6.24.2011

The HRC and NYC

I was going to post today about how losing my ipod forced me to start experiencing life but then I got an email from The Human Rights Campaign that I feel is more important.

I have chills completely covering my body right now despite sitting in a room that is at least 90 degrees. Wait for it, yup now I'm welling up with tears! Here it is people:

{via HRC}

The e-mail from the HRC made me aware that marriage equality will soon be a law in New York!!!!! I can't even type out how much this much joy this fills me with. New York is the largest state yet to pass a bill allowing same sex marriage, this a huge victory. So many loving and committed relationships will now be recognized legally and I hope that New York will continue to lead the way for other states.

I have been reading/following this journey with NY via HRC e-mail updates and HuffPost so I knew the news would be coming soon but man, what a joyful way to kick this day off. I can't stop crying, this is so huge. I have reflected a lot on why this issue is so close to my heart and gets me so emotional because I do not identify as LGBT nor does anyone in family or even my closest friends. I guess it just comes down to knowing deep within myself that you do not have to be LGBT to support their rights as human beings. I was raised in a household that truly taught me to treat every one equally and to love endlessly. I wish I could hug every LGBT person in NY right now and tell them congratulations.

New York's senate has a Republican majority so for this to happen, it required some Republican senators to vote against the usual party line. From what I have been reading those who did felt that in the last few years they have come to realize and accept that a marriage recognized by law is a basic human right in the United States. With that being said, I also acknowledge that every state has it's right to determine its laws and that some states may not be ready to jump on the HRC bandwagon. It is still a long battle ahead but to New York from all the way over here in India:

Congratulations. It is a double rainbow all the way in my book. Way to go!

*If you want to know where your state stands on the LGBT rights front click here and select your location!

6.23.2011

When you move to G-town to work at a hospital

There are some things you have to just get used to:

-Small flying/jumping bugs that will swarm at night then die by morning, making your unit a mass grave site
-Cats, rats, dogs, maybe even a goat hanging out in the halls or on the beds
-Children "taking care of business" (know what I'm sayin?) on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the hospital. I found that quite charming, I think I have a problem.
-Cockroaches scurrying all over your freshly sliced mango
-Ridiculously cute children!!!!!


-The gecko living in your kitchen. I think he's in-cahoots with the cockroach that keeps trying to ruin my food.
-Constant sweat dripping down your body. If you're not sweating then you're sticky and your scrubs will plaster themselves to your legs.
-Being incredibly thankful for rain
-Not having running water during the night at the hospital
-Mosquitos biting through your clothes
-Getting the right side of your nose pierced is the wrong side. But they'll shove a wire through it anyhow. Oh and it will cost you only 50cents.


-Riots outside the hospital gates. Leading to a complete shut down of the city. 
-Whole families living under the hospital ramp. 
-Having fresh fruit and vegetables just around the corner.
-Most importantly. When you move to Guwahati to work at a hospital, expect to gain five pounds because I sure did! Yeeehaw!

6.22.2011

The Story of How I Renewed my Love for Cherrapunjee

(And how I nearly died once more)

As I left off last time, I spent Saturday morning staring at views like this while reflecting on the concept of faith:


 I ate an interesting breakfast which consisted of an undercooked boiled egg then had to pay my bill for my unplanned stay at the resort. It was quadruple the price of what I would have paid to stay in the village guesthouse and as I tallied up my remaining cash I realized I was running really tight. Then the owner's explained that if I hiked to Nangriat that day and didn't come back out until Sunday that I wouldn't be able to find a taxi back to Shillong. This was because Don Bosco's body was being taken through Cherra on Sunday so everyone was either attending or had already reserved the few taxis. A feeling of defeat swept over me again. I couldn't afford another night at the resort, I couldn't hike down to the village and stay there and I didn't know what to do. I decided I'd just head back to Shillong and not do any hikes or see any of the bridges. The owner's helped me call the hotels in Shillong and every bed was booked. That's when they offered to let me stay in a tent which was just in my price range. I still didn't know how I'd get a ride out Sunday though so they offered to let me go with some workers of theirs that were headed to Shillong on Sunday already. Everything was falling into place!!

I decided to take a day hike to the Unomonoi living root bridge. I let the morning rain finish then headed off. This hike was different than the previous days because these were stone steps and they get really mossy especially this time of year. This hike is also very steep so the ingredients were just right for lots of slipping and falling potential. I slipped three or four times going down and can't believe I didn't fracture or sprain my wrists. The last slip was the scariest, I lost my balance to the side and slid down off the path a few feet. There were many places with steep drop offs and got very lucky that this wasn't one of those spots. I would've fallen down into the forests of North East India to potentially never be seen again! My resounding thought, though, was "How in the heck am I going to climb back out of here?" It was SO steep and my legs were shaking just going downwards! I got all the way down and was ecstatic that I chose to do this hike and here is why:



It was so gorgeous! I went swimming in the natural pool and didn't see another soul the whole time I was down there! These living root bridges are unbelievable. Hundreds of years ago the villagers started training these roots across rivers so they could cross even when the water was high. They still utilize them and they say each bridge can last 500 hundred or more years! I hung around down there for about an hour soaking in the beauty and psyching myself up for the trek out. It had taken me almost 2 hours to get down so I planned for 3 hours to get back, assuming it takes longer to hike up a mountain than down.
I made a pact with myself that every 15 minutes I would stop for 5 to recuperate and that at the halfway point I would stop for 30 minutes. I left and right away had to ascend the steepest of the steps, holy hell it was so physically demanding! I had picked up a tree branch to use as a hiking stock and I feel like that helped a lot. I pushed for 15 minutes, rested and then pushed hard for another 15 minutes then all of a sudden I saw the halfway point! What?! I got there and took this horrifying video:


I apologize for how scary I look! I was wrong in the video, it had taken me 35 minutes but still, I couldn't believe it! I rested and kicked more butt getting out. I only fell once going up and that was because my lovely walking stick snapped and I took a face plant :/ My body remains bruised from this trek but it was oh so worth it. I made it out in about 1 hour and got back to the resort dripping in sweat and with a huge grin on my face!

I took a cold bucket shower, ate some fresh fruit and read for the rest of the afternoon outside while drinking milk tea. As I was sitting there reading the daughter who helps run the resort came to me with an envelope and said I had some change from my earlier room bill. I opened it and inside was 600 rupees. This was about 1/3 of the cost of the bill and exactly how much the tent was going to cost me that night. I was in shock at their generosity. I spent a lot of time talking to the other families staying there and enjoyed a great dinner (which consisted of my new favorite veggie called bhat kerela). I went off to sleep in my tent which had been placed under a pagoda to protect from the monsoons that night. I laid in there listening to all of the different bugs buzzing and the rain falling hard. It was perfect. 



The following morning I again was blessed by the owners of the resort. They didn't charge me full cost for the tent and the ride back to Shillong was completely free, it is usually quite expensive. I don't know what I did to deserve such kindness but they went above and beyond. I made it safely back to my home just barely as we came within centimeters of two head on collisions. I think the rules of the road need some overhauling! I walked home from the sumo stand and when I had to go up and down some stairs over the train station I think my legs cried a little bit. They almost locked up going down the steps! I stopped in a local restaurant for some take out when I noticed how horrible I smelled! Then I looked in a mirror and saw the dirt smeared all over my face. This is what happens when you ride through the dusty streets in 100+ degree heat with the windows down!

Anyways, if you ever find your self in the North East of India, I think I know of a really good place to stop by :) 

6.21.2011

The Story of How I Should've Lost my Life in Cherrapunjee.

Which could also be titled "How I almost lost my life in Cherrapunjee five times over" or "How I almost became a Dateline NBC Special."

If you watched my recent vlog then you might recall how excited I was to be taking a trip down to the village Cherrapunjee this past weekend. I couldn't even sleep Thursday night as if it was Christmas Eve and I was four years old. I woke bright and early, ate a nice breakfast and finished packing my bags. I headed out around 9:45am and took a shared vehicle called a sumo to the next nearest city of Shillong. This was my first sumo experience and it was nothing short of impressive. Eleven people in the car, no a/c, one really good driver. My right shoulder is bruised from bouncing around but an did I enjoy the ride. We arrived in Shillong a few hours later and I got out of the sumo to take a private taxi the 85km to Cherrapunjee.

This is where the almost dying starts. I was swarmed with taxi drivers all wanting my business. As they were circled around me, I could smell alcohol. I walked away from the swarm and decided to go with one gentlemen. I got right in his face to talk to him and determined that he wasn't the one who reeked of beer. We got in the taxi, agreed on a price and were on our way. About half of the trip elapsed when he pulled over at a shop to buy something. I assumed he needed more cigarettes or betel leaf and I proceeded to dote on the village children by the car. He came back and we were on our way again. A few km later, he holds up an unopened 40oz beer and asks if he can drink it. I was horrified. This drive involved mountain roads, hair pin turns, fog and rain. I explicitly told him he absolutely could not drink the beer while he was driving me. I emphasized that he knew it's against the law and explained that he had two choices. He could not drink the beer, continue taking me to my destination and get paid or he could try and drink it and lose me as a customer and not get paid. I was shaking. He said he wouldn't drink it and put it down, unopened. A bit later I got out to look at a viewpoint and then again further down the mountain I got out again. Each time I came back to the car he was talking to other drivers and smoking a cigarette.  We were 2km away from my destination when he took a turn too quickly. In the midst of getting the car back on the right track, I heard the beer bottle fall over and immediately smelled spilt alcohol. I started to lose my mind when the driver chose to pick up the beer, chug the rest and toss it out the window. I absolutely went crazy, I was yelling and crying and demanded he pull over. I got out of the car with my backpack and told him he could turn around, I was done with him and he wasn't getting his payment. I told him again he knew this was against the law, and that he is so lucky that he didn't get in an accident. He clearly had been drinking the beer when I had gotten out of the car at the viewpoints. I was trembling with anger and he followed me in the car for about 1km before he finally gave up.



{I was too busy taping this to notice the 40 in his hand}

I should've gotten in a horrid accident, but somehow didn't. Every day driving/being driven in India is a huge risk. Add alcohol to this equation and you're essentially asking to kill someone or be killed. It is, in all seriousness, by the grace of God that nothing happened during that drive. I still can not wrap my mind around his choices and his blatant disregard for human life. I don't take drinking lightly, let alone drinking and driving. Reflecting on this situation stirs up many different emotions and I'm trying not to be angry at myself, but I am. I feel disappointed that I didn't get out of the car when I discovered that he bought the beer. I considered it, but I was in the middle of nowhere and wouldn't have had any ride down the mountain. I am disappointed that I didn't pick up on the fact that he was drinking when I was not in the car and most of all I am disappointed at the anger I displayed.

The almost dying doesn't stop there, my friends. I walked to the one and only resort/hotel in the area where I had arranged to get a map and advice on trekking down to the village Nangriat. My plan was to trek there Friday and stay for two nights at the village guesthouse. It was 5 pm with just a little less than 2 hours of day light left. In Cherrapunjee it monsoons year round but strangely this really only occurs at night. Day time rain is relatively light and rare for some reason. The hike down usually takes 1 1/2 hours so I had just enough time. I was dropped at the hike entry point and went on my way. I was BOUNCING down the thousands of steps. I was so grateful to have made that drive safely and felt ecstatic that I was starting the hike. My happiness lasted for less than one hour. The monsoon clouds rolled in early and as I was almost done descending the thousands of steps, it started pouring rain. I have never experienced a downfall like this. Sheets of rain were falling off my body and immediately the area started flooding. The water was to my calves as it ran in rivers down the steps. I broke down; it was getting dark and I was by myself and I wasn't sure what to do. The area is prone to flash floods and I was about to start crossing rivers over wire bridges. Nothing felt right or safe, and all of the emotions from the drunken taxi driver experience hit me about as hard as the rainfall. Defeated, I turned around and decided it was safer to go back out of the valley and to the resort to find somewhere to sleep. I trekked up thousands of steps, sopping wet with the rain still coming and it was the most physically demanding thing I have ever done. It required me forcing myself to ascend 100 steps at a time before stopping to take a breather. I came out of the valley I different way I went in and had no idea where I was. I saw village lights and walked through the ankle deep mud to get there. I tried to talk to about 10 different villagers but no one spoke English and I knew about five Khasi phrases. I walked farther, certain I was going to end up on Dateline at this point. Nothing felt right.

{Those grey clouds to the left are the monsoon clouds rolling in.} 

That's when I saw two headlights down in a village. I went dashing to the stationary vehicle but when I got about 100 yards away, it started to leave. I was literally running, yelling and waving my arms like a crazy person chasing this car down a muddy road. Villagers were coming out of their homes, I was yelling so loud. I finally chased down the car and, again by the grace of God one of the men spoke English. I explained I was lost and needed help getting to the resort. This is where I took another risk and made a decision I wouldn't usually make. I got in the car with two men I don't know, without a phone, clearly by myself with all of my possessions and with no means or way of really protecting myself if needed. I was 100 percent vulnerable. One thing I have learned in India and especially in this town is that Indian people are, as a whole, very good people with good intentions. I never would have gotten in a car in a similar situation in California. I had to trust these men and I prayed the whole time I was in the car.

They dropped me at the resort where I was able to get a bed for the night. The owners had no expectation of ever seeing me again and were a little shocked when I came through the doors sopping wet, muddy and defeated. They invited me to eat dinner with them and gave me warm tea and we talked about my day. I went to bed that night but couldn't sleep despite my body being exhausted from the hike.  So many unimaginable things should have happened to me that day. That is the reality of getting in taxis, hiking by yourself and getting in cars with strangers. I was pretty upset with myself. The next morning I sat outside and looked over the valley into Bangladesh, I read some of Gandhi's writing and this passage hit me like a brick in the chest:

He (God) tries you through and through. And when you find your faith is failing, or your body is failing and you are sinking, He comes to your assistance somehow or other and proves to you that you must not lose your faith and that he is always at your beck and call, but on His terms. So I have found. I cannot recall a single instance when at the eleventh hour, He has forsaken me. 

I cried tears of thankfulness and got myself ready for another day.



6.20.2011

A weekend in the wettest place on earth...


... This weekend I adventured down to the village town Cherrapunjee in the state Meghalaya. It has the most rainfall of any where else on earth and is in monsoon season year round. You know what this equals? GREEN!! It was beautiful beyond words. I will be coming back later with a little post about the journey itself. I had a really scary experience on Friday that involved my taxi driver drinking beer while driving me down hair pin turns... I don't even want to think about that right now! I just want to reflect on the beauty that was the hiking I did!!

Yes, I brought a cucumber with me.

Hand made map #1

11 people in the sumo

Shillong

Meghalaya children

Meghalaya hills

So many beautiful waterfalls



That valley right there is Bangladesh!

Starting my planned hike to Nangriat village (P.S. The waterfall in this picture is the same one as prior)

Thousands of concrete steps

Then... I got caught in Monsoon floods and had to turn around...

Handmade map #2 or what was left of my map after I got monsooned on.

Fuzzy caterpillar #1

A different hike, a different day. Now on thousands of stone steps

Handmade map #3. Complete with directions like "Count 4 houses, including the dilapidated incomplete ones"

I may have slipped right after taking this. Damn mossy stones.


Half way down!

Living root bridge in Ummonoi


Dripping sweat.



Don't let this picture trick you. This is going UP, not down. That is how steep it is! 

Hello little crab

More steepness. Best cardiovascular workout I've had in awhile!

Moth the size of my hand

Caterpillar #2

Golden body bug

Tiny village of Laitkynsew, Meghalaya, India


6.15.2011

Book review, a vlog (v3.0) and a gorgeous view too!

I thought I'd start your day off over there with the beautiful view from my balcony this evening! I recorded the second video first then had to take another one so you could hear the prayer that gets broadcasted every evening. It was so perfect! Anyhow, enjoy a little book review and also hear about what my weekend will consist of!


6.14.2011

Gramp of Champs


This Grandfather/Grandmother team provided me with endless entertainment last week. It was just what I needed in the midst of such a long week. For starters, Grandma and Grandpa were the sole family members who made the journey here to Guwahati from their district. In talking with grandma we came to find that this was because she felt that the mother was incompetent! She couldn't be trusted to come to the center and watch the child through surgery so the only two people competent enough came: nana and papa. Of course this is all one sided, the poor mom wasn't here to defend herself from her mother in law but hey, all that matters is that the child received surgery. The grandparents were both so great with the baby and it was obvious that they were the number one care takers. 

This brings me to Gramps. The above picture makes him look way more serious than he is. He was smiling, laughing and namaste-ing left and right. He was SO happy. He was also SO tricky. We have a policy that only one family member can sleep overnight. All of the rest of the family (and I mean ALL OF THE FAMILY) is provided shelter down the road. The families tend to come in masses together, aunt, uncle, mom, dad, grandparents, all 3 siblings and the friend down the road come on the trip and we can't possibly have them all in our cramped ward. Anyways, I digress. Grandpa was made aware of this policy and he approached both myself and the other international nurse regarding this matter. He explained to each of us that he was VERY small and that he doesn't take up much room. He then proceeded to curl up into a ball to visually prove how tiny he is. He said he would sleep in this little ball at the foot of the bed and that we'd never know he was there. He laughed, pulled his knees to his chest and re-iterated that he was sooo small. He also explained that he and grandma were very old and that they needed to be able to help each other with the baby. I have a feeling they would get along just fine though ;) I just couldn't resist his charm and visual presentation so we gave in and let him stay over night.  He was so convincing. He gave me a good laugh and I just had to share a little about him! 

We performed 74 surgeries from last Monday to today. I am so tired! We now have 5 days off, of which I'm on call for the first 2 1/2. Lets pray that we have no post-surgical complications or patients that come back! 

6.13.2011

Simplifying life

About a month ago I got that itch to all together delete any 'social networking' site I was a part of. I knew myself and decided to take it slow and not making any rash decisions. This may sound trivial or un-important but I just had this feeling that I needed to simplify things. I have, for a long time, been spending far too much time doing NOTHING on these websites and it frustrates me! I would open and close and open my laptop again in order to check my facebook, twitter, tumblr, any and everything every five minutes. Not having a smart phone and then losing my ipod touch took the handheld access to these sites away and it was really freeing. I wanted to give up more than that though, I wanted to wave goodbye to my facebook account! I didn't do it though, instead I went through and deleted over 100 people whom I hadn't interacted with in ages. I started there and then today I went through and deleted every single person I'm not related to or don't work with at the moment. I left literally handful of my best friends and plan on deleting all co-workers soon. I am not worrying about offending people or hurting anyones feelings, I am just done with updating my life every 3 seconds and I also don't want to lurk people's lives. I am now using facebook as a means to update my extended family on my where-abouts as opposed to 'being friends' with every person whom I've ever interacted with. I am not totally removing my profile so I can have central access to all of my family but I could definitely see it getting the nix in the near future. I also deleted my twitter because, honestly, it was just becoming a mindless way to pass the time.

Also, I felt a lot of pressure to constantly be sharing what I am doing here via facebook. I have been making an effort to focus on the work I am doing versus sharing the work I am doing. Living life versus living a life to share. You know it's bad when you take a picture with a post-surgical baby and think "oh that should be my profile pic." We've all had moments like this and I had this realization that I just want to be done with those thoughts. I am very guilty of wanting to let everyone know what I am doing, I feel like I need to be more humble and just live this life. I plan on continuing to write the stories of my journey and the things I want to remember forever and some of those will be shared on my other blog. I am just trying to remove that instant sharing aspect of my life. I know myself and I know I can't do this without (eventually) deleting facebook all together.

I guess this is all just to say that I am well on my to becoming a hermit? This every day obsession with knowing what every single person is up to became too much for me. How do you feel about this? What do you use facebook for? Would you ever delete yours? I want to live with less distraction and as a person who has been a part of social networking since it began (madradhair, lipstick party, friendster, notpop anyone?) it will be a challenge but I am so ready to let go!

6.05.2011

Memory Monday v7.0- a Vlog!





Ready?

I am very pleased to announce that I have finally seen my very first Bollywood movie at a movie theatre in India! It may have taken me a month (wait, I've been here a month?!) but it was well worth the wait. Some of the local staff I work with invited me to see the newest movie Ready the night it came out. It was an experience like no other. I asked the boys what to expect and they warned me that there would be a lot of yelling and screaming and basically that a movie in India is an interactive experience. They were not kidding. From the first note of the opening music to the ending credits, the audience was INTO IT. There was whistling, yelling, singing, and dancing in the aisles. It was so fun. The whole movie was in Hindi with the exception of a few English phrases here and there but I managed to keep up and enjoyed every minute. I think I had a permanent smile on my face the whole movie. 



Here's the video for my favorite song from the movie... I have been running around doing this dance all weekend


This weekend (today, actually) is my flatmate/co-worker's birthday. We threw her a surprise birthday party, complete with a horrible tuk tuk ride and cake on the face. She is such a sport. But really, Rosie and I told her that we were meeting a few people for dinner, but we couldn't find the place so we had he tuk tuk driver take is to the guest house where two other people were waiting for us. The driver had no clue where to go and plus he was having some mechanical difficulties. We couldn't accelerate and never hit speeds of over 10mph. The three of us were hot and sweaty by the time we arrived at the guesthouse to "pick up 2 more people." When we walked in, blam! There were all of Susie's closest friends in India! It went well I think! We ate a yummy dinner and when it came time for cake, I turned around for 30 seconds and next thing I know Susie has cake all over her face. I still don't know how it happened because everyone was very quiet about shoving her face in the cake. Poor, poor birthday girl. I had to end the night early because I have my first upset stomach but from what I hear, the rest of the night was a classic birthday evening.






This morning we woke up and made some breakfast then headed out for coffee at the local coffee place. Unfortunately  none of our orders were correct or if they were what we ordered they tasted horrible. That's not the usual experience there so I don't know what was going on! It was approximately 145degrees out so next on the list was swimming!! There is a swimming pool on the roof of a local community YMCA type place so we loaded on the scooter and made our way over there. The pool was completely empty and we were originally told we weren't allowed to swim at that time but some how we weaseled our way in anyways. It was just a quick dip but it felt so good. We headed home, ate lunch and then I napped and now I'm watching the first Harry Potter. Please don't judge me. I am making Channa Masala for dinner tonight and I hope it comes out well. Time to walk down the road to buy some rice and a few other things for dinner!