Friday, 29 April 2011

My last day at work! -another long one.. sorry!

Today is filled with a mixture of emotions, on one hand I’m quite happy for it to be my last day and at the same time I’m going to miss little things that have become routine for me. Such as the amazing 8am bike ride in the morning, when it’s not hot and the breeze is quite cool. I found myself just looking at the roads and scenery differently today. I noticed details that I hadn’t for the last few weeks, things such as the shear numbers of mangos on trees that are ripening, two more weeks and they’d be ready to eat! I noticed things like the same people that I pass every morning, going about their daily business of leaving for work and bathing outside their make shift hut homes, and the long line of women washing their clothes at the river bank. They always look so colourful in their saris!

Getting on the main road and picking up speed on the bike and winding through other bikes, cars, vans and buses, following the same route everyday knowing where the bends are and how to lean on the back seat, where the bumps are to prepare myself that I’m about to jiggle about! Then the small feeling of regret when I see we are approaching the bus station, meaning that my last bike ride to Navsari is about to be over!
Today I got the bus straight away and got a good seat and just looked out the window for my entire hour journey, for once I didn’t fall asleep! It all feels so normal now and ordinary. Not like I’m the half lost NRI riding the bus and hoping it’s the right one and that I remember when to get off. It’s all natural now, and I really am going to miss it. Every little bit, from the bumpy bus ride, to getting off and knowing instinctively which rickshaw to take, I feel like I’ve mastered this now! I walk through the first 20, knowing they will charge me more and attempt to take me ‘Direct’ to my destination. I know that if I get towards the end of the line and specify, ‘hum local jaane ka hai’ which basically means they can pick up other passengers on the way and be more like a shuttle service then it costs about ¼ the amount! And then when I get towards my location knowing at exactly which point I have to tap the rickshawala and say, ‘bhaisaab vaa pe rooko’ pointing at the crowded entrance of the hosp! I’ve got all this down to a T now! It’s so true that if you look and act like you know exactly what you’re doing they charge you less! My first few trips from the bus stop to work used to cost my 6rs, now today it cost me the lowest yet, he gave me change to indicate he’d charged me only 3rs!

Plan to do a few little missions in Navsari later as after today I won’t be going into town everyday. So on my list, apart from getting a few household necessities, is to eat a mysore dosa off a ladi again! Oh my it was so yum last time that I have another. Made fresh in front of you! It had the standard potato mixture but also, tomato’s, onions, dhanna, and some masala. So yum! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! (gosh so this is how I put on weight in India!) yes it seems I always defy the rules of being in India for a long period of time, where people usually become stick thin from being here, me, I have in fact put on weight somehow! –well not somehow it’s the yummy food! =)

Oh well I’m in gham now for another week and then off to join bhavik in Mumbai for 10 days! Can’t wait! Going to be proper NRI tourists and explore! Exciting!

The things I’ve been exposed to here in my work is indescribable, I shall do my best to depict every little detail clearly in my ethnographic report, but it will be difficult. Some things I’ve seen are indescribable. Its more than just poverty and helplessness I’ve seen. It’s more than people looking for help. It’s the lifestyles I’ve seen, the conditions of homes. I’ve seen the hopes and dreams of young children; I’ve seen the desires in the mother’s eyes, the desperation to make things better. I’ve met some really great influential people as well. I am actually so lucky to have had the opportunity to interview and work along side such commendable people. I’m taking so much away from these 2 months. I can honestly say this has changed my life, and I won’t forget it.

Going to be a cheesy one…

as meant to post this a few days ago!

For some reason yesterday, (26/04/2011), felt like a good day! It started the same as usual, two alarms having to wake up me up and still not moving until you get that little panic that you’ve over slept only to realise a whole 2 minutes have passed. Did the usual morning thing and went on my way to start my journey to work, which now involves a 20 minute motorbike ride followed by an hour bus ride and then a 5 minute rickshaw ride. Reaching the office already quite moist from perspiration (couldn’t find a nice way of saying sweating sorry!) wait for the air con to cool me down and get to work.

Now it’s getting to my last few days at work so lots to get through and so many things to experience! Such as lunch times! I ventured to a subway! Yes very desi…! Tried a paneer tikha sub, not bad at all! Followed by ice cream- it’s just so yum here- and then a cold cocoa drink, basically thick milk and chocolate, like a chocolate milkshake but very refreshing. On my way home I found myself possessing this new found confidence, if you’ve ever ventured into India’s city’s you know to get by you have to be fearless and quite ballsy to say cross a road. And I have to say I have now mastered the art of crossing not a four way junction but let me think an 8-way junction! It’s simply walk straight look around but be fearless! Managed to get 2 bike men annoyed and a rickshaw driver to brake suddenly but I made it quite happily and easily to my bus stop, which is the side of the highway! Turns out the bus there was one I could get, having to run and climb on board as the bus was pulling out felt a little exhilarating. It is exactly how you see it in the movies! Hands flying around, grabbing the rail and having to get one foot on the step before the bus picks up speed! So I’ve now done that! This time on the journey home I decided to just look out the window, here I was thinking I’d reached tanning saturation but this looking out the window with the sun beaming on my face and increased the intensity of brown on my face. Joys.

Anyway! I couldn’t describe the things that I was seeing perfectly if I tried; it was more of a feeling, a calm serene feeling that had made me feel quite vulnerable actually. To go from thick smelly smoke of the city to the outskirts where the roads are lined with slum living, to the open roads of fields of rice and wheat, all around you are surrounded by such a diversity of people. I don’t think we truly realise how fortunate we are to be living the way we do in the conditions and the amenities that we have. We take it all for granted, the simple things like order and regulations that are in place for our safety, I mean would you ever encounter a taxi with more than its allowed number of passengers? Here it’s fit in as many as you can, with some even sharing the rickshaw drivers seat! Everything goes here. Just spending that hour looking out the window of the very hot and not so clean India bus, I saw so much, I know when I go home I shall try the same thing and just look out the window of the things I pass, the contrast will be immense.

For dinner again I went a little away from desi! Pizza, with garlic bread and wedges! Don’t judge we also don’t appreciate how tiresome it can get to have shaak rotli everyday! I mean who does that for more than 2 weeks in the UK! Still ended the night riding around Navsari had a close call with another bike, stupid man, bike brakes are awesome though!

I went to a famous ice cream parlour called Killah! Had three types of icecream! Yum! And then rode home, the village roads are quite awesome at night, and I have a suspicion that Deepakbhai, whom takes me on the bike everyday, was riding exceptionally fast today through the winding dirt roads, and it felt quite exhilarating! I’m going to miss riding on the bike so much when I go home! Little things I’m appreciating now, I feel like I’ve been here forever, 7 weeks is actually a long time! I don’t think I’ve been away from family for that long before, even when a uni a month was probably the longest that I didn’t go home! So 7 long weeks and still another 3 to go!

Am I starting to get fed up? No I wouldn’t say fed up, but I also wouldn’t mind going home now! Back to comforts and luxuries, but I’m determined not to put anything I’ve experienced here out of my mind. This placement has spurred me on to really focus my career in public health in developing countries. These people require help and assistance and we have the power to provide it.

Finished the long day with some fresh water melon, juicey! =)

Saturday, 9 April 2011

The Majboori's of Mother's

Such a mix of emotions, it’s hard to describe them. I don’t want to feel pity as I think that’s a patronising emotion, yet its creeping in. I feel helpless yet in such a position to offer so much support.

I witnessed and truly got to see how people live their lives in what we couldn’t describe in any other way other than a slum. I humorously named this plane ‘Goat Alley’ as there are almost as many goats as there are people crammed into such a small place. They roam through the lanes and in and out of what we wouldn’t call houses yet these people call home.

One room, divided into a total living space, kitchen, bedroom, bathroom, laundry room, living room, all compact into what can’t be in some cases more that bed length long and double the width. Here at least 4 people will live and contently live.

Upon meeting these women, they are all very well mannered, very polite and eager to share their live experiences, hopeful that you will help their children not to fall into their circle of life. They have this feeling of defeat in their eyes acknowledging that it is too late for them to change their lives but will stop at nothing to ensure their children can live a better one.

One woman explained to that she had no choice but to enter this line of work, she had no money and a daughter to raise. “I know my line of work is bad,” she explained, “but I need to raise some money for my child’s future. I want her to be independent and not rely on anyone else. I want her to be educated and not helpless like me.”

The one word every single woman has used when speaking to me, “majboori” meaning helpless. They all felt that they were helpless but to enter this line of work and refuse to submit their children into it.

Without the help of the NGO’s that are working here, the state of the population in this slum would be atrocious. Every of the women have had help to send their children away from their homes and into education. They feel sad that they don’t live with their children but accept it is for the greater good that they do not live with them. The ultimate sacrifice of a mother for her child.

Friday, 25 March 2011

quik catch up!!

so much has happened since my last post, i don't know where to start!
i've submited my proposal got ethical clearance and got repeatedly annoyed at the pace at which things work here.

I've carried out my own case study one to one interviews with ex-sex workers. and have realized my hindi is actually quite good that the translator was redundant! (TAKE THAT PODCAST NIRAV!) it was so interesting. the way their lives turned to this work, mostly without choice... anyway i shall leave the details to my write up.

today was actually quite infuriating!!! i'm trying to figure out if i have any authority here to tell people off..! i think not! there was one professor that literally wasted my days work by contaminating all the interviews that were taking place by being a useless busy body!!! annoying! but anyway, learning curve and all that.

so i'm now commuting from home to surat everyday- 20min motorbike ride- 1hr bus ride n then 5min rickshaw ride and whooo im there! its not that bad.. the bike bit is my fav bit! im going to miss that when i leave her- oh well still got 8 weeks of it! =)

oh i met this dr from UCL who did her phD with the medical college that im based with at the moment, she came to disseminate her results and meeting her was so great- she took me round with her for a few days and we visited hosp depts and an urban health clinic- their version of a sex health clinic. now that was interesting!!!

the way in which they work, the UK has a pretty good system that young people can access help and info whenever they like, here, the only unmarried adolescents that visit the clinic would be for terminations.. quite sad that they don't have the education and knowledge to protect themselves. and people only really get picked up for sex health checks when pregnant so through antenatal care, there's a big lack in knowledge of general health care.

anyway! what else have i done since last posting!! erm.! driven loads! that maruti van isnt the safest thing around but still it was an experience! oh i've had rickshaw lessons! okay lesson. but still it's a start! never had to control hand gears b4 was interesting..! i went to a field of dirt and just went round n round in a circle for about 20mins doing laps, n then drove home, where obv i stalled where all the gham people were jamming playnig cricket. well kool dil(!)

i had a domino's! it wasnt bad!
i went to a revolving restaurant in surat, the top floor revolves and you can see the whole city more a less- its quite a sight..!

erm n thats it for now! its hot. im tanned. and im missing sandwiches n toast.. oooh toast!!! =(

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Goat Alley

Today was interesting to say the least... It wasn't an easy day.

It was soo hot! i went and visited the field as they call it.

Basically in Surat there was a red light district before they shut down all the brothels, however still in this area are the slum homes of the female sex workers. They literally live in one room homes, with loads of roaming goats. yep thats right, goats! one even tried to eat my bag, i felt a little tug on my strap turn around to see a goat!!

The houses are probably what we would call slums, the two people i was touring this area with were known to the community they were very welcoming to me and all wanted to invite me in for 'chai pani'
I met a hobbling one today, yday when she was out for  'activity kam' she was chased by a policeman, where she tripped and fell so he beat her on her legs with whatever it is that policemen here carry! she has a really big swollen ankle and you couldn't help but feel bad for her.

As i was walking through i see loads of little children, and we were checking to see that they had been immunised and if they all were enrolled in a school, as the organisation im to be working with helps in both these things, so these children are given education, health and opportunities.

It would be an interesting environment to work to for sure... and one that i probably will be seeing alot more of soon!

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Day 1 in a Hostel!

Being in India less than 7 days i've already experienced so much!
The day after landing I came and visited Surat, where i'm going to be carrying out my research, met with the Dr i'm going to be working with, he introduced me to soo many people. Only when meeting other students in different contexts do you realise how different things are. For example if you're in a class and another teacher walks in do you notice? Every single room i walked into with the Dr every single person stopped what they were doing and stood up, thats the kind of respect they have for their teachers. After meeting everyone including the head of state someone important or other, whom told me off for my NRI gujarati and then spoke to me in English!! i went off with someone to visit "the field" that i'd be working in, which basically meant a 3rd floor drop in clinic for everyone, but mainly used by Sex workers. Here i sat and spoke to some project managers and they took my picture and made me sign a guest book!
From there I was sent off with two different people to visit the boarding schools that the sex worker's children attend. Sitting in a rickshaw with two strangers that don't speak great english and speak broken guj was a lil daunting.. but i thought ahh gota suk it up and just do what i gota do!
All in all not a bad experience! A bit baffled as to what work i'm actually going to be doing now but we'll see!

In the mean time i've managed to shop shop shop, tan a great deal- its quite nastyyy, inproved my gujaratii and drove on many occasions through dad's insistance! its a friggin maruti van with no power steering and a stubborn brake. oh and the gears are stiff too! the roads of india are crazzyy there is no care and no one gives a crap if you're pulling out or just driving along. You have to have uber amounts of confidence and need to know what you're doing. have full control and expect the unexpected to jump out infront of you!

So it's now Tuesday, and i'm in the hostel that i'm going to be staying in. I have a room that i am sharing with three other girls. You know that feeling you get when everyone is staring at you and talking about you... i get that. alot! it's okay they all want to know my story and what i'm doing, its fun.
Altho no mosquito net and sleeping by an open window, we'll see how much fun that is!! I'm meeting the dr again at the hospital at 10am and then we shall see how it goes! shall try and blog again soon! 

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Day before!

So for experience i've got the opportunity to go to india for 10 weeks to do some voluntary work and carry out some research. My topic is looking at educational status and reproductive and sexual health knowledge in adolescents in Surat. The youths i'd work with would be children of hiv+ sex workers... so thats the low down!!!

So i go tomorrow and i think it's finally hit me...! (i always was a bit late!) how in the world am i gna survive in india for 10 weeks alone...!!!!!!!!!!!

i've kinda packed but true indian last min style i shall repack tmo!!!

my flight is at 830pm, and as its my last night im trying to figure out what im going to miss the most... as i watch a documentary on india.. getting into mode!

So im getting sleepy already.. it's all go tomorrow... i shall try and keep up to date with this blog i know some random crap is bound to happen to me!