Thursday, 14 April 2011

Almost halfway- Steph

So I can't believe that I have been here almost two weeks now.  In some ways it feels like forever since I saw a bathroom with toilet paper and in others it feels that this place is just as foreign as it was when I walked out of the airport.  I try to remind myself everyday to try to be present in the moment and not count down the days, but I will be the first to admit, that I have caught myself counting down the days until I see my friends and family again.  Now, don't get me wrong I am still enjoying myself here 100%, but the so called "honeymoon" period has definitely come to a close.

Today we got to go to a Tibetan village in a valley very appropriately called "Happy Valley."  It was a beautiful little oasis filled with prayer flags and centered around an amazing temple.  We saw the most lovely Tibetan monks (and yes, the future geriatrician in me forced me to take a picture) and many children coming to clinic in their cute little school uniforms.  For the most part we didn't see anything too exciting medically speaking, just some coughs and colds and a few rashes.  The Tibetan people were just so grateful for the care they were receiving, it was wonderful to be there.

Otherwise we have just been hanging around Mussoorie.  I am becoming more and more aware of the nuances of Indian culture.  As I mentioned in my previous post, there is definitely a gender separation issue here in the clinics.  Today I worked with the American woman I mentioned last time (she is originally from India and now came back with her 4 children and husband).  She runs an ob/gyn and women's clinic.  We had one patient come in with some pretty vague complaints of rib pain and shortness of breath.  Of course there are emergent issues like a blood clot to the lung that would need to be ruled out, but really her story wasn't very worrisome and I know in the US she would be told to take some Ibuprofen and go on her way.  The physician sent the patient to get a few quick tests and once the patient left the room turned to us to say that she didn't really think that there was anything wrong with this patient but that Indian women are very oppressed and often abused, so it was important not only to rule out potential organic problems but also give the woman some much needed attention because a doctor's visit may be the only time really spent focusing on her.

I have learned recently that women here are less desirable children (which has led the government to make it illegal for a physician to determine the sex of a child by ultrasound).  When a woman is old enough, she gets married and then becomes a part of her husband's family, meaning her biological family invested in her for the first however many years of her life and then don't get to reap any benefit when she is older.  Concurrently, when she enters her husband's family her mother-in-law often abuses the new bride because she is "another mouth to feed."  It certainly is hard being a woman around here. I find myself wishing desperately that there was something I could do to help these women when I hear these things, but I know that this is something so ingrained in their culture that it will take years to dissolve.

Sorry for such a downer post, I really am having a lovely time, I guess it just wouldn't be fair to portray India as all sunshine and happiness because life here for many is far from it.

I do however hope that you have sunshine and happiness wherever you are!  I miss you all!!

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