I knew not to expect too much for accommodations. And “not too much” is exactly what I found myself in. I will post more details later, hopefully with photos. A brief description is this: “polished” cement floors, paint peeling/flaking off the walls, and rather small. This place I now call home has also introduced me to a new way to define “clean.” One of the first things I found, or should I say found me, was a gecko. I know geckos are harmless, but that doesn’t mean they are not funny little creatures that scurry around in unpredictable ways. I decided that I needed to make him my friend, and promptly dubbed him “Gentry.” I later found out that geckos eat mosquitos, and he has since been heartily welcomed into my little home.
After taking in my new surroundings, I decided that I had to brave the world outside regardless of how challenging that might be. So I put on my “big girl pants” and walked across the street to the CMC College campus. The CMC has two major areas: one they call “College” and the other is the Hospital. I live across from the College. The College campus is much like a US college campus in terms of function. There is an administration building, a library, a canteen (cafeteria), a number of student housing facilities, sports fields, a store, a chapel and classrooms. It is not like US college campuses in that it has unique flora and fauna (there are monkeys everywhere!), and all the doctors that work at the hospital are required to live on houses on the College campus. I will post photos later.
My first stop on campus was the administration building to let them know I had arrived. Although I was scheduled to meet my contact on Monday morning, I was able to take care of initial paperwork that day. I received my Student ID card, which was a simple process which involved me handing over copies of my passport and visa and filling out a “general information” form. I was then given directions to register with the police after 5pm. A note to students: Get a visa that is valid for less than 180 days. The Indian government requires you to register if your visa is valid for 180 days or more. Live and learn, right?
Second stop was the Gault Library to get my wireless access. The library is modest and similar to US libraries, except you are not allowed to take anything into the main area with you. With only a few minor connection issues I was able to get online and email home to let them know my status.
Third stop was at the college store to purchase water and toilet paper. Yes, there is no toilet paper provided at my hotel which means that toilet paper probably cannot be flushed. Little adjustments… all over the place!
With nowhere else to go, or nothing else to do, I headed back to my “home” all the while racking my brain as to what I would do once I got there. Mind you, there was a power cut 20 mins after I arrived and it was likely still to be off upon my return. Thankfully there is a generator that powers the fan and one light bulb during an outage.
At this point I was questioning myself. What had possessed me to do this? When about this experience did I think would be good? Why had I come? And, although I don’t like to admit that I thought this, is there any way I can get a flight home tomorrow? It was/is hard for me to admit I thought these things. I’m supposed to be stronger than this. I’m supposed to be the adventurous soul who is willing to go forth and have these once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I’m not supposed to have these thoughts. But I did. There it is. A person will think these things when they are tired and disoriented in a foreign land, and alone. Oh so very alone. The loneliness was penetrating. It hurt. Note to students: Con a classmate into coming with you… those first few hours would have been 100 times more bearable if I had a partner in crime.
As I slowly sauntered back home, taking the scenic route, I prayed in earnest that the Lord would send me someone to call a friend. Soon. “At least by the end of the week, Lord” was my prayer. I didn’t know how much loner I could endure the loneliness. (Mind you, I was tired and fatigue makes everything seem so much more horrible.)
As I rounded the last bend before leaving campus, I saw her. She had fairer skin than anyone else I had seen since landing on Indian soil. I engaged her in conversation. I attacked her with conversation. Ok, I nearly mauled her with my verbal onslaught. She spoke English with an Austrian accent, and soon invited me to dinner. Bridget may never know what a blessed answer to prayer she was. As it turns out, Bridget is staying on the CMC college campus as a med student. She is staying in the Modale International Student hostel with a number of other international students.
Most of the international students here are med students, but three of us are rehabilitation students—I am the only OT student. Most of the international students are Indians born and raised in Australia, so their English is not only perfect, but adorable to listen to. Bridget introduced me to Julian and Teresa who are the other two international rehab students. They are from Austria and Germany, respectively, and are studying Physical Therapy in Holland, who have come here together for just shy of three months. Most of the international med students are here for only a month. Julian and Teresa are the only students I have met that are here for longer than a month. They were able to give me solid advice about a number of relevant topics such as food, cell phones, and companionship. Because most students are here for only a month, it is harder to build much of a relationship with other students, but they make do.
It was from my new friends that I found out about the monthly International Students meeting that occurs on the first Monday night of every month. At this meeting you are served tea, coffee and ice cream and are given the opportunity to meet and fellowship with other students. I am looking forward to that. I understand that the college received 30 (or was it 13… hard to tell when the number was delivered with such a strong accent) new international students, some of which are staying at my hotel. I think it will not feel so alone if other students are with me. If no one shows up, I have a plan to see about getting housing on campus. Campus is secure and feels like an oasis in a very turbulent land. Note to students: Get housing on campus, it will be easier for you to feel at home.
After dinner, I went back to Modale with my new friends (yes, that’s plural… the Lord answered prayers above and beyond my desires!) and visited with them for a while. They invited me to make use of their internet and to come hang out in their living room whenever I wanted. They all made me feel very much at home. I left Modale with a full heart that evening, yet I was a little apprehensive about returning to my dim, lonely little abode. And then I was pooped on by a bird.
I determined to shower once I got back to my place, but even that seemed like a daunting task. It turned out to be a cold task…. I have four faucets in my bathroom and none of them provide warm water. Oh well, it is warm and muggy here anyhow. I also have two buckets and a pitcher for pouring water over myself. There is no “shower” to speak of other than a shower-like nozzle stuck in the corner of the bathroom. The entire bathroom is tiled, and everything gets wet when you shower. Clean and comforted, I turned in for the night. As I lay in bed, hoping sleep would come soon, I was nervous about the next day. How would I feel? Would I still want to go home? Would I be able to get enough good sleep to bring me back to a reasonable level of function? How would I manage to get a cell phone and a torch (flashlight), as power outages are frequent? How would I manage on the Hospital campus tomorrow? Would I take the right bus? I did fall asleep, but woke shortly with GI discomfort, likely from food. It was a pretty miserable night’s sleep, but I managed to not vomit or experience other effects of traveler’s illness. I think my GI system is just going to need a little time to get used to the foods and spices. I have felt mediocre all today, but never uncomfortable.
That pretty much wraps up my first day. It was a day that made me stronger. I won’t lie to you and tell you that I’m a-ok now, and that I’m back on top of the world. I am still overwhelmed, and I still find myself fighting back tears in the most unusual of places and circumstance. I expect that will happen for a while. But I am stronger. I am stronger than I was yesterday. I have seen the Lord answer prayers. I have felt Him close His arms around me and protect me. I have survived.