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.

IMG_0924

IMG_0925

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).

IMG_0911

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

IMG_0913

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

IMG_0934

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.

IMG_0939

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.

IMG_0942

Fourth stop: Women’s Health Research Institute.

IMG_0944IMG_0946

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).

IMG_0958

– 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).

IMG_0988

IMG_0990

IMG_0991

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.

IMG_0998

IMG_1326

10355517_10202921340168001_5106513551418294689_o

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).

IMG_1008

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!

IMG_5533

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.

IMG_5542

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.

IMG_1022

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.

IMG_1023

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

IMG_1335

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.

IMG_5554

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.

IMG_5552

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.

Advertisements

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.

IMG_0765

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.

IMG_0777

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

IMG_0767

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.

IMG_1248

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.

IMG_0788

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.

IMG_0779

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.

Elephant

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.

IMG_0803

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.

IMG_5507

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

IMG_1289

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.

IMG_0804

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.

IMG_0815

IMG_0847

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

IMG_5512

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.

IMG_0838

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.

IMG_0841

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.

IMG_0858

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!

IMG_0876

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?

IMG_1301

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.

IMG_5535

IMG_5524

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

IMG_5523

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.

IMG_0883