A candid description of my trip from NYC to rural India and finally to U. of Michigan, Ross School of Business. Go Blue!

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Welcome to Dungarpur

Rajul and Payul (the internship coordinators) dropped me off at Pedo (my organization) yesterday. Dungarpur is a little over a 2 hour drive from Udaipur and the actual Pedo campus is located about 1/2 hour away from the city of Dungarpur. At first I was in an extreme state of shock (as well as very tired and sweaty) as this is the real deal... a true Indian experience. My boss and host father is the founder of the organization and he was very soft spoken at first which made me nervous. However, he introduced me to his daughter and things got immediately better. She is 23 and just finished her MBA at a school in northern Rajasthan. She is very smart, nice and speaks fluent English! My host mother was away working in the field all day but she returned in the evening and is also very warm and kind. I live in a seperate area above the family's house. There is a large terrace (apparently where we'll sleep when the electricity goes out at night), a small common area, my bedroom, another guestroom and then a bathroom. There is no shower so I'm bathing with buckets! I also have a dedicated servant boy, which is a little weird but he's very nice. It is extremeley hot and pretty humid here given we are pre-monsoon. Luckily, my host mom put an air cooler in my room. However, the electricity goes out due to old power grids for several hours a day as opposed to just 2 hours a day in Udaipur!

Perhaps the best thing about Dungarpur is the lack of mosquitos. They have some plant here called Neem which is actually used to make malaria medication and it seems to ward off all the mosquitos.

My commute to work is exactly 1 minute long, as I need only take a few steps from the house and I am at the office building! I am sharing an office with the daughter, who everbody calls Baby as she is the youngest of 3 children. There is internet so hopefully I can update my blog often. My host father/boss is a very impressive man. Everybody in Udaipur knows of Pedo and he started the whole thing from scratch in 1980. My host mom said she even built the first building with her own hands. There are pictures on the walls of my boss receiving awards over the years from a few different Indian Prime Ministers. He has been invited to Washington DC and Sweden among other places for all the work he has done. He even eradicated guinea worm from this area, which infects the water supply and causes painful disease in its carriers.

On the weekends, someone will drive me into Dugarpur proper and then I'll take the 2 hour highly uncomfortable bus ride back to Udaipur. Namrata, one of the program coordinators and the designated mom of the group, decided to move me to a weekend host family closer to her since I had so many sickness problems last week. So now I can see her house from mine which is nice because her house and family are great and so much fun. Namrata has been wonderful to me. Yesterday she took me to a trustworthy doctor so that I could get the name and dosage (they don't use prescriptions here) of some more allergy medication before leaving town. Then we spent an hour going from pharmacy to pharmacy trying to find said medication. I felt like a druggie out to score some smack. But eventually we got what I needed....when I use it I have to inject it using syringes like diabetes patients do with insulin!

My weekend family is truly an interesting bunch. Another intern, Shevani, is living with them full time. We get along very well and it's always an advantage to be around Shevani because she is the only intern actually from India and is an excellent translator. The family consists of a husband, wife, grandmother, a son in college and another in highschool. When we enter the house, it is customary that we get down on our knees to greet the grandmother and simulate kissing her feet. She is actually only a few years older than my mother, which makes me realize I probably should be a lot more respectful toward her when I get back to Jersey. The kissing feet thing is def. out though!

The first night at the weekend house I felt like Shevani was the prodigal daughter and I was her "special but slow" sister. Everybody was speaking in Hindi and I was completely lost. However, it didn't take too long for the questions to begin. The father asked all sorts of random stuff like how much money I made at my job and how much Shevani weighs. I answered; she refused! The next day Namrata told me that the family is so impressed with me. They seem to think I am picking up Hindi extremely quickly and are impressed by how well I have done considering my father died when I was still a child. They said I make much more in a year than an entire middle class Indian family. And to think I left all that behind to live in the middle of nowhere and bathe with buckets! :)

I don't know about picking up Hindi quickly, but I am trying my best. Both of my host moms want to learn English so we teach eachother. As for my work, I hope that I can contribute something to this great organization, but am totally fine with just being here and learning. Baby told me that plenty of visitors come through. In 2 days her brother's wife is coming back to live here after a year or so in Russia. I guess I'll have soemone else to struggle in the heat with. Her husband will also return in July, and I think a Dutch girl is also coming around then to volunteer. Finally, my host father said a good friend of his is coming to visit who is a political science professor at Duke. I look forward to some good ACC basketball talk, but will probably avoid the whole lacrosse thing. That's all for now. I'll post again when I have more to tell about my work.

Keep the comments coming...makes me feel loved. Namaste!


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