Thursday, January 31, 2008

January 31 I'm okay

Hi everyone, This is the first access I have had to the internet and am posting a quick note that I am doing fine. We are having lunch at a Rotarian's home and we all spotted the computer here. Bronchitis is almost gone. In Gadag headed for Hubli and the Rotary district conference for the next 3 days. Having a great time here! I have 11 days worth of blog posts saved on my laptop that I will post when I get the chance. Sorry to keep you all in suspense! Miss you guys and love you all!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

January 20 flowers

It's the little things in life. At Bernie's host's home I saw this pretty arrangement of flowers floating on water.

January 20 stores

Just a photo of a man selling peppers and one of hte pharmacy where my prescriptions were bought.

January 20 Indians and cell phones

And we though we Americans were bad with our cell phones! My host Prasad Amantri (shown here) is as bad as my previous host, Mukumb. Two phones at once! Everyone I have have met seems to have a cell phone for work, a cell phone for family, and often a third one for the house or whatever. Cell phones are always ringing and people always talking on them, even in theatres, restaurants, meetings, everywhere! I won't even mention driving and talking!

January 19 Sugar cane factory

Here is a sugar cane factory in comparision. These are very common in this area as sugar cane is one of the top crops here. Also a passing photo sugar cane which appears to be about 15 feet or so high. Also included a photo of sugar cane on the way to the factory by cart. A very common sight on the highway!

Tata Power Plant

The only two photographs I was permitted to take. One of the founder and the other of the large building that houses the engines. Notice there is no smoke emitting from the stacks even though all five engines are running full blast. Very efficient. {sorry if you're getting a crick in your neck trying to view the photos sideways!!!}

11th century Jain Temple

January 21 Auspicious markings

Markings like the ones in this photo are created outside the front door of all Hindi homes everymorning. They are considered to be good luck. Some of them can get very elaborate. This one is in front of Mukumb Bang's home in Belgaum a few days ago.

My host family #2 Belgaum

Not sure if I posted this photo yet so here it is again:

From the left to the right: my host, Mukumb Bang, me, Granny (86 yrs old), Mukumb's mother, Mukumb's father.

Fountains at VTU

January 17, 2008 Kles Hospital and Medical Research Center

Photo 1: Dialysis ward
Photo 2: poster showing exterior of hospital
Photo 3: General scene of hallway
Photo 4: Open heart surgery in progress

{Another late publishing.}

This morning we went to Kles Hospital which is incredible! I would put it on the level of our top US hospitals, perhaps like Johns Hopkins University. First of all, it was huge; 1000 beds plus 820 beds that are free to the needy, all on 18 acres, 30 operation theatres, 200+ consulting doctors, many specialties. It is considered to be one of the best in the whole country. They are known for their work in cardiology, organ transplantation, AIDS, and rheumatology. They also rank 3rd in the world in dental surgeries including cleft palate repair. I was impressed with the cleanliness of the hospital including that there was no “hospital smell” anywhere at all. This is apparently due to continuous eco-cleaning rather than the massive use of disinfectants that we use in the US. We were given a very nice tour including the dialysis center, various wards, and one of my favorites, cardiology, where we were able to observe a catheterization in progress.
It was interesting how even in this hospital we had to remove our shoes before entering certain areas just as we do when entering houses and temples. My sneakers have remained in my suitcase since I got here and I have been wearing my loafers because of how often we are doffing our shoes. I kind of wish I brought sandals! I was not able to visit the emergency department but was told that they have 9 ambulances for transport that are at the ALS level. They do have EMTs and paramedics but no one really seems to know much about them, even the doctors. The team leader for the GSE team that will be coming to NJ in April teaches ACLS and is the wife of the medical director for the hospital seems to know more but I didn’t have the chance to talk with her about it yet. We had a personal visit with the medical director and CEO for the hospital, Dr M. V. Jali in his office which is considered to be a big honor. We had the usual biscuits and tea and coffee and chatted for a short while. He seems earnestly concerned about providing health care for everyone regardless of class or caste.

Visvaraya Tech School photos

First presentation in Dharwad

Hildage alumina factory photos

Okay, I am going to be short on sleep tonight but here are some photos I couldn't get up before: The first is a really poor view as we approached the factory, The second is the bauxite ore in storage, the third is one of the many safety wigns around the facility, and the fourth is the main control room.

January 19, 2008 Relaxation time, curry, and tea

[Sorry, I know this post is out of order but I did a bunch of posts in Word to be uploaded when I got to the internet and I forgot to put this one up]

Finally…a chance to just sit and do nothing. I played around on the computer for a while looking at photos and playing some games. In about 20 minutes I go to meet my teammates to prepare for tonight’s lecture. My throat is sore and I have a bad cough, bronchial, but at least the fever has not returned. I still have no appetite though. I almost feel sick when I think of Indian food and I have a craving for a good American egg salad sandwich with cheese fries on the side. That or an ordinary veggie burger. Or a bowl of Ramen noodles, spaghetti and marinara, French toast, anything but curry. By the way, what Americans think of as curry is not really curry. Here in India “curry” is any spicy sauce that is usually mixed with vegetables. It can be red or yellow. Curry is just a mix of spices, not the yellow powder we are used to in America.
Another thing is tea. When you ask for tea it comes with milk in it; buffalo milk. Now buffalo aren’t like the American Bison, they are cow-like in appearance but have thick horns that go off the back of their heads. Water buffalo is the closest I can come to. The milk is very different than cow’s milk and is thicker and stronger. When you receive your tea, which has been brewed by boiling the leaves dropped in the water, not a tea bag, it is very hot. You can burn your tongue or wait for it to cool at which time it will develop a skin on it from the buffalo milk.

January 20 Saris and finances

One thing that Indian women seem to have in common is pride in their collections of saris. My current host’s mother showed me her collection which numbers over 200 individual saris. Every one is beautiful! I don't think I have yet seen the same pattern twice of all the saris I've seen.

Another thing that is curious that everyone on the team has noticed is that it is okay to ask a man how old he is but not a woman. Conversely, it is acceptable to ask a woman how much she earns each year, but not a man. I feel very awkward telling people what my salary is but I am getting used to it. I am more used to telling my age than my earnings.

Maharati arts video

January 20 Kolhapur, martial arts, fine arts

I am feeling better today. I think the medicine is working. That and I have convinced my hosts to serve me black tea with lemon and honey instead of Indian tea with buffalo milk (which is also tasty but not good for pharyngitis).
We were given an open air demonstration of almost an hour of the local Maharati martial arts which are different from anywhere in the world. The Maharati are considered to be warriors. There was quite a crowd that gathered in the street outside of the school to watch. For the demonstration they used weapons exclusively; traditional swords, flexible swords that can bend back to the handle, stout wood poles, long metal poles, and leather shields. One woman who spun two long poles holds the record for spinning them for 15 hours non-stop while one of the men holds the records for cutting 32? lemons in one minute and over 3000 in an hour! I received one half of a lemon on my camera and hand but no damage was done. After coconuts and bananas placed on peoples necks and bellies were cut, the children watching from the crowd would run in and grab them. Watching them was really impressive. I wouldn’t even want to tangle with the 5 year old girl; she could do some serious damage and was very focused and skilled. They also gave a new meaning to kids playing with fire. There was often one woman warding off up to as many as six men at a time and they recreated a historic scene of a woman fighting the British with a child on her back. As they performed they were moving like a dance to the beat of percussion, two drums and cymbals. After each demo was done, they touched the ground briefly with their hand. It was beautiful to watch the spinning of the poles, swords and shields.
We next went to an open air art show. The first thing we noticed was what looked like birds in the trees. Hundreds of them! (sorry I couldn't rotate the picture) Upon a closer look, they turned out to be crow-sized bats! They were huge and noisy and hung mostly in bare trees where they could get the sun. They eat insects, we were told. No one else seemed to notice them so it must be pretty common here. The art show was different from what we think of as a traditional arts show. This one lasted for 3 hours and the artists were each working on one piece of art from start to finish during that time. Each had one piece only, not for sale, and no others. There were less than a dozen artists present and apparently they are some of the top artists. One man was working with powdered colors, several with paints, several sculptors, and one child painter.
After the art show we returned to Elizabeth’s host’s home for lunch and then I came back to my hosts home for a rest.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

January 19 Questions answered

I have gotten a chance to read some of your comments to my posts, thank you! It is good to hear from everyone in America!
First, the red dot on the forehead: Yes it can be a sign that a woman in married but if she is wearing tiny black seed beads around her neck, that is a more definitive sign of marriage. It also can be a thing of fashion. It can be red or be combined with yellow or be a stick on sparkle. The one you may see me wearing, a dot or a stripe, is for fashion…no I am not married! Yet. J
Going barefoot: It is customary to leave the footwear at the door of the house, temple, certain areas of a hospital and other public buildings. If in doubt, I just look to see if there is a pile of shoes at the door. My sneakers I bought for walking are just taking up room in my suitcase and my dress flats are getting worn out!
1200 people: I won’t be speaking in front of that many people until February 1 or 2. I’ll let you know how it goes. Hopefully the throat is better by then!
Yes, the idea when lecturing is to picture the audience naked, not me! LOL

January 19, 2008 Kohlapur

We moved to our new hosts’ homes in Kohlapur this morning. My host here is Prasad Mantri for 3 days and then he has to leave town so I will be moving to another host’s home. Prasad and his family own several factories that make car parts.
I was up half of the night with a fever and chills again. Today I am feeling a little better but coughing like bronchitis. Ugh! The rest of today is a rest day until 1730 at which time the Team is going to meet and revise our presentation for tonight. There are eight Rotary Clubs in Kohlapur and we’ll be presenting to all of them at one big meeting tonight. I must say, I am really getting over my stage fright with all these presentations; especially since I’m giving a presentation to a bunch of strangers who don’t really seem interested in EMS.
Most of the ambulances here are hospital based and go out from the hospital if there is an emergency. In Belgaum, one person told me that there is the unfortunate situation in India that if an accident happens, no one from the public will stop to help because of the extreme complications of doing so. In America it is expected that you would help a person in need to the best of your ability and you are covering from lawsuit by the Good Samaritan Act. Here in India, if you stop to help, the police will question you as to why you were there, why did you stop, why did you help, and may detain you for further questioning. I almost got the impression it was semi-illegal to stop and help at a car crash. I was told that most people want to help but can’t because of this.
Last night, after our presentation, we celebrated Jennifer’s birthday. The last slide of our presentation said Happy Birthday on it and the Rotarians had made a birthday cake that was almost like an American one. She was so happy!
Update at 2330: We moved to Kolhapur and my new host seems nice. His wife and two year old daughter are away at her brother’s wedding so I won’t get to meet them.
We did our presentation for the Kolhapur RCIs and it was interesting. Every few minutes the power turned off and left us in the dark. Apparently this is a common occurrence and they do turn the power off two hours everyday. Our presentation went okay considering.
I was taken to a Rotarian doctor and diagnosed with pharyngitis. Ugh! He prescribed 5 different meds including an antibiotic, decongestant, gargle, Ibuprofin, and probiotics. I took all but the gargle so far and feel slightly better. He also prescribed two days rest. Thank goodness tomorrow is a scheduled rest day anyway. We’ll have to see about Monday.

January 18, 2008 Day in Belgaum, Visit to Jain Temple, Tata Power Plant, RCI presentation

Got up this morning and I can’t even remember what we did. Everything is becoming a blur with all the activities they have us doing!
We went to a Jain Temple, Kamal Basti, which was built in the 11th century but didn’t look a day over 100 years. It was incredible. I almost felt disrespectful photographing it but we were encouraged to do so. People still actively worship in the Basti so we entered to observe. It was beautiful. When a man came with a plate for offerings, I put the smallest bill in that I had, 100 Rs (about $2.50 American) and the man’s eyes got very wide. Apparently it was a huge amount! He gave Jennifer and me two small bananas with a flower on top as a gift. My bananas had a distinct vibration that ran through them every minute or so. I quietly placed them on a ledge at a nearby temple. We then went to a larger Hindi temple nearby and meditated. We were then given the honor of a meeting with the Swami that cares for the place. It was a huge honor. Jennifer later said it was the best day of her life after he blessed her for her birthday today. He spoke to us about worshipping ourselves as God is within each of us. It is difficult for me to type about his message as it was very peaceful and emotional for me.
We then went to the Tata Power Generating plant. We had to fill out extensive paperwork to gain entry and then it was because one Rotarian is friends with Tata and buys electric from them that we got in. Tata generates power from low-sulfur petrol (<2%) and sells the power to smaller power plants. The smaller ones then put it into the power grid and sell it to the consumer. We were permitted into the main control room and shown the main computers that control everything. It was a huge privilege as the common citizen can’t even get in the gate! Then we were given hearing protection and taken into the main room with the engines, couplers, turbines, and generators. They said the noise level was 110-115 decibels. We communicated with gestures and writing. The engines, five of them, were 18 cylinders apiece and huge, maybe 20 feet tall and 70 feet long and 10 feet wide. I may even be underestimating their size here. The noise was deafening even with the ear plugs. We then toured the outside and saw the cooling system which was almost like a giant radiator except the water fell through the air to release heat. The tanks of oil were large too. Everything was very efficient and safe and only required 6 people to work it. They even recycle the steam to heat the fuel. Nothing is wasted and they follow strict laws regarding pollution. The US power plants could really learn from them! In the photo you can see part of the building that houses the engines as well as the tall smoke stacks. Notice there is no smoke coming out of them even though all of the engines are running, very eco-friendly.
After that we went for lunch and the usual time of 1400 and then to our hosts homes. Mukumb was still at his factory so I spoke with Granny for a while. She speaks no English and I no Hindi but we still are able to have a conversation. I went up to take a nap and woke up sick. I had all flu-like symptoms and felt miserable. It has been going around the group and I finally got it. I took some meds from suitcase pharmacy and we went to the Belgaum Rotary Clubs group meeting. There were about 65 people in attendance. I walked in while Bernie was just starting and did what needed to do. I was miserable but in the end I felt better. We went for an early dinner at 2100 then went to a movie at one of the Rotarians theatre. The movie was called “Welcome” and even though it was in Hindi, it was hilarious. It was about the mafia and the Indian movies are very dramatic and romantic. It seemed to be PG-13 but that didn’t stop them. The movie got done at 2400 and we headed home.
From the left in the photo is my host, Mukumb, me, Granny (86 yrs), Mukumb’s father and mother. Well, it’s time to go to sleep as we move to Kholapur tomorrow. I will miss my host, Mukumb Bang, he has been very gracious and helpful and very funny!

January 17, 2008 Visvesvaraya Technical School

After the alumina factory we had lunch then travelled to the VTU. This is a very difficult school to gain entrance to as a student. The entrance exam is quite tough and your caste and financial resources plays a factor. It was a very beautiful university. Thankfully, by the time we got here my camera was working again. On the way to the Alumina factory I had leaned back on it when it was in my belt pouch when I think it had turned on and I heard a crunch and the lens was then having serious issues with retracting and zooming to the point I couldn’t turn it off or take a photograph. I played with it for a bit pressing the button and pulling the lens in and out and now it works but makes a little noise. I really hope it is going to be okay. The architecture was fairly simple but beautiful here and the technology very advanced. They have a very advanced use of computer conference online classes. We were able to see a demonstration of a class. Everything was made with teakwood and the grain was magnificent and rich. We were not able to meet the Vice Chancellor as he was in a meeting. They did turn on the water fountains just for us so we could see the peaceful ambiance although they usually turn them on after 1800.

January 17, 2008 Hindalco Alumina factory

After going to Kles Hopital, we went to an alumina factory. Here they take Bauxite ore and convert it into alumina which is a white powder that is a stage just before aluminum. We saw they pile or raw ore and lots of tubes, pipes, buildings, and tanks. Unfortunately, since it is mostly an enclosed chemical process, we weren’t able to see much of the reduction of the ore to alumina. They showed us a presentation (with more biscuits and tea) of how the process works. The resulting red mud that is left over is caustic and put into hills then treated with something to neutralize it, doused with nutrients, and finally plants with grasses to reduce the dust. They have local wells that are tested periodically to ensure it isn’t getting into the ground water and any new red mud ponds and hills must have a liner under them. Apparently the underlying rock bed is so hard that it is impermeable and they haven’t had any problems. I liked the conveyor belt they had to carry the ore to the crusher. It was really long (you can only see a small portion, maybe ¼ of the length, in the photo) and had a curve in it. I was told that some belts (not the one I saw) can curve right up into a tube to prevent spillage. This factory has one of the highest safety ratings and has won many awards for their records. Need I say that more biscuits and tea were to follow?

January 17, 2008 Health update

Rajeev is feeling better, Elizabeth has been nauseous all day, my feet were less swollen this morning but are bloated again now at 1800 although I got a good night’s restful sleep and feel fresh today, Jennifer hasn’t slept in 48 hours and seems homesick, and Bernie is the only perfectly fine person of the team. I will spare you the photo of my feet…

January 16, 2008 Our first presentation

There is no internet access at this host’s home so I am typing this in Word to be posted when I can later.
Got up and had breakfast at my hosts, Drs Satish & Vani Ihrkal then went to meet the rest of my team at the Dharwad (pronounced Dar-war) Rotary Club. After another breakfast there (and they wonder why I’m never hungry!) and many ceremonious introductions, we gave our team presentation. It went pretty well considering there was some dispute about whether they wanted the short version or the long version! We did the longer version that still needs to be trimmed down some and some of the people left part way through to go to work. Bernie, our team leader, had modified his and I can tell he practiced it because it was shorter and smoother. It was well received. They gave us gifts and leaves and symbolic coins and fruit which I can’t eat (I’m sort of allergic to bananas). We exchanged Rotary banners with them and they gave us theirs and also miniature flags of India which were made at the factory we visited yesterday. Everything was symbolic and with great ceremony. I also got to hear the Indian National Anthem for the first time. It is almost chant-like and quite beautiful. I believe it was sung in Hindi as that is the national language here. After the presentation there were lots of group photos taken which seems to be a recurring theme so far in our travels. Everyone has to take pictures of everyone. There is always a camera present for everything! Often there are 5-6 cameras being handed up to get photos too while a new pose is taken. We are being treated like celebrities. It is a little strange being the “Americans”.

January 17, 2008 Language

The national language in India is Hindi but the national business language is English. Everyone speaks both languages plus their local language so most people seem to be tri-lingual. There are 24 languages in India and each has about 10 dialects which makes essentially 240 languages in the country! Each is very different from each other and can’t be understood by the next. I have finally learned the Hindi word “bus” which means “enough” and is very useful at mealtime. We are all having problems with the names and it seems the Indian people are having the same trouble with ours. Bernie got called “Jennifer” at one point and no one can easily pronounce “Elizabeth”. My name seems to be easy, thank goodness!

January 16, 2008 Our health

So far 3/5 of us have had some kind of medical problem. Before leaving and all the way to Mumbai, Jennifer was quite ill to the stomach due to side effects from her anti-malaria pills, Rajeev developed pain in his ankle which has been diagnosed as bursitis initially, then an insect bite a few minutes later, and ultimately a sprain which is currently wrapped and doing better. Now he feels as though he has a fever and chills. I have very swollen feet like balloons that won’t fit in my sneakers with some red rash spots on the top of the one foot. Rajeev’s host, who is reported to be one of the best doctors in the area and a surgeon, looked at my feet for me and determined it is probably a delayed result of the 18 hour flight and some kind of allergic reaction. He gave me some kind of pill which I read the packaging for but couldn’t tell exactly what it was other than a combination of three modern, commercial medications. He said it would take the swelling down and told me to put some ointment on the spots. So my host, Mukumb, gave me a steroid cream which I put on my foot which was starting itch just a little. Otherwise I feel fine, just really tired.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

January 15, 2008 My host family #1

This is my first host family. From the left is Dr. Satish Ihkal, his wife Dr. Vani Ikhal, me, Satish's mother and his father.
Satish and Vani own the hospital next to the house here and they have been happily married for 8 years and have one son who is 4 years old. They have all been very kind to me and very helpful in sharing their culture. I really am going to miss them when I go to my next hosts in Belgaum tomorrow.

Januray 15, 2008 Clothes shopping

My host took me clothes shopping today and I did not buy a sari as planned. I needed something for the upcoming Rotary Conference at which I'll be speaking to about 1,200 people and I wanted something really nice. She said the saris are really hard to wrap and if you do it wrong and aren't used to wearing it, it can fall off unexpectedly. Just what I don't need!!! So she helped me purchase a different kind of dress. It is like a tunic with pants underneath and a scarf that is worn backwards. It is a very common style here along with the sari and much safer to wear. Either style can be worn as dress-up or everyday wear. It depends on the adornment. I got a really pretty turquoise blue with sequins and sparkles. Shopping for it was unusual. We sat down on a padded fabric floor and the man spread a bunch of dressed out one at a time on top of eachother in a pile. We then said yes or no as he took them away. Then we selected from the ones left. Everything is so colorful and each looked prettier than the last!There were dresses piled all over from this procedure. It was rather fun! I also bought a top shirt type thing that is to be worn over regular pants and then my host, Dr. Vani (the wife), bought one for me as a gift.

January 15, 2008 dogs

There are stray dogs everywhere. There are very common and look quite malnourished. They just wander around and ignore people and people ignore them. They lie in the middle of the roads to sleep and people drive around them. I did see an intact male yellow lab of a very stocky build that was on leash and outside of the Ag research university I saw a man with a long-tailed Jack Russell-ish dog on a leash. Otherwise they look like short haired tan dogs with long tails and skinny. They above photos are more well nourished ones in Mumbai.

January 15, 2008 Indian flags

Our team was greatly honored by the opportunity to visit and view Indian flag making. The Indian government only permits this one place to make the Indian flag and access is restricted, from my understanding. We saw the whole process from washing the cotton, drying it, spinning it, putting the thread on shuttles and spindles, weaving the material, and the dye vat. Much of it was done by hand except the spinning. But even that had women working on the machines to thread them and tie knots. We were then taken into another room and presented with skeins of the yarn around our necks and specially dyed squares of fabric for our shoulders. We were very honored. And of course, more biscuits!