Thursday, December 15, 2011

Farewell for Now

Ohio is .... cold. As if I havn't said this enough times since being home (I arrived safe and sound in Amrikaa on Friday afternoon!!) my trip home was much less eventful than the trip to India, thank god, and now I writing this safe and sound, snuggled up on the couch. So much different than my homestay bed, that's for sure. My last week in India passed so much faster than I could have imagined. Doesn't it always happen like that?

Emily and I got to catch up with Khadeeja, Adil and Iman, for one last home cooked Indian meal -- filled with all my favorite dishes! -- and we saw just how fast a baby grows. In the one month away, Iman was starting to crawl, pull herself up, and had so many things to say. She also had a TON of hair! Emily and I also took it upon ourselves to feed her her first lemon.. if you guys don't know what happens, please search "Baby eats Lemon" on YouTube.. I promise you will not be disappointed.

Our group also presented ISPs, and it was such an impressive showing. After spending a month away from everyone it was so great to see what people were up to. I gotta say, I spent the semester around some pretty smart cookies, because I learned a hell of a lot during our 2 days of presentations. We wrapped up the week with the end of the semester banquet, and everyone got to wear their saris, and hang out for one last time. Bittersweet endings, as I'm sure you can all imagine, and a few hours after the banquet I boarded a flight to Frankfurt, with the ultimate destination of home-sweet-home, Canton, Ohio.

Trying to reflect on an entire semester only a week after it ends is tough. Cultural re-entry has been harder than the first week I was in India. Typical everyday things- such as going to the store, or the mall, or the gym... are just SO DIFFERENT. Hard to explain really. For one, the 'crowded mall' seemed pretttty empty to me on Saturday when my Mom and Grandma marveled over the excessively large Christmas crowds. Going from 14 million to 200,000 just makes things look so much.. smaller. Crazy, eh?

I might write in here a few more times to reflect on the semester, and share some funny cultural re-entry moments, but for now, thanks to all of you for sharing what has been the most exciting and life-changing semester of my life. Writing in a blog was the last thing I thought I'd do, but I guess when people actually read it it makes things a little easier, haha.

With Love,

PS- A few pictures with the new families I made in India.

 Homestay family..

 Hindi family..
And all my sahaleys! Miss you all already!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Coming Full Circle

annnnd finally, the moment of truth: today at exactly 1:08 PM I submitted my 40 page ISP.... a whole 4 hours before the deadline. Impressive, eh?!

Wednesday was my last day in Jaipur, and bright and early Thursday morning (5:45 to be exact) I hopped the train back to Delhi. You know, I've learned a lot this semester- I managed to get from Jaipur to Delhi all alone, and at a reasonable cost! Yes, that means I also successfully navigated Delhi in rickshaws... finally, all those ridiculous and overpriced rides paid off. I spent Thursday hanging out at an ashram with some friends, and Thursday night went with my friend Poonam to her Madhu Auntie's house for a little home cooking and a comfy place to stay for the night. After spending 3.5 weeks in a guest house coming back to a home, even though its not my families, was so sooo nice.

Friday and Saturday seemed a little bit like Delhi vacation ... Poonam and I checked into a hotel with her cousin and friend who are studying for the year in Lucknow, and the 4 of us experienced what could be described a the luxurious life in Delhi. Expensive lunches (600 rupees.. who does that?!!? .. thats 11 dollars, btw), movie watching, walking around shops and another birthday celebration!! Our group re-united to celebrate Quinn's 21st New Delhi style, and it turned out to be MUCH more adventurous than mine .... going out with the Indian girls in Delhi turned out to be much easier and such a good time the second time around.

Of course we couldn't forget about the papers, so plenty of my weekend was spent fine tooth editing while simultaneously re-watching seasons of Glee.. Emily Hrichak, you will appreciate this especially. After 4 weeks of staring at the same document, it was SO NICE to finally turn something in today. Only one 20 minute presentation standing between me and freedom, and my return back to good ol' (coldddd) Ohio!

Thinking about coming home is a little bittersweet though. Being with such a small group for 14 weeks has come with its challenges, but overall its been so rewarding. And now I have 23 new friends, that I'm not all that excited to leave just yet. Good thing we're all checked back into Hotel Karina (where this crazy adventure began) to spend our last week in Delhi together. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thankful to be Abroad, but still missing the Motherland

Up until yesterday, I'd never really spent a 'major' holiday away from home. Those holidays considered as 'major' in my book would be the tri-fecta of wintertime wonders: Thankgiving, Christmas Eve, and of course, Christmas. I've spent my fair share of time away from home (I went to boarding school) but I've never really missed a 'major' holiday with the extended family. The only really negative thing about studying abroad in the fall: no Thanksgiving Dinner. 

The emphasis placed on Thanksgiving in America is clearly not appreciated abroad (surprise surprise), as I have been discovering over the past week. Everyday this week I've gone out in search of a potential location for a 'proper' Thanksgiving dinner, and I've been getting everything from mixed looks of confusing to flat out "no maim, we don't celebrate that". Well, that's a bummer. 

Sidenote, funny story: I'm going to quote my former roommate in Delhi, Emily, also looking for a proper Thanksgiving meal: "I just called the american consulate in kolkata to see if they knew were I could get a thanksgiving meal and the man on the phone told me i would have to call back tomorrow because it is an american holiday so no one is in the office. helpful." Oh, India.

But you know, that got me to thinking. Being in another country has opened me up to another culture, and I've been introduced to whole slew of new holidays I had NO idea existed. Take Diwali for example. I would consider this pretty embarrassing on my part, how could I have NOT known about one of Hinduism's biggest holidays? If fact, India might host the largest amount of holidays celebrated in the business calendar in the world. Indian students barely ever see a full 5 day week, (and I'm constantly running into cancelled interviews due to ANOTHER holiday) because there's always a random holiday in the calender. So with all those other holidays in mind, its no wonder there's no room in the Indian calendar to add another one about how the pilgrims and Native Americans first broke bread, that is continually celebrated with the tradition of overeating and way too much American football. 

Either way, missing the crazy large family filled meal got me to thinking about all the things I have to be thankful for. Yes, I'm totally about to get sappy and heartfelt here. Studying abroad has been an unforgettable and irreplaceable experience, and it never would have been possible without the support of all my family and friends currently enjoying the endless amount of post-turkey day sandwiches and black Friday shopping deals. I miss you all terribly, and hope that we can have Thanksgiving recreation meal when I get home... which is in 2 short weeks! (creeping up much faster than I expected....) 

In the meantime, I'll have to settle for celebration with my family abroad, and all of the incredible people I've met here in India. And you know, chicken shwarma and hummus for Thanksgiving Dinner isn't such a bad replacement! 

So here's a little message from abroad: Give thanks for all that you have (seeing people with so little to call their own has put this into real perspective for me at least), and cherish the time that you have to spend with your families (being 7,000 miles away also puts this point into great perspective), because you just really never know whats going to happen. Well, enough with my sappy lesson of the day. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 21, 2011

The land of the Hathis

Yesterday, I touched an elephant. And by touched I mean hugged her trunk, pet her, and fed her way too much sugarcane. Her name is Maaya, shes 40, has beautiful eyes and is  incredibly sweet. I might be in love. 

For whatever reason Juila, Charles and I had the miraculous luck of running into Salim, a rickshaw driver who drove his famed "Chapatti Express" around Jaipur claiming to show some of the most original and unseen sights in the city. Boy was he right. Salim was the one who took us to the underground location of the elephants that travel all around Jaipur, either walking up to the Amber Fort or carrying newly weds around on their wedding day. I'm not really sure how he knew about this place, but I will be eternally grateful. Where can you just hang out with elephants for the afternoon, for the equivalent of $1? Only in India. 

This past week has been work filled, but I feel like my ISP is coming along nicely. I currently have 7 solid non-double spaced pages (HUGE steps for me people, HUGE) and I am taking a break from writing to update the avid readers on my ever so interesting life in India. Hopefully later this week I will have the opportunity to interview a few Rajasthani Government Officials on the current policies and schemes for disabled populations, as well as the original doctors and engineers associated with the Jaipur Foot technologies. Not a bad work week schedule if you ask me. 

I ventured outside the boundaries of the Main BMVSS Malviya Nagar site last Wednesday, and took a trip to the original location in the SMS Hospital Complex. Reference: The SMS Hospital just happens to be the largest government run hospital in all of Rajasthan, and I went over by suggestion of the Director of BMVSS, without any real directions. Recipe for true adventure. I decided to travel via auto-rickshaw (my love/hate relationship with this form of transportation continues..) and was dropped off at the front door because naturally, he had no idea where the BMVSS campus was. So, I walked into the front gates and was clearly the ONLY white person there. Also, there was literally nothing in English. Good thing I've been learning Hindi, right? I found my way to the front door and tried my best to ask for directions to the BMVSS site in Hindi. I landed in the hospital commissioners office. (why do these things always happen?!) Once given the opportunity to explain myself, the commissioner turned out to be very helpful, and was also able to give me a short interview about the hospitals relationship... and he spoke English! He directed me to what I thought was the BMVSS campus... but turned out to be the Orthopaedic OPD (Out patient department). I strolled in, and naturally, once again got many, MANY looks. Oops, wrong place, once again. I was then led to yet another wrong location, and finally made my way into the surprisingly small BMVSS section of the hospital. 

This branch of BMVSS is the one that houses all of the patients travelling to Jaipur for new limbs. I found myself smack in the middle of the living space allotted for around 80 people per day by accident when I was looking for the main office, which I soon found out was not much of an office at all. Everything that is nice about the Malviya Nagar site is what the SMS Hospital Site is lacking. There is a pretty non-existent workspace, a shared office and training area, and of course, 80 odd beds scattered throughout all of the rooms in the building, which seemed to be set up like a hostel. Needless to say, eye opening experience. 

... buuut anyways, its late, I'm procrastinating, and my paper is calling my name. More to come though, promise! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Week 1, Independent Study Project: Complete!

In the middle of the summer I probably would have laughed at you if you told me that conducting my own field work would be a breeze and that writing at 30 page paper about it would be a piece of cake. Today... I'd probably still laugh at you. But honestly, 1 out of 4 weeks down I can say that its not as bad as I thought. Actually its pretty fun! I mean I guess it should be, considering I chose to come to India, chose this particular program, and then chose the specific topic of my field work... so really, what room do I have to complain?

I started work at Jaipur Foot on Tuesday morning, bright and early, after I finallllly made it to their front door (reference lower post for rickshaw woes). Since then I've been spending my days with Pankaj, the technician that Dr. Pooja set me up to shadow, and he's been helping me with translation as well as explanation of the entire fabrication process of their different prosthetic limbs. Thus far, we've (I say we, I mean him) made a prosthetic arm all the way past the elbow, lower leg, upper leg, HIP replacement, and much much more. I've been spending about 5-6 hours a day there, so we really are becoming fast friends and he's been letting me help with small production stuff. I might even get to make my own prosthetic before I leave at the end of the month! Cross your fingers, because that would be freaking awesome.

Saturday Julia, Charles and I decided to take the day away from our NGOs (multiple hours with a language barrier and the sounds of heavy machinery in the background is pretttty tiring) and we did some exploring of the 'Pink City'. We started our afternoon bargaining at a few of the bazaars, and then headed up to the Tiger Fort, which overlooks the entire city. It was a bit of a hike to get to the top, but totally worth it because the view of the city was breathtaking. We stayed to look around the fort, walked the perimeter walls and watched the sunset over the city :). Not a bad way to spend a Saturday evening!

Sunset over Jaipur :)

Today Julia and I have been lounging around and working on our papers. I've spent most of the day processing my interviews and field notes, and I've finally come up with an ISP title: "Mainstreaming Physically Disabled Populations through Prosthetic Technologies: A Case Study of Jaipur Foot". If that sounds interesting to you, and you're up for a little light reading, PLEASE, be my guest! I'd love some outside editors, because writing is not my strongest suit (thanks engineering) and re-reading your own writing can sometimes get a little boring.

Last thing:  A little happy birthday shoutout to the many family members of mine that had birthdays this week! Mom, Dad, Grandma Porter... I miss you guys so much, and hope you all had FANTASTIC days!! Wish I could have been there to celebrate.. guess we'll just have to do birthdays take 2 when I get back?

Wednesday, November 9, 2011


Flash forward: Thankfully these past 2.5 months have paid off, and I can finally say I feel somewhat comfortable getting around India. I can call a taxi, hail a rickshaw, navigate a train station, and (sometimes) navigate the neighborhood. I actually felt somewhat comfortable in Delhi, the city of 14 million. That's a pretty big step for me personally, because in the US I'm pretty addicted to my GPS. In fact, I don't actually feel comfortable driving long distances without it. Which is pretty embarrassing to admit, maybe I should work on that. So of course, since I finally felt comfortable, its time for me to move to a new city... 

Day 2 in Jaipur, rickshaw issues. Stand-by for a much needed rant. 

Why on earth would you tell someone you know where you're going, when CLEARLY you don't? This morning I reached my limit, after I spent 1.5 hours (yes, HOURS) in a rickshaw trying to get from the guesthouse to the NGO, easily a 20 minute journey. This is what I don't understand: why would a driver willingly agree to drive around in circles asking shopkeepers off the street the right directions? Am I supposed to pay him for this? I mean, he thinks so, but as a transportation 'expert' (as explained earlier), i know better.  Here are my solutions: either the rickshaws get some GPS systems (definitely not happening) ORRR they get some street signs for the roads in India. The second seems like a pretty good idea to me. I will say, it is pretty confusing not having road signs, but if your advertised profession is driving someone around the city, I personally think you should have a good handle on where you're going. Anyways, after finally finding the NGO (thanks to the many shopkeepers and other drivers we asked along the way) the driver demanded I pay double for the ride because 'we were driving for a very long time'.Well DUH we were driving around for a long time, you didn't know where you were! Maf ke-ji-yeee (my bad, in Hindi) I shouldn't have agreed to pay by the meter, but hell no rickshaw man, I'm not paying for that time you got me lost, and made me late. My argumentative side got the best of me, and the small bit of Hindi I know helped me to not pay the rickshaw driver. It also caused a bit of a crowd, and a small scene outside the gates of my NGO... oops. 

After our little altercation, my next instinct was to cower inside, and run away from the people that watched me argue my way out of an unfair wage. Thank God the people at BMVSS are like the rest of India, and don't really care about time because at this point, I was almost an hour late. Actually, when I told Pankaj (my new best friend and technician I'm shadowing) my epic travel story, he just laughed at me, told me to wash my hands, and help him with his mold. Typical India, you just never know what to expect.