Day 29 (Saturday, May 31): Until Next Time, India + Budget + Bucketlist

Woke up around 8:30am. I felt like sleeping in, but Lauren and I planned to get breakfast at 9am. I wore my red with green vines Fab India shirt. We walked down with Taniqua. I vlogged Taniqua signing her name in the book for the last time and then Lauren getting food. Breakfast: one toast, two pancakes, omelet, and tea. Alvian was there too. Lauren walked with me to vlog the library. Taniqua asked us to buy Orbit gum for her with 50 rupees. We peeked into the library café and at first glance thought they didn’t sell gum, but it was on the counter. I can faintly picture seeing gum in my memory of ordering food at the café, so I felt bad that we didn’t take the chance of going in. Drew inspired me to purchase a maroon-colored Kasturba Medical College t-shirt at the Manipal campus store. I had around 1000 rupees left. We said goodbye to the library by taking individual pictures with the Manipal sign.

IMG_1589Back at the hostel, I gave Taniqua her 50 rupees back. It was around 10:30am when I returned to my room and hardcore packed. I thought I wouldn’t finish on time. I gave Taniqua some Ziploc bags when she came over around 11am. I checked my room several times, took out the trash, and finished packing all my bags around 11:45am. We were supposed to be ready at 12:05pm, so I was cutting it close. Taniqua and I visited the small snack shop on the ground floor of our hostel to use more rupees. Lindsey and Ashley were already in the lobby with their luggage. I purchased a Tropicana Orange Juice and Lipton Iced Green Tea with Lemon and Mint. I brought my luggage downstairs, turned in the room key, and rolled the suitcase to the bus.

Taniqua and I sat in the very back. The tiny air-conditioned vent above made the ride more bearable. I updated this journal and listened to music on my iPod. I relished the Indian scenery for the last time. I was pretty productive, but started to get a headache towards the end of the drive.

Arrived at the Mangalore airport and our flight itinerary were checked twice by army-like men standing at the doors. Alvian suspected he was discriminated against when the guy only told him, “no smoking inside.” We went through the baggage scan and check-in. In line, Sesen pointed out a half Indian and half Caucasian family. The little girl was beyond beautiful. We parted ways with Dr. Raj, Paul, Ashley, and Rachel because they were on a separate flight. I shook Dr. Raj’s hand and thanked him for everything. Sesen teased him about emailing us his whereabouts (he’s going to Poland for a conference) and he said no one reads his emails anyways. I hugged Rachel and Ashley and waved goodbye to Paul. We went through the carry-on scan and body check. Sahanna and Sesen needed to empty their bags because of metal. The bathroom at the terminal was surprisingly really nice and could have been mistaken for one in the US equipped with modern toilets, toilet paper, soap, and hand dryers. Only when Lauren and I returned and raved about it, did the others go too. We boarded and I sat in seat 11B, one row away from first class. One of my personal goals on this trip was to engage in conversation with a stranger on the airplane. It didn’t quite work out on the way here, so I was hoping I would have a chance on the flights back home. I believe we have so much to learn from one another by just talking, and the prospect of learning new things from another person’s perspective excites me. The first flight was unsuccessful. For food, we got an Indian-styled chicken and pepper wrap that was surprisingly very good, a mini water bottle, and tea. I love the plane’s tea. I wonder what kind it is. People told me it’s just black tea. I napped for 15-minutes towards the end of the flight.

We had a 9-hour layover in Mumbai. Hopefully the time passes by fast. We had the opportunity to see the airport from the outside, and it is gorgeous: peacock design, uniquely shaped trees, water fountains, Indian flags, and white designed ceilings.

IMG_1597IMG_1600We went to a restaurant called The Square for food. Sahanna and I shared a vegetarian platter and lava cake.

IMG_1607IMG_1609As we were leaving to go through customs and immigration, we ran into Anna, Lauren, and Taniqua as they entered the restaurant. The interior of the airport could have been mistaken for a mall!

IMG_1611I bought a green silk scarf that came with bangles for my mom and a small wooden elephant keychain at a store called The Lotus. They accepted US dollars, so I paid with 530 rupees and 5 dollars. I think I have an obsession with buying elephant figurines. Sahanna played the first X-Men movie on her laptop to pass the time at the gate. Anna, Lauren, and Taniqua eventually came to our terminal and hung out. Anna wanted to take a couple pictures and was sent on a mission to buy soft drinks for Sahanna and Lindsey. I went with her because I was in the mood to walk around. We checked out a tea shop. Anna bought me Slice mango juice because I spent all of my rupees.

IMG_1624Slice was sold at the Italian fast food restaurant on the 2nd floor Manipal cafeteria, but I never had a chance to buy it. I was excited to finally try it and it was good! Everyone was right in that it tasted better than the Mazza brand. Lauren and Anna split a chocolate brownie with their last rupees. Back at the gate, I transferred Dr. Raj’s pictures to Alvian’s flashdrive for him and organized my pictures on the computer. We hugged and said goodbye to Lauren and Taniqua as they headed to their Amsterdam flight. Then, we found out our gate changed. We walked further down and parted with Anna when the paths forked.

IMG_5724We boarded the flight and I couldn’t sit next to Sahanna and Lindsey because the flight was full. I sat in the middle section of the aircraft in the third seat of a four seated row. I tried watching X-Men: Origins, but I fell asleep. The guy to my right at one point was almost leaning on my shoulder while he was sleeping. Vegetarian lunch: Indian food, watermelon, cantaloupe, papaya, tea, bread roll, and water. The woman to my left started a conversation by letting me know something is leaking from my backpack (water). We talked for a good half hour about India, studying, Mysore, medical school, education, her visits to the US, her son in New Jersey, the difference between taking care of elders in India and the US. The flight landed and she patted me on the shoulder saying she’s not sure if we’ll see each other on the next flight. I told her to have fun in New Jersey and she wished me good luck in my career. Aw, so nice. I started watching a movie called Serendipity when she started the conversation with me. Fun fact: that’s my favorite word and the actress in the movie said it was hers too, so I was intrigued to watch the movie. It’s about a woman that believes in fate and plays with a man’s heart by saying that they’ll part ways and if fate brings them together, it’s meant to be.

Landed in Brussels and went through a bag and body check. The workers ordered Sesen to unwrap her hair and she was reluctant at first, but complied in the end. We went shopping for Belgian Chocolate, but the price was exorbitant. We bought food from a café.

Boarded next plane to Newark. I got an aisle seat – woohoo! I was in the middle section of the aircraft again in a four seated row. Two people are in my row, but no one sat immediately to my right. I finished the movie Serendipity, and watched Silver Linings Playbook and Love Actually. I let a guy in the left section borrow my pen to fill out customs forms. Snack: flakes made of peas. One meal: Indian-style wrap and chocolate ice cream bar.

IMG_5743I slept for brief periods. Listened to Bollywood songs and read the book, Quiet.

Landed in Newark. I kind of wish I had window seats for the transatlantic flights, but I guess that’s something to look forward to on my next international trip. Went through US customs and retrieved luggage from the belt. A police officer was walking around with a sniffing dog. I was so scared the dog would find my cashews and force me to throw them away, but everything went well. We re-checked the bags and took a shuttle bus to our terminal. Bought food at Starbucks: turkey and cheddar sandwich and strawberry and banana Naked juice. At the terminal, I talked with mom and Arif on the phone and updated journal. Sahanna’s extension cord started a conversation with a family of four. He asked us how India was. He said he’s really curious about the Pakistan dividing moment. We parted with Sesen because she’s headed to DC to surprise her mom. I told her I am so glad I met her on this trip.

Boarded plane. This plane was a little larger than the ones that typically fly into Columbus. It’s two seats on either side of the aisle, but normally it’s two on one side and one on the other. My seat was 11A and I asked the man in seat B, “can I get in there?” And he jokingly said “no.” That’s when I knew we’d have a good conversation. I let a couple minutes of silence pass, while I updated the journal on my iPhone. Then, I asked him “were you in Newark?” He said “yeah. You?” Me- “India.” He said “wow.” Told him I’m on this flight with three other students that studied abroad in India for one month. He asked how it’s different there. I said it was a humbling experience and reminds me to not take things for granted, like toilet paper. We talked about OSU, my future career plans, his home and family in Newark, job in Columbus, Chinese food, skiing, and his summer plans. He was very talkative, which was nice because I can cross off conversing with a stranger off my traveling bucket list. We talked the entire flight. I periodically would look out the window and he would bring me back to conversation. He flies back and forth between Newark and Columbus every two weeks or so and mentioned he needs to plan out his flights like two weeks in advance to avoid high prices. I asked him what city he preferred. He said Columbus, mainly because of the traffic. He said it takes him 15 minutes to drive to work whereas in New Jersey, it takes a little more than an hour and you need to use public transportation. I said “yeah that’s added stress to the day.” He said although Ohio has no mountains or bodies of water, it’s a nice break. He said “for example, at home, I need to mow the lawn, weed, install various things, and do housework. But in Columbus, I can eat dinner, drink a glass of wine, watch TV, and relax.” Haha. I asked if it’s difficult traveling back and forth. He didn’t really complain and enjoys the change in scenery. We talked about his daughter, who is a senior in high school and he expressed his concern about her choosing a college. I offered to help if she is interested in Ohio State. I gave him my BLF business card (haha quite possibly the first time I have ever legitimately gave one out) and he gave me his. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end this once-in-a-lifetime trip. So surreal and so blessed.

IMG_5746 IMG_5751Money Spent
Cost:
Program Fee         $1,800
Air Ticket               $1,400
Personal                   $400
_____________________
Total cost               $3,600
Profit:
Wolfe Scholarship $2,500
Personal left             $100
_____________________
Spent:
Out-of-Pocket        $1,000

Bucketlist for India

  1. Ride a rickshaw & capture it on video
  2. Ride a camel
  3. Ride an elephant
  4. Ride the citibus
  5. Buy kurtis/saris/salwaar kamis
  6. Go to the beach
  7. Experience a “discotech”
  8. Make a local friend
  9. Go to a temple, perferably on a mountain
  10. Keep a blog and/or diary
  11. Try vlogging!
  12. Watch a Bollywood movie
  13. Eat on a banana leaf
  14. Drink tea
  15. O-H-I-O pic anywhere and everywhere
  16. Selfies anywhere and everywhere
  17. Try all food
  18. Watch a religious ceremony
  19. Handwash clothes
  20. Take lots of pictures and videos
  21. Go to the circus
  22. Purchase a Manipal t-shirt
  23. Explore the Manipal Anatomy & Physiology Museum
  24. Cross a busy street as a large group
  25. Try some Indian pastries at a bakery
  26. Take a picture with a monkey
  27. Eat/drink something mango flavored (be careful of raw fruit)
  28. Take a bucket shower
  29. Listen to Bollywood songs
  30. Wander and maybe get a little lost around a familiar place in a large group
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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.