Happy Old Year and New Year | 2016 | Year of the Monkey | Gratitude Jar

I know, I know. It’s way past New Years, but I’ve had this on draft since January 1st and really want to share 🙂 I thought I would have more down time in AmeriCorps – boy was I wrong. It’s a good kind of busy – more on this in a later post. To be fair, Chinese New Years was on February 8th so I’m only 3 weeks late right? I also found out that if you were born in the year of the monkey, you’re supposed to have an unlucky year when it’s the year of the monkey again according to Chinese traditions. I was thinking it would be the other way around – lucky on your birth year animal. Who says you gotta follow the status quo? I’m planning on having an exhilarating year!

This year, I had one of the best New Year’s. In the past, I usually had quiet New Year’s Eve nights in or hung out with a few friends at their house. Leading up to the night, I thought I would be continuing this quiet tradition. Then, I had the chance to spontaneously say yes to an invitation to spend New Year’s at a friend’s house. We recently re-connected, but have known each other since elementary school.

This is something that makes me feel alive: reconnecting with people whom you knew in the past. I had a chance to do that with almost everyone that ended up coming over to his house. The intricate details of people crossing and re-crossing paths in life fascinates me.

On the topic of celebrating New Year’s: my most favorite part about this holiday is how almost everyone is extremely positive about the upcoming year and enthusiastic about being the best versions of themselves.

I had dinner out and a worker at the restaurant said “Happy New Year and Happy Old Year, no one says the old part.” I thought that was very clever and we should say Happy Old Year too.

I have a lot to be grateful for in 2015: achieving mental clarity about life purpose, the ability to always look on the positive side, mindfulness of being grateful for the little things, capturing my grandmother’s hearty smile before she moved to California in my last selfie with her, competing in a jump rope competition, trying a pint of Jeni’s ice cream as a result of being nominated for employee of the semester, working at the RPAC (which brought me so much happiness and it was exciting to develop unique relationships with coworkers and students I swiped in), visiting Chicago, ending BLF on a good emotional note, attending first Crew game, winning a short visit with Dr. Drake in this office with some friends for grad week, the life-changing mentorship from my research PI, graduating, attending Steve Aoki concert, shadowing in Psychiatry, taking my last MCAT, frolicking in a sunflower field, serving with AmeriCorps, moving away from home for the first time, getting accepted into medical school, organizing a food drive on OU’s campus to serve students in need at my site, getting to wear scrubs to serve, getting to see a lot of old friends from grade school during breaks at home, going to trivia night in Athens, experiencing home visits in the community, and an extremely fun last night of 2015 reminiscing and playing games.

Here are some goals I will work on for 2016:

  1. Say yes more. I have realized that I tend to hold myself back from making new memories with new people.
  2. Improve relationship with mom.
  3. Just do it. Recently, I’ve been annoyed with myself for waiting to get things done, especially if it revolves around a conflict. I feel that I am this way because one of my top 5 strengths is harmony. I tend to avoid conflict and I am very good at doing that. Eventually, I do accomplish the task at hand, but with all the agony of mulling over the problem inside my head. So I resolve to “just do it” and tackle situations as they arise instead of thinking too much and waiting for something to happen.
  4. Live in vulnerability and authenticity.
  5. Vlog!
  6. Don’t be too humble. This sounds weird, but I hate hate hate talking about myself in person if there is no goal of helping someone else. This can come across as having low confidence and I don’t wish to be perceived that way.

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Additionally, I was inspired by an article to create a gratitude/happiness jar. The concept is to write down people, opportunities, experiences and things that you are grateful for on a daily basis. I feel that life is better lived when we are more appreciative.

To create your own jar, grab:

  • decent-sized mason jar
  • decorations/crafts to your liking: yarn, string, construction paper, scrapbook paper, markers, stickers, cut-outs, pictures, glitter, ribbon
  • hot glue gun
  • some friends! 🙂

I had a great time making this with two of my closest friends, and I cannot wait to see what all we were grateful for in 2016.

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~lntan

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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.

Day 9 (Sunday, May 11): Peace in the Mountains

First time wearing a kurti today! It’s made of a silky material with a blue swirly pattern. The size is a little too loose, but extremely comfy. Fellow group members commented on the kurti. I questioned “doesn’t this look like PJs?” and they responded “but that’s the best part.” Very true. I am planning to wear this kurti to sleep in the states. Even though the material is so light, I am still sweating.

We took a 45-minute bus ride to a temple on the mountain. A MPH student named Sandeep accompanied us on the trip. Had a nice talk with him about our group & objectives in this study abroad program and about his future career plans. He graduated from university, worked as a nurse for two years, went back to school to get his MPH and he is now graduating in July. He asked what other trips we go on. I said Mysore, and he said that’s like a 9-hour drive but the weather is less humid. The drive to the temple was beautiful – full of lush and green vegetation. On the way up the mountain, there were a lot of hairpin loops as indicated by the road signs. The first thoughts that popped in my head were biochemistry and molecular genetics. Bahaha (#sciencenerdforev). First monkey family siting on the side of the road! Too cute.

Image We stopped at Sunset Point where an overhang was available for seeing the view.

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We took a group picture and selfies were inevitable. A lot of flies and bugs were buzzing around the pavilion. Near the bus on a stone ledge, people placed a lot of mini bananas to attract monkeys. One popped up as I was walking over there, and I got a selfie along with a regular pic of Sahanna and I with it. I feel connected to monkeys because I was born in the year of the monkey according to the Chinese zodiac.

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We rode another 10 minutes or so to the temple. We took off and checked our shoes at an office shack. We went in a couple temples and observed while others prayed. Sandeep and Sahanna participated in some rituals. There was a river where patrons wash themselves before praying. Large fishes that looked like baby sharks were splashing around in the water too. Adam is now infamously known to take candid pictures of everyone so I made it a mission to catch a candid of him.

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We went into a dining hall filled with rows and rows of people sitting on the marble floor. Silver pans were being passed out. I was really nervous about the situation at first because I am not used to eating with only my hands. I feel less sanitary. I ended up eating the larger chunks of rice that weren’t soaked in the curry. Filmed a quality vlog segment with Lauren and Lindsey in the dining hall.

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The washroom turned into the exit and I felt uncomfortable walking bare foot in there because the floors were wet. I normally don’t walk barefoot anywhere. I was scared of contracting bacteria, but then we walked on the extremely hot asphalt so hopefully that cleansed the feet. Lindsey was holding a baby and taking a picture with it when I came out of the washroom. I noticed that a lot of people there were fascinated by Americans. We walked to the entrance of the temple and attempted to retrieve our shoes but needed Sandeep’s token. It turns out Kelsey F. lost us somewhere and never got to eat so Sandeep went with her. I caught a good candid of Adam on the way to the entrance. Muahaha. We waited in the tunnel entrance and endured many many stares and laughs. We stood along the wall for probably 20 minutes and Lindsey got asked by or simply was handed a baby from like seven families who wanted pictures with her. She enjoyed it. I think her Kurti outfit and America appearance attracted them.

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I was wondering what the reasoning for this fascination was. I am thinking it is because India is so homogenous that they do not see people of different color on the streets. The homogeny is probably exacerbated at temples. I think Sahanna was the one who shared this with us at the beach, but she said that people like taking pictures with Americans because they like to show off that they have an American “friend”. I later find out that parents throw their babies or children into an American’s arms because they think it foreshadows good fortune. I think I’m too “Asian” to be different here.

After Sandeep came back, we retrieved our shoes and were harassed by women beggars with babies. I remember someone telling me not to give money to beggars.

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On the descent down the mountain, several boys in wife beaters were jamming to music from their car on the side of the road waving around tree branches. I like the free spirit haha.

Next stop, 1000 temples. Napping on the bus while maneuvering on a mountain feels like a rollercoaster. Soothing in a way. The Jain temple is noted to have 1000 pillars. A third religious site that housed a naked statue man was planned, but it was closed so we headed back to Manipal. Hopped off bus feeling tired and dirty. Thanked Sandeep for accompanying us. Wish we got to talk to him more – nice guy.

Tea time: pastry with curried veggies inside (dip in ketchup) and chocolate brownie that doesn’t have the same taste as US brownies. Some people started saying it tastes like chap stick. The consistency was the same and I couldn’t stop thinking about chap stick as I was eating it but in the end reminded myself that this might be a different kind of chocolate.

Walked back to hostel around 6pm. There I uploaded pics to computer, washed clothes, used make-up wipes for face, washed feet and wrote for blog. Cafeteria food for dinner was spicy, but got to try the doughnut-like dessert that you always have to ask for for them to give it to you (this time they included it). Pretty tasty. Went with Kelsey R. to buy dessert from the stores in the back of the cafeteria. She purchased a mango milkshake (50 rupees) and I got a mango smoothie (120 rupees). Common consensus said mine tasted better so I guess you pay for the quality. Kelsey, Lauren and I left together.

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At the Manipal round-about intersection, I was aware of two people sitting on some stairs overlooking the road. I was just walking and minding my own business when a friendly face was lit up by car lights and he was staring back at me. Me in my head- “do I know you?” He starts smiling and waved. I gave a shy wave and smiled back. It was Raushan, my friend! It’s an interesting and heartwarming feeling to have someone you’ve become acquainted with in a foreign country with whom you are able to greet every time you see them. #blessed