Monday, August 31, 2015

Like a Dream

The title speaks for itself! I feel so lucky to be here and experiencing not only public health first hand, but a whole other area of the world. This past week, I think, is best described in pictures and videos (with captions, of course!). I am baffled that I have already been here for three weeks and am soaking up every minute. Enjoy!
At the Community Health Center (CHC) in Brahmavar, India. The CHC is a government building that provides free healthcare services to anyone living in the area. It was awesome to see the center first-hand.
The whole cohort in front of the Manipal University sign, all donned with kurtas!
Celebrating Onam on 28th August! I have included details on what Onam celebrates with a link on the right side of the page, but it is a holiday that takes place as a one-day-a-year "homecoming" for King Mahabali and celebrates Vishnu.
Typical decoration for Onam; this decorum set outside of where we ate a traditional meal served on Onam!
The meal we ate, served on a banana leaf. The rice was delicious!
Traditional clothes for men on Onam! Tom even got a sash from one of the guys...
View from the back of a rickshaw! Going to Udupi after celebrating Raksha Bandhan, a holiday honoring the bond between a brother and sister.
We got ice cream from a great local place, Natural. I tried the pista, or pistachio flavor, and it was delicious. I will be taking more trips there...
"What's up India?" ft. Ashlin and I.
Cute group photo after a HUGE meal for Onam.
After hours of football (soccer) at Malpe Beach...thanks to all the MPH students who invited us :)
Stunning sunset over Malpe Beach.
Gorgeous view from the Hanging Bridge about 45 minutes away from Manipal University.
The Hanging Bridge itself!
The Manipal Delta, in which we took wooden canoes for $1.50 USD around the area.
Ashlin and Tanzy on Hanging Bridge! #adorable
Our canoe!
Video of Malpe Delta!
The beach near Hanging Bridge...the ocean always awes me.
Dinner in Udupi with our fabulous friend, Sakethna, who helped us reach Hanging Bridge and hung out with us all day!
Canoe selfie! P.S.- I started taking a Hindi class (I am auditing it), and although the language is very tough, it is really fun to learn! (More on that next time...) Love, Kara

Sunday, August 23, 2015

"Tum Pagal Ho"

In other words, "You are crazy". A useful phrase Smriti, the resident director of our study abroad program, uses when the nine of us rather clueless chickens with our heads cut off are in her office, scrambling around and asking her to do a million things at once, not to mention eat all of her chocolate. However, I--we--have learned that Smriti actually can do a million things at once (she has two mobile phones to prove it) and, despite the stress, has been described by each of us as "one of the coolest people I've ever met". I've added her to my Empowering Female Role Model list (an internal list) and she has a great sense of humor. We jokingly call her "mom" sometimes because of how caring she is of us. In short, Smriti has made my experience thus far something far smoother and more fun than I ever imagined and I hope she is loving Manipal as much as I! Anyway... This week was awesome! Classes started Monday and school is beginning to set in. My classes this semester all deal with public health, except Indian Contemporary Culture, so I am very excited to get my hands dirty with what my degree is in! Besides the culture class, which has proved to be very interesting so far, I am taking Ayurveda Traditions and Healing, Basic Epidemiology, Maternal and Child Health, and Directed Research. All have proven to be quite interesting so far, and all of my professors are very open to answering “doubts” or questions. For directed research, I have decided to focus on malaria control practices in Udupi Taluk, and under the guidance of Dr. Aarthy Ramasamy, am going to interview key stakeholders, such as the district malaria officer, to understand how malaria is best controlled in the area. Before undertaking this research, I had the misconception that malaria was a huge problem where I am now, but, in fact, it is not. Because of this, I will actually be evaluating for which methods were most effective in hopes that other districts and communities still trying to control malaria could possibly emulate. I am very excited to conduct these interviews and am so thankful for this opportunity and for the guidance of the wonderful doctor I mentioned above (she is awesome!). When I was not in class… We went to Malpe Beach! Last Monday, the Study Abroad Program took a 20-minute bus ride to Malpe Beach, a beautiful strip of tucked-away land hugging the Arabian Sea. The water was an alluring temperature, though we did not swim because of the dangerous under-toe. An awesome statue of MK Gandhi welcomed us to the beach. Pictures posted below (Please note the fantastic photo bomb of Emilie's sweeping candid performed by my favorite person, Tanzeela...I have great friends).
We also took our first field visit this past Friday. We learned about the first level of healthcare that is most directly connected to the community, Public Health Centers (PHCs). At these centers, adults and children can come to receive routine vaccinations (i.e. measles), receive maternal education and materials, learn about water sanitation, receive HIV testing and counseling, receive Tuberculosis treatments, and the list goes on. The US equivalent for a PHC would be a free clinic (all services at the PHC are free). I learned quite a bit about community/village-level healthcare at the PHC and it was great to get exposure to the setting. I would post a picture, but they trusted us to only take pictures for academic purposes, so I will not be posting any here. Additionally… From the positive peer pressure of my great friend, Emilie, I took up dancing as an extracurricular here at Manipal! I am so glad I did take this opportunity because who knows when I will get completely authentic and free dance classes again. Our teacher is amazing and very humble for her accomplishments; she does a ton of commercials and is one of the most incredible dancers I have ever seen. The classical dance is called Bharatanatym, and Nataraja (dancing Shiva), is the Hindu god that represents dance. Hand movements are called hastas and there are too many to count. I posted a link on the side of the blog that depicts these hand movements. My favorite is tirupatakakum in which you keep all your fingers out and stiff, except your ring finger on each hand. In Baratanatym, you keep all your moves swift. Then, you use these movements, your eyes, and your smile to tell a story. We will be performing, costumes and all, at the end of the semester with a full-blown audience. I hope my previous marching band skills help me out (shoutout to Keith Levin). When I told my mom I was taking dance she exclaimed, “Yet another dancer in the Janicke bloodline!” I better get practicing. I would post pictures of our dance, but my phone screen is not responding, so I do not have access to my pictures from the last few days. Hopefully, I can recover them soon and also show what a rickshaw looks like! Tata for now...
Thank you for reading!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Week One and Learning Lots

Week One Good morning/afternoon/evening! I am glad to say that the three of us arrived safely in Manipal, India on August 12th and are finally getting over the jet lag! I cannot believe classes start tomorrow and I already feel like I have been here for a month because everything I have learned, seen, and experienced in the last week. First things first, the scene must be set. It is always humid here, and usually very hot too; this kind of climate is common on India's west coast during the monsoon season. It also rains almost everyday and when the sun comes out, things heat up quick. The ecosystem is tropical and lush; palm trees, rice paddies, and wetlands make up the area surrounding Manipal. Manipal itself is a town integrated into Manipal University and has about 25,000 students, plus residents of the area. To get place to place inside the town, we have been walking, taking a bus, or using my new favorite mode of transportation: the rickshaw. When I get a good picture of one, I will be sure to post it (hopefully I will get a good shot tonight). For now, use your imagination! After flying from NYC to Munich to Mumbai, we stayed in a hotel for the night. We then flew out to Mangalore the next morning where we met Smiriti Chhabra, our amazing resident director here at Manipal University. From Mangalore, we took a bus to are some pictures following up to this event:
The night we arrived in Manipal, we got to know much of the faculty helping us out through the semester, as well as having AMAZING Indian food. Paneer, a dish made of cottage cheese and creamy sauce, is easily becoming one of my favorite dishes. In India, it is customary to eat with your right hand only, and cutlery is optional if it is provided. After a couple of days of orientations, campus tours, and getting to know the area a little better, Smriti has taken us to Udupi, Mudbhudri Temple, and Mangalore to experience various things. At Udupi, we visited a temple worshipping Krishna temple (one of the three main gods in Hinduism). First, however, we witnessed an elephant blessing, which was very cool. Then, Vignesh, a student giving us a tour of Udupi, told me that he worships Shiva the Destroyer (many Hindus worship one of the three main gods) and explained that being human means suffering because you have not achieved enlightenment and feel emotion. He also mentioned that every temple is shaped like a human body because it symbolizes you entering yourself and realizing your inner spirituality. We had to remove our shoes before entering the temple and were blessed while inside. After the temple visit, we ate dinner and enjoyed more Indian food. Posted below are some pictures from that day:
Yesterday (15th August) was Indian Independence Day! Happy 69th Birthday to India! In the morning during breakfast at the mess, we saw Narendra Modi, India's Prime Minister, giving a speech in Delhi. Delhi, Smriti explained, is where Parliament is held and where much of India's central politics take place. PM Modi is part of the BJP party, and India is the most populous democracy in the world. Many people wore white to celebrate, though I was out of white clothing. After watching a ceremonial procession at Manipal University's "edu" building, we left in cars for the Mudbhudri Temple, an enormous garden, and Lawrence Church. The Temple was Jain; Jainism is another religion in India and its central mantra is achieving liberation of the soul. The temple contained 1,000 pillars and was very peaceful to stand in. After we visited the temple, we saw a garden with over 100 plants native to Southeast Asia; my favorites were the pineapple plant, black pepper plant, and bamboo shoots. Lastly, we went to Lawrence Church, a Christian Church halfway back to Manipal from the Jain temple. The church had classic gothic architecture fused with Indian themes. Pictures from that day are below:
Today, Smriti took us to Mangalore to shop for clothes. Smiriti loves to shop and told us that when she is sad she goes shopping and calls it "retail therapy". She also has a dog named Disco and two cats. She is a very confident, intelligent, and independent person and I love her more and more as we get to know her! Mangalore is 1.5 hours away by bus. Driving in India is on the opposite side of the road as the US, and there are also almost no traffic signals and people basically just drive on whichever side of the road they want, whenever they want. Organized chaos is the phrase I would use for driving here in India and I would crash in two seconds if given the chance to drive. At the mall, I bought three kurtas and a pair of pajama pants (worn as bottoms for the kurta). I am excited to wear them and am also excited that it is less expensive than it would be back in the States! I also drank coconut water straight from a coconut chopped right in front of my eyes. To be brief (too late), I am learning tons and am excited to see what next week brings.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Here we go

Emilie, Tanzeela and I are at the gate at JFK airport; I am so excited to be traveling with two of my best friends. First leg of the journey is to Munich. Then Munich to Mumbai. Then Mumbai to Manipal!!! Here we go.