there. Even in the US, Asian people often make eye contact with one another just because we feel some sort of connection I guess?

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On the roads to Mysore, we encountered speed bumps and saw a cemetery for the first time. As always, the music was good, but much more interesting this time: Arabic and Indian songs, “Kiss Me through the Phone” by Soulja Boy remixed with an Indian song, “Gangnam Style” by Psy remixed with an Indian song and Akon “Right na na na”.

Reached Mysore at night. I immediately noticed how modern the city was, but it still resembled some poverty. I saw traffic lights that cars actually obeyed, a Shell gas station, a large fancy lit-up wedding hall and car dealerships. I was laughing to myself when a song with a series of machine sounds (car, airplane, lawnmower) came on. I looked around and everyone was either asleep or unamused. I don’t know why I found it so funny. Then, a dog barking song and a chicken song played. I began cracking up again. This time, people were awake and teased me. I said I can’t stop laughing at this weird music because I’m in a laughing mood right now. We turned left into a driveway lined with mini water fountains and saw the hotel sign, Sandesh the Prince.

10014534_10152142336131279_6254741312243869436_nThe grandeur appearance of the exterior made me believe it was a five star hotel. A bell hop in a regal costume was ready at the front door to greet us all. We walked in to see a 3-D cricket momento on the ground, glass elevators and large metal décor lining the wall and ceiling.

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Very pristine and grandiose. A man in a black suit welcomed us by serving a bluish-purple drink of Shiva.

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I liked it, but couldn’t pinpoint what it was exactly. I was in room 1031 with Lindsey. Everything was really clean and the shower was refreshing because it was western style. The bed felt like clouds that night.

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Day 13 (Thursday, May 15): Mother’s Bounty

Woke up at 7:30am. Packed for the Mysore weekend trip. 8:40am breakfast: pancake, omelet, tomato curry, tea. Looked over public health book. Took the quiz at 9am. It went alright. A lot of people thought it was harder than the first one. Got the 1st quiz back and got 18.5/20 points.

Went back to hostel to get backpack. Waited in the lobby because Dr. Raj was getting the boys from their hostel. Meanwhile, we discovered a small ice cream and snack shop on the ground floor of our hostel. In a single file line, all of us signed out in the security guard’s book – and so the adventure begins.

The vehicle options were a Toyota Sienna minivan or a larger traveling van. Lindsey and I had our eyes on the minivan. Xhonela, Taniqua, Adam, Alvian and our driver Chand were the other occupants in the minivan. Chand played some good throw back jams: Edward Maya, Akcent, Three 6 Mafia (lolli lolli), Rihanna (Umbrella), Wyclef Jean (Sweetest Girl), MIMS (This is Why I’m Hot) and techno dance music. I was enjoying the car ride way too much because of the music haha. Everyone was sleeping at one point, but I didn’t feel tired. I took in all the sights and sounds.

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The driving is so scary. There are numerous signs that forewarn an accident zone with a picture of a skull and “x” – wanted to get a picture of this, but never did 😦 Weaving in and out of traffic was the normality.

We stopped at a restaurant to eat lunch. The waiting time was quite long, but Nikki, Xhonela, Sesen and I passed the time well by talking. We all ordered some really good mango juice called Mazza; it’s healthy and not artificial too.

IMG_0722For food, I ordered the chicken biriyani. I asked the waiter how big the half-size and full-size meals are, and the waiter sized me up and said the half-size is appropriate for me. Haha. The biriyani was okay because it was a little spicy. At lunch, Dr. Raj told me he found my blog through OSU’s public health twitter. He said I wrote too much about him. Haha.

Got back in the car for more driving. Mysore is about 6 hours away from Manipal.

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The ride was crazy as usual. This time, I actually cringed and held on to Adam multiple times. I couldn’t help but think of head-on collisions as we were regularly faced with oncoming traffic.

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Our driver is extremely skilled though. The music was still bumpin: Flo Rida (Low), Akon (Beautiful, Dangerous), Avril Lavigne (Complicated, Girlfriend). Adam mentioned how it’s crazy that we still remember the lyrics of songs that we haven’t heard in awhile. Who else has thought about this? I wish studying worked that way… Driving on the mountain was breathtaking, but nerve-wracking at the same time. A lot of sharp turns and winding roads.

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We lodged in a place called “Mother’s Bounty” on top of a mountain in Madikeri.

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Our minivan arrived late because we took a couple wrong turns. The girl’s living arrangements were: a 2-person room, a 4-person room or an 8-person room with four beds. I stayed in the larger room.

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Before dinner, we took a trip to see the sunset on the mountains. Sesen joined us this time in the minivan because she felt her seat in the traveling fan was precariously uncomfortable. She said she had no one in front of her and no seatbelt, so she has to brace every time the driver brakes. The view was breathtakingly beautiful. There was an official overhang with silver railings ideal for a group picture, but our large group never got a chance to occupy that space because of other visitors so we took a group picture overlooking the mountains at another spot instead.

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Lauren, Kelsey and I decided to hike over to a cliff overhang that looked like it was just floating in the abyss.

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We watched the sunset there, which was absolutely stunning. As a collective group, we took lots of O-H-I-O, jumping, yoga, individual and group pictures.

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This is the most scenic part of the trip so far. We walked back and took a group pic with Dr. Raj in it. Upon arriving, he showed Alvian his Buckeye hat he brought in his backpack, so I asked him where it was before taking this group picture and he put it on. Haha.

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We had to wait about 1.5 hours until dinner so some people played cards or showered. I watched Pitch Perfect with Taniqua. Dinner was served downstairs in a dimly lit dining hall. When I came down, everyone was freaking about a tarantula-sized spider. I tried to take a picture, but it didn’t come out very well – maybe for the better because I don’t want to remember that large creature.

IMG_5492Dinner was okay:rice, rice noodles, stir-fry noodles and an assortment of curry. A lot of the dishes were spicy, so it didn’t sit well with my taste palate.

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The noodles in sweet milk dessert, however, was delicious. It tasted like frosted flakes to me. Made me miss eating cereal every morning for breakfast.

After dinner, they had a bonfire for us. I didn’t feel like going because it was out in the woods at night, where bugs are rampant (I am an attraction for mosquitos), but it ended up to be a good bonding time. At first, we were all mingling, but then someone suggested we play telephone. Sesen came up with the phrase “epidemiological studies depend on monkey species” or something along those lines. At the end, the phrase changed a little bit, but the topic was still correct. Then, someone suggested playing two truths, one lie. Kelsey, Lauren and I simultaneously expressed our dislike for the game, but reluctantly participated. It wasn’t as bad as I thought and I actually enjoyed playing this time. Dr. Raj opted out, but agreed to come up with his own the following day once he has thought more about it. Here was mine: 1) I’ve never donated my hair. 2) I jump rope on a regular basis. 3) I didn’t know English entering Kindergarten. Some people guessed #2, but consensus was #1. Taniqua asked when, and I said last year some time, but it was actually two years ago. Time flies! The bonfire didn’t last too long.

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Experienced a bucket shower because the facility didn’t have a shower faucet. Woohoo adding that to the India Bucket List that I will post on this blog. Haha did you notice the play on words? To my surprise, the bucket shower felt refreshing. Nikki asked how tall I am and I told her the story of how I always thought I was 5 feet tall, but went to the doctors one day and they broke the news to me that I was only 4 feet 11 inches and three quarters – but hey we can round up right? Lindsey found a couple bugs on our bed that had projection-like legs that moved itself. She killed them, but it was freaky. Surprisingly, I wasn’t too phased about it when I was sleeping. There was no AC, just a fan. I was the last one to finish showering and head to bed. Everyone wrapped themselves in their sheets like a cocoon, but I was too hot, so I was just a taco. Hahah what nice analogies. I wore long sleeves and long pants to protect myself from potential bugs. Slept well I guess (except for the nose congestion that a lot of other people felt too) because I didn’t wake up until the morning – must have been the road trip exhaustion.

Day 12 (Wednesday, May 14): Places you Go, People you Meet

Hit snooze on the alarm today and woke up at 7:30am. 8:30am breakfast: omelet, curried potatoes and onions, tea. I saw Raushan sit at the long table by himself. I decided to go ask him why he’s sitting alone. R-“I have an exam tomorrow.” He explains it’s like medicinal pharmacology and that he needs to know all these structures. He flipped through the packet in front of him and I said “like organic chemistry?” And he said “yeah.”
Me-“when does school end for you?”
R-“end of May. Then I’m going home for 2.5 months for summer and then coming back in August”
Me-“How was your exam yesterday?”
R-“Good. I didn’t have to worry too much but this one I will”
Me-“When are you done with pharmacy school?”
R-“2017. I thought about taking a pharmacy course at OSU. Is it a good program?”
I told him it’s pretty good. He said he looked at it and thought it was good.
Me-“Alright well best of luck to you.”
R-“Thanks. See ya”.
I turned around and see a lot of our OSU group staring at me. Hahah.. I sat down and commotion ensued. #awkward Hopefully Raushan doesn’t think we’re too weird. Adam was looking at me strangely and then spilled he took pictures of us talking!

We walked to the front of the Manipal Library at 9:30am. Sat next to Adam so I can see the candid pictures he took. He offered me some gum, and I finally got to taste the sour patch flavor that Taniqua is obsessed with. It was pretty good. Adam and I had some quality conversations about life.

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We visited a primary health center, which was very similar to the one we saw two days ago.

IMG_0663The medical director talked to us about the free immunization program provided for children.

IMG_0670The center collects water samples to test for contamination and provide temporary methods to achieve clean and safe water in the community.

IMG_0672Baby delivery room.

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IMG_0682Refrigerated vaccines.

IMG_0692Water well.

After, we drove to Kaup Beach to see a lighthouse that was closed. It was a beautiful beach with no foot traffic.

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Back to Manipal for a lecture about child health. I’ll highlight some notable facts I learned:

– Asphyxia describes severely deficient oxygen supply and is a leading cause of death in regards to umbilical cord suffocation.

– Helminths are worms (ex. Hookworm) and they eat all your nutrients so that you can never gain weight.

– In India, values are carried in the middle class. The lower class tends to smoke and drink more.

– A child in sub-Saharan Africa is likely to have a case of malaria every 40 days (get stung again).

– Emergency numbers in India were developed about 5 years ago.

– Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) + immunizations are the most effective measures in reducing the disability adjusted life years (DALYs), which can be thought of to mean how many years of a healthy life you’ve lost due to disability.

Studied in coffee shop with Lauren and Kelsey and then went back to room to wait for the cleaning lady. After dinner, Kelsey and I went to Lauren’s room to run through the online quizzes together in preparation for tomorrow’s quiz. Slept around 1am.

Day 11 (Tuesday, May 13): Lost in Town

Woke up at 7:30am. Wanted to do something productive in the morning to make up for the laziness last night, but internet wasn’t working.

8:35am breakfast: mashed rice that looked and tasted like mashed potatoes, regular rice, omelet and tea. The food was good this morning. Complimented Paul on his health survey he sent out to everyone last night. He’s trying to pinpoint what caused people’s sickness yesterday. I ran into Raushan twice getting tea and returning our dishes. Me- “I keep running into you!” R-“it’s good huh?” I gave a small chuckle.

IMG_0609Went to a community health center (secondary care). Lindsey and Adam are both better today so that’s good.

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Here are my haphazardly taken notes:

-There are three levels of medical care here: primary (general), secondary (some specializations) and tertiary (hospital)

-Immunization program for children free of cost

-Infant mortality rate = 47

-When delivering at home, floors may be uneven and people sometimes use cow dung to even it out

-If you deliver at the hospital, you get baby goodies as an incentive

-below poverty line (BPL) is earning less than 70000 rupees a year

-Accredited social health activists (ASHAs) are social workers that act as liaisons between the health centers and villages. Typically, 1 per population of 1000.

-Cold chaining means maintaining temperature for transporting medicine. They use ice line refrigerators and freezers

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-Health centers utilize a lot of pictorial posters for education on topics such as: promoting small families, warning against smoking, anemia and no premarital sex.

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-The Angawadi center pick two girls from BPL and provide them benefits

-Legal age of marriage is 18

-Integrated Counseling and Testing Center (ICTC) links ART and health centers

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-Examples of personnel available: medical officer, dentist, ayurvedic doctor, staff nurse, pharmacist, gynecologist, pediatrician, consultant surgeon, lab technician.

-This center suffers from lack of physicians because it is located in a rural area. The quality of life is inevitably lower, so not many want to move and work here.

-The medical officers do autopsies

-Information Education Communication (IEC) program -> prevention better than cure

-Funded by state government

-Special programs: Mental health care and village nutrition camp once a month. Sexual health every Thursday 3-5pm.

-Major difference between primary and secondary centers: X-rays and other specialists at secondary level.

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-They have a poor patients fund where anyone can donate to help those that don’t have the means to pay for medical treatment

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Returned to university at 12pm. Waited at wifi tree to head to lunch with Lindsey at 1pm.

Sat at rock garden to check email, Facebook, renew library book and download Dr Raj’s power points. They took longer than usual to download and of course I left the most important thing to do last, so I didn’t finish before leaving for class. Learned about women’s health, which really piqued my interest.

– Sex determination is illegal (not allowed to abort the baby if they found out it will be a girl. Males preferred in society)

– Women suffer more from HIV & STI’s

– India vs. US: no malpractice insurance. Not many malpractice claims in India. Everyone wants to be a specialist. Everyone is an independent business, not under a system.

– Nursing homes exist where people often go to deliver babies, but they cannot handle complicated cases.

– South Asian women don’t easily come out about domestic violence.

Class ended around 3:15pm. On the ground floor, our group circled up to talk about going to Udupi. I split off with Adam, Kelsey and Lauren. They wanted to go to a store called Fab India. We looked it up online, and it was quite expensive. Pants are like $60 USD and saris for $500 USD. So we decided against it and joined everyone for Udupi. We agreed to meet Adam at the wifi tree once we got our purses and money from the hostel.

Met the rest of the crew in the lobby, and I stayed with them waiting for Alexa, but it turns out she already left. Walked to the rickshaw stand with everyone. We had an odd number of triplets to fit in the rickshaw, so Kelsey, Lauren, Adam and I had to go as doubles. Adam and I were rickshaw buddies. Vlogged during the ride and took selfies.

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Arrived in Udupi with Nikki, Ashley, Xhonela, Kelsey and Lauren. Adam paid him 90 rupees, and I paid Adam 40. We were lost at first. Nothing seemed familiar on the streets but fortunately, we wandered back to the bus port and our spatial memory started working. We stopped by shoe, clothes and jewelry stores. I bought a sleeveless Kurti at a place called Anand Silks. It’s olive green with intricate white flowers. Bought it for 310 rupees and had it tailored to my body too, so it was a fun time. I tried it on and asked everyone what they thought. Xhonela said I looked super oriental in it. Haha.

Lauren purchased a new 22 karat gold nose ring. The store was pure royalty. Multiple security men guarded the building. The first time we walked by the building, one guard even carried a long rifle. The place was air-conditioned and smelled very nice. A lady with a red and gold sari greeted us and asked what we were looking for. I told her “nose rings”. We were told to go up to the second floor. We climbed the stairs to meet another women dressed in the same red and gold sari who asked what kind of nose ring. Lauren said “gold”. We were taken to the room on the right and asked to sit down. They pulled about 10 different nose rings for Lauren to see. The first batch had diamonds, but Lauren wasn’t into shiny ones. She picked a pure gold ring that cost 1600 rupees ($27 USD). She needed help putting in the ring, and they said someone could help after she paid. I heard the term “Indian mother” used. We exited the building to walk to a sister store. It was a pretty modern building. The front desk lady was really nice and offered drinks to us: water, tea, coffee. She said it would take ten minutes for the person to come help Lauren put in her nose ring. Adam suggested we should get my tailored Kurti during the wait. He accompanied me to the store, which was surprisingly close by. We returned before the “Indian mother” came, but the person turned out to be a guy. The ring was a little wider than Lauren’s current one, so it hurt a bit. Tears were flowing from her eyes.

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We got lost again trying to find the restaurant, Gokula Krishna where we agreed to meet for dinner at 7:30pm. Adam and I led the way, and it was a rare display of my directional senses that normally are sub-par. We sat at a table for four that was isolated from the other 12 members of our group by a pillar because we were the last to arrive. Adam ordered a spinach curry that he didn’t end up liking. Kelsey got the Gobi Manchurian (cauliflower) and vegetable burnt garlic noodles. Lauren had tikka masala, garlic naan and rice. I ordered the Singapore noodles, which was good but more spicy than I thought.

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We went to the bakery and ice cream shop afterwards. Lauren got a lava cake. Kelsey and I got mango ice cream, and Adam got butterscotch ice cream. The ice cream had mango chunks, which made it so good! Lauren said “make a face to show how you feel about your ice cream!” and took a picture of Kelsey and I with our savoring faces.

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We caught two rickshaws back to the university. We saw Kelsey and Lauren on the other side of some steep ledges. I was in a skirt, so Adam helped me jump the ledges. I asked everyone what they were planning to do back in the dorms – shower, read, study, journal, watch movies.

Kelsey and Lauren used the wifi under the tree, but I left my phone in the room. We ended up sitting down and chilling by the tree for a good half hour talking about boyfriends, life stories, future careers, volunteering, hospitals, free clinics, research, gynecology, differences between Indian and American healthcare facilities. Deep conversations are one of the best things about life.