Hey everyone! I hope that everyone is settled in at their sites and that your summer’s going well so far!
I have been in Bangalore for about a month now and it has seriously flown by so quickly! The trip here went pretty smoothly, other than some struggles with overweight luggage and some small flight delays, and I got into Bangalore at 2am. I was pretty jet lagged for the first week but I was able to meet Dr. Krishnan in the first five days here to get oriented with my work for the summer and to meet the rest of the staff I’m working with here! Dr. Krishnan helped me settle in and we talked about the different parts of the project I am working on this summer. There are few main components: 1. Visiting community organizations to make a referral network of places that provide services for women experiencing domestic violence 2. Helping with a domestic violence policy that they are proposing to the chief health officer of Bangalore as part of the health intervention 3. Helping form a database for another project that addresses domestic violence through the relationship between daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws (Dil Mil). There is definitely a lot to do and it’s been going well so far.
While Dr. Krishnan was in Bangalore (she is in San Francisco now for part of the summer) I was able to go to the workshop they had to train auxillary nurse midwives (ANMs) on how to address domestic violence. Even though the workshop was in Kannada (the local language here), I learned so much! The intervention here is working to train link workers (community health workers who make house visits and try to get women/children to visit the clinics), ANMs (who are the primary health care providers at clinics) and physicians (there is one per clinic and they have more of a supervisor role). The workshop had really interesting activities, like getting the ANMs to distinguish the difference between sex and gender and involved role play activities where they had to show how they would address specific DV situations. The workshop was definitely a great experience to see. I also got to meet Dr. Krishnan’s family – her kids are so cute!
After that I met Dr. Vishwanath, who is the project coordinator that I am working with for most of the summer. We are also visiting the community organizations with another OB/GYN physician, Dr. Anu, who has lots of great stories to tell about her work in Bangalore! She has done lots of work with HIV/AIDS working with sex workers and knows everyone in Bangalore! We have been conducting visits to community organizations to learn about what services they can provide to women/children experiencing DV and if they are willing to be part of our referral network. It’s really interesting to learn about the variety of services these places provide and the different philosophies and approaches they follow. They also talk about the cases of DV they see, like pregnant women who have run away from home because of abuse. One woman who ran a shelter even said that a pregnant woman had come to the shelter because she was scared her child would be sold because that’s what happened to her first child. It’s hard to explain, but I am hearing about a lot of situations that I didn’t think were still happening in India. It’s very eye-opening and it’s really important to learn about the work that’s already going on in this field so that we can use the available resources to better serve the women experiencing DV.
I’ve also been going to a local clinic to do database entry for the project involving daughter-in-laws and mother-in-laws. It was cool seeing how a local clinic operates using few resources. There is a lot of health education and it’s really cool to see public health topics that I’ve learned about in action in the field! I’ve also been getting involved with the DV policy and I got to go to the meeting with the chief health officer of Bangalore. It’s definitely going to be an intense process, but hopefully if this policy gets passed then DV awareness and programs can be better implemented throughout Bangalore.
Other than that I’ve been hanging out around Bangalore and it’s a lot of fun! When I first got here it was definitely a culture shock. I was scared to even cross the road because the traffic is crazy here and cars don’t drive in any lanes here! There are also lots of stray dogs and cows just walking around on the streets, so I was a little freaked out at first but I’ve learned they’re harmless as long as you leave them alone. You see the occasional camel or goats on the road too! But I’m more used to it now and I’ve met some other American and international students who are working at the hospital and research institute! The weather here has been amazing so far (knock on wood) and the monsoon hasn’t hit too badly here (yet)! It stays warm, about 80F, so it’s pleasant but not too hot! And there are random showers throughout the day, but it keeps the air cool so it’s nice! I’m learning some Kannada, the local language, but I was surprised that almost everyone speaks English here so it’s pretty easy to get around (although, if they can tell you’re a foreigner they like to charge you more for rickshaws, etc.) We’ve also gotten to know some of the local medical students, so it’s a lot of fun to go out with them. The night life is pretty fun here, and I even went clubbing last weekend!
I’ve been able to travel a bit here too. The first few weekends I stayed nearby and saw some of the local sites in Bangalore. There are lots of malls, some botanical gardens, and lots of delicious food and good shopping! I really love all the dosas, idlis, coffee, and other South Indian food – my spice tolerance is definitely going up! It’s a fun city to be in but it was nice getting out of the pollution and traffic too. We went to Mysore one weekend and saw really beautiful temples, a palace, and Brindhavan Gardens that was all lit up at night, with really beautiful fountains! Mysore was such a cute town! We also went to Munnar in Kerala, where there are these amazing tea plantations! We didn’t realize it’s a popular romantic getaway until we were on a bus full of couples! After 14 long hours on a bus, through windy roads that made my head spin, we were greeted by these green and beautiful hills, like nothing I’ve seen before. We also trekked around and saw beautiful waterfalls, got to buy lots of fresh tea and spices there, and we rode elephants (a little scary but really cool, and we got a discounted price by bargaining)! And of course the chai there was amazing! The trip was definitely worth the long journey. Traveling has been lots of fun and I’m so glad I found friends to travel with! We are also planning to take yoga classes here and to travel around some more, so I will definitely keep you all updated!
Sorry this was pretty long, but have fun and be safe, and I hope you keep us all updated too!