Friday, August 17, 2007

The Craziness that is India

After months of roughin' it and no internet in the middle of India (which you can call nowhere), I now have internet for almost 6 full days! There is so much I can say/tell you about India, but all I will say is below:
1. I saw scrotums the size of basketballs every 2 days. Once we accumulate quite a few, the surgeon comes to pop the enlarged scrotums because they are filled with fluids - it's like popping water balloons. If you squish too hard the people around the surgery table get splashed, just like Songkran.
2. There's a place called Osho, where people pay to meditate in a lavish garden, walled off and smacked right in the middle of raging poverty. An entry requirement, apart from the fact that you have to pay up, is an HIV test. You will have sex either because you come to Osho to do so or because they will seduce you. I was gonna peer in for some free porn but then I remembered I didn't want free porn =|
3. I saw this 70 year old lady with cellulitis so bad they cut all the skin around her right arm off - her arm now looks like that of the mummy when he's killed almost enough human beings to be flesh-filled once again. All you see is red muscles and their tendons underneath - no skin, no fascia, and that's gotta hurt like a mother (love you Mom =D). I don't know how she's still alive with that humongous wound and that age of hers, but I'm glad she is.
4. When I was in a taxi in Bombay, a boy was running on the sidewalk to fly his kite and he fell into a sewage hole because there's no lid on it. I saw him fall and disappear into the hole while the other kids just looked on like they didn't even see it. For a while I thought I was hallucinating, although I probably wouldn't hallucinate something so horrible. By the time I realized what had happened I could no longer see or remember which hole he fell into, since every other hole had no lids either. I hope he's ok.
Tell me that's not crazy.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

What do you do when you're going to India?

I'm going to India this summer - to work and in no way for vacation. I'm going to a city called Jamkhed - it's in the middle of nowhere (and I'm not exaggerating - the closest civilization is 6 hours away and it's not even that civilized of a civilization). To put it in perspective, Bombay, which is one of the most important cities in India (I'm sure you alll have heard of it) is 8 hours away by car. To be fair, there is running water, and phone line, and internet through the phoneline (very old school), and electricity, but not much else, and electricity is often out. There's a lot of cattle though, and they paint the cows since the people worship them. Should be interesting.
Of course, I like civilizations like most people. I like clean, or maybe even luxurious, beautiful hotel rooms. I like clean sheets. I like not having to deal with mosquitos (this area of India is infested with the Anopheles mosquitos that carry the protozoa Plasmodium falciparum, the most dangerous and drug resistant strain of all the Malaria protozoas). I like not having to wonder every time whether there will be parasites in my drinking water, or even my shower water (if you bathe yourself in water infested with the right kind of parasites called Schistosomes, you can get liver fibrosis which will require you to get a liver transplant - big, big deal and not fun for you). I like having a/c to run to when it's unbearably hot. And I know I won't like my living conditions for the months to come. I've done roughin' it things when I was little (sleeping in tents, bucket shower, or sometimes no shower at all - I do shower every day now though =P) and I think I'm too old for that now...but roughin' it is hopefully a small price to pay for what I will do in Jamkhed.
Check out what I will be doing at - I'm learning how to create a sustainable healthcare model and will investigate the effects of this program on the rates of TB in villages in the Jamkhed area. I will be living with the family who started this wonderful program and hospital from scratch - and they will cook me Indian food everyday! I will be eating on the floor with my hands, restrained from using spoon and fork like I was hoping to (I wanted to bring my own spoon and fork, but that will be disrespectful =) I will go around with village health workers, watching people take their INH, maybe scrub in on some cool surgeries, and maybe observe delivery the old school way. Read the donation page and contribute if you'd like - this is a good cause but it is not yet significant to me since I have not seen it first hand. I will not ask you to donate since I know favors are limited and I'll only ask if I really need to, but if you like what you read, it might be nice to help them out, since the doctors at Jamkhed like comfort and civilization as much as we do, but they choose to abandon it for the betterment of the world. If you can't get your hands dirty (literally), donating is something you can do =)
A blurb from the website about an experience of a village health worker who's part of Jamkhed:

In a huge conference hall in Washington DC, over a thousand participants listen with rapt attention to Muktabai Pol, a village health worker from Jamkhed, India. The listeners include officials from WHO and UNICEF, ministers of health, health professionals and representatives of universities from many parts of the world. Muktabai shares her experience of providing primary health care in a remote Indian village. She concludes her speech by pointing to the glittering lights in the hall. “This is a beautiful hall, and the shining chandeliers are a treat to watch,” she says. “One has to travel thousands of miles to come to see their beauty. The doctors are like these chandeliers, beautiful and exquisite, but expensive and inaccessible.” She then pulls out two wick lamps from her purse. She lights one.

“This lamp is inexpensive and simple, but unlike the chandeliers, it can transfer its light to another lamp.” She lights the other wick lamp with the first. Holding up both lamps in her outstretched hands, she says, “I am like this lamp, lighting the lamp of better health. Workers like me can light another and another and thus encircle the whole earth. This is Health for All.” The audience rises to its feet in a standing ovation.

'nuff said =)