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.

The web of international medical students fluctuates as students come and go. Each student brings a unique global perspective and the opportunity for me to hone my accent deciphering skills. Although we are all from very different corners of the world, we all have a common bond in that we are learning the ways of CMC together. Those who have been here a little longer teach those who have just arrived. Just as Bridget taught me the ropes upon my arrival, I am now welcoming and teaching the newcomers. We band together, discuss our grievances, encourage one another and celebrate together.

Last week one of the international students from Australia celebrated her birthday. Charlie and I stole her away at lunch time and treated her to a Death by Chocolate brownie at the Sri Shanti bakery near the hospital. Later that evening, after dinner, her fellow classmates surprised her with a birthday cake and balloons. What was supposed to be a sweet and cheerful birthday surprise turned into a comedy of errors and a birthday surprise for more than just the birthday girl. It started off with a slight miscalculation in the arrival time of said birthday girl. The candles were lit, blown out, relit, and then left to burn while she entered the building. By the time her stalwart friend carried the cake down the hall to her, the candles were about a quarter inch long and the flames about four inches high. As she began to blow out the candles, the friend holding the cake suddenly became acutely aware of the fact that he had purchased magic re-lighting candles. As a result, it looked quite likely that he would have all the hair singed off his arms and his shirt might possibly go up in flames. As friends gathered to answer the birthday girl's plea of “I’m gonna need some help!” the candles slowly reduced to a smooth pool of waxy frosting on top of the cake. We enjoyed it none the less, and now have images of candle-blowing mayhem to punctuate our memories of celebrating together.

Stephanie and her birthday brownie.
Attempting to extinguish the celebratory blaze.
Indeed! And a very merry birthday wish to Stephanie.
The international students who joined the epic celebration of Stephanie's birth.
Sada and the magic candles!
The web of local CMC staff does not ebb and flow like the tide of international students. But rather it grows at an exponential rate as we (Charlie and I) have begun to make friends with the therapy staff. The staff here seems to be a close-knit and everyone knows one another. If they don’t work with one another, then they live close to (or room with) one another and spend time together outside of work. It is a tangled network of highly skilled and very gracious people. They have taken Charlie and I under their protection and see to it that we are safe, comfortable, and have access to anything we need. Really, we do not deserve their hospitality. But we really adore getting to know them better. Our camaraderie seems to grow with each interaction. The local staff willingly introduced us to the best place to enjoy a mixed fruit lassi, invitde us to learn traditional Indian dances, and even traded us tennis lessons and trekking adventures for swimming lessons. J They also invited us to celebrate with them.

Vinoth and Neeraj took Charlie and I out for mixed fruit lassies after lunch last week. 
The most amazing lassi ever. I may have to commission someone to bring one to me from Vellore now that I am no longer traveling in to the hospital every day. So delicious! 
Last week was Alok’s birthday. His roommate Neeraj had intended to surprise him with a celebration on Friday night, but a long overnight voyage for Alok the night before foiled his plans. Alok turned in early, and Neeraj turned to Plan B. After the Republic Day Run breakfast, we captured Alok and trotted him over to Neeraj’s relatives flat on the college campus to enjoy some cake and conversation. Alok was much more experienced at blowing out re-lighting candles and with a calm ease made quick work of it. As we sat around enjoying cake, the conversation turned to education and career pathways in Indian vs. US/UK. I learned that changing careers in India is not heard of and basically impossible. I am more grateful now than ever to have had the opportunity to study as a landscape architect and then take a minor detour into the world occupational therapy. I take so much for granted, and the longer I live here the more I realize this harsh truth.
Alok about to put a hurtin' on some candles
Sadly I did not get a photo before the cake was cut. Beautiful and delicious nevertheless. 
What I don’t take for granted are the two enriching communities I have fallen into. Each adds something different to my experience here. Each has something to offer me, and I trust I have something for them in return. Because of them, I am no longer alone.  


  1. Sure looks like you are enjoying your time there!!

  2. I thought landscape architecture was the detour en route to OT.

  3. Thank you for sharing your experience.