Wednesday, January 30, 2013


Last weekend was Republic Day in India. My understanding of Republic Day is that is the day India has chosen to celebrate their ability to come together and establish a government capable of ruling themselves. (I am willing to be corrected on this, so if anyone can confirm or clarify this, please do.) It is different than Independence Day. Regardless of the details, it is a day of celebration. A national holiday. This means that we got the day off. This year Republic Day was on a Saturday. For those from the US that would mean that the day would be spent like a typical Saturday, but since Saturday is a work day here, having it off was a big deal.

Monday, January 28, 2013


When I first arrived here, I griped about being alone. It was true. Then. Now I find myself interwoven in two diverse webs of ever-changing, ever-expanding communities. “Lonely” is a term of yesterday. In one arena, you will find me exploring the world around with other international medical students who, like me, want to experience this new place before we have to return to our “normal” lives. In the other arena, you will find me experiencing “normal” life with the local CMC staff and learning the ways and means of life in Vellore. Both are incredible webs to find myself caught it.


As I experienced both A2 and Q3, I picked up a few little unique characteristics about the hospital that you normally don’t see in the US of A. Here is a brief list of things I found interesting. I’m sure this list will grow as I learn more.
The CMC logo with motto: "Not to be ministered upon, but to minister."

Sunday, January 27, 2013


I met him during his initial occupational therapy assessment. He had been admitted to CMC after spending a month in a local hospital. He is eighteen years old and his spine was injured in a wrestling accident in the middle of last November. He has a C4 complete spinal cord injury leaving him with the ability to shrug his shoulders and there is a mild flicker of biceps muscle activation on his right arm. He is the youngest of four children. His father is a farmer and his mother a housewife. He lives in a village house with a mud floor and asbestos sheet roof. There is no toilet in the house. The front door is too narrow for a wheelchair to fit through, and it is likely that if a wheelchair could fit through the door, there would be little room for it once it made it past the threshold.


Last week I finished my posting in the Q3 Ward of the hospital. The patient population is similar to that of A2 (primarily spinal cord injuries, and traumatic brain injuries) only this is the general ward, meaning that patients don’t have the resources to pay for health care. The services they receive on Q3 are the same as A2, only in a more… economical fashion. There are four to seven beds per “room” and all the beds share one bathroom. The spaces are smaller and medical supplies used are less fancy, though they get the job done.


Last Friday marked the beginning of my fourth week here in Vellore, India. The fourth week since my little world was shaken around. I am amazed at how time has both stood still and flown by. It seems like forever ago that I was walking away (teary-eyed) from my (even more teary-eyed) sister as she dropped me off at the SeaTac airport. And yet, that day could have been yesterday.

Saturday, January 26, 2013


Years ago I sat down and wrote out a bucket list for myself. To this day I’m not really sure how serious I was about the items on the list, but I had fun dreaming up things I’d like to do. I have no idea where that list is, or if it is even still around. I do remember some of the items on the list. Living in India was one of them. Check. Skydiving: check. Getting my Master’s degree: check. Having breakfast on a hot air balloon while I watch the sun rise: still working on that one.

Thursday, January 24, 2013


Wayfinding. As in finding your way. Here in India, wayfinding generally requires an adventurous spirit, patience, concentration, courage, a willingness to be lost, and a sense of humor. Wayfinding within the boundaries of the Christian Medical College hospital is no different. The buildings are all about the same color. You often can’t tell if you are in an exterior corridor or an interior hallway. You cannot rely on the signage posted around, as it will only give you a general direction of where something is. The security guards standing post at every corner and junction can also not be relied upon .They, too, will just point you in a general direction, and sometimes it is not the right direction.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


The housing saga continues. Charlie and I confirmed our housing for the CHTC this past week. We had planned on moving in and out of the CHTC during the course of our stay there as a solid stretch of accommodations was not to be had. We counted how many times we would be moving. Nine times. Count ‘em. One, two, three… seven, eight, nine. Nevertheless we were happy with our situation.

Monday, January 21, 2013


For my first week here I skipped breakfast. I know. Not healthy, but I couldn’t bring myself to eat curry and spice that early in the morning. Or was it just that I couldn’t bring myself to actually get up early enough to eat breakfast? Either way, it was the worst morning decision I have made while living here. Breakfast food at the A Block canteen knocks my socks off. I am a fan. Not all of the food described below is breakfast fare, but much of it is.

Sunday, January 20, 2013


I spent the entirety of last week as an occupational therapy elective student in the acute care unit of the CMC hospital. I was in A Block. A Block is the area of the hospital that provides healthcare for the patient population that can afford to pay, thus the hospital rooms and staff to patient ratio is a little more pleasant than the general ward. I thoroughly enjoyed my time there. I was working with two other occupational therapists, Paul and Elizabeth. You have met them before (if you have been following along with this blog).

Saturday, January 19, 2013


One of the most common reactions I get, from both staff and students at CMC as well as international students, when I tell them that I will be here for three months is, “Wow. That’s a really long time. You are brave.” What I think they mean is, “Good grief! You must be bonkers!” I think their reaction stems from the challenges that international students have in learning how to live in this foreign land. I may be writing this prematurely, as I have only lived here for two weeks, but I have determined that at some point you have to make a decision to enjoy life here.


The work week here is five and a half days long. Saturday the staff works from 8am to noon. This is their normal. International students are given the option to take “a holiday” on Saturdays, but I decided to work this Saturday. (I am completely in love with what I am doing here, even if I don’t understand the language much and can’t communicate with most of my patients, that going in on Saturday morning is a blessing.) After work, Charlie met me at the hospital for an afternoon of exploration.


I have found that there seems to be no end to the lessons I have been exposed to, and presumably learned from, over the past few weeks. There are lessons in cultural nuances such as: when to take off your shoes, when and how to address various people, how to eat with your fingers, when to take food that is offered, how to avoid getting hit while crossing the street, how to get on a bus (it can be a peculiar art form—not for the faint of heart). There are lessons in healthcare, specifically occupational therapy, in a foreign land such as: how to improvise with limited resources, when to take off your shoes, how to treat someone with a complete C4 spinal cord injury (I had not been exposed to this particular patient population before I arrived here), how to count in Tamil, and much, much more. There are also lessons in faith such as, faith that I will be kept safe despite walking home alone in the dark (I do try to avoid it), faith that my housing situation will be resolved, faith that I will be willing to go when my Lord says “go” and “do” when  He says “do.”

Thursday, January 17, 2013


This is a quick note on the locks and safety. I had someone question the lock situation at my hotel. There is a bolt with padlock on the outside of the door to most every hotel (even on CMC campus). You are given the key to the padlock upon arrival. Once inside, there are two similar locks on the inside of the door so that you can secure the door shut. I suppose someone COULD lock you into your room  if they wanted to, but I act on the faith that they will not. This is a very common way to operate hosing in India. Even homes and apartments are set up with this situation. Padlocks everywhere! 


I have delayed in writing and posting the blogs on occupational therapy in India. I’m not really sure why, other than I’ve had so many thoughts whirling around in my head that I can’t seem to organize them all. Last week I spent each day in a different unit of occupational therapy at the CMC, thus getting a broad overview of each area. I was then allowed to choose which area I wanted to be “posted” in. I spent time in the OPD ward (Out Patient Department), A2 (basically acute care for those who can pay), Q3 (acute care for those who cannot pay), Psychiatry, Rehabilitation Institute, and CHAD (Community Health and Development). I plan on taking a post for each area. Today I will attempt to tackle Out Patient OT. Disclaimer: All photos were taken with permission from patients and OT staff. No real patient names will be used.

Monday, January 14, 2013


As I adjust to many of the little nuances of life in this land, I have become increasingly comfortable here. Not every activity is a challenge for me now, and I have friends to help me out along the way if I have any questions. I am learning to take a place of “not knowing.” I am used to knowing what is going on around me, or at least being able to figure out what is happening. VERY often I find myself thinking “I have no clue what is happening right now. All I hear is LOUD NOISES!” It is a place of dependence and faith. I have learned that my best and most comforting “go-to” option when this happens is straight to prayer.


Saturday afternoon was relaxing for me. Finally. I was able to sleep in, workout, freshen up, shoot some photos and generally enjoy my day. I had heard there was a choir from Shillong performing on campus in the evening, and had decided to attend. Two new international students from Australia, Hannah and her brother Ashish, also decided to attend. Together we attended the choir performance and were very glad we did. The music was a unique combination of old hymns that had been “re-mixed” and new songs. The theme of the performance was “Stand Still and Know I am God.” Who doesn’t need that reminder?


I have had a few people ask me about the food I have been eating, so I’m going to do my best to describe a little bit about what I have been eating. It is very hard to get the ingredient list of each meal, as some of the spices are not common or the names are not easily translated.  The other complication is that some of the dishes are called something different in the North, and it may be a North Indian who is telling me about the food so the same meal may be described to me in a few different ways. I will do my best to describe it.

Saturday, January 12, 2013


Before I left for my trip, I tried to Google search images of the place where I would be staying. It was very difficult to find anything, thus I determined that I would do my best to post photos of around the college. This post will be the fulfillment of that promise to myself.

The one blog I did find that had photos was confusing for me to follow. The author had tried to describe the campus as if you were walking through it. I got lost sitting on my own couch at home, so I thought that I would just take some photos that would give the overall feeling of what the CMC College campus looks/feels like rather than try to orient the photos to one another. I will do my best to describe each photo.


I have already mentioned, and introduced to you, Divya and her husband Paul and their friends, but I wanted to post a little more about them. Divya and Paul are a Christian couple who work as OTs at the CMC. Divya is a therapist in out-patient pediatrics, and Paul is a therapist in acute care (A2 Ward). I have been working with Paul the last two days, and will continue to work with him and Elizabeth during the next week.


I thought I would post of few photos of some of the wildlife I have seen since arriving. There isn't too much that is different than the US. There are little creepy crawlies, birds, squirrels, dogs and cows—all of which can be seen frequently in the US. However, you don’t see cows wandering around the streets of busy towns like you do here, so the context is a little different. I thought I would post a few photos of the things commonly seen here which are not commonly seen in the part of the US I am from. I am getting used to seeing them here now. Enjoy. 


Every Wednesday night the international students go out to dinner at the Darling Hotel. It is very good food and not too expensive (four of us ate our fill for $20) for American standards. This is apparently a long-standing tradition. This Wednesday we had a group of close to sixty people. The typical size is about twenty people, I guess. The food reminded me of American Indian food, in fact, the dish I ate was the same as something I would have eaten at Gateway to India back home. The restaurant is on the rooftop of the Darling Hotel. I didn't count the flights of stairs, but there were a lot! I was able to take a shot off the rooftop at night, but it is not very clear.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

CHAD- Immunization Clinic

(This blog was written Wednesday, Jan 9 and posted on Thursday, Jan 10)

Today I spent time at the CHAD (Community Health and Development) unit. CHAD is basically a hospital for the low (very low) income population. It is located on the College campus, just a 10 minute walk from my place. I only saw a few of the rooms, and what I saw was indeed bare bones. The beds are steel cots with a sheet; the rooms have 6-8 people in them. Conditions are, to say the least, rudimentary. However, this allows them to provide healthcare to those who could not otherwise afford it.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Today I found myself on a twenty minute bus ride to a village out beyond Vellore. As we bumped along the road in standing-room-only conditions, I became keenly aware that there with many ebony eyes staring me down, and mine were the only pair of blue eyes. Every now and again I am struck by how much of a minority I am here. I get stared down everywhere I go. It does take some getting used to. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013


I’m going to attempt to describe OT in the out-patient unit of the hospital. In a word; chaotic. From what I have seen, therapy in general relies heavily upon family. Family training is a huge part of treatment. Keep that in mind.


Right before I headed to the meet-and-greet, a “veteran” international student proceeded to damped my mood by telling me that it was just a fundraising opportunity and REALLY boring. He was wrong, or at least he had the wrong perspective. I am so glad I went.

I met five students from University of Rhode Island. It is very exciting to be around US peoples! Sarah and her husband Jason have brought over Jessica, Monica and Kaitlin. All but Jason are physical therapists; and Sarah is now longer a student but practicing PT. Jessica, Monica, and Kaitlin will be here for two weeks. I am looking forward to getting to know them.


Sunday afternoon I was able to spend some time wandering the streets of Vellore with my camera. This post will mostly be photos, as photos are worth a thousand words, right? Vellore is much like the other areas of India I have seen. One of the striking differences between the people of Vellore and people of Kolkata, in my opinion, is that there are fewer beggars in Vellore. I remember people with their hands held out tapping constantly at my elbows in Kolkata. There is some of that in Vellore, but not much. I did have a number of children tapping me asking me to take their pictures. I loved to do so, however I wish I was able to capture the moment where I show them the picture I took. Their dirty little faces absolutely light up and the giggles spill out.

Monday, January 7, 2013


This post will serve to inform you of my living situation and (for some of my curious readers) my new wardrobe. I mentioned that I have been trying to move to campus to be closer to the international students. Every evening it is challenging to leave my new friends and trek back to me lonely little Indian “cottage.” I don’t mind the conditions I live in; it is the solitude that I am struggling to accept. Last night I wrote the housing director, and I knew she would respond to me today. This morning I prayed that whatever the answer was, I would have a peace about it. I dearly wanted to be brought closer to the international students; instead, the international students were brought to me. Rumor has it my hotel is now full of international students. I have only met seven of them, and they have expressed interest in getting to know me. The feeling is mutual.

Sunday, January 6, 2013


I prayed for friends my first day here. Within the hour my prayer was answered. Friends have continued to come out of the woodwork since meeting Bridget. The college has recently acquired about thirty more international students from all over the world. All of the students are med students (doctors), leaving Julian, Teresa and I as the only PMR (Physical Medication and Rehabilitation) students.

Saturday, January 5, 2013


Day Two start with me waking up to my alarm which means that although I didn't feel like it, I did actually sleep. I readied myself and headed over to College. I didn't feel much like eating, so I decided to skip breakfast for now and catch the 7:30 bus to the Hospital. There is a CMC bus that runs a few times in the morning and evening between College and the Hospital. It is free and quick. It will be my commute if I am placed at the Hospital. I met Bridget at the bus stop and she rode with me to the Hospital. I had intended to take care of some administration details, but after questioning Bridget about them, she told me to take care of it later and since she wasn't able to find what she needed when she arrived, she advised me to take care of it with my original contact at the College. I may try again on Monday, but it is likely that I will take her advice.


When I first arrived at my hotel, I got a brief introduction from the manager which consisted mostly of him showing me the light switches and handing me some maps of the college campus and city of Vellore. He then left me to take in my surroundings. I sat down on the bed and cried. (I am only being honest here.) The reality of my situation hit me like a ten-ton weight. There I was, beyond tired, hungry, sweaty, slightly disoriented, and completely alone. I knew the name of the hotel manager, but where he has disappeared to was beyond me.


Before I left for India, I was given the statistic that India has the highest rate of automobile accidents, and of those accidents, they also boast the highest mortality rate. I now know why. This was not my first taxi ride in India; in fact, during my first trip to India I had the pleasure of being a passenger in a taxi that was involved in a three-car pile-up accident. Thankfully no one was hurt.
First signs of my new "home"

Thursday, January 3, 2013


I am sitting on the floor of the Dubai International Airport. It is one of the more beautiful airports I have been in. Sleek, clean, shinny, it is fully equipped with a spa, hotel, gym, grocery stores, and all the high-end fashion designer clothing.

International flights always tangle up my mind. Somewhere between here and Seattle, I flew over Thursday. I was served dinner, then breakfast on the flight and shortly after breakfast we landed in time for dinner in Dubai. Crazy. I think I should be sleeping now, but instead I have a variety of things reeling through my head. Sleep won’t come easy for a while.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Happy New Year!

Count down to departure: 1 day

I have little to report regarding my imminent adventure, so I thought I would take this time to write about the mundane details of preparing for this trip. I imagine a post of this nature will put most to sleep, but there may be a few students who will be interested in knowing the minutia so they can plan their own trip. With that being said, this post will likely be long and boring.