Wednesday, June 6, 2007

The End

It is time to say goodbye. I have been back in the United States of America for about 3 weeks now, and I am just now settling down in one place (Colorado Springs, Colorado). It's been a whirlwind return, and my experiences continue to flood me. I am not quite ready to settle down, get a job, live the "real" life. It is funny... I had so many moments this past semester that I would have given anything for one taste of American soil--now that I am here, I would give anything for one more tast of my IHP life. That is not to say that I didn't enjoy my past semester in full, but I think it is the curse of life to never soak everything out of the moments we are in, and then get thirsty for them later. The trick for me now is to utlize all the energy and knowledge from this past semester in my daily Colorado Springs life. I am learning that it is not as simple as it seems, but one way to do it is to continue to reflect and share.

So, I never uploaded any pictures this whole time... here it goes.

My host moms! (India, China, and South Africa)

My Best Friends

Sunny is one pretty awesome girl who goes to Berkley. I had many a bus ride conversations with her.

Talia. Talia lives in San Fran, loves to cuddle, and was a huge emotional support for me.

Ariel (Ari) is my soulmate! End of story.

Nikki Kast was my favorite intellectual buddy. She expanded my mind in all sorts of ways that it had not dared have gone before.

Me, Talia, Nikki, and Ari. We were kind of a thing. They were such a huge, special part of my experience

Laura is one interesting girl. She went on the trip to Munnar with Ari, Talia, Nikki K, and I. She kept me smiling.

Nikki M. We didn't really get to know each other until we were roommates in South Africa. I am damn glad that happened. She is fantastic and so so smart!!!

The Places

Kerala, India in the tea plantations of Munnar. Absolutely breath-taking!

The famous God, Aneema, who came to visit!

The Great Wall of China

The Great McDonalds of China

Cape Point in Cape Town South Africa.

Zweletemba. The township I stayed in. This was the poorer part of town. The housing within townships vary widely from relatively well-off to no basic sanitation.

Ok... I'm sick of uploading pictures. So to see anymore you will have to come and visit me! Thank you to everyone who read this blog and sent me positive vibes throughout these past four months. I definitely got them. Transitions are always hard, but I am so thankful that I got to go on this journey and that I am now more aware than ever before of the priviledge that I carry in this world. Along with that awareness is great confusion of what I am to do with it. I hope to continue to ask questions, travel, listen, and learn throughout all I do in my life.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Life in Muslim South Africa

So, I moved out of Zweletemba and the very same day moved into the Jacob's family. The Jacobs, Gamida and Nadeem, with their three children Nurah, 10, Kouthar, 7, and Gannan, 2, live in the Bo Kaap district in the city bowl of Cape Town. The Bo Kaap is predominately a "coloured" (I use this term, as it is the acceptable terminology in South Africa) area made of mostly Muslims. It is full of bright, colorful houses lining steep streets (last night the taxi we were in started rolling backwards due to the immense steepness, don't worry we were fine!). Most of the people that live there are known as the "Cape Malay", with origins in Malaysia. They are famous for their amazing food, and our family is not an exception. My host mom cooks some of the best food I have had on the trip, it is sort of like Indian, but not exactly. I bought the Cape Malay cookbook at the request of my home stay mom and look forward to attempting a few of these amazing dishes.
I was a bit nervous about living with a devout Muslim family. What if I am too crazy for them? Not to worry! My first day in the home, my host dad was listing off all his favorite Ludacris, Snoop Dog, and Fifty Cent songs. My host mom talks nostalgically of the days she went out dancing and how she would really love to take belly dancing classes. They have a big cozy L-shaped couch, and we have all spent many a nights gathered watching all sorts of movies. I have had a home. They do pray five times per day, and their Muslim values are definitely the backbone of their lives. Rather than being an awkward cultural disconnect, we have had really amazing conversations about religion, apartheid, differences of lifestyle. THe truth is Muslims can truly get down!
My first weekend with the home stay they took me, and Nikki M. (my AMAZING roommate) to a Muslim fashion show at a high school for ladies only. My word, it was an event. All the women had their heads uncovered (no pictures aloud) and were hootin and hollerin as beautiful, scantily clothed high school girls pranced down the runway like professionals. Any stereotypes I had were certainly shattered that night. The next weekend I went to Goudini Spa, a hot springs about an hour out of Cape Town, with my homestay. We sat in hot pools, jumped on trampolines, hiked up a mountain (or half a mountain), watched movies, and ate a ton of junk food! The spa was filled with predominately coloured resort, and bathing suits ranged from full body suits to the few who were a bikini top with shorts. I stuck to the one piece bathing suit. It was a great weekend. But all good things have the slightly negative side. All of this family time has brought with it some familial frustrations and a personal tension that leaves me and Nikki stuck between being with our family and spending time with our friends from IHP who we will soon be saying goodbye to.
All has worked out, and I have had a fantastic time here. There is so much I have learned that I cannot even scratch the surface in a blog. I move out of the Bo Kaap tomorrow, then it is final retreat and then I board a plane to the US of A on Friday. But damn, I feel like I need to come back to each and every place I have gone, there is just too much to do, see, and experience. Then again, it will be good to come home and solidify my synthesizing.

Sunday, April 22, 2007


I went back the next day to the last sangoma to continue my medical tourism for my knee. She boiled up some traditional herbs and put them in a 2 liter pop bottle for me to drink. So currently I am drinking half a glass of earth-tasting water per day to try and make my knee better.

Friday, April 20, 2007


I spent this past week in Zweletemba, a black township outside of Worcester, South Africa. I turned 21 at a table prepared by three amazing black South African women who, even though we had known each other for about 2 hours, had a bottle of champagne to celebrate me with. There was also mashed potatoes, dad, you know I was happy! The whole week was really just an incredible experience that is impossible to tie up neatly in one blog entry. Instead, I will just recount one day in the life of Jessica in Zweletemba. For a bit of context, Zweletemba is centered in the boland region full of large, breath-taking mountains, and gorgeous wine vineyards.
"I began the day geared toward my need to get out into the indescribable beauty that surrounds this place. After waiting for an hour and half for the transport to arrive, 17 of us piled into a taxi and eventually found something of a trail behind a small campground and vineyard. The trail quickly dissipated into us scrambling up a steep hillside covered in prickly bushes and shrubs leaving me covered in scrapes and scratches... all well worth it. At the top we took in the sights, layed in the sun, listened to music, and relaxed. The way back down was a bit more troubling for me, lots of falls, but all was well. I was hoping for a glass of wine at the bottom, but I had to get back to the township to carry on with the adventures of this day. Nikki, my friend, was asking our mom about sangomas in the area. Sangomas are traditional healers. This led to us going on a very involved "sangoma hunt". At the first house we went to the sangoma was out of town. Quickly we realized that we shouldn't fear--there is a sangoma at every street corner (later we learned for a young boy that Zweletemba is a unique township in that it is particularly witch-infested, thus the need for lots of sangomas). The next sangoma we visited was too tired and told us to come back later. The next one we met chatted with our hose moms for a while and then said she would take us to the place where a lot of sangomas congregate. We then wandered around Mandela square, an slum part of the township. There we met another sangoma who was extremely stern and simply pointed onward. At the end of the hunt we arrived at a house with about 10 sangomas who were participating in a ceremony for a novice sangoma. It was absolutely surreal. We were welcomed into the room that was clearly busting at its seams. Two women created a small opening between their bodacious butts for me to plop into. When all the sangomas began singing and dancing in a circle I was filled with tingles and chills. The woman who was being initiated was probably around 30. We learned that she had been really sick and went to a traditional healer. The healer said that her ancestors were beckoning her to be a sangoma. This coincided with dreams she was having. Once she accepted the calling, she was healed. This is pretty much the same story for every sangoma we have met or heard of. I think it is so incredibly fascinating. That is their truth. It is 100% real. Why don't my ancestors call me to do things?
After the sangoma hunt, we came back home and cooked a feast that ended up feeding 16 people! One of my roommates is Indian-American, so we made tandoori chicken, potato curry, lemon rice, bread pudding, and good ol American chocolate chip cookies. Everyone thoroughly enjoyed it, and it felt so good to give something back to this absolutely beautiful family that has given us so much. It is so nice to really be in a community. After the never-ending feast, we went back to the first sangoma who had dressed up so that we could take pictures of her posing with her certificates. What a day!"

Now I am back in Cape Town living in the Bo Kaap district. It is beautiful and once again I have an amazing family. I finally have kids in my family (three girls, 11, 7, and 2). It is great fun. There is only 3 weeks left on this crazy adventure. Thanks for following through it all with me!

Thursday, April 5, 2007

The sun sets on Beijing

It's April. It's my last night in Beijing. I do not know where to possibly begin. I have loved the Beijing portion of this program. Why, you might ask. Has Jessica become a city girl who loves pollution? I do not think that is the case. More so I just feel like my life and the program have coalesced more throughout this past month. Ah, I am leaving China in a much different place than I was in when I left India and I am pondering much different things. I would say that India was harder for me on the whole, but it was so necessary for this trip. I am really coming to realize that even if things are not as I expect them to be or even if I miss 99 out of 100 opportunities to learn and grow in a day, what I do get matters. I am also realizing that everything I am doing in India, China, and soon South Africa, I can do back at home. Health, culture, and globalization are so integral to life everywhere on this planet and I am excited to apply my knowledge or at least my intrigue in my own backyard... And hopefully figure out what to do my senior thesis on!!!
Let us discuss some of the things I did and sites I saw while in China:
THE GREAT WALL...twice! The first time I went to the restored portion in all its glory. The view reminded me of every East Asian landscape painting... except that there was a long, yellow, winding slide that saved my knees from the walk down. That's right, I slid off of the Great wall of china. The second time I climbed the wall was just a few days ago during our visit to the "New Socialist Countryside" where everyone was named Mao--seriously. We met Mr. Mao, then Dr. Mao, then Mr. Mao the chestnut farmer, and a million mrs. Maos! It was absolutely beautiful. We climbed an unrestored section dating back to the Qin dynasty (220 BC). The Cherry blossom trees were blooming, the sun was shining, and all out work had been turned in. It was a killer for the knee, but totally worth it. YOu may still at this point be hung up on my brief intro to the New Socialist Countryside--basically its a village that used to all farmers, but now they have cold theis land and used money to build guest houses on their homes so that rich Beijingers can breath fresh air for a weekend, and definitely for all those Olympics tourists that Beijing is vigorously preparing for-- we learned that there are more construction sites in Beijing than in all of EUrope! IT all felt a bit strange to me, especially with all the Maos, but it was a good time. Everyone we talked to in the village stressed how much better things are now than when they were farming and poor. Critical jessica wanted to push further. What about the loss of tradition and culture? But, then again, maybe it really is better now. I find myself at times romanticizing traditional culture and livelihoods and feeling sorrow for any person who has been corrupted by globalization. I think the truth of the matter lies somewhere between the two extremes. It is good and bad. ANd it is happening. FOODI love chinese food. I have eaten well... too well. I always heard in the states that real Chinese food was different, but experiencing it first hand is amazing. My host dad was a chef, so I ate well there, and basically you cannot go wrong at any restaurant! I have decided that there are some entities here that need to come to the US ASAP. The beijing breakfast= a delicious crepe like thing with an egg, chives, parsley, fried rice cracker, spicy sauces, all folded up and thrown in a bag for a quick on the go snack or meal. They cost about 2-3 yuan (roughly 30-40 cents). I will truly miss them, perhaps more than I miss people. Other perks I love are fruit on a stick, meat on a stick, grilled sweet potatoes on the street, peking duck (not available on the street), peanut-sauce noodles and cucumbers in a bag, oh the list goes on. Come to Beijing and eat!!!
CASE STUDY WEEK This was the highlight of my time in Beijing. During this week we all stayed in a hotel and worked in groups of eight on various health-related issues. I was part of the One-Child Policy group. I cannot stress how important the week was for me. We traveled all about beijing, did lots of interviews, and even wrote a song for the only children for our presentation, and we really bonded with each other. I am so incredibly lucky. The experience was so great because I felt proud of what I was doing. It was the most exciting and tantalizing intellectual endeavour of this trip so far. My intial biases were challenged, and I was seriously forced to understand the one-child policy from both sides of the debate. It is a human rights violation. It also is necessary for population to be controlled. It is largely a norm of society at this point. But the social repurcussions are not fully being noted and examined. I would love to talk more about my feelings regarding this week any time!
Wow, this blog is getting long. There is just so much to say. I haven't even talked about the silk market, karaoke, banana, my amazing friends and crazy professors.. not to mention the loads of experiences from India. Ahhhh! Deep breath. I got a plane to catch to Africa tomorrow. We will be in a hostel for 2 days, I should be accessible then, but after that, on my birthday, we move into a township outside of Capetown for a bit more than a week. SO don't worry if I am not heard from! Wo Ai Ni ( i love you in Chinese) Zai Jian (goodbye in Chinese)

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

peking, beiping... BEIJING!

I have arrived in a new land far from the land of Bangalore, ayurvedic massages, and ashrams. This land is called Beijing. Beijing is a city of 17 million, however it feels less crowded than the 7 mill ppl city of Bangalore. Beijing is full of large postmodern architecture, bright neon signs, bars, restaurants, paved roads and sidewalks. The poverty that does exist has thus far been well hidden from my eyes. Traditional Chinese medicine is well woven into the city; acupuncture, reflexology, herbal massages. The youth are ultra-hip. Shaggy haircuts, tall boots, knock-off diesel jeans, the whole nine yards. Boys and girls walk hand in hand. My 26 year-old host sister does not live at my homestay, she lives with her boyfriend! This is not India anymore. But at the same time, it is not the United States of America either.
Tonight my American sister, Kit, and I went out to dinner on our own. THe first restaurant we went to had no pictures on the menu, definitely no english, and when we tried to use the phrasebook we couldn't get anything across. Humiliated we left and went to the next restaurant down that had pictures. We ended up getting the spiciest thing I have ever eaten (my lips are still burning) and some fried goo. It is tough being in China when the only things I can say are "hi my name is jessica" and "thank you" in chinese. My homestay parents speak not a word of english, so dinners tend to be a theatrical performance. But I feel very fortunate to be in my homestay, both my parents are foodworkers, my father a chef. We eat well! My host sister was there our first night, and she speaks broken english. My favorite exchange with her went like this:
me, "what should we do for breakfast tomorrow?"
her (after consulting her mom), "My mother will put out bread and jams. YOu can serve yourself and then you can put your dishes in the chicken.
I feel that a lot will be lost in translation while I am here. Luckily there are several mandarin speakers on the trip, one of which is my best friend. Without them, I would be lost.
We live with host families for two weeks and then live in a guesthosue for the next two weeks. It will be nice to have that autonomy especially since Beijing is a hopping city! I am definitely looking forward to my time in Beijing, and the many miscommunications that will accompany it. Hopefully, I will get some time later to write a bit more about my last week in India as there are some stories I would still love to share. Much love to all! I am doing acupuncture for my knee tomorrow!!

p.s. this is a shameless reminder. My 21st birthday is in a little less than a month. It occurs on my second day in south africa. if one would like to send me something and has not done so, you may want to send something to south africa kind of soon. Sorry, i know that is terrible of me to write, but I had to. I have no expectations.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Life outside of the city

Had I left India two weeks ago, my overall impression would not have been too positive. With scary rickshaw drivers, amoebas, garbage, and extreme poverty-- Bangalore is just not my cup of masala tea. However, Bangalore is not India, and I have constantly been overwhlemed by the diversity I have seen just in Southern India.
On February 23rd I boarded a coach bus with 30 other students and we were off to our week in Kerala. On the way to Kerala we stopped at the Tribal Health Initiative in the Sittiling Valley in Tamil Nadu. It was an amazing hospital set up by two indian doctors to service 24 tribal villages that would otherwise be alienated from medical care. The attitude of the place was very organic. They did not seem to believe that their way was the only way. They were willing to enter into a dialogue with the tribal people in order to find the most effective means to find health and healing. The sturctures themselves were very aesthetically pleasing. I am really understanding the importance of place. If the physical place is peaceful and thoughtful, it is much more conducive to people being peaceful and thoughtful. That first night of our journey we stayed at an organic farm and commune. THey fed us amazing food that they had grown and talked with us about their life philosphies. It was an incredibly uplifting place. From there we went to Thrissur, Kerala for a few days. The most important thing we did during that time was a day trip to Plachimada. Plachimada has been the staging ground against the Coca-cola company in India. THere is a coke plant in Plachimada that has managed to totally contaminate all the drinking water and ruin the agirculture. THere has been a camp of locals protesting across the street from the plant for 1770 days. It was incredible to bear witness to their perseverence. However, I felt that we could have learned a lot more had we had a good translator. There were 15 people sitting in front of us, all with valuable stories that mostly went unheard. Language is such an important tool for communication. I believe deep connections can be made without words, but there is definitely something to be said for them. After Thrissur, we went to beautiful Wayanad. That time was mostly used for the academic wrap-up in India. I had to write a 7 page paper BY HAND. You may roll your eyes and say whatever, but I'm telling you it was damn hard! I stayed up nearly the entire night to complete it, and it wasn't even that good. I give a shout out to anyone who wrote papers by hand.
SInce March 2nd I have been on a vacation with 4 of my girl friends from the program. We went to beautiful luscious Munnar for 3 nights. I will write more about that later. And right now, we are in a small town in Tamil Nadu near Sri Ramana Maharshi's Ashram. We will be walking 9 miles around his mountain early tomorrow morning. We are going to try to walk it in silence. Needless to say, there will be more to write about soon. I was feeling that it had been a while since I connected, so I hope this gives you a sufficient taste of my whereabouts.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Auto Rickshaws and Amoebas

I have dazzled you all with the colorful, magical fantasy world that is part of India. But alas, there is another part. My two nemeses are now: auto rickshaw drivers, and my amoeba named Andy.
Rickshaws are three wheel vehicles somewhere between a motorcycle and a car that are used as taxis. There are thousands of them in the city and probably the primary way that I get around (besides the bus to school in the morning). Rickshaw drivers are notorious for cheating people, so one must always insist they use the meter. I have not gotten into one without a meter flipped on. However, I happen to have no knowledge of Bangalore as a city. I am just now starting to recognize landmarks, but it is scary getting into an auto and realizing the driver could take you anywhere. I will only tell one story of my hatred for rickshaw drivers as it is also quite comical. One afternoon, Bridget and I caught a rickshaw to take us home... so the story begins. About 20 minutes into the ride he stops and says that his rickshaw is broken. It was believable as the rickshaw has been going incredibly slow... So we all get out, driver included. Bridget and I attempt to get a new rickshaw while the driver manually pushes his up the hill. No more than a minute later and Indian woman runs up to our rickshaw and asks for a ride. The driver hops back in and off they go. Hmmm... that wasn't cool. SO then, we get into another rickshaw after being refused by about 5. We head out toward home when again 20 minutes later the rickshaw slows to a stop. This time it isn't because it is broken, he just simply had an errand to run. So he tell us to wait and grabs some bags from behind our heads to run into the shop. Five minutes later we are on our way again only to realize we had done a huge circle and in fact he had taken us 20 minutes the wrong direction to run his errand. But of course, he didn't understand english, so when i tried to yell at him it was to no avail. Moral of the story: never trust a rickshaw driver.
Now, Andy... the amoeba who is currently residing in my intestines. THe past three days have been full of pain, diarrhea, and depression as I struggle with being sick in a foreign country. And I really think the amoeba has been here for a little bit. However, today is much better, and I am hopeful that I am on the up and up. My family didn't quite grasp my issue. A week and a half ago I had one day of diarrhea and sickness, my host mom decided that she would exorcise that illness with some burning broomstick wood criss crossed in front of me. It may have worked momentarily, but then a week later the diarrhea was back with a vengeance. This time, no fire was going to save me. I got some meds from the doctor associated with my program and settled in for lots of rest. My family didn't seem content with the parasite explanation and continued to try to feed me and conspire with friends on what they had done wrong. Sunday, one of my many "aunties" came over with a jar of some sort of seeds and a bowl of yellow powder. This is the aryuvedic approach. I swallowed two handfuls of the bitter seeds and one of the pepper powder none of which was very pleasant... and then continued to have a terrible day. Later on, another auntie tried to get me out of bed to take me to her sister who would heal me. I decided against that plan, and to just let western medicine do its thing for the time being. That being said, I am more open to alternative approaches to medicine now than ever before.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Gods, Sarees, and lots of food

Friday night I arrived home from school a bit late because we had a really great presentation on Indian folk music. When I arrived my family informed me that I "had missed it."
"Missed what?" I said.
"The God. She came through the house already and is now in the next home."
Huh? I thought to myself. My sister said that I shouldn't worry because the God would be back on Sunday on her way out of town. We could go see her now and take pictures, but there were too many people there. Needless to say, this discourse led to much confusion in my mind. See a god? Take a picture of a god? The next night the festival would begin, so I just sat tight with my confusion.
I woke up and went to a friend's homestay house to learn the secrets of the Indian kitchen. I can now prepare chipati and some potato dish. I will dazzle you all when I return. After cooking and a little shopping I went home so that I could help prepare for the God. The night consisted of peeling hundreds of garlic cloves, shelling many many peas, getting my hand henna-fied, watching cheesy indian music videos,preparing offerings of flowers and fruit and coconuts for Aneema (the God), and trying desperately to stay awake until it was time for punjab at 2 in the morning. We knew it was time to go when men came to our door banging drums. They pulled Kantha, my brother, out of the house and danced with him as all the women gathered their offerings together. After the dancing we left the house and marched forward in the candle lit darkness to repeat our scene house by house. Each house delivered beautiful Indian women with pots of flowers, incense, candles, and trays of fruit. Occasionally someone would emerge with a chicken to sacrifice. The brigade grew into a swarm of colors and scents. I did my best to lay low , but my white skin glowed in the sea of Indian women. At the temple we gave our offerings, drank holy coconut milk, and received flowers. While some fave their trats, those with the pots circled through the chamber multiple times. Some time in there they sacrificed a sheep and chickens. It was surreal, the next morning it felt like i had dreamt it. There was a second punjab at 5:30 in the morning, but I didn't attend that one.
The next morning we prepped for the big party where 100-200 friends and relatives would be eating a feast on our roof. For the occasion my aunt and my sister, mamta, decided to dress me and bridget up in sarees. We went to the store where they bought us the little black belly shirts, then returned home to be wrapped and adorned. I wore a beautiful iridescent gold and black saree, a bindi, a gold necklace, and the henna on my hand. I truly felt like and indian princess ( i will add pictures soon). A bunch of my friends came to the party as well, so it was fun to show them my homestay life. THe feast was full of all sorts of flavors and chicken parts, some I was more inclined to eat than others. But mostly the festival was a time to interact with people and share in the love for the god.
So finally... the god Aneema. Sunday night it was time for the God to leave. We all went on the roof to watch the processional begin out of the neighborhood. It was at that moment I realized that the God was actually a big lit up golden float that contained an altar. It went with a marching band, a float with singers, and lots of people house to house to receive the people's final punjab. Our house was the last to be reached. Needless to say, it was quite the experience. Aneema is the god for health and success. SO maybe, just maybe, she can help me on this journey.

Wednesday, February 7, 2007

Welcome to India

Where to begin... There are three distinct smells of Bangalore: Indian food, Incense, and occasional wafts of urine. People eat with their hands here because as my host brother said, "God made hands for work and eating." But for clarity, one should eat with only the right hand, because it is in fact true the other is used for wiping. There is not toilet paper in my bathroom, and have been avoiding the inevitable with the few tush wipes I brought... my supply is soon to run out. Traffic is crazy and chaotic. I fear for my life every time I have to cross a street or get in an auto. I saw a man next to his motorcycle in a puddle of blood on my way to school this morning. It is a tough reality to swallow. Traffic lights are a suggestion, and basically everyone is in a big game of Mario Kart. I am learning to be cautious, but also not be too scared. That's the intro, now let's get to specifics.
My family consists of two parents who are 40 and 50, neither speak english, and three english-speaking children, 23 year old boy, 20 year old girl, and 18 year old boy. The siblings serve as our cultural brokers, and we have truly been treated like gods. Aaahh there is so much to say, and so little time left on my computer. I guess I'll settle to tell the story of my day yesterday. There is a bit of political turmoil happening here in Karnataka over water rights (look it up in the news to learn more). Nothing serious has occured, but people are taking precautions. Because of fear, our class was cancelled yesterday, so my brother asked if me and the other american living with me, bridget, would like to go to a temple. Of course we said yes. We pile into a car with our aunt and uncle, their daughter, our brother (kantha), and our sister. First we go to an exposition of handicrafts, all so beautiful, and then we get back in the car to emerge 3 HOURS LATER in the midst of rocky hills and countryside. We then climb up a small small mountain to go into a cave that has been scultped as a temple to Ganesh and his parents. It was an absolutely amazing experience. I participated as best as I could in Hindu worship, but am sure I looked quite akward. I drank some holy water from Ganesh's mom, and my brother told me to ask her for a wish and she'll make it come true. SO I decided it wouldn't hurt, and I asked her to make sure I got the most out of this trip as is possible. (My family is very hindu. We have a shrine in our house. When I first came to the home my mom was going into pray and didn't say hi until she was done.) On the way back we hit a wedding of my aunt's friend. I got to go into the bridal chamber and watch as the meticulously draped her in gold so that she could go have a one minut cermony in which she and her husband exchanged flower wreaths, and then stood for four hours as every group of family and friends got their picture taken with them. Marraige is a whole different topic I dont' have the time to get into.. but I have had some interestign discussions with my host sister, rohini, about it. Ok, that is all I can do for now. So rry it is so crazy and vague. I don't have as much access as I thought I would. I love hearing from everyone and I am a bit homesick. Love with hugs.

Friday, February 2, 2007


By the way folks, the group has created a flicker account to put our pictures. I have not taken many pics yet nor have I loaded any. But if you are just dying to see some pics of my travels even if they are not my own, here is the site: ENJOY!

Thursday, February 1, 2007

Today is the day...

After two weeks of anticipation, talking about being ready, clinging to my cell phone to stay in touch, it will be time to turn it off tomorrow. I leave for the airport at 4pm and arrive in India on Sunday. It's going to be quite the journey. Before moving on to the next leg, I want to review the highlights of my time in Boston.

  • The community building. I am amazed by how amazed I am by my peers that I will be traveling with. I have never been surrounded by 30 people who are filled with the same passion I am to learn about health and inequalities and then do something about it. I am no star in this crowd. I have friends who have volunteered in Tanzania, Kenya, China, disability camp, South Africa, Mexico, cities all over the US, and beyond. I can learn so so so much from everyone I am surrounded by, and that is absolutely exhilarating. That obviously means that this could be a very intense experience. Luckily I have found a few friends I already know I can truly let it all down and laugh with. One of those friends is Ari who has been in my room in the hostel with me. She is a sociology major at Bates, and we have many of the same dilemmas and life crazinesses. She has been a buffer for me.
  • The Long Island Homeless Shelter run by the Boston City Health Commission. This place is amazing. It is out on an island across from Boston (about 30 min from downtown). The buildings were originally used as a TB sanitarium, then were used for a hospital for the chronically ill, and are now home to a 400-bed emergency shelter to which people are bussed from the city, transitional housing for mostly people who have substance abuse problems, a job-training program which trains people in such things as maintenance, culinary arts, and the like. The people that worked there were all amazing. I am constantly overwhelmed by how many driven, positive, people exist in this world to do good.
  • Yeshe coming to visit. I had the weekend off from my nine-to-five "job", and Yeshe came out for one last goodbye. It was nice to see someone from my other world before embarking out into this new world. As much as I am going to melt into this experience, I know it will be crucial for me to maintain communication with my loved ones so that I don't come back utterly lost. I want to know the exciting and the mundane from all of you!
  • Encounters with amazing speakers. While I would say that many of the experts we heard from gave rather one-sided views, they were views that were good to hear for me. I would say that it would have been nice for a few less talks, so as to have a bit more time to think, but overall I feel very lucky. I have so many contacts at the Boston University school of Public Health if I ever want to come here. I think the thing that has hit me most from all my learning these past two weeks is "the culture of biomedicine". I had never really thought of biomedicine as a culture, it was a given norm of my life. To dissect the process of becoming a doctor and to understand the rituals and enculturation that goes into producing a doctor really flipped my view of what is normal. Why is it normal to go to a hospital and be surrounded by professionals dressed in blue when you have a baby? Why does it seem weird to have your baby in your own home? This is one of many realizations I have had so far, and I look forward to working through these questions throughout the next few months.

I think that is all I am going to go in to for now. The next time you hear from me I will be in India. It's kind of crazy, but oh so exciting!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Life in Boston

I have officially begun my program... but I am only in Boston. Surprisingly, even in Boston, I feel excited, overwhelmed, shocked, and empowered. We are beginning the program by a little bit of orienting with the students, introductions to each of the classes (health and culture, health and globalization, stuff of life, and reasearch methods), tons of guest lectures, and studying health care in boston itself. It is awesome in both the amount of opportunities we are having and the amount of energy it takes to get through a day. We are staying at the international youth hostel.
Each morning we walk a half hour to the bu medical building where we are taking our classes and hearing lectures beginning at 8:45. With a few breaks we go straight from 9-5ish. My brain feels like it is going to explode, and it is just the beginning. By the time I get back to the hostel I am exhausted, but that is when the bonding time, and homework time (yes we have homework (for 4 classes), 4 classes at a time is different than the block plan) happens. Despite the absolutely full feeling I am having, I am very positive. The three professors represent unique backgrounds that when combined give a very comprehensive look at world health problems. I am certain that this program will be a guiding light in my life as I figure out what the hell I am going to do. On thursday we visit community health centers around Boston; it will be nice to do something active after all the lectures we have had. So that is just the quick overview, and I'm sure it will only get more crazy, exciting, interesting, depressing, hard, exhilirating as I go.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Click here: , and you will recieve e mails of every time I update this blog. You don't want to waste time checking it when there is nothing new to see... conserve you internet time!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Contacting me the slow way

Just in case anyone gets a hankering to write a letter in the next few months, I have just the solution for you. Below are the adresses for contacting me (take note of the dates because mail will not be forwarded).

International Honors Program (IHP)
Health and Community, Spring 2007

Mail: Mail delivery can require anywhere from ten days to three weeks. Do not send packages. IHP will not forward student mail. IHP cannot be held responsible for lost mail. Addresses and dates are subject to change.
Telephone and email contact: The phone numbers below are for emergencies only. Refer to the IHP Handbook for more general details on student access to telephones and email overseas. Telephone contact overseas is often difficult and unpredictable: friends and family are encouraged to write letters. Be advised that the group will have only sporadic access to email and phones throughout the IHP semester.
Emergencies: If an emergency or serious concern arises where it is necessary for a parent or guardian to contact a representative of IHP
Contact the appropriate country coordinator at the number below. It is critical for all students and parents to know that Coordinators should ONLY be contacted if there is a serious emergency. Be sure to reference the appropriate time zones overseas. Dial the number slowly. You may have to dial several times to receive a good connection.
Coordinators should NOT be contacted for general inquiries, questions about mail delivery, arrival or departure information, etc. Please contact IHP Boston (617-375-8101 or if you have general questions. If an IHP coordinator or faculty has serious concerns about a student currently overseas, the IHP coordinator or a member of IHP will be in touch with the student’s designated emergency contact as reported by the student on his/her pre-departure forms.
If the Coordinator cannot be reached, contact the IHP Program Director, Lois McCloskey on her cell (617) 271-6517. Her alternate home phone is (617) 497-4557. The Program Director should only be used as a secondary source in the event of an emergency.
If messages have been left with the above contacts and the call is not returned within a reasonable time frame, contact the IHP emergency cell phone (617-620-9240).
Boston January 20 –February 2
Student Mail:
Student Name
c/o International Honors Program (IHP)
566 Columbus Ave.
Boston, MA USA 02118
Re: Mail for student, not IHP
Phone: Hostelling International 617-536-1027 (Messages taken for students)
Emergency Contact:
During business hours: (617) 375-8101, ask to speak with an IHP staff member
Fax: (617)236-0162
During non-business hours: cell (617) 271-6517, home phone: (617) 497-4557 Lois McCloskey, Boston Coordinator, IHP Health and Community Program Director
Secondary non-business hours: (emergency cell): 617-620-9240, Megan Pierson, Director, IHP
Calling from abroad: Country code (1), City Code: Boston (617)

Bangalore & Kerala, India February 4 – March 9
Vacation: Begins on Friday, March 2 at 2:00 pm. Students must return to Bangalore by Thursday, March 8 at 10:00am. The vacation end meeting location will be provided to students at the beginning of the India program. The group will gather on March 8 and depart India on March 9 for Beijing.
Student Mail:
IHP c/o Environmental Support Group
105 East End ‘B’ Main Road
9th Block, Jayanagar
Bangalore 560 069 INDIA
Emergency Contact:
Emergency Phone/Fax: Leo Saldanha or Bhargavi Rao 011-91-80-22441977or 011-91-80-2653-1339
or Fax: 011-91-80-2653-4364
Alternate Emergency Phone: (Bhargavi home) 011-91-80-2679-0027
Mobile (Leo): 011-91-9448377403 (Bhargavi): 011-91-9448377401
Calling from abroad: Country Code (91), City Code (80)
Beijing China March 10 – April 6
Student Mail:
China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences
C/O Professor Ren Xu
Main Building, Room #606
No. 16 Nan Xiao Jie, Dongzhimennei,
Beijing, 100700 CHINA
Emergency Contact :
Hong Mautz, Emergency cell: 011-86-137-1890-6546 Prof. Ren Xu, Emergency cell: 011-86-13701007802
Calling from abroad: Country Code (86), City Code: Beijing (10)
South Africa April 7 – May 11
Student Mail:
Chris Colvin and Natalie Leon
(for [student’s name])
7 Alfred St.
Observatory 7925
Cape Town, South Africa
Emergency Contact: Chris Colvin
Home: 011-27-83-453-9438
Cell: 011-27-21-447-7605
Calling from abroad: Country Code (27); City Code Cape Town (21); omit 0 from cell number

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Welcome to my blog. I've never done this before, but I have accepted the wave of the future, so now you can live virtually through me. I will soon be embarking on a study abroad adventure. In this adventure I will visit India (Bangalore and Kerala), China (Beijing), and South Africa (Capetown). I encourage you to read my ramblings and if you want the juicy, personal stuff, write me emails at I leave January 19th for Boston where I start orienting for 2 weeks before I'm off to India. I am traveling with the International Honors "Health and Community" Program ( There are 25 girls and 7 boys in my group. I wish boys were a bit more interested in learning about helping humanity... I think it just takes them a few more years. I will keep you posted as my knowledge expands, my thoughts evolve, and I meet new people that color my life in exciting ways.