Friday, July 22, 2011

Wardrobe Malfunction Free!

Great news: yesterday was our final presentation (though, we're still working on the final final paper to be submitted in T-8 hours). Even better news: all of the TPS ladies were relatively wardrobe malfunction free. Why is this important? Well, a majority of the 12 females on the trip decided to wear traditional garb for our final presentation (read: saris). Since arriving in India, I've been mesmerized by the beautiful drapes of fabric that women somehow manage to wear on a daily basis. Let's just say that I never thought I'd be able to wear such things for a couple of reasons: 1) I'm taller than pretty much the whole country (seriously) and didn't think the fabric would be long enough to not look silly, 2) I have (had) no idea how to put the darn thing on, or ) how to keep the darn thing on. Despite the reservations, I gave in and decided to wear one for our final presentation, mainly because I didn't bring any business clothes but also because, well, when in Rome...

After several early-morning YouTube videos and a whole bunch of horribly-wrong attempts, Audra and I (sort of) mastered the art of putting on the sari! Or so we thought... When we got to ICTPH for our presentations, several women who work at the building pulled some of our group aside to fix the ill-tied saris. Apparently you shouldn't trust everything you see on the internet! :)
Allison, Eprise, Nancy, me, Audra, Leslie, Megan, Sonia, Dessa, and Josh, all rockin'  traditional garb.

Me with the arm candy of our trip, Josh and Shawn. 

Gift from Ravi and Ramesh!
 Anyway, all of the groups (cardiovascular disease, GI disease, maternal and child health, oral cancer, and oral health teams) gave incredible presentations. I couldn't believe how far we've come in such a short two months time.

After the presentations, ICTPH treated us yet again to a luxurious poolside afternoon, complete with dinner at the Chariot Resort. Rumor has it the Olympic-sized pool we swam and played volleyball in is one of the largest resort pools in Asia. A couple of my classmates and I then ventured down to the beach and decided to jump some waves in the Bay of Bengal. Such a great way to end the course! :)
The pool!

Playing in the Bay of Bengal!!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Farewell Thanjavur, hello Chennai.

Life in India has been a bit busy the past few days, as I literally traveled the entire width of India, from Alleppey/Kochi (on the eastern coast, by the Arabian Sea), to Thanjavur, and ending in Chennai this morning.

Long cross-country trek -- Alleppey/Kochi --> Thanjavur --> Chennai.  Oy.
The last day in the state of Kerala, in Alleppey, was spent doing some work on the paper/presentation, beachside of course. Our driver Ajit then took us from our homestay to the city of Kochi, where we had an unsuccessful shopping trip, in the pouring rain. Since our train to Thanjavur didn't leave until 10 PM, we decided to go hang out at a fancy-schmancy hotel in Kochi - for five hours - to get out of the rain and enjoy some pampering! It was pretty interesting getting into the hotel, as the recent terrorist attacks in Mumbai have led a lot of the nice hotels to up their security. Some guards had to check out the inside of our car before we get into the parking lot and then our bags had to go through an x-ray machine, just to enter the place! I don't know if these screenings made me feel more safe or more creeped out... :)

Right outside our room! :)

Open bathrooms! Some of the girls took a shower in the monsoon rains!

Welcoming lime juice!

Once we returned to Thanjavur on Sunday, the entire day and night was spent working on our paper that was due on Monday. Luckily, I'm part of an amazing group who picked up the slack when I fell ill on Sunday night. Let's just say that my poor roommate, Megan, woke up repeatedly to sounds of vomiting... Unfortunately, I spent all of Monday bed-ridden, with a doting Tendrall checking in on me.

We had a quick dinner at the house before a teary goodbye  with Tendrall, during which we gave her a beautiful sari as a thank you for being such a doting mother to us all. We then headed out to the train station, during which we were hyper-aware of all of the places that have been near and dear to our hearts:

  • More - the grocery store down the road that supplied us with caffeine, Lay's, Cadbury chocolate, 
  • Bombay sweets - not really my cup of tea, but my classmates frequented the dessert bakery!
  • Hotel Sangam - swanky hotel and restaurant
  • Infant Jesus temple (don't ask)
  • The John Deere tractor store - yeah, they exist in India
  • Too many more to list :)

We arrived in Chennai this morning, which means I need to go pass out to finish fighting this GI infection before we head out and do some last-minute shopping. Email me your souvenir requests! :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Beach views and lime juice. Good day.

As I'm trying to spend a good chunk of the day working on our paper that's due Monday, I thought I'd just throw up a few pictures of the views in Alleppey at the homestay we're at. After departing from the houseboat after a delicious breakfast of scrambled eggs and fresh fruit, our driver brought us to check out the Arabian Sea before we could check in at our next place.

Riding the ferry to school and work often requires umbrellas during the monsoon season!

Arabian Sea

Celebratory jump from Leslie, myself, and Megan in honor of the near conclusion of our projects!

Current view from Megan and my bungalow. The Arabian Sea is literally on the other side of the stones -  15 yards away!

Our private beach! :)

Pathway along the sea coast through the neighborhood.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Checking in from a houseboat in Kerala!

Hi everyone,

First and foremost, I would like to say that everyone in the TPS course is accounted for. In case you hadn't heard, three bombings occurred in the city of Mumbai (Bombay), resulting in the deaths of 18 persons and injuries to more than 100. Luckily, none of my classmates or friends from ICTPH were visiting the city...

On a lighter note, six of us TPSers are spending a long weekend in the state of Kerala. After a 12-hour train ride, we arrived in the coastal town of Kochi around 6 AM, where a representative from the travel agency we booked through picked us up and took us to see the coast. We got to see the "Chinese fishing nets" the area is famous for and stroll along the Arabian sea. Not a bad way to spend the morning! :)

As I write this, the six of us (Whitney, Nancy, Allison, Megan, and Leslie) are in the backwaters of Alleppey, lounging on a houseboat tied to a coconut tree. We've just finished lunch and are now basking in the sun, enjoying the beautifully green rice paddies. All-in-all, a great day.
Our driver took a detour to show us his friends' house where they make doormats out of coconut leaves!

View from the houseboat!

Just another day in India (workin' hard, believe it or not!).

Views from the boat when we docked for lunch.

We'll spend the night on the houseboat and then check out tomorrow after breakfast, where we'll head to the associated beach resort for the next night. Updates soon!

PS - check out my friend Leslie's blog for more details about the day! :)

Banana leaves, rotini, and elephant snot

[apparently I forgot to click publish when I wrote this... Oops. It's a few days old]

Good morning folks!

I know it's been a few days since my last post, but since I've mostly been working on our final project and sleeping, I wanted to spare you the boring details of my recent days in Thanjavur!

However, this morning life got a little bit more interesting when Sonia convinced me to walk to nearby Hotel Victoria for breakfast. As we left the ICTPH/Sugha Vazvhu headquarters, we were instantly greeted by an adorable yellow puppy with a curly tail. Sonia and I decided that if we had a few more weeks time in Thanjavur, we probably would adopt him and name him Rotini, in honor of the curly tail. [Side note: there is a backstory to the pasta-related name. One of the dogs at our residency is named Ragu, who happens to be a reddish orange color. Stephanie decided to name another house dog Alfredo, in honor of Americanized pasta sauces. Many of us TPSers greatly appreciate Alfredo and his protective nature, as he actually walks with a lot of the students who go to a nearby track early in the morning to run. Apparently he plays with other dogs at the park and barks at men who are at the track who come close to the girls while they're running. Pretty awesome.]

When we finally made it to Hotel Victoria, Sonia and I relished in dosas and chutneys for breakfast, each of which were served on a banana leaf!  All of this for only Rus. 15 (i.e., less than 50 cents).

Then, on the walk back to the office, we heard some jingling and realized there was a man riding an ornately-decorated elephant turning the corner onto our street. My class members came out and we fed him some bananas and gave some coins in order to get blessed by the elephant. Pretty great way to start the day!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Friday, Friday, Friday.

Just another typical week of classes and field visits here. We've been focusing on developing implementation and evaluation plans for our projects (i.e., how do you make it happen and how do you know it worked?).

The GI team also finally did some water testing this week, with samples from a water tank, a water tap, and an in-home storage container.  Unfortunately, our testing kits were expired, so we're not quite sure how reliable the results.  We're hoping to get some new kits this weekend and retest next week. I'll keep you posted! :)

Panchayat's hubby gathering some tank water for us!

Suda, Steph, Erin R., and myself
Just a typical Ambalapattu tap... 
In other big news, Mukesh left us this week to return to school.  It's been really, really quiet without him and his sister here.  Tendrall (our house mother) has been extra doting this week, as this is her first experience as an empty nester!
Celebrating Mukesh's last night in Thanjavur by having dinner at Claypot!

Last but not least, we celebrating Ramesh's birthday this week, with a surprise breakfast at his hotel, Temple Towers.  Unfortunately, our plan was foiled when Ramesh discovered our group in the parking lot waiting to surprise him...  Either way, masala dosa and fresh pineapple juice for breakfast made for a great start to the day!
Ramesh, Ravi, Nancy, & Dessa.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Can you say 'Party Pants'?!

The long-awaited moment has finally arrived.  I've decided to give in to peer pressure from the States and post some party pants pictures....  

But first, some background.  

We decided to throw a rooftop Fourth of July party here in India, complete with fireworks (huge thank you to Ravi for his hookups), American delicacies (read: American cream and onion Lays potato chips [i.e., sour cream and onion], Oreos, and Pringles), and last but not least, party pants! After our professors, Ramesh and Ravi, and the ICTPH staff arrived, we decided that despite the ominous, lightning-filled sky, celebrating the Fourth of July was well worth the risk of rooftop fireworks.

Our fireworks display drew spectators from nearby buildings!

This was supposed to documentation of the party pants theme, but boys suck at taking pictures.

The moment you've all been waiting for.... PARTY PANTS!
There they are (except Allison).
Party pants + Thums up = fantastic July 4th celebration