sheep in silhouette
sheep agains blue sky
Little Brook Farm

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Sunday, 2009-11-05

Interesting, the computer here automatically wrote the date the way they usually write it over here in India. The year is first, then the month, then the day. Hard to believe that it is already November and that our trip is coming to an end. We fly from Udaipur to Delhi this afternoon and then fly out at 1:40 AM from Delhi to Amsterdam, then on to Montreal and drive home from there! We will have been traveling for 30 hours by the time we reach Montreal.

This has truly been a once in a life time trip. My first ever venture into Asia, but possibly not my last. It has been like stepping into the pages of a novel. Everything is so different here from anything I have yet experienced. Different language, different food, different money, different religions and different cultural philosophies shaping their daily lives. There has been so much to learn and absorb! My parents have gone off with our guide this morning for one more temple visit in the mountains, but I felt like I needed to sit and do some writing while it was all still new. I most likely will not have access to a computer again until I reach home.

Yesterday I spent the day with a man I had found through a friend of a friend prior to leaving the USA. His name is Ganesh Sharma and he is a very generous and interesting man. His father was a Hindu priest and he himself ran away from school when he was younger (his words) because he wanted to become a monk. He studied for 8 years with 3 different Yogi’s (Holy men). After 8 years his Yogi told him it was time for him to resume his other life. He told me it took him 2 years to settle back into a “normal” life. He continues to meditate daily and he is very spiritual. He is possibly the most peaceful person I have ever met. There is such a quality of contentment and calm around him. He took me to visit a family in their home. The woman had given birth to her first boy 13 days earlier. In India, it is tradition for the daughter to return home to her mothers house for the birth of their first “issue” child. This couple now live in Malaysia where the husband is a successful software engineer. They returned to her parents house in Udaipur in time for the birth. I was treated to a visit by a woman considered a “traditional nurse”. She is a lay person that helps with deliveries, like a lay midwife might do in the USA. She also visits for a few weeks after the birth to give both the infant and his mother massages. The massages for the baby are quite stimulating! This mother delivered her child in a hospital. The government of India is trying to encourage families to deliver in hospitals or clinics to decrease the incidence of both infection and tetanus. They pay the new family Rs. 1500 for each hospital delivery. Very different than in our country! This mother spoke excellent English and asked me many questions about feeding the baby, the fontanels, and normal development. It was nice to be able to provide some teaching. No matter what country you live in, having a baby is having a baby and the basic care of both mother and child are similar. At one point the baby was make some burbling sounds and I told her he was speaking the universal language of all infants!

After the visit to this family, which was quite well off financially, we visited a rural clinic. The doctor had gone home for the day, but it was staffed 24 hours a day with a head nurse, that was a man at this clinic, and several nursing students. There were two patients in the woman’s section. The room had 8 rough beds in a fairly open ward. One patient was in there because she had been having fevers, and the other had delivered a child at 11 AM, just 4 hours before we arrived. She and her child were healthy and resting together on the small cot. They were from a very rural tribe and had travelled to the clinic for the delivery. Here mother was there with her as well. Because she had delivered in the clinic she would receive the money for her child. I was able to give both woman some small items for themselves and the baby along with a small donation. With the translation from our guide, the grandmother told us that she would not have accepted the money for themselves, but that she would accept it for the child and that she felt her grandson would be lucky because he was born on the day that I came to the clinic. Almost made me cry!

No one in India is turned away for medical services. Some people have insurance, much like we do, some pay for services and those living in poverty are given a card that gives them access to health services. If you don’t have a card, as the delivering woman did not, they will arrange to get you one and you are never turned away.

The nurses in India do not have as much autonomy as the nurses in the USA. On the other hand, due to shortages of help and staff in the more rural areas, I suspect their practice actually has a much greater scope than most of the nurses in the USA experience.

After the rural clinic, we visited a private clinic with a pharmacy at the front of it. It was run by a couple. The wife was the pharmacist, after having completed 3 years of our equivalent of college and the husband was a male nurse and worked with a doctor. I spoke for quite awhile with the pharmacist. She told me she had recently also taken more school to become a midwife and that she and her husband wanted to travel to the US to work. She was very curious about what other schooling she would need to be able to practice in the US. I left her my email address and the promise to connect her with the appropriate registration boards so that she could pursue this goal. I also finally was able to buy some more antacid, as my stomach was starting to rebel against all the spicy food!

We had originally planned to visit a school after this, but since Ganesh refused to take any money for his time, I had asked if I could make a donation to a charity of his choice. He told me of an orphanage that was near where he lived that was run almost entirely on donations that could desperately use the money. This was a small private home owned by a man that was himself a Yogi, or Holy man. He employed a few woman and took in infants and small children and placed them for adoption. He did not get help, or very, very little, from the government. He also screened potential adoptive parents and followed up to see that they were providing both physically and emotionally for the children, all on his own. They have a small wooden cradle up at about shoulder height outside, with a roof over it. If any woman has a child that she cannot keep or care for, for any reason, they may leave it in the cradle and close the top and it will be taken care of by the orphanage. They also take in children through other avenues as well. When we visited they had 10 children from the age of 6 months to 3 years. The youngest had been born quite prematurely, and been left on the steps of a temple. It was very sick and weak when found and spent over a month in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) in the hospital. It was then placed with this orphanage for care and looked quite strong and healthy at our visit! Needless to say I emptied my wallet for them. What warm and generous people they were!

What a special way to end my trip here in India. I wish I could have done more of this sort of visit and a few less temples and palaces. But we take what we can get! I feel very fortunate to not only have had the experience of a lifetime, but to have been able to share it with my parents.

This trip has reminded me to keep my mind and my heart always open to the points of view and philosophies of others, and makes me appreciate what I have and where I live more than ever!