Monday, March 31, 2014

Week 12: Second Slum Camp, and my Dharamsala Weekend


      I know, I know, it's been a while since the last entry. Nothing happened after Holi during Week 11 that was worthy of writing about: we had 3 days of placement (one of which I was sick for), then a trip to the mall in Gurgaon that Saturday.

     And before officially starting this entry, can we just take a moment to think about the fact I have been in India for 3 months?! It's crazy! And I still have 2 more to go!

     Okay, back to the task at hand.

     Week 12 is very blog-worthy because we had another slum camp!  Remember back to my first week following orientation? Same kind of deal, but new people and new location.  Rather than being in the slum near the Sainik Colony like last time, we were a few minutes down the road in a different community.  The camp was set up inside a temple, with tables for different stations.  Like last time, there was someone doing intake forms with Name/Age/Chief Complaint, but unlike last time the same person also ended up doing blood pressure. At the next table, one person was in charge of pulse oximetry and blood sugar. Then there were 3 people each at 2 stations for full body examinations: exam table 1 did head/neck/chest, and exam table 2 did upper limbs/lower limbs/abdomen.  We got so busy, though, that each table ended up doing 2 patients at a time and doing the full exam themselves.  I was at exam station 1 the entire week except for Friday when things were all switched up and chaotic.  We saw 48 patients Monday, 56 patients Tuesday, and probably around 50 patients per day the rest of the week though I didnt ask the exact count.
     I wish we were able to do more slum camps here.  The observation is nice, and the hands-on I got to do in the small slum clinic was great.  But none of that is even close to the impact we are making by providing free healthcare to those who need it yet cant afford it.  There are a lot of factors in play such as Dr. Prabhat's ability to donate time and having enough money for supplies, so I understand why the camps can't occur more often.  But in Alyssa's perfect little volunteering world, we would be doing these camps every week and going to a different area each time.

    The great slum camp week made a smooth transition into a fantastic weekend in Dharamsala! Right after camp on Friday, Morgan, Samantha, Sam, and I grabbed our bags and took the metro to Khan Market to eat and spend some last few hours with Sam before he left for Europe. We had a delicious lunch at a multi-cuisine restaurant, followed by a delicious desert at The Big Chill Cafe.  Then came the not so great part: a short metro ride followed by Sam leaving to the airport :( The girls and I continued to the closest metro stop to our bus stand, then made our way over to the crowds of people and Tibetan monks waiting to board the bus to Dharamsala.  The bus was late, but we boarded with no issue and were off.  12 hours later, at 7am the next morning, we arrived in the quaint Himalayan town of McLeod Ganj just north of Dharamsala.  After securing a room for the night and finding a cafe to eat breakfast, we hired a taxi to take us 2 hours to Bir for paragliding!  The day was clear and sunny, making the mountain drive absolutely breathtaking! We had no idea that the view coming up would be even more so.  Upon arriving in Bir, we had to purchase the paragliding tickets then get a different taxi to take us up the mountain to the take-off point. And when I say "take us up the mountain," I literally mean up the mountain: the car drove us along narrow roads (with scary hairpin turns) up and up and up all the way to the very peak! I would be lying if I said I wasnt nervous looking over the edge at the large valley and neighboring mountain peaks below.  And my heart really started pounding when my pilot informed me I would need to run off the edge to take off!  It turns out I had nothing to fear though: the wind caught the parachute before my feet reached the edge, so there was no terrifying sensation of falling.  The only sensations I experienced were joy and freedom as we soared through the air...riding the wind above and between the beautiful Himalayas.  After a while of lazily soaking in the majestic view, my pilot asked if I wanted to experience some acrobatics. "Hell yeah!" was barely out of my mouth before he took us into a series of corkscrew dives that left me laughing and dizzy.  Then came the lazy descent back to solid ground, and a perfect landing that some other pilots congratulated me on for doing beautifully (See, I CAN be graceful sometimes!).   After the ride back to McLeod Ganj, we decided to eat an early dinner then hit the streets for some shopping...both a good and bad idea. I wish hadnt gone shopping in other cities because this place was the street-wares jackpot. We passed tables upon tables of gemstone jewelry, shops of tapestries and scarves, tables and shops with marble figurines, tables of bronze bottle openers and pendants, every size of Tibetan singing bowls, and so much more I can't even remember.  I spent way more money than I should have, but it was justified by the fact that 90% of the purchases were souvenirs for others, and that I (of course) got good deals. We ended up shopping until dark then grabbing desert at a different cafe before watching some TV and heading to bed.

     We woke up at a decent hour the next morning, ate breakfast at our usual place, then went back to the streets to see the rest of the tables that darkness kept us from discovering the night before.  After being fully content with our purchases, we made our way down the street to the Dalai Lama Temple complex. No photography was allowed or I would have taken a picture to share the visual experience.  It was definitely cool and humbling to be walking the same quiet floors that the Dalai Lama walks, and to be seeing the same places he teaches from.  After the temple, we went back to the hotel room to check out, then to the cafe for a snack before Samantha and I went to cooking class.  I had the most delicious soup called Thenthuk Thupka, which had vegetables and pieces of flat noodles.  Cooking class came next, where we learned how to make Channa Masala, Mutter Paneer, and Vegetable Biryani! I was very excited.  The Biryani can also be made with meat to create a non-veg dish. So essentially we added 4 new recipes to our Indian cooking repertoire! At the end of the lesson, we had 3 dishes to eat between the 2 of us that proved to be a much more daunting task than expected. But it was so good!  From class we went down to the bus stand, then it was a 12-hour trip to Delhi, and a metro and tuk-tuk ride back to Faridabad home.

     Today's placement was also good, but I will wait until the week is finished before I write about it.

Much love,

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