Thursday, February 21, 2008

Link to Jennifer's blog

Here's the link to my team-mate Jennifer's blog:

February 21 Back to being an American

Well, I'm over the jet lag, sleeping in until 0900, going on squad calls, teaching EMT, eating cheese fries (only once though!), and generally falling back into my old ways. Not sure if this is good or not. Feels comfortable but I am really missing India a lot! I have changed a few things though. I now have an auspicious symbol on my car. Those of you in Blairstown have probably seen it by now. It is a dried orange with cayenne peppers hanging on the front bumper to protect my car from harm when it goes outside of its normal area. Dunno if it works but hey, it's worth a try, right? Who cares what it looks like! I also have begun to incorporate more healthy foods into my diet. Every day I go to Walter's Produce and buy different fresh vegetables. I have been making tomato soup, vegetable-rice soup, and all kinds of stuff that is also better on my wallet than eating out. I have been doing a lot of walking with Shadow, which has him delighted, of course, and is helping keep of the weight I lost in India.
So I guess that although I'm back, I have been able to make a few changes in my life for the better. I just hope I can keep it up!

Friday, February 15, 2008

February 15 Jet lag, getting back on schedule

Well, I went to bed at about 7pm last night and made myself get up at 0800 this morning in an effort to get my body and brain back on American time. This is tougher than I thought it would be! It's only 5:30 pm and I've been ready to go to bed for several hours now. I plan to be in bed by 10 or 11 tonight because I have to get up by 0630 to go to work in the morning. I still feel like I am 10 1/2 hours off.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

February 14, Hair

My hair fit right in…except it got a lot of attention as the longest hair most had every seen. It turns out that for years I have been wearing it in the traditional Indian style so I didn’t have to change anything. Nice. Some people said that when I was wearing a saree they almost couldn’t tell from the back that I wasn’t an Indian. Washing it wasn’t so bad either. Most of the time I had to bath Indian style with a bucket of water and a cup to pour it because the shower either didn’t exist or had no water pressure. But I managed.

February 14, Jet lag

I slept for 17 hours straight then stayed awake for the whole night. I guess this must be jet lag because my body is definitely still on Indian time. I am going to force myself to stay awake until tonight to try to get back on schedule.

February 13 Flight delays, home at last, snow

The flight out from Mumbai was delayed by an hour and we didn’t take off until about 0415 in the morning. Because of the delay, when we arrived at London after a 10-hour flight, we ran across the airport and missed our flight by three minutes. Three and a half hours later, we were able to get on a different plane to New York. I had someone’s knee in my back for half of the flight and couldn’t sleep. We landed at JFK after an 8-hour flight and tried to get our baggage. I got all of mine but one each of Jen’s and Elizabeth’s luggage got put on a later flight. Elizabeth’s husband, Adam, picked us up and took us and our luggage to their house where we were picked up by our rides. Thank you Scott and Debbie for coming to get me in the snow! It feels weird to be home. First of all, everyone drives on the wrong side of the road, and they follow the rules, and they don’t honk their horns. I unpacked some of my clothes for the laundry and talked with Wick for a bit then went to bed for 17 hours. It was snowing when we landed and Wick said it was ice and rain all day today but I slept so I don’t know.

February 11 School for the challenged, flights

Photos: London fog, Waiting in Mumbai airport
I am glad I packed my luggage last night. One huge thing less to do this morning. Just put everything in my host’s car then off to join Jennifer and Bernie and Bazil (DG) at a school for the mentally challenged. The Vasco Rotary Club is trying to raise funds to buy a school bus the allow children from the workers and families further away to send their children. Some of the children gave a nice dance performance and sang. They were a mix of dyslexic, autistic, CP, and others.
The four of us, minus Rajiv, proceeded to Goa Airport and flew an hour to Mumbai Domestic arriving late due to flight delays. There we were met by Koustub Gosavi, a member of the incoming to NJ GSE team. We parted ways with Bernie as he is headed for Delhi and Agra for a few days. Koustub entertained us for the afternoon and evening. We had a 12 hour layover until our flight to London. We mostly sat and just relaxed and talked. We were able to give him some pointers to help him prepare for his trip to the USA.
Now it’s midnight and we are sitting in the Chhatrapati Shivji International Airport in Mumbai waiting for our 0240 flight out.

February 10 Last day in India, Polio Day

India is definitely a growing power. We have spoken to many Indians in our journeys and they all have voiced that America is a great country, if not the most powerful in the world, and while they have voiced their concern over our falling economy and growing debt, they are happy that the value of the rupee has gone from Rs 50/1 USD to Rs 40/1 USD. We have been able to see that India is still a third world country in many ways and filled with poverty, especially in the interior, but it is growing out of that. They do believe that India will be the next great country of the world. I rather tend to agree with them.
The middle and upper classes of India seem to be quite concerned about global warming and they are taking measures to conserve energy and fuel. Even when they may have several cars and personal drivers, they will still jump on the motorcycle. There are solar powered water heaters are frequently as electric ones (don’t take a shower first thing in the morning though; the water will still be quite chilly!). And the incandescent bulb is rare; fluorescent is the way to go.
Aha! I found the trail mix and granola bars. J
I met Jennifer and a bunch of Rotarians at the Polio clinic in town this morning. Twice every year is “Polio Sunday”. Every child in India is supposed to get vaccinated against polio every year through age six. I was able to drip the two drops for each dose of the vaccine from a small bottle into the mouths of several children. It is a great program and polio has been virtually eliminated from all but a few remote parts of India.
We then went up to a high place where we could look down on an iron mining industry that exports ore by big barges and ships. The view was really nice. Then I was taken to my host’s family’s place for lunch. Not much I could eat but I wasn’t too hungry anyway.
My host, Nelish, used to be a part of a joined family and lived in a house with 14 people of his family but recently he moved out and now lives in a nuclear family situation: husband, wife, two daughters, dog, and cat. The dog is an 8 month old Boxer, Pinky, and the cat, Moga, is the first true pet cat I’ve seen here in India, though they say are they are not uncommon in Goa.
This home is about 1 kilometer from Goa Airport, the only airport in the state and an international airport. It looks to be about the size of Allentown airport. Every now and again I see a jet on final approach when I look out the window. This is where we will be flying out of tomorrow to go to Mumbai, London, and finally JFK.
We went to the beach, I don’t know the name of the beach, and walked along the stores. All of the store-keepers kept trying to get us to go in their shops and we went in a few but didn’t find anything to buy. In one place I looked at an anklet and the man said it was Rs250 ($6.25). We started walking away and kept calling out lower prices and finally got down to Rs100 ($2.50) but I really didn’t want it so we kept walking. We went on the beach for a short wade and this beach had almost no seashells but lots of seaweed. Again the tide was receding. We stayed almost long enough to see the sunset into the saddle of a camel-humped island. I got some beautiful photos though.
I was on the internet just long enough to check e-mail and compose one to start arranging a ride home when the power went out. I was just moving the mouse to the send button too! Jennifer, Elizabeth and I will be flying into JFK at 1100 on Tuesday, February 12th and Elizabeth’s husband, Adam, will pick all up and take us to Plainfield. I just need someone to bring my Jeep and give me a ride home from there. That is, if anyone misses me and wants me home again! (The power came on a few minutes later so I could send the message, thank goodness for gmail’s auto-save function!).
My host took me to a luggage shop so I could buy a bag to put all the things in that I have been carting around in tote bags. All of my host families have been giving me gifts that now won’t fit in the luggage I brought. Plus I bought some books and a few other items, like clothes. I packed everything today so I will have that much less to do in the morning.
I found out that the big blocks I thought were bricks are actually stone blocks that are cut from the ground. It is a stone called laterite. It comes in different grades from hard to crumbly.
We attended the Vasco Rotary meeting and send-off dinner. It was rather emotional. The District Governor, Vice Governor, Radhika, Ajay, and so many people were there to speak. When I got up to speak, I couldn’t finish due to tears. Jennifer managed to finish and sit before hers came. I was almost speechless for words to describe what the experience has been for me. I feel sad that we are leaving tomorrow. I will definitely have to return to India. I have so many friends and new family here!

February 9, To the last city, Vasco

Photos: host family and dogs in Margao, 295 steps

So far the belly is mostly cooperating today.
Last night, on the way home from the Rotary meeting, we stopped to see the magnificent showroom my host is rebuilding. He sells cars and motorcycles. The brand of motorcycle is the Royal Enfield. It is a high-end motorcycle here, a little bigger and more expensive, equivalent to a Harley in America. The Royal Enfields run 200-300 cc whereas the typical bike on the street is 100-200. One thing I thought was curious on it is that the shifter and brake pedals are switched on which side although the remainder of the controls are in the usual places. A sharp looking cruiser.
This morning we climbed 295 steps to a temple on top of a mountain. The temple was carved out of a big rock, but differently from the other temples we’ve seen, this one, when you walked around it, had the raw outside of the rock visible and sticking out from the concrete protection built around it. The views were incredible too. It reminded me of the mountains of North Carolina, in a way. We also had the privilege of seeing a huge chariot they had tucked away in a tall garage.
We moved to our new host homes in Vasco, the last city we visit before departing for America. It is hard for all of us to believe that we left four weeks ago today and we are leaving day after tomorrow. None of us want to go home yet. It is so beautiful here that we want to stay, at least for a little while longer. I want to stay long enough to eat the Indian food again, though I might cheat a little! I really do need to be careful though so I get home healthy. I think I’ve caught the cold my last host’s daughter had. L First week was pharyngitis, second week was bronchitis, third week was gastroenteritis, fourth week is sinusitis. My immune system is getting worn out! That or this is the trip of the –itises. At least I don’t have another fever!
The style of building here is interesting. I have yet to really see steel beams. They use concrete and re-bar to building the beams, fill in between with the giant handmade bricks that are baked, then build with the bricks and concrete mortar, and finally cover the bricks with a smooth concrete for the walls. The interiors are almost always marble for the floors, stairs, handrails, and anything else that can be made of marble. The marble is shades of white, beautiful, plentiful, and keeps things cool. I would question the strength of using only concrete and re-bar but everything seems very sturdy and solid. I think it is the massive amounts that give it strength. I find the bricks fascinating. They are made out of local clays and we have passed many people digging, shaping, baking and stacking the bricks into huge stacks. The bricks appear to be rather crumbly and about 6X9X12”.
After spending time here at my host’s home typing the above, I was picked up by the District Governor, Bazil DeSousa, and several others and we met the others on a mountain at the Three Kings Church to watch the sun set over the ocean. It was gorgeous!
We had dinner at Sinatra’s where I was able to eat a spring roll, rodi, and rice with some kind of mild sauce. Everything is still not working quite right so I’m going easy yet. We had a pleasant surprise of the performance of a hula dancer/fire eater. I never saw that in real life before and it was incredible to watch. First she started off dancing with one hula hoop, and then she built up to about a dozen, spinning them on her arms and legs as well as her body. Finally she spun up to three flaming hoops and proceeded to use her mouth to hold then extinguish the flames on spinning rods and she picked up little burning tidbits of some kind and ate them, fire and all. I think I might have gotten some decent video. Bazil said that the hula dancing is not native to Goa and that she probably came from another area to where there was more available work.

February 8 Big Foot, Nuna Beach

I am going very easy on the diet as things are definitely not in the best working order yet. Toast and tea for breakfast, a strange cole-slaw-like sandwich for lunch, and we’ll see about dinner. Ate a bunch of pistachios I had stashed away as a back up plan. Can’t find the trail mix and granola bars I also stowed at JFK so they are probably at the bottom of the suitcase.
Veins are still very tender but no redness or major swelling. There is some bruising starting to show.
We went to Big Foot, an outdoor museum showing what Goa used to be like before modernization. They said Goa was like this in places up until only the 1980s. It was really interesting and much of it was familiar from our trip through the previous two states before Goa.
Finally we went to the beach for 4 hours of afternoon sun, seashells, tans, sand sculpture, swimming, walking, and just relaxing. It was very pleasant and just what the doctor ordered. And I didn’t get burned. The water was hardly salty at all, very warm, and there was lots of sand and shells, no seaweed or kelp, and only two seagulls. Lots of the Indian Crows though.
Well, okay, I just discovered sunburn on the tops of my feet and up the front of one leg. It hurts and itches.
We went to the Margao Rotary Club and did our presentation for them then had the usual dinner afterwards. I had rice with dal and a dinner roll. I am getting sick of bland food very quickly. The Rotary Club has their own space in a tall building and it was their charter day celebration meeting so they had a happy birthday cake to celebrate.
I have noticed a decided increase in my allergies here in Goa, more nasal congestion. Along with the topic of allergies, my host’s wife said that there are a lot of people with allergies but they don’t know why they are sick and/or don’t go to the doctor to get tested and find out. She said her daughter had an allergy to wheat, celiac disease, which no one had heard of and they had to go to a big city to get her diagnosed. I don’t know if her former statement about allergies was about anaphylaxis so much as she was referring to gastro-intestinal intolerances. I will have to ask more people about it. One thing that I may have mentioned before but I will say again is that, here in Goa, we have seen a lot of white skinned people, tourists. After three weeks of seeing dark-skinned Indians, it is very strange to see white skin besides that of my team-mates. I almost feel like I am staring at them like they are the foreigners and I am the native. As Jennifer said in her speech at the conference, she came as an American and is going home as an Indian. I am beginning to feel the same way

February 7 No more intestinal problem! To Margao

Breakfast came bright and early at 0800 and was a welcome diversion to a nightmare I was having while sleeping. It was coffee the usual Indian style and, finally, my cheese sandwich! Only here they toast the bread by grilling it in a pan with butter then putting cold cheese on it that doesn’t melt and looks like white American cheese but has no flavor. I ate it anyway. I didn’t drink the coffee though; I’m just not in the mood for it right now.
I was finally discharged from the hospital, x-ray, medical records and all in hand. We went back to my host’s home where I took a very welcome bath and change of clothes and packed my luggage. I was taken to the farm of a Rotarian to catch up with the rest of the team and have lunch. The farm produces coconuts, cashews, mangos, rubber, and I’m not sure what else. I was too late for the tour but got to have some water, bread, rice, and green beans for lunch. I can’t have anything spicy for a week and it’s going to kill me because I am really getting into the Indian food again. That’s doctor’s orders…and I am a little scared to eat too much right now even though I feel much better. From what the doctor said when he discharged me, I was almost critical. I had no idea I was that sick! It happened so fast. He checked my records and confirmed I took 15-500 ml bottles IV of a combination of D5W, RL, and NSS and I know I also drank 3.5+ liters of water all over a 48 hour period. That totals up to 11 liters of fluids, not even counting the fluids in the several antibiotic drips I got which looked to be about 250ml. That’s a lot of fluids! I don’t know the conversions to cups, quarts, or gallons, but if you can think of 11 liters of soda…and no, I wasn’t urinating it all out either. I don’t think I ever stuck my tongue out at anyone so many times either. And every time I did, they hung another bottle.
We met our new hosts at the usual site, a restaurant/hotel, and had sandwiches for a snack (with real American cheese and the first lettuce I’ve seen since America) then we moved to our host homes. My host family is Sikh and I am so happy…they have not one, but TWO GERMAN SHEPHERDS!!!!!!!!!!! A female, Stephi, and a male, Pruzzo (?). both are very friendly and licked me all over and the female begged for a belly rub. Both are black and tan and about 2-3 years, I think. The male looks a lot like Shadow while the female has lighter tan and longer fur. They are both registered dogs and the one is the get of a state champion of some kind. They look well built, for work, not like the American-bred Shepherds. I love them!
I had a decent dinner of boiled vegetables, rice, chapatti, tomatoes, and dal. Not spicy, but filling. I was careful not to eat too much until everything settles down a bit.
After dinner I shared my photo albums. It ended up bringing up the topic of servants when he made the comment that we do all the work ourselves. Then my host wanted to know why we didn’t have servants and I explained that they would be very expensive. He wanted to know how much and I said that I really didn’t know but I guessed that they might start at $10-15 an hour (based on what a cleaning person, lawn mower, repair person, or other service person might get). He raised his eyebrows to indicate that was a lot of money and he could understand why we do our own work around the house. A servant here gets paid about Rs 1000 ($25.00) per month though the servants in some places can go for as much as Rs 6000 ($150.00). He then commented that our servants are usually black people, right? I then explained about the abolishment of slavery, the civil rights movement, equal rights of blacks and people of all origins, and I think he understood. One member of his family, who lives in Canada, was delivering pizza and unfortunately was a victim of an incident similar to NJ’s infamous pizza murder but he was left for dead and survived to prosecute his attackers who were blacks. I’m not sure how this played in with his thoughts on our servants being black but he did voice remembering about the civil rights movement in the ‘60s. I’ve had several people mention that the servants’ prices are going up and they are demanding more rights. The servant workers realize that the employers are dependant on them and they are taking advantage of this. There’s kind of like an unofficial Union-like thing going on too.
I wonder if I have some phlebitis going on in my wrists. I can feel the veins distinctly hard and tender along where the IV catheters were on the posterior wrists. It is painful to bend my wrists very far. Or is this normal? It is also slightly tender up the posterior of my arms where the veins run. All of the IV equipment here is latex. Maybe that has something to do with it? I had an interesting conversation about allergies with the Rotarian that took me to meet up with my team. He is an orthopedic doctor and we were talking about my hospital experience when I mentioned the disregard and confusion about my banana allergy and that they didn’t ask about any allergies or note that one on my chart. He said that allergies and anaphylaxis in India is almost unheard of. Penicillin and sulfa, yes. Peanuts, shellfish, eggs, milk, strawberries, soy, and all the others, no. When I told him about latex free equipment in hospitals, he was amazed. I don’t think he quite comprehended the magnitude of a latex allergy! Then of course we discussed the Hygiene Hypothesis, which he was familiar with and agreed with wholeheartedly. One theory I speculate may be why the hospital staff doesn’t develop a latex allergy is that they don’t have disposable gloves except for surgery, from what I’ve seen. Everything they did was with care not to touch what was to be kept clean and they are continuously washing their hands, but no gloves (except for the woman who made a face, laughed, and cleaned my bathroom!). It was a little disturbing to me to see no gloves, but no one is allergic to latex. If you think about it, most of the latex allergies in America probably coincide with the advent of the use of disposable gloves, not the equipment. I should check into that. Thank goodness for nitrile!

February 6 Mapusa, feeling better, sort of.

They kept me for the night and although I am still dry and going the loo frequently, I am feeling better. Feels like the fever is gone. I have lost count of how many bottle of 500ml IV fluids I’ve had plus lots of IV antibiotics, an anti-pyretic injection intramuscularly (in my hip, not my butt), cough syrups, medicated steam inhalations, and pills.
1000 The IV in my left hand infiltrated so they had to move it. They missed another stick but finally got one in my right hand. I’m on D5W now and they fed me tea and toast and are letting me drink water now. The fever is gone and I am feeling better. I didn’t sleep well last night but that is no surprise.
I am upset that I am missing out on the team activities. They visited a YMCA and a temple yesterday and today they are going to a wildlife preserve to go bird-watching. I was really looking forward to that. They are keeping me until at least this evening or until the diarrhea stops. I can tell the medication is definitely working though.
They had to change the “plaster” covering the IV site due to severe itching.
I came to India to learn about the EMS systems and visit hospitals and clinics but I sure didn’t plan to get this close a look at them! I told Bernie that when they do the GSE presentation tonight they can say that Misty couldn’t make it because she is studying a hospital from the inside!
1010 I asked the nurse as she was changing the IV bottle and she said she was hanging the 12th 500ml bottle. Wow! I must have been really dehydrated!
1150 They took me down for an abdominal ultrasound which came out fine. Getting there by wheelchair was interesting. The lift (elevator) wasn’t working so we slid down the steep ramps for two floors, laughing the whole way!
The payment lady came and said she can’t get through to the Global Travel Insurance company because the time zones are different and the hours of business don’t coincide. She said the bill will be about 30,000…rupees that is! I heard 30,000 and I almost died! When I converted it to dollars it came to about $800. That’s not so bad.
1830 Jennifer is going to go online for me and try to get a billing address for my insurance.
They went for the elephant rides and bird watching. Apparently there were no birds but the elephants were fun.
2025 Oh the trials and tribulations of being in a foreign hospital! The man from the “canteen” came for payment for the bill for the food I’d consumed and the bill was Rs 105 ($2.69). It doesn’t sound like much but it’s the principle of the whole thing bothered me. I was billed for a fruit salad that was delivered to me with bananas in it after I told them I was allergic to bananas. I couldn’t explain to the man that I didn’t feel I should pay for it. He finally went and got the nurse who explained it to him and he took the fruit salad off the bill and added the tea and toast I had in the morning. Then the bill was Rs 81 ($2.08). That bill I paid him for. I tried to explain to him that I never got the cheese sandwiches that I was supposed to get (and did not get billed for) but he didn’t understand so I will have to survive on some kind of vegetable soup for the night, although I’m not sure how vegetarian it was. I asked if it was “veg” and they confirmed it but I found a bone-like item in the last spoonful and the soup had a strange flavor to it, some chicken broth, I suspect. L
2035 I give up…a nurse just came in and asked if I got my sandwiches. They had better taste pretty good when they get here!
Being an inpatient is a weird experience. I have never been admitted to a hospital that I can remember. They are very attentive to me and if I ring the bell, they usually come within seconds, which is a good thing when I need the IV disconnected so I can go to the loo. They did cap off the IV around 2000 which is making life easier. Communication is very basic with most of the staff but the doctors seem to understand English pretty well. Communication between the staff isn’t the greatest, or maybe it’s my communication. One nurse told me I’d had 12 of the 500 ml bottles then later another told me I’d had 6 bottles. I’ll have to ask the doctor.
2045 Aha the sandwich came. It was thin with cucumbers, half-green tomatoes, cabbage, ketchup, mayonnaise, on white bread. It looked nasty but once I picked the cukes off, it actually tasted pretty good.
I have decided that the next time I get dehydrated, I will make sure to be in America. The IVs here hurt like crazy! I’ve donated blood many times and had IVs before but they never hurt like this. The IV antibiotics burn all the way up my arm too. I know one is a metronidazole drip and I think that is one I had a slight reaction to in the past but it seems to be okay now, other than burning. The catheter in my vein hurts even when it’s capped off. I don’t know what gauge it is but it didn’t look too big. They do have an interesting thing I don’t remember seeing in America. When they blew the vein on the first IV attempt yesterday, the blood pooled under the skin and they spread an anticoagulant gel with (heparin in the ingredients) on the skin. Unfortunately, when I told them the IV site was “paining” me, they spread the same gel on the area…of course it did nothing for the pain. They did put the gel on my hand and arm when it infiltrated too.
By now you’ve probably figured out that I’m spending another night here. I am bored to death. Thank goodness for the TV and laptop! My team, hosts and a variety of Rotarians have been to visit. I was pleasantly surprised and that Radhika and Ajay (in charge of GSE team) came by.

February 5 Mapusa, admitted to hospital

Had some intestinal trouble last night and a fever and was miserable when my host’s wife woke me up this morning. She took me to a hospital right down the road that is owned by a Rotarian and they did a chest x-ray, blood work, stool and urine samples and diagnosed me with an intestinal bacterial infection and severe dehydration. I got admitted for the first time in my life. Ugh! Elizabeth brought my computer so I have some thing to do and so I can look up my travel insurance. I have spent half the time in the bathroom and the other half sleeping with Ringer’s lactate running in through an IV. I am miserable. I felt like a pin cushion. Usually my veins are pretty good but it took 4 tries to get the IV because my veins had collapsed.

February 4, Mapusa, Ocean, puppy, Goan court, ATM

We got to sleep in until 0900 which was nice and then we met with one of the Indian GSE team members, Ragini, who lives here in Goa and she took us around to different places. We went to see the ocean up on a lookout and it was beautiful. There was a little puppy there, about 5 weeks old and Ragini bought a pack of biscuits and fed them to the puppy which was starving. It was the first I’ve seen anyone here in India show any compassion to a stray dog and then she fed the rest of the pack of biscuits to several other dogs on our way back to the car. She is really an animal lover like me and over lunch we talked a lot about pets and animals in general. She said she has never seen a domestic cat before so she is in for a treat when the team goes to New Jersey. She has a 1 ½ year female yellow lab, Rebecca, whom we will get to meet later. We find it humorous how the Indians name their dogs with American-type names; Jenny, Scoofy, John, Bruno, Rebecca.
We went to visit a Roman Catholic church which was quite elaborate inside. I felt like there was something missing on the outside though based on all the temples we’ve been visiting for the last 3 weeks. The design seemed too simple. Up until now, nothing has been simple. I can’t believe we’ve been here 3 weeks already! Time really is flying.
Ragina took us to the Superior Court where she works as a lawyer and we were able to briefly observe a trial in session. We were kind of squished in a smallish room with standing room only and no photography was allowed, of course. It was a bit different than an American court room. They had two judges listening to the case and no jury. The judges are addressed as “My Lord”. They do not use juries at any level in Goa and the lower levels of court use only one judge. There were about six lawyers lined up for the defense and as many for the prosecution. The lawyers all wore black cloaks and I would have mistaken them for the judges. The defendants for the one case filled half of the room and the same for the prosecution. There were a lot of papers and huge rows of books in use in front of the row of lawyers. English is the language used in the court rather than Hindi, Portuguese, or Konkani, the state language. Apparently the case had to do with some kind of traffic offence. I heard one of the prosecuting lawyers arguing to the judges that “that kind of vehicle isn’t meant for rural roads!” The court apparently follows the Portuguese rules yet.
We stopped at an ATM to get some rupees for spending money and the machine ate Jennifer’s card. The bank wouldn’t give it back to her until tomorrow after they review the recording to see why it retained the card.
Goa is beautiful! It’s much nicer than the interior of India. The first thing I noticed is the humidity. It blows in off the ocean and makes everything feel hotter. Next thing is that there is no dust, the roads are better and most are paved, and there are hills, mountains, and trees, and wild-looking areas that aren’t yet developed. So far, everywhere we have been, every square acre of land has been developed and not one inch is untouched by humans. I woke up this morning and heard a bird outside singing, “ïdely, ïdely, ïdely,chrup”. The waters look clean and there is little trash on the streets. There are less cattle roaming around, no ox carts, plenty of motorcycles, lots of boats, less poor people visible, and less stray dogs. Also the architecture and designs are very different. They are definitely of a Portuguese style and seem simpler. I do vaguely remember coming through check points and gates as we entered Goa last night but I’m not sure exactly what that was all about. Perhaps a left-over from when Goa was ruled by the Portuguese while the remainder of India was under British rule.
We stopped and visited another Catholic church that was beautiful but there was a first communion service going on and we couldn’t really see the altar or photograph it. Ragini said the percentages of religions in Goa are about 50% Hindu and 50% Christians with a few other religions present of course.
We visited briefly at Ragini’s home and met her parents and Rebecca. Rebecca is a really sweet lab that is spoiled to death! She is just a bit chunky, carries her comb around waiting to get butt scritches, and has a huge bean bag sack for a bed! She licked me and asked for a belly rub. Very sweet dog. Unfortunately her mother served some kind of crunchy foam chips that tasted really nasty. I ate one to be polite then found out it was shrimp flavored. They apologized that they forgot I am vegetarian but I knew it was bound to happen eventually. Unfortunately shrimp ranks higher than cucumbers and zucchini on my dislike-list and I never ever ate them before I was veg. L
In the evening we went to Baga Beach and looked at all the vendors’ wares. Then we just relaxed on the beach with drinks and lime sodas. The beach was beautiful in the dark and peaceful with the waves rolling in. Today was a scheduled rest day and that we did. From there we went to a “lounge” where I had an interesting conversation with our host’s son (an ortho-doctor) about American EMS and our 911 system. Unfortunately I couldn’t enjoy it as much as I should have because of abdominal pains, increasingly bad cough and return of the chills indicating a fever. We were there until quite late (2400) before everyone was done eating and drinking and dancing. I was getting a little miserable. As soon as we got back here to my host’s home I took the Dolo for fever and Advil for the aches. I will see another doctor in the morning to get more antibiotics. I really think the problem is that here in India they only give antibiotics for 4-5 days and it isn’t long enough. In America the trend is to take them for 7-10 days, even if the patient feels better, just to make sure everything is killed off and whatever it is doesn’t flare up again.
Not only does this host home have toilet paper, it has a wireless internet connection that won’t cost them anything if I use it. Unfortunately I haven’t had time to use it but they gave me the password for it. Maybe tomorrow if I get told to rest again. I really don’t want to miss tomorrow though. We are supposed to go visit a YMCA and some other vocational activities. Elizabeth manages a YMCA in Berkeley Heights. Unfortunately, and I feel really bad, she had to move in to sleep with the servants so she doesn’t get sick too.

February 3, Hubli conference day 3, to Mapusa, Goa

We did our thing at the conference in front of 1,000+ people and it went really well.
Afterwards we were kidnapped to a “County Club” or country club for a few drinks and conversation, then back to the conference site to move on to Goa.
We had a hair-raising ride in the dark down a mountainous road that kept going and going and going for at least half an hour. We were doing about 60-80 kph (40-50 mph) down a road like ones in the mountains of North Carolina, passing trucks, swerving around people and bikes and cars without headlights. It was crazy. That is one thing I will not miss about India…the driving!
We arrived at our hosts’ homes in Mapusa. Elizabeth and I are sharing a room which is in a really beautiful house. The weather is much more humid here which should help my health a lot. My throat is getting sore again and the cough is still there at night.
Not much to write other than it was a long day and a long ride and I’m really tired.

Spent the morning at the conference. Listened a little to the Inner Wheel portion and walked around a bit. Ate food. We went shopping at a local bazaar but it was like going to a ShopRite at home. My host said there are more of these shopping malls or bazaars appearing and they are popular because a person can get everything in one spot. They are few and far in between and fairly small and therefore haven’t really affected the local small businesses at all like the big stores in America.
Had a rest at my host’s home then he took us to a few smaller stores to buy trinkets and gifts for home. I have absolutely no room in my suitcase so I didn’t really buy anything.
Back to Conference. We listened to one of the speakers for a little, ate more food (my appetite for Indian food is back and the saree my host dressed me in was rather tight), listened to music, drank beer (not me), watched cultural dances, and went home to bed. I repacked everything in preparation for going to Goa tomorrow and I wrote down the final version of my speech for tomorrow morning. I could do a lot better but it will be about 2 min 20 sec, just within the allotted time and written on short notice.
Here it is:
Namaste’ friends; and I really feel that I can call you friends. Our journey through your district has permanently changed our lives and I hope that we have been able to impact yours as well.
When I was accepted to the GSE team to go to India, I had hopes of learning about your Emergency Medical Services systems, in addition to this, I have learned so much about the people, the culture, and society. My experience in India has even changed the way I view my own country, the United States of America.
In America I work as an Emergency Medical Technician Instructor. I teach students how to give emergency treatment to patients who are having a medical problem or are injured and I teach them how to transport them by ambulance to the hospital. My students can then give to their communities by helping others in need. I have had the opportunity to visit a number of hospitals and clinics and I have made some important contacts here in India. I will be fascinated to see the development of emergency medicine in India in the coming years.
Just as important to me, if not more important than the vocational activities, we have also been observing and learning about the culture of India and its people. We were instructed to bring an open mind but instead I feel India has opened our minds. Unlike America, India is really about the people. It is not about the large population, it is about the interrelations of the people. This has become very evident to us as we have visited many cities and stayed with a variety of hosts. We have experienced the generosity of Indians towards their communities and their devotion to the beautiful culture and heritage of India. We have been especially impressed with the variety of medical and educational projects the Rotarians of India are doing to benefit the people. The theme of this conference is aatithya, the spirit of hospitality, and this seems to be the theme of our visit as well.
I will be sad to leave India as it seems we have just arrived here but I am looking forward to returning home and sharing my experiences with the people of America. I would like to give thanks to the Rotary International, the Foundation, my hosts, and everyone who has made this experience possible for us. Thank you!

February 2 Hubli, Conference day #2

Spent the morning at the conference. Listened a little to the Inner Wheel portion and walked around a bit. Ate food. We went shopping at a local bazaar but it was like going to a ShopRite at home. My host said there are more of these shopping malls or bazaars appearing and they are popular because a person can get everything in one spot. They are few and far in between and fairly small and therefore haven’t really affected the local small businesses at all like the big stores in America.
Had a rest at my host’s home then he took us to a few smaller stores to buy trinkets and gifts for home. I have absolutely no room in my suitcase so I didn’t really buy anything.
Back to Conference. We listened to one of the speakers for a little, ate more food (my appetite for Indian food is back and the saree my host dressed me in was rather tight), listened to music, drank beer (not me), watched cultural dances, and went home to bed. I repacked everything in preparation for going to Goa tomorrow and I wrote down the final version of my speech for tomorrow morning. I could do a lot better but it will be about 2 min 20 sec, just within the allotted time and written on short notice.
Here it is:
Namaste’ friends; and I really feel that I can call you friends. Our journey through your district has permanently changed our lives and I hope that we have been able to impact yours as well.
When I was accepted to the GSE team to go to India, I had hopes of learning about your Emergency Medical Services systems, in addition to this, I have learned so much about the people, the culture, and society. My experience in India has even changed the way I view my own country, the United States of America.
In America I work as an Emergency Medical Technician Instructor. I teach students how to give emergency treatment to patients who are having a medical problem or are injured and I teach them how to transport them by ambulance to the hospital. My students can then give to their communities by helping others in need. I have had the opportunity to visit a number of hospitals and clinics and I have made some important contacts here in India. I will be fascinated to see the development of emergency medicine in India in the coming years.
Just as important to me, if not more important than the vocational activities, we have also been observing and learning about the culture of India and its people. We were instructed to bring an open mind but instead I feel India has opened our minds. Unlike America, India is really about the people. It is not about the large population, it is about the interrelations of the people. This has become very evident to us as we have visited many cities and stayed with a variety of hosts. We have experienced the generosity of Indians towards their communities and their devotion to the beautiful culture and heritage of India. We have been especially impressed with the variety of medical and educational projects the Rotarians of India are doing to benefit the people. The theme of this conference is aatithya, the spirit of hospitality, and this seems to be the theme of our visit as well.
I will be sad to leave India as it seems we have just arrived here but I am looking forward to returning home and sharing my experiences with the people of America. I would like to give thanks to the Rotary International, the Foundation, my hosts, and everyone who has made this experience possible for us. Thank you!

February 1 Hubli, Rotary District Conference day #1

Very nicely I had the chance to sleep in until 0900 this morning before meeting the team at the conference site to plan our presentation for Sunday. We then went home to rest and change and have lunch and then went back for the opening/inauguration of the 49th district conference. There were speeches and dinner and entertainment. We also got to talk for a while with 3 of the GSE team members that will be coming to NJ in April. One is a lawyer and has a 1 ½ year old female Black Lab named Rebecca and she was very interested in the concept of pet-sitting. She too had never heard of it and expressed dislike of boarding her dog. She said she’d lost previous dogs to disease from boarding. If I have the chance when she comes to NJ, I would like to show her what pet-sitting is all about. Another is a doctor and interested in meeting doctors in NJ. I’m not sure what kind of doctor she is, something in medicine. While we were talking, there were a lot of giant mayfly-type bugs maiming themselves on the nearby light. There was a distinct sound from their wings as they lay on the ground dying. As we watched, a lactating stray dog came and starting eating the insects as they fluttered. She was starving so badly that even the bugs were some kind of nourishment. We all felt bad for her. By the time dinner was available later, she was gone, or I might have considered tossing her a roti or dosa or something.
After the speeches were done we had a good time sitting and talking with everyone. Well, almost everyone. There were probably almost a thousand people there with more to come tomorrow and Sunday.

January 31 Back to Hubli

Photos: Banana plant, medicinal plant grinding room, simming pool, separating grain & chaff

In Gadag we went to see the Ayurvedic Hospital, college, and research center where they not only teach but also grow and prepare all of their own herbs. Ayurvedic medicine is very old in India, over 5,000 years old. I fully understand the herbal medicines and feel that modern medicine has forgotten its herbal roots but I’m still not sure I go for the whole ayurvedic theory, especially the use of some of the toxins, such as mercury.
We went to see several more temples and visited with a Swami briefly. He apparently had been silent for 38 years because he was praying for humanity but now is trying to get in the Guinness World Records for his silence. I’m not sure on his motives for that.
We visited the historical site of an old, gigantic swimming pool that has been preserved and rebuilt. Reportedly the royalty bathed there and we observed locals swimming and diving. The structure was amazing, much more incredible than the Queen’s Bath at Hampi yesterday, though that was a beautiful place too.
We then took lunch at Jennifer’s host’s home which had a young female Doberman, Scoofy, who could have been better behaved and was rather mouthy. I at least had a chance to get on the internet for a few minutes to check e-mail and post a blog to say I’m okay but no chance to do anything else.
Jennifer was very excited when we briefly visited a yoga school and therapy center. Upon asking the cost of going there for therapy we were told that it was a minimum 10 day stay and it cost $15.00 per day in American dollars. No wonder medical tourism is so big here!
The next stop I really enjoyed, a farm, at long last. It belonged Rotarian who had a variety of crops on an area the size of the Race Farm. The crops we saw were bananas, coconuts, mangos, pomegranate, sunflowers, chilies, corn, peanuts, and the kind of pea used to make dal. They used oxen to plow and we got to see the barn. The oxen are fed the dried corn plants after the ears were removed. We saw the workers sifting the peas from the husks by dropping it through the air to blow away the chaff. They dried the chili peppers by laying them on the corrugated metal house roof. We got to taste peanut butter balls made with peanuts (groundnuts) and jaggerty mixed together then rolled into a ball. Jaggerty is a form of sugar that looks like beeswax chips but tastes like a not-that-sweet light-brown sugar. We looked at the corn which was dried and piled in heaps waiting husking. It was small ears and kernels and the farmer explained that they had too much rain and had stopped using chemicals in favor of organic fertilizers and this had lowered the quality of the corn drastically.
We then endured a long ride to Hubli for the upcoming conference. We had a pre-conference dinner and did brief presentations about ourselves with comments on India. I mentioned that I not only am learning about India, its people, and its culture, but I am also learning about America from the people here and it has changed my perspective on America and on life itself.
My new host and his family are very nice, the bathroom is the cleanest I have seen yet and it has real toilet paper, and the best of all, they have a male 3 year old black lab that is very friendly and has manners! Boy do I miss Shadow! They have been asking me about how to do dog training and this dog, Bruno, does know sit and shake paws and I am going to try to teach him to lie down on command while I am here. He is a really sweet dog! At first I thought it was strange they would ask me how to train a dog but upon further thought, I realize that, because dogs as pets are rare, there aren’t dog trainers or puppy classes or books in Hindi on basic dog training. I hope to impart some of my knowledge and techniques to my hosts while I am here. I am in heaven having a dog to follow me around the house; I feel much more at home!

January 30 Gadag, Hampi

I got up early to be on time only to be told that things had been delayed. So I took my time and then we got a phone call to hurry up, we were late. You can’t win around here! We drove several hours to spend the day at Hampi which is a huge old place of boulders and temples. It is a popular tourist attraction so we saw many different people. We did think it was rather discriminatory that Indians had to pay only Rs10 ($0.25) while non-natives had to pay Rs250 (about $6.25) to visit! The place was incredible though. I felt at times like I was in an Indian Jones movie, or had been transplanted to Egypt, or an archeological dig. The area can’t be measured in acres, just miles, and they are discovering new things daily. The architecture is of different ages, some of it 1500 years old, some older, some younger. We saw a pinhole camera that was a remarkable science. The image of the 165 foot high main temple passed through a small hole, not 6” square, and then appeared in reverse and inverted on the wall inside a dark room in a nearby building. It was like a person was displaying it with a fuzzy overhead projector on the granite. They said it is better in the morning in the summer when the lighting is better. I thought the whole thing was incredibly advanced. Some of the carvings on the main temple were downright pornographic and our guide explained that it had to do with sex-education.
Recently part of the ground collapsed and they discovered a secret, underground room which they said was a place for meetings of the rulers. We thought we might have lost Bernie in the dark maze but he finally re-appeared.
We also saw the Queen’s bath where she would go to swim, many different temples, aqueducts, beautiful stone walls, watch towers, and so much more. We were able to hear the signing columns and feed monkeys bananas and got blessed by an elephant that represented Ganesh (spelling?).
Most of the temples had damaged gods in them that were missing hands, noses, etc. It was explained to us that the Muslims came and damaged them in the search for mythological gold that was reputed to be hidden within the statues. Of course, no gold was found because it wasn’t there. Another thing is that the Hindu people will not worship the god statue if it has been even slightly damaged and I wonder how much this factored in to the Muslims destruction. No one will talk about it but there is definitely an undercurrent running between the Hindus and Jains and the Muslims. Although in Ilkal we did our presentation at the home of a Muslims Rotarian, everywhere else everyone seems to try to be tolerant but we can still feel the tension. I think it goes back to the history and still continues to modern day. I asked my one host several towns ago what the country was doing to try to control the population growth and he said they were encouraging the population to limit themselves to having two children per couple but he said the Muslims did not follow this law and often had many (4-8+) children. Another host told me that the Muslim man also may follow polygamy which isn’t exactly legal here but he also said they don’t follow the laws. I think this non-compliance irritates everyone.
It was a very long and tiring day in the sun and we were all hot and sticky and dirty in the end. Then of course we had to go for a 2100 dinner at the Gadag Rotary President’s home.

January 29 Gadag

The motel room was wonderful last night but I woke up with awful abdominal pains. Maybe from too many eggs? We moved to Gadag and every bump in the road was torture. By the time we got to Gadag I was feeling better but still not feeling right. We were greeted by the Rotary of Gadag and shown an ancient temple which had a store room of 500-600 year old documents. I was not feeling too good and accidently left my camera on the bus so I don’t have photos. The documents were written in Sanskrit(?) and on leaves and homemade paper of some kind. They were just wrapped in fabric and stored on shelves behind glass doors in the temple. The preservation was at a minimum, really, and the man opened them up to show us. I just hope they last another 500 years!
We wandered through a commerce expo but it was under a huge tent with no breeze and felt like 110 degrees or it would have been very interesting. We all went to our new host’s homes where mine was a woman for the first time. She has a PhD in English which is really helpful and she let me go right to bed to rest before a late lunch. Her mother cooked a great meal but I had no room to put it and couldn’t eat much. I went sparingly on the onions and raw cabbage.
One thing that is probably not helping the bronchitis is the air quality here in India. The air makes NYC air seem like it’s been purified. When we first got off the jet in Mumbai, we all noticed this nasty, strong, smoke/smog smell. Within a few hours it went away because we got used to it but it is still there. The haze layer is thick. It is not from the higher industries we have visited, they are definitely doing their part to prevent air pollution, but from the trash that people burn and the sugar factories. Belgaum and Kolhapur had a lot of sugar cane and factories and they produced a black smoke you could see for miles. Also, everywhere you go there is trash burning. I really haven’t seen much in the way of garbage disposal in India, just a few ignored dumpsters in Darward(?). The people really don’t produce much trash like Americans do, but they have no methods of disposal. Most of the trash seems to be plastics, wrappers, and packaging. All of my hosts’ homes have had an absence of trash cans leaving me with a little dilemma occasionally. They use towels instead of paper, fresh foods instead of packaged, etc. everywhere you go there are piles of trash, I mean, more trash than I’ve seen in my life. Everywhere. And there are always smelly little fires going to burn it up. There are dogs, buffalo, chickens and sows rooting in the garbage for anything they can find. Jennifer has become a vegetarian too. They also burn off the fields to freshen and fertilize them. I’m sorry if I grossed anyone out but it’s the truth. And cockroaches are getting to be a pretty common sight although I haven’t seen one rat or mouse yet, it probably would get eaten by a stray dog anyway. I am grateful to be staying in Rotarians homes which are quite clean and comforting.
We visited a music school for the blind and were given a beautiful performance by several of the musicians. They asked if any of us wanted to sing and Elizabeth got up and did an Italian opera solo that was amazing. We visited the Rotary school and I still find it amazing how they can do so much with so little. In America, schools are always looking for funding for this, that, or the other thing, and cutting programs for lack of money, while here they have no money, ask for little, build their own desks, sit on the floor if they have to, have only a few books to speak of, yet the children are possibly better educated than American children. They seem to progress at the pace they need with children of various ages in the same grade. Also, all of the children are tri-lingual: Hindi, English, and the state language. We peeked at the books they were using and saw what lessons were on the board and they are doing very well with almost nothing. It is really admirable. It rather reminds me of America a century ago where the children walked several miles to school in a small one or two-room school house (these schools do have a room for each grade) and each student progressed as they gained the knowledge to go to the next level. They aren’t being pushed and shuffled through just to get a diploma and then can’t count change at the food store. These children are really learning.
We also went to see a weaving mill and saw the Rotary eye clinic.

January 28 Iahole, motel room

I’m feeling MUCH better today! I’m still coughing but better. We left Bagalkot and then our itinerary got changed. It seems there is much desire to have a GSE team visit one’s Rotary Club and the club in Ilkal wanted us, so we got diverted. It was the worst and best day because of this. The worst day because we saw one too many temples and got mobbed by children and dealt with cockroaches and were told we’d be sleeping in the Rotary Hall instead of homes and we had major language barriers. The best day because our presentation was on a rooftop of the Club President’s home and it went very well and his wife made a great Indian dinner and I ate three hard boiled eggs for the first time in weeks and they put us up in two motel rooms (it turns out the Rotary here in Ilkal is only a year old and meets downstairs at the motel) and the bathroom is clean and the shower has hot water that stays hot and doesn’t stop…and no roaches! It really is the little things in life!
The best thing of all: I have been bothered knowing that people at home are probably worried about me because I haven’t been able to email or anything, although I know if something at home happened I’m sure I’d hear through Wick, the Shermans, Frank Geraghty, Bazil, to Bernie then to me. I was able to use a phone briefly today and left Wick a voicemail and then the only other number I could think of quick was Scott’s. [Scott: Glad to hear everything is okay at home and thanks for passing the word along to others that I’m okay!]
We did see a place where three big rivers meet and went under the water level by going down in a tower of sorts about 120+ spiral stairs. There was a temple at the bottom. We also visited a huge place with more spiral stairs that is going to be an “International Building”. I refused to go up in the glass elevator though.

January 27 Bijapur host family photo

Photo: my family in Bijapur

January 27 Bijapur to Bagalkot, local ER, greetings, bronchial rest, soup

Photo: my host family in Bagalkot
At least I had no more fevers last night, though I still didn’t sleep well at all. We moved by bus to Bagalkot. Along the way to Bagalkot, we crossed the longest bridge in India, 5 kilometers. Here I went with my host to his home to rest. Along the way we stopped briefly at the local hospital to see the casualty department and ambulances. As seems to be typical (except for the one place) the ambulance had only a stretcher and some seats in it. I was told that occasionally you can find an ambulance with some oxygen in it but that is it in the smaller cities. Not that I would call this city of 2 lahk (200,000) population small! Inside the Casualty Dep’t (ER) I saw them operating on the leg of a person who had a soft-tissue injury resulting from some kind of accident. They also showed me what I gathered to be the trauma recovery area which had oxygen, suctions, IV set-ups, one monitor, and a portable x-ray machine. I did see what appeared to be a crash cart with a defibrillator and medications on it. Again I am amazed at how they can do so much with so little. I do feel often that I have stepped back in history. I am looking forward to see how India progresses in the next few decades. They just don’t have the resources now in the smaller cities and rural areas to create an EMS system like we have in America but everyone I have spoken to seems to feel it is coming. They apparently do have systems in place in less than a dozen cities in the country and it is growing.
They way Indians greet us is overwhelming, I may have spoken on this subject before, and if so, I apologize. Everyplace we go we are given roses and often leis of jasmine, roses, and a marigold type flower. Most places also place the bindi on our foreheads too, yellow and red, men and women. They treat us with the highest honors. I really think many have never seen anyone of another nationality in their life. When we stopped in the middle of nowhere at a fuel station to fill the bus, there were 7 men working at the edge of the pavement crushing stones by hand and spreading it. When we got out to stretch our legs, all of them stopped work and just stared at us for at least 5 minutes before resuming work. We are definitely a novelty here. It is kind of strange for me too to not see anyone but Indians for so long, not even tourists (except my teammates, of course). Besides visiting the temples and forts that they are proud to share, we are also really getting to see the inside of India everyday that not many people get to see.
I am on mandatory rest again today. I hate this, I am getting so bored. Thank goodness for computer games. I’d rather be out doing stuff with the team! I know I just can’t do it though. I can’t lay down on my right side without feeling like I am drowning and having coughing fits. What ever it is must be in my left lung mostly and drains out when I lay that way although I can’t bring anything up. I hope it isn’t turning into pneumonia. I know these blogs are getting longer but I have to kill the time somehow. I enjoy looking at their photo albums and I shared mine but we ran out of photos. I wish I’d brought more photos. Maybe someone can e-mail me some and I can show them on my computer. How about a photo of the inside of one of our ambulances to show how they are stocked? Not that I’ll get the e-mail for a while as internet access has gotten scarce. I don’t think I’ve gotten on in over a week. I know some of you are probably getting worried but typing and saving these blogs here in Word is the best I can do. I think when we get to the state of Goa, things will get better. We are not in the most affluent part of India right now although my hosts have been great! At least there is power most of the time so I can keep the laptop charged although I am saving the last of my camera battery juice for lack of a charger. Sometimes the power goes out when you least expect it though my hosts are used to it and immediately have a lamp at hand. The hot water is limited too as they have water heaters up on the roof that are often solar powered. I have had more than one hot shower end as a cold one. Thank goodness the cold water here isn’t that cold and is quite tolerable, actually rather comfortable when I have a fever. I think my new hosts here in Bagalkot are as disappointed as my last ones in that I don’t want the Indian food. I am just barely keeping the plain rice down. Maybe it’s the antibiotic?
Ah, I convinced my host’s wife to make a plain vegetable soup for me. It had carrots, peas, potato, red onion, and black peppercorns in it as well as a pinch of sugar and salt and some kind of tiny garlic. She put it in the blender for a full minute and pureed it which I didn’t expect but I added plain rice to it and it came out wonderful and almost still had an Indian flavor to it, I’m not sure why, but yet was American and easy on my poor stomach. I call it Indian-American Vegetable Rice Soup. It was like eating heaven to me! Unfortunately, no one else would come anywhere near it and wouldn’t even taste it!

January 26 Bijapur, rest day

Had another fever during the night and got the chills really badly. Slept in late today then took a shower which felt really good as my last host’s home didn’t have one, just a bath. Ate some plain rice and some ramen noodles for lunch then lay down reading a book for a while. He gave me a reader’s digest compendium. Still feel sick, but am better. Thank goodness for the guaifenisen. I am sad to miss today’s activities with the team but I need the rest.
I was able to convince my host to give me some plain fruit and he gave me some carrots in addition to oranges, apples, and grapes. All of the carrots here in India are pink but it sure tasted good. Indian food makes me nauseous right now. Anything with any kind of spice does. I feel exhausted. At least the weather isn’t too hot today. My host seems to think I will be okay to go to the team presentation tonight but I know Bernie will say “no”, and since he is the team leader, I have to listen to him. I just need to convince my host of that!
Ah, my host understood and let me stay home to rest. We shared photo albums as is the custom. The whole Indian culture is about relationships. My photo album has photos of my house, my motorcycle, my pets, etc. while every Indian photo album I have been shown depicts people and events. The biggest pride to the Indians is the photo album of their marriage, even if it was 8 years ago. All marriages are arranged and last 3 days. It is typical to have about 1000-2000 people in attendance and lots of food. There are also a lot of rituals associated with the marriage such as the putting on a bangles on the bride’s arms, and many ceremonies to be done.
Another thing they speak of as being high in helping their economy, I may have mentioned it before, sorry, is medical tourism. People coming from other countries to India to have operations done which are high quality and low cost.
2018 at night and my skin has been tingling and I’ve been chilled. Took my temperature with the thermometer gave me and it’s 39 or 100.2. Guess it’s time to take more medicine. Also my cough has changed to a deeper even more bronchial one with a squeak at the end. No tickle in the throat, thank goodness! The tickle was driving me crazy. Just a strong urge to cough but mostly a dry cough. I’m miserable. I feel really bad for my host, Kreshna. I don’t think I’ve been a very good guest. I know he really wants to spent time with me and share cultural things but I just can’t do it right now.

January 25 Bijapur, bronchitis

Photos: Blood bank and fort entrance.

This morning we left Kolapur and moved to Bijapur. Along the way we stopped at Napali and visited the Rotary blood bank, a school, and an old fort. I got sick with a fever again and we went to a little tiny hospital clinic to a Rotarian doctor. My tympanic temperature was 38.8 centigrade. That’s about 102.0 Farenheit. He said the pharyngitis has moved down to bronchitis. He prescribed a different antibiotic and said the other wasn’t working. I feel much better now, especially since the new cough syrup has guafenisen in it like Robitussin. I don’t remember much of the day except that all of the children at the Rotary school for the impoverished were happy to see us. As we were leaving, they all crowded around us to shake hands like it was good luck to touch the American. I am starting to realize how unusual we are. I haven’t seen anyone but Indians since we got here. People of any other nationality are rare. No wonder they are treating us like royalty. They seem to think America is a great and powerful country but I really think we should be ashamed of ourselves when I see the people here. The Rotarians here are doing what the government is not doing; building schools, low-income housing, and everyone seems to have an earnest concern for the impoverished. That and the attitude of the people here, especially the poor, is remarkable. I think I spoke of that before. Okay, I’m exhausted and going to bed.

January 24 Yoga, Kolhapur Public School, Panala

I was woken up at 0600 for a yoga lesson. I really wanted to stay in bed after 6 hours of coughing sleep and mosquito avoidance. There was one mosquito in the room and I couldn’t find it so I ended up sleeping with my head under the blanket which I never do. I was really glad I got up though. “Father” and Dev, my host, talked a little about yoga, explaining that is it a very different exercise that works on not only the body, but also the mind and is spiritual. It is a slow exercise that involves every muscle and a lot of control. I’m not talking just muscular control but also breathing control. He demonstrated various positions which into which one places the body and then holds it for several minutes. I couldn’t even think about twisting and balancing like he did! Then he demonstrated breathing exercises including one where he took his abdomen, which had a little extra adipose (fat) on it and exhaled every last bit of air, more than one thinks one can, and drew his abdomen up inside so he looked almost emaciated then moved his abdominal muscles side to side and all different ways with his breathing. It was incredible to watch the skill and control. He has been doing yoga for 25 years. When I get back to America, I think I am going to take up yoga myself. He seemed very balanced and controlled and at peace with himself and the world.
Along one of the roads going to the school, we observed a pole cart race with buffalo bulls pulling the carts. It was running right down the road in between all the traffic and motorcyclists were riding alongside and beating the bulls with sticks to keep them running. I know it sounds cruel, and the rest of the team was rather taken aback but I have worked with cattle before and I know from experience that the bulls probably hardly felt the sticks any more than a race horse feels a crop.
We visited the Kolhapur Public School and observed about 650 children practicing their routine for an upcoming holiday. They really did very well. Then Jennifer did a short tune with an Indian bugle the school provided. Considering she’d never played it before, and it was a last minute request, and 650 pairs of eyes were watching her, she did extremely well! I was impressed with the military precision of the students in their formations. They were all happy to wave to us though. Afterwards we all received henna tattoos from the students. The girl who painted my hand was shaking with anxiety; I think she wanted to do well. It came out beautiful and I made sure she knew I liked it. They say it will last about four weeks so I should still have traces of it when I get back to NJ. We then watched a demonstration of yoga on a rope and a fencing demonstration. I am still trying to figure out how the girl climbed the rope by gripping it with her toes! They were like fingers and her big toe wrapped around the rope like a thumb.
We went to Panala, an ancient fort on top of a mountain. The stonework was incredible as were the views. We watched the sunset from the highest point. We also saw and went into a hole in the rock that had five chambers. In the fifth chamber, the first guru who started Panala resided thousands of years ago (I forget how many thousand, two, I think). We had tea at the overlook restaurant and a man who was having a birthday today gave us each some of his cake. We then had a great honor of meeting and talking with the guru. It was very rewarding and I think a lot of us had some spiritual questions answered. I know I did. They also have “The Way of Life” schools and classes at locations around the world and are having a class in NJ in April. I have to check into it.
On thing of curiosity I have noticed, the babies here hardly ever cry. No matter what, they always seem happy and smiling. If a baby even starts to cry, it is immediately comforted before it can get very far.
My host, Dev, pointed out a billboard with his photo on it and it was advertising the latest action movie he has filmed. He said he starts work on a new film in a month.
Something that I have noticed that Indians do that I have not seen anywhere else is a nodding of the head sideways, in addition to front and back. It is peculiar and I asked my host about it and he laughed and said it was “yes”, the same as nodding front and back.

January 23 Kolhapur, New palace museum, Rankala

We went to see a huge, beautiful old palace of the Indosarosanic (spelling?) style of architecture. The royal family of the state still lives on the first floor. Each state of India still has a king, I’m told. The ground floor is now a museum which we toured. They count the floors of a building differently here. Our first floor is the “ground floor” while our second floor is the “first floor” here. The royal family, being of the warrior caste, was big on hunting. There were so many weapons of all kinds I couldn’t count them all. Mostly swords type weapons and some guns. They also had some interesting furniture and an impressive collection of taxidermy. The black panther looked as though it would spring off the wall at any moment. The family was also big on warm-blooded horses and many of the paintings depicted the family on horseback. Their horses were reputed to have excellent breeding and the breeding continues to this day. Near the entrance to the palace was a riding ring with jumps set up in it. One painting of one of the kings on his horse was huge, about 12 X 15 feet, judging from the height of the people standing in front of it. The horse was a magnificent animal.
We then went to Rankala, a huge lake, which the whole team was disgusted by because it was so polluted it was almost grass green. It looked like algae swirling but it wasn’t… Apparently the people like to come and sit on the benches and look out across the water, which was a nice view, but I certainly wouldn’t want to go in it! My new host, Dev, said they are trying to clean it up and it should be much better in about four months. He wasn’t clear on how they were cleaning it up. I don’t know how fish live in it but they do since we saw fish hawks catching them.
I didn’t sleep well last night as I was up coughing half the night and had some weird dreams I can’t remember. I finally took Benadryl for lack of anything else and then I slept. My host got some ayerdervic cough lozenges for me but all the plant names in the ingredient list are Latin so I don’t know what’s in them. They do work very well though and don’t numb my mouth like a Hall’s.
My feet are still swollen with fluid (pitting +4 to the knees) and I have given up on them. Maybe it’s the food? The doctors say it is from travel and now being on my feet all day but it doesn’t go down much at night. I’m sure it will clear right up as soon as I get back to America. I am on my feet all day there and go hiking and walking and stuff and never had this before. Oh well.
One thing I am having a hard time getting used to it having people watch me eat. All of my host families do that and even the waiters in the restaurants stand 4 feet away and watch.
I am limited on photographing right now due to a battery issue. The charger I brought from home hasn’t worked at all and the batteries my hosts give me barely last 5-10 photos. I have been through 4 sets of batteries today and taken maybe 30 photos. I am rationing my shots now. My host took two of my batteries to try to charge at his shop. I hope it works! I have taken over 700 photographs since arriving in India. Thank goodness for digital cameras!
I got a formal welcome into my host’s home this morning. Each of the women put the bildi (the red is ? and the yellow is turmeric) on my forehead and waved the oil lamps three times. Then I had to step into the house right foot first.
I do think I am losing weight. My pants are looser and I may have to dig out my belt soon. I am contributing it to a lot of walking and healthier food, although I am still craving American food.
This afternoon my host’s wife dressed me up in a sari for my first time. It came out beautiful. It really was not uncomfortable to wear. Each of us women was given a necklace/earring set from the Rotary Club of Ichalkarenji and I wore mine. The family took me to a small photo studio for photographs. I can’t wait to see how they come out. The photographer asked if I had ever done any modeling, which I really haven’t since I was 10. I wore the sari to the Rotary dinner and it was well received.
At the dinner we had a presentation of dance and it was gorgeous, as usual. It was fun to see the children learning the traditional dances.
My host took me to an institution of learning and meditation for Jains. It was not what I expected and it was peaceful and relaxing. They separate soul and body and work with the connections. I’m not sure I understand the whole thing but it was very interesting. What I have found about the Jains is that they are a very peaceful people.

January 22 Ichalkaranji, Rotary Mobile clinic, lab, weaving factory, spinning mill, Rotary deaf school, presentation.

First we went to a mobile clinic that travels regularly to the same villages to provide free medical services to the poor. It is Rotary sponsored and funded by matching grants. We also got to see a small laboratory the Rotary has for doing blood tests, urine tests, etc, free of charge. It had very basic equipment but is better than nothing.
Then we went to a weaving factory where we saw huge weaving machines that only needed people to slice broken threads, but otherwise were purely mechanical. They were so fast I couldn’t see the shuttle or the beater. The fabric was very fine quality. They export the material.
The one thing about the textile industry is that it is like the shops in the market; each place only does one thing. One prepares the fiber, one spins, one weaves, one adorns it, etc.
So then we travelled to see the cotton being spun. The fibers they dealt with were cotton or cotton/poly blend. Again, huge machines! I couldn’t even begin to comprehend the amount of thread and spools. They had an excellent system to keep the air free of dust although few worker worn face masks. They said they employ 600 workers, it is that big. Cotton is the second largest industry of India after sugar cane.
We visited a Jain temple and watched a ceremony that only occurs on the full moon. They sing and pour first milk, then curd, then sandalwood extract over the head of a statue of one of their 24 gods. It was aromatic.
We visited a “colony” of low income housing that the Rotary built. The one thing I have noticed about the impoverished people here is that they always seem happy, proud of what they do have, and ready with a smile, unlike the American poor who always seem to be feeling sorry for themselves and wanting everything. The phrase “the poor people of America are wealthy in comparison to the poor of most other countries” is very true.
We finally went to a Rotary school for the deaf. I learned that India also has a big debate on whether the deaf should use sign language or go with the oral method. This school teaches total communication, or the use of both although I felt they leaned slightly toward the oral methods. Unfortunately the entire series of speeches they we sat through were in either Hindi or the local language so we still have no idea what all the speakers said. We did hear the words “Rotary Club” a lot and they gave gifts to a few of the children, apparently as awards for something. There occasionally was an interpreter but I couldn’t understand a single word other than “walk” and “Rotary Club”. I later learned that he was signing in either Indian Sign Language or the local language. Apparently they have a different sign language in each state just as the spoken language differs. Some of the students did a dance performance to traditional music to the beat of a conductor sitting low in the crowd. It was rather strange though when the music interrupted momentarily and they kept dancing to the silent beat. They seemed to be enjoying it though.
We then rested then went and did our presentation. Bernie is having some troubles with his but the rest of us have abandoned our notes and are really getting some interest from the crowds. At the end they let the audience ask us questions. I had to answer about EMS being a private or government sector and where the funding comes from, it was easy. Bernie got pinned with the question we were coached to avoid at all costs: what do we think of the war in the middle east. Rajiv took the question and gracefully spoke that everyone is unanimously in favor of peace and spoke of the ceremonies we participated in when we first arrived in India. The ceremonies were in celebration of Sankranti, the harvest festival. One thing they do it exchange sweets (like giant non-pariels) with the words “Take sweet, talk sweet, be sweet”. The recipient is then expected to put some back into the giver’s hand and repeat the phrase. Rajiv spoke that if all the soldiers did this the world might be a different place. The crowd seemed pleased with this.
I have moved to new home because my previous host had to go away. My new host, Dev, is an actor who apparently has been in two movies and is known by many known. His family also manufactures automobile parts. They are Jain and the women are customarily much quieter and in the background. His wife and mother speak little English.