Getting Settled In
|view from the roof of LVPEI|
As the sun shines through the window, the dawning of our second week in India, there is a comfort that falls over me. I feel safe here. Whether it's the lock on the door, or Alex being beside me, or my personal favourite - the nightwatchman who sits outside our dorm house with a massive stick, there is something about Kismatpur that makes me feel protected. We've started to make friends here, beautiful people who are curious to know us better, what brought us to their homeland. Alex and I joke that we've been asked "have you had breakfast?" more in the past few days than in the past 18 years.
When we first arrived in India, Bharavi told us to remember one thing, that "there is no such thing as good and bad culture, just different culture." So while at times, as in any place, there are moments where I think I will never get used to this; whether it is the curry at breakfast or the infamous Indian head shake, I am constantly reminding myself to just embrace it. In Hyderabad, going with the flow seems to be the easiest thing to do.
On Saturday we have a half day so in the afternoon we go to the Big Bazaar shopping centre with Yamuna to buy clothes to teach in. I buy three tops (although mine look like dresses because I'm so short!) We wear them with leggings as a shalwar kameez. My favourite is the one with the cute elephants, but I love them all. They are so comfortable and lightweight.
Sunday is our day off but we're so exhausted that we sleep in past breakfast and don't do much at all. We're awake by the time the matron of the hostel (technically her title is warden but we already have bars on our windows and saying warden makes kismatpur sound like a prison and it isn't really). Housekeeping come in and mop and check our water heater and plugs while a group of strangers gather at our door gossiping in Hindi. The matron doesn't speak very much English, but if there is one thing no one told me about life in India, it's that you live with a crowd of onlookers. Every photo on the wall is examined in great detail and pointed at. "Who this?" "My mother" *this is translated to the crowd outside our door* followed by a chorus of "very slim... " ahhh very slim." "This?" "My brothers" "Married?" "One of them is married yes" "Not all married?" "No" *again, all translated* "not all married.. hmm" "love marriage?" "yes" "you like her? parents approve?" "yes!"
We also did our first washing! On the wall of the hostel there is a wall of rules ( I think there is about 60 in total and I've no doubt broken about half already) and one of them mentioned being able to get someone to do your washing, but when we asked about washing we were told their was no one currently. Some people get it sent out, but we decided just to do it for ourselves. There is a big communal washing space down on the first floor and I think it's fair to say our attempt at handwashing; from hanging up our washing line since all of them were taken to using the "wrong soap" and my first spectacular fall of the year (I slipped and fell on the wet tiles and made such a loud thump people on both levels came out of their rooms to see what was going on!) But we got there eventually.
Some of our friends in the hostel told us they went to church at five on Sunday nights and we said we would go. So on Sunday night I convince Alex to come with me and we get on the shuttle. It goes all around picking people up and so we see a lot more of Kismatpur than we have before. It's called the Rock Church and it turns out it is a Pentecost Church. They are all really friendly but there is a lot of singing and dancing which makes us laugh. I haven't decided whether or not I'll go back, but it was an experience none the less.
Right now our day starts at 7.30 am when we get up (or at least, it's the time we've set our alarms to wake us up, getting up on the other hand...) we have breakfast sometime between 8-8.30, depending on the day. We love the walk to the canteen because it's just a constant stream of "good morning mam!" "hello mam!" and it's really nice. Although on Tuesdays and Thursdays starting next week we'll be teaching the vision technicians at Kismatpur at 7.45 -8.30 so we'll need to get up very early! Our schedule isn't set in stone yet though, so currently every day is different!
At 9.15 the shuttle car going to the hospital leaves. It's our favourite because it's quicker, and also because last week the driver stopped to save a puppy on the road. We sat in the backseat watching him trying to shoo it (falling in the process) before lifting up the tiny little thing and carrying it over to the other side of the road. It's one of the most heartwarming things I've ever seen. Although their are no seatbelts in the back we're all squished in pretty tight. We arrive at the hospital about 10:30am and walk up to the first floor where the education department is located.
From 10.30 onwards we teach. Depending on who else is teaching we will teach the ONAs for an hour but sometimes two hours. Then we have lunch. We mostly eat in the hospital canteen, but the other day we finally gave in to temptation and went to McDonalds. It's just a minute away from the hospital and when you've been eating spicy curry for days on end, even McDonalds tastes amazing. The best thing about Banjara Hills is how central we are. We take about an hour for lunch. After lunch from about we go the library and plan lessons and write emails home and browse our basically-every-site-is-blocked internet. Then we work in rehabilitation from 2-4. In rehab there is so much going on, it's where they help people of all ages who have lost their sight relearn how to do things like cook, use the computer, learn braille, and do arts & crafts like making bags and candles. Right now we're recording audio books which is a strange but fun thing to do.
Come October we'll have another class between 4.30-6.30 but right now we're free so we prepare more lessons and get snacks. We've made the amazing and yet terrible discovery of the snack bar on the ground floor, which is so incredibly reasonable and I'm kind of in love with it. The food at LVPEI is all vegetarian so it's kind of my food heaven, even if it's spicy sometimes. There is a bus back to the hostel at 7pm which is tiny and you get thrown about on it, that is if you manage to get a seat - people thrown things like their lab-coats, bags, bottles, through the window to reserve seats. But there is a bigger bus at 7.30 which is more comfortable and easier to get a seat on so that's the one we often get. It takes about an hour and a half to get home at night whatever bus you're on, because traffic is crazy, so it doesn't really matter what bus you get.
LV Prasad is absolutely huge, and there is so much going on. Aside from the education department where we work, there is also a big library, an eye bank, a rehabilitation centre & research facility and an art gallery and guest house. It works so that those who can afford to pay extra pay either 3x or 2x more than normal patients to allow them to treat over 50% of patients who wouldn't otherwise be able to afford any eye care, for free. All treatment provided is the same, simply that the ones who pay more get access to the art gallery and guest house during their stay. Alex and I think we might have bumped into the LVPEI founder today, Dr Rao, but we're not 100% sure. We said hello anyway. It's strange because we use him as an example of speaking formally when we are teaching the nurses and we've seen a lot of photos of him, but this is the first time we've actually seen him.
|Alex & Me with the ONAs|
|in height order - alex is the tallest but I'm not the smallest!|
|entrance to Kismatpur|
|monsoon rain outside our hostel building|
|the tunnel path that connects the three buildings at Kismatpur|
|alex being a sugar cane juice model|
|birthday party preparations|
|our first india washing!|
|the gardens at Kismatpur|
|monkeys on the roof at Kismatpur!|
|all ready for work|
|the research room at LVPEI|
|in the auto with Yamuna|
|my beauty takes alex's breath away|
|the shopping district|
|I think this one is my favourite|
|my first Indian mcdonalds!|