Hi! Thanks for checking out my blog. At the moment, I'm studying public health at the Comprehensive Rural Health Project in Jamkhed, India. I'll use this blog to record what I learn about healthcare, India, and myself while I'm here in the rural East. For those of you who are chomping at the bit for details, don't worry, I'll update it daily. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


Today, I was a rockstar. Well, at least to a thousand Indian kids who we interrupted school for to tour their campus. Dr. Raj, the founder of the program I'm studying at, is also the chairman of this 1st grade through Senior College (the Indian equivalent of K-12) public school. When he became chairman twenty or so years ago, he went door to door with other administrators asking parents to send their children to the school instead of keeping them at home, with little success. They managed to convince enough parents to send their sons, but to these parents, to send their daughters to school was laughable. Today though, the school is teaming with bright, well-behaved kids, with just as many girls as there are boys. The government (usually an obstacle, but in this case helpful) pays the girls' tuition and subsidizes it for some of the boys. From what I've learned, it was quite a big step for the Indian government to write legislation that not only acknowledged, but sought to reverse gender discrimination. Anyway, it's a bit pretentious to say I was a rockstar, I'll admit. But we definitely had a warm welcome. And I, being the giant white bearded ogre in the group, seemed to get my fair share and more of stares, cheers, high-fives, outbursts of "Hallo!" and yes, autograph requests.

We attended an English class where the teacher was as animated as any I've ever seen. He read the students a story in Maharati-flavored English and extolled the main character's good deed with "This! This is the greatness of Mani! This is truly the greatness." We all smiled at his charisma. We secretly polled his students in the back of the class to find out if they liked their teacher, at which they all grinned and bobbled their heads side to side (this means yes in India... most of the time) They all agreed, "Yes, yes, he is very good teacher!" They were all very kind and well-behaved when we got to speak with them, and their teacher seemed to be doing a wonderful job.

When our guide motioned us to leave class (it was time for the kids to start learning again and stop being distracted by photo-happy foreigners), we went out to the playground where hundreds of children waited, cheering and waving their arms. The school's PE teacher motioned us over to the sand volleyball court to come and watch some of the students play. When they were short a few players, they asked if any of us wanted to play. Naturally, my hand shot into the air and in few seconds I found myself serving a volleyball over the net to some happy students on the other side. Let me tell you, this was way more exhilarating than any high school match I ever played in.

Eventually, we made our way back to CRHP and had a lecture on the global impact of CRHP. Since reading up on them several months ago, I've been in awe at what they've been able to do here, but I had no idea how many global leaders and dignitaries have reacted the same way. Ambassadors, Prime Ministers, and Ministry of Health directors from all of over the world (seriously, all over. Japan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, a bunch of countries in Africa and South America, Canada, and none other than the good old US of A) have visited here to do just what I'm doing--learn how to improve community health sustainably from one of the greatest visionaries global health has ever seen. Apparently there are dozens of governments and NGOs that have implemented CRHP's model, some even more successful than the CRHP here.

Being here has really helped me shape my plans for the future. I'm learning that building communities (and their overall health) long-term in India really isn't that fundamentally different from building communities long-term in the US. By working hard to address a community's needs, while treating people with respect and kindness, and always seeking to improve, the community's health will get better. And as we move into a new era of health care in the US, replete with all kinds of regulations and bureaucracy, we'll need motivated people who know what it takes to improve health and are willing to do it. I think that's what I want to be when I grow up.

Well, thanks for reading. Much love, bryce

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Seeing a Bit of the Flattening World

I'm reading a book called "The World is Flat" right now. It's about how globalization is flattening the world or, in other words, leveling the playing field for people who have a hard time getting a foothold in the global economy when it's dominated by western-born multinational corporations. As a sign of this flattening trend, the author opens the book talking about call center jobs being outsourced to some of India's supercities. This weekend, our class took a trip to Pune (pronounced "Poo-nuh" or "Poo-nay," it's up to you), one of these supercities, and it was, let me tell you, one wild ride.

Witnessing urban india firsthand was the highlight of the trip for me. There aren't really any flashy tourist spots in Pune, so went spent most of the two days exploring the city in rickshaws and eating at cool restaurants. If you've read some of my earlier posts, you'll know that Indian drivers have a style all their own, but I saw that times-10 this weekend. Drivers converge on spotlightless intersections at high speeds and from every direction. It's a race for the center of the intersection where everyone but the winner has to hit the brakes and wait their turn to cross. On every highway, two or three lanes are made to fit five or six lanes cars lined up side to side. When locals need to cross the street, they hold out a stiff arm to traffic and do it. Since this is the only way to cross a street we had to do it too, shuddering each time at an oncoming army of buses, economy cars, and rickshaws. Amazingly though, I didn't see one accident, or even one agitated driver. I would imagine that someone in the states who would readily flip another driver the bird for not using their blinker, might mellow out a bit after spending a day or two navigating Pune.

Anyway, lots more happened in Pune, but I can't write it all. Coolest thing though: I went to the Palace of Aga Khan, where Mohandas Ghandi was imprisoned for two years. His wife as well as one of his closest confidants died there. The palace is now a museum dedicated to Ghandi surrounded by beautiful gardens and landscaping. Since I just finished reading his autobiography last week, it was awesome standing where he, in writing, inspired the Indian people to claim their freedom. Ghandi, one might say, is the man.

Today we had a guest lecturer--a woman from Brooklyn College's MPH program. She led a discussion about nationalized health care systems and whether or not they can support sustainable health care solutions. It was great because today, for the first time since I've been here, my English major was relevant to the discussion. When the lecturer bought up the need we have to study the ethnographies, or cultural roots, of developing communities in order to introduce sustainable health programs in them, a bell rung in my brain. The week before I came here I was sitting in my Postmodern lit class when the professor started into the idea that the literary world is transitioning out of the Postmodern thinking and into a new area that looks at the cultures and religious traditions of marignalized groups. This point of doing this is to find meaning in the literature they produce. See, since the 60's, English departments and the scholars in them have been trying to give a voice to authors of traditionally silenced groups (women, African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Jewish writers and so on) by including their writing in the curriculum--essentially showing that we value their unique perspectives. Unfortunately this postmodern movement has gathered together all of these fragmented perspectives but come up with no cohesive way to make meaning of it all. Until recently. The "auto-ethnography" is a new literary form which allows writers from these subaltern groups to write about their lives, but in the context of their culture and religion. This allows readers and critics to have a better shot at making sense of the wide range of perspectives Postmodernism has to deal with. Anyway, that's what the whole discussion was about today: understanding people by studying their cultures and religion. Wow, enough of that blabbing.

We also talked about whether or not federal governments even have the ability to plan sustainable health systems. So as not to bore you with another rant like you endured in the last paragraph, let me assure that they can't. The health care world needs motivated leaders and willing volunteers who will consider local issues and local needs and involve communities in health improvement programs, not more federally mandated, top-down, money wasting, unequitable legislation. Well, not as much as we're seeing in the US at least. What I just wrote is huge oversimplification because I'm in a rush.

We also went to CRHP's farm yesterday. Being there made me want to grow a garden. Seriously. Here are some pics.

This is me being a giant.

This is on the back of a bullock cart. At this point I was holding on for my dear life.

This is me eating a tomato like a man of the land.

Anyway, I have to cut this short because class is coming up in a few minutes. Thanks for reading. Love, bryce

Thursday, July 8, 2010


You might not know this, but CRHP is home to the world's largest concentration of loud, black crows, I think. Every morning at fiveish they squawk and screech until I wake up and they don't stop until I've given up going back to sleep. I've mentioned this to other students a few times, asking them "How do you sleep with the birds so loud?" but they never seem to share my anguish. They notice the birds, but they're certainly not ripped out of sleep by them every morning. Well, I made a groundbreaking discovery the other day. I was looking out my window when I saw a bird's silhouette swoop right up to it with something hanging from its mouth, directly followed by the raucous screeching I have come to dread. I immediately threw open my window and bam! An entire nest of crows between my window and the shudders in my room, which are a few feet from my bed. When momma crow swoops in with a worm several times every morning, the baby crows go wild. Sadly, there's not much I can do. My window is two stories above the ground, the birds can't fly yet, and I'm way too scared to touch them.

So there's only a week left of the course. It's over on Friday, and my plane leaves the following Monday for Dubai and then onto SLC. It's sad that I'll be leaving so soon. I really love it here. I've made some friends I'll keep in touch with in the future and some contacts that will help me along my path. What a beautiful opportunity it has been.

This week a few of us started having bible study together in the mornings before class. I've never really done that before, except on my mission, but I was just teaching a few people from a lesson manual, with not much group participation. Here everyone is very participative and willing to share. It's funny, when I was getting ready to come here to India, I knew I would probably be the only one from the LDS faith, so I figured I would be able to share my beliefs with lots of other students. I forgot, however, that they know things about God and spirituality too, and that I might have something to learn from them. In our class, we gave "River of Life" presentations about the events of our lives have led us to CRHP, and one person in the bible study group suggested that we do something similar, instead describing events in our spiritual lives that have led us to where we are today spiritually. We're starting tomorrow and I can't wait.

We've had some really neat lectures over the last two days I think I should write about.

Yesterday, we had five people with leprosy come in and share their experience with the disease as well as how CRHP has helped them deal with it. They each talked about the fear they felt upon being diagnosed, especially considering how people with leprosy are typically ostracized in rural Indian communities. Shortly after finding out they had the disease, each man fortunately found his way to CRHP, where they taught him how to take care of himself. They taught him first that the disease was not a curse from God on him or his family, and that the deformities people associate with the disease can prevented almost entirely. Interesting fact about leprosy you might not know: it doesn't cause deformities directly. It does cause a loss of sensation in the hands and feet, but the deformities we generally associate with the disease result from accidents--things like burns, broken bones, and cuts that go unnoticed because of the numbness. Thanks to what they learned, these men were able to keep their social standing by simply taking care of their hands and feet. One man had had a few minor deformities that led to people avoiding him and not allowing him to come close to them, but the CRHP hired him as a food server in their kitchen and taught villagers that leprosy is not easily contagious. Soon after, the town accepted him back with open arms. The other men, have not only escaped the stigma, but have become successful leaders in their communities. It is amazing that each of these men were given a chance at normal lives just from a little bit of information shared with them about their disease. Demystifying medicine is one of CRHP's focuses. People, they think, should understand what the diseases they get really come from and what doctors are doing to them. It's a wonderful thing. The best moment of the lecture was at the end. The founder of CRHP, Dr. Raj Arole had been conducting the discussion, asking the leprosy patients questions and translating their answers for us. Before leaving the room, each patient approached to Raj and knelt to kiss his feet. They felt indebted to him for his kindness in helping them defeat their disease and the stigmas attached to it for the last thirty years. But what Raj did perfectly reflects CRHP's mission to help people reach their potential by understanding their own self worth. He stopped each of them before they reached his feet, looked them in their eyes, shook their hands and reminded them that he did not deserve such treatment. He is, he reminded them, their friend and equal. It was beautiful.

We had a lesson this morning on natural remedies to common diseases and injuries. Our teacher explained that herbal medicine is in many circumstances cheaper, easier to find, and just as effective as antibiotics or synthetic supplements. She passed around different plants to the class and explained circumstances they might be used under, especially when people have a hard time getting good care without bribing doctors and pharmacies.

Because it was the first time having a class on something we already knew a good amount about, the CRHP staff asked us to conduct a discussion about AIDS ourselves. Two of the medical students in the class did a fantastic job explaining the science of HIV/AIDS, in terms of how it's contracted, how it spreads, and how to treat it. Another student who worked in Botswana as a peace corps volunteer shared his on-the- ground experience working with AIDS victims and how Botswana's aid distribution infrastructure is weak and disorganized and often keeps people from getting the anti-retrovirals they need. As a result, people have little incentive to get tested because they don't even know if they'll get treatment. Unfortunately, PEPFAR (the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief,) which is the largest expenditure on foreign aid EVER, does not address Botswana's (and other countries') flawed infrastructure and essentially ties the hands of volunteers from giving practical advice and leading worthwhile discussions with villages because of some very narrow-minded policies. It is, in this volunteer's opinion, not a sustainable project. Too bad Western governments are still dumping billions and billions of dollars into it. Another student added that the money it costs to keep a Botswanan on anti-retrovirals for a year (with a spotty and ineffective supply at best) is the same amount it would cost to treat 1000 children with diarrhea who die by the thousands each year. Foreign aid could, it seems in this case, be spent more effectively in Botswana, whether that means fixing the infrastructure or reallocating funds to more pressing projects.It's really unfortunate.

Well, that's enough for today. I'll post again soon. Much love, Bryce

PS- I'm reading a new book called Fugitive Pieces, by Anne Michaels. It's in the running for my favorite ever. Check it out if you're like me and would rather trust someone else's judgment when you're choosing a book to read.

PPS-You also might be interested to know that I have a super gnarly ten-day beard.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Good suprises and less good surprises

It's been a while since I've posted, partially because I took a trip with my class for two days to Aurangabad (pronounced "Uh-wrong-uh-bad") to see some awesome caves and an old Muslim fort, and partially because my laptop short-circuited when I plugged it into a faulty electric outlet and it now refuses to turn on. I talked to CRHP's computer whiz to get his prognosis... he's optimistic, but some pricey repairs are definitely on the horizon. Anyway, the lesson learned here is a lesson I've been learning since I got here-- that is, there are a lot of things you get used to trusting in the United States that you can't trust when you're in India. For example, you can't trust that food or water from a friendly person won't make you violently sick. You also can't be sure that a store owner isn't trying to rip you off because you're an American. And now I know that you can't trust just any electrical outlet to give you electricity without frying your computer. Anyway, that's all the negativity you'll get for the rest of this post. I really do love this place and these people. I know they (and their government) just don't have the resources to correct all of these problems. Anyway, that's enough. On to the trip.

We got up bright and early Saturday morning to board the buses to Aurangabad. Because I don't have an alarm clock, I forced myself awake several times during the night so I wouldn't miss the trip, and as a result experienced some major sleep deprivation the next day. Fortunately, I thought, I'd be able to get some some sleep during the four hour drive. Unfortunately, I was not taking into account the very potent anti-sleep combo of potholes, traffic jams and being crammed into a very small space which is basically what the drive ended up being. The rental cars we drove were like limousines--the back seat had rows of seats facing each other along the sides of the car--except with about 2/3 less leg room. I'll post a picture soon so you can see the 6 of us sitting in the back of one of the cars--our legs staggered with the people across from us so we'd have room. All things considered though, I'm glad I got to sit in the back because I got to know five people really really well.

A lunch stop, a few car-sick stops, and five hours later, we arrived at the Aurangabad caves. We only saw 2 of the 20ish caves there, but the two we saw were spectacular. The first was the largest monolithic (one solid piece of rock) carving in the world. It's a temple that Hindus, Muslims and Jainists cut out of the side of a mountain from 600-800 AD. Our tour guide showed us most of the shrines and statues inside and told us the legends and mythology behind several of the gods and godesses etched into the walls. Being tourists, we took lots of pictures, and being american, lots of people wanted pictures with us. Also, by some stroke of luck I ran into a guy with a BYU sweatshirt on! He was muslim, didn't speak english, and had no idea what byu is, but I got a picture with him, and I've posted it here for you. The description I've given doesn't do much justice to how cool these caves are, so I'll post a few pictures that I hope will.

After the caves, we headed to a castle-looking "fort" that was built and controlled by Muslims up to the late 800's AD. Our very animated tour guide explained that this fort was never taken by force because of it's strategic design, complete with thick, sheer walls, secret passage ways and dark caves with guano-loaded bats. Seriously, the smell would have made Atilla the Hun think twice. Our tour guide led us through all of these and up to the highest turret, but not to the top of the fort which was, we counted, about 700 stairs up. Five of us decided we wanted to go beyond where any conquering army ever did and by reaching the top. When we got there, we were the only ones around, with the exception of a few employees. I've posted some pictures below. And a video if I can get it to work. Afterward, we practically ran down the mountain, crammed back into the cars and drove to a hotel that had been arranged for us.

The hotel owner was very charismatic and kind, probably because there aren't a lot of Americans around this time of year. Really quick, about that. Supposedly this is the "dry-season" in India for tourism because it's "so hot" and muggy. Honestly though, there have been one or two days in the last two weeks when the weather was relatively uncomfortable (but definitely not unbearable) and the rest has been beautiful. So, if you're thinking of traveling to India, beat the crowds (you get to pack lighter clothes too) and come during the summer. Everything is cheaper this time of year too. Anyway, the hotel owner took us into a nice dining room in the back where he'd set up a buffet of traditional Indian food (not all that different from what we eat here). It was sad though, he made a huge platter of fresh chopped vegetables for us, but because it's been drilled into us to not eat any fruits or vegetables that we haven't washed in clean water ourselves, no one touched the platter. After everyone went through the line, he carried the platter from table to table trying to get at least one person to eat a cucumber or something. To no avail. No one here likes vegetables enough to spend three days in bed with an IV and half-hourly trips to the toilet. After dinner,we played some cards, watched some of the world cup and went to bed. Mason was my roommate, and we got into a good discussion about some of our thoughts on the bible. He's a really spiritual guy, and I've learned a lot from him about what it means to be sincere with people and with God.

We were up early for breakfast and stopped at "the silk factory" on the way home for the women to do some shopping. Actually we men shopped too, but I think most of our purchases were really for women anyway. We got to watch a young weaver working at a silk spinning machine, which produced about 2.5 meters of woven silk per day. It's a hand operated and fast moving process. We got back on the road and made the journey home. Again, we had some really great conversations with our close-quartered seating and got to know each other well. Good times.

Fast forward to Monday night--last night. Instead of a normal dinner, our (very thoughtful) chefs and program directors arranged for a 4th of July celebration which were inaugurated with the singing of the American and Canadian national anthems, so as to not leave anyone out. Actually we have a girl here from England, which, as you might imagine, could make celebrating the United States' independence from its mother country a sort of awkward celebration, but she was a good sport and joined in. Dinner was hamburgers (veggie burgers for Indians in the group), french fries, and the usual indian cuisine. When things were wrapping up, Dr. Shobha informed us that her father, the founder of CRHP, had bought us a cake from a local bakery to celebrate our being here which we demolished. As a beautiful finale to the evening, CRHP arranged for a fireworks show that, in my opinion, puts American fireworks shows to shame. I guess rural Indians really know how to celebrate the 4th. I wonder what the villagers thought. I mean, what would go through your mind if you'd grown up hundreds of miles from modern society never having seen fireworks (or street lights for that matter) and suddenly you're jolted out of sleep by a deafening boom and your sky is bursting with bright colors? Guaranteed I'd think it was the second coming. Anyway, it was wonderful for us. Felt a little like home.

I am learning that the people here are very hospitable--from the villagers to our program directors. Whenever we go on village visits, they invite us into their homes, tell us about their families, and talk about what they're doing to earn money. They are very proud of what they have, even if it's not much. I talked with another girl here about this. She said that she'd worked with young girls living on welfare in Arkansas and learned that most of them were more or less content with living the rest of their lives on the government's tab. None of them felt much satisfaction with their lives, and none of them wanted to talk much about their home lives, but they relished getting weekly checks for doing nothing. So how, we wondered, can these poor Indian people feel proud enough to invite 20 Americans, whom they know come from wealthy homes, to come inside and see theirs? It goes to show, we think, that hard work goes a long way. People who work hard to make a living and know they're doing their best feel much more at peace and satisfied with their lives than people who don't, regardless of socioeconomic status. It's even more amazing to me that these humble Indian people exert themselves day in and day out in a region/country where efficacy (when your efforts get you somewhere) is not always a sure thing. It's really inspiring to see.

So I left dinner a little early to video chat via skype with my family. For some reason, we couldn't get the video camera to work here, so I could see my family on my screen, while they could only hear me. I, of course, took full advantage of this. After we'd been talking for a while and I knew my parents had forgotten that I could see them, I told them that being at CRHP has led me to decide that I'm going to spend the rest of my life living in rural India working for CRHP. Let me tell you, you have never seen eyebrows raise like I did then. I had a good laugh. Anyway, I'm all caught up with blogging. I'll check in again soon. Love, bryce

**Yes, yes, I know there are no pictures yet. I need to borrow somebody's camera-computer connection cord to do it. I will ASAP and put them on. Thanks for reading :)**

Friday, July 2, 2010

Weekend excursion

Hey, my class is taking a weekend trip to some caves about 200 miles away from here and I'm not bringing my computer. I'll post something when I get back, promise. Much love, bryce

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

An Overdue Post

Thanks to many of you for your encouraging emails and comments about my blog. They motivate me to keep pounding away at these keys. Here are some new friends I met on the way to dinner the other day.

Officially, it's been a few days since my last post, so I have a lot of things I should write about. If you can bear it, read the whole post, because the end is my favorite part. It's the most meaningful part at least. Also, as a preface, you should know that I just suffered a devastating loss(21-16, 18-21, 17-21) to my Korean friend In Soek at ping pong. It's his last night here, and it seems there was no way he was going out of here on a loss. I will, despite all of this, try togive an optimistic update on my life.

This week we've been learning a lot about women and their place in Indian society. Over the last several decades progress toward their equal rights and treatment has been steady, but incredibly slow. Women were for decades thought of as second-class citizens who belong doing menial chores and hard labor. In some communities this is still very much the case. In working to improve health in villages near Jamkhed, CRHP has spent the majority of its time and resources breaking down this and other types of discrimination, essentially, to give marginalized groups a sense of self-worth and efficacy. On Tuesday three women who work at CRHP came to our class to talk about their lives before they came here. We heard from them individually, with Dr. Raj asking them questions and translating their answers for us. The first woman, in her forties, told us about how her husband reacted to finding out that the child she would be delivering was a girl, not a boy. He drove her to a small shack miles out of town and left her there to deliver the baby on her own. After the immense stress of delivery, she had to clean the baby, cut the umbilical cord with a nearby stone, and take care of the baby before making the journey back into town. Fortunately, someone found her and took her and the baby back to her husband, but, as was the custom, her husband forced her to pay him 2000 rupees and give him several gifts before he would allow her back in the house. This, she says, was a fairly common practice at the time. It was the husband's way of reminding his wife that she should be grateful that he is merciful enough to let her live in his house.

Another girl talked about the way her father treated her when she was growing up. She began by telling us about how as a child she knew that her parents (both father and mother) favored her brothers over her. Her brothers were fed first at mealtime, they were not asked to work around the house, and they were sent off to school to get an education. She, on the other hand, was often left no dinner after her brothers had eaten, she and her mother stayed at home and worked all day, and she was told that she was not worth the money it would cost to educate her. If she went anywhere alone, her father would whip her till she bled, and if she ever spoke in the presense of a man, he would "come at her with a knife."

The third girl that spoke to us had been married off by her parents at the age of twelve to a man with AIDS. Her parents agreed to give her to this man even though they knew had AIDS because he did not require a dowry for her. A dowry is one of the many cultural practices in India that parades women as objects and men as their owners. Paying a dowry means that the parents of a girl pay the man they marry her off to because he is relieving their burden of having a daughter. Anyway, this girl quickly contracted AIDS after marrying the man, and eventually became pregnant. Her husband died leaving her and the unborn baby without a livelihood. Because they had the disease, the homeless mother was banished from the community. She begged her parents to take her back. They reluctantly agreed but began refusing to feed her, hoping, she thinks, that she would starve and die and no longer be their burden.

These practices are still representative of some Indian men and their disposition toward women. India has been and, by and large, continues to be a patriarchal society that ignores women and their needs. As of 2001, some populations had between 700 and 800 women for every 1000 men. That means for every thousand girls conceived, roughly 200 were aborted or abandoned at birth.

On a lighter note, each of these at some point women found their way to CRHP. At CRHP they found people that would listen to them and show love to them. They found people that would sit and eat with them (a major faux pas if the woman is low-caste or AIDS-infected). They were even given jobs. They learned what love is, and in time, had children they could share it with. One woman said, "Because of this love, I am always happy and always have a smile on my face." This same woman had in her adolescent years attempted suicide because she could not bear the thought of her father beating her again. Now she is a village health worker who talks openly about her past to students from all over the world. What a change that can come over people, and what healing occurs, when they are shown unconditional love.

New subject: Mason, Sui Kwon and I went to the market at Jamkhed yesterday, mainly just to walk around and enjoy the buzz of the city. Oh, and buy cool things if we saw them. We didn't see much out of the ordinary, but I think we made a fruit salesman's day when we bought about 8 kg of mangoes and a few pomegranates. The mangoes were/are delicious but I'm still deciding on how to go at the pomegranate. It looks sort of tricky. We also discovered a new fruit we'd never seen. I've posted a picture of it. It tastes like mushy brown sugar and cinnamon, which I promise is a good flavor.

During the trip In Soek wondered if Jamkhed has ice cream, so he started asking storeowners in broken english if they knew where we could find some. It's funny, In Soek is relatively new at speaking English, but we have noticed that the villagers respond better to his English than ours. Anyway, a couple of merchants pointed us in the right direction and within a few minutes we were chowing down on mango and butterscotch ice cream under the hot Indian sun. Heavenly.

After that we had dinner, hamburgers and french fries (our chefs are so thoughtful). At the end of dinner, the course coordinator, Alex, put on a movie produced by the one and only Riki Lake about the benefits of home birthing. According to this movie, hospital ob/gyns and insurance companies are evil and do not care about women or babies, and, for this reason, they are running a smear campaign against midwifery and natural birthing in general. Eh... it wasn't that bad actually. It really makes some good points about the benefits of women giving birth without drugs at home and not on their backs. A lot of research indicates that the on-your-back method we're used to seeing, and the trends of inducing labor and giving c-sections, are not healthy for the mother or the baby. It's mostly just convenient for doctors and nurses.

The highlight of the day was going on a village visit. CRHP has its program operating in about 40 nearby villages, so we went to see one, with the local village health worker as our tour guide. For starters, this village was unbelievably clean. After getting used to the putrid smell of Jamkhed, I guess I made the assumption that all of India is that way. Not so. This village had no sewage in the streets, no trash on the sidewalks and clean water sources were all over. We saw people washing their dishes and clothes and even trying to keep the steps of the well clean.

The village health worker herself was also very impressive. CRHP chooses low-caste illiterate woman to be responsible for the health of each community. This woman fit these qualifications but was surprisingly knowledgeable about health interventions and epidemiology. She was also very outspoken about how much she enjoys taking care of her community. As we walked from house to house it became clear that the people love and respect her for what she has taught them and how she has helped them. It was wonderful to see the fruits of CRHP in action--a clean village with healthy citizens and plenty of clean water for people to use.

I'm starting to see CRHP's work in a new way. Although it means addressing complex social issues with a wide range of disciplines and philosophies, improving health is really based on a few simple principles: showing love to people, respectfully teaching them(about anything, from basic hygiene to their self-worth), and then encouraging them to live what they have learned and share it with others. Sort of has a familiar ring, doesn't it? That's because they are principles of Christlike service. In my opinion, although they have slightly different purposes in mind, Jesus and CRHP are both genuinely concerned with improving people's lives and are determined to, by whatever means, make a difference for them, and that's why their foundations are essentially the same. I'm also learning that CRHP and Christianity are basically motivated by the same thing--that is, the fact that people are inherently valuable, no matter their--spiritual or temporal--poverty. Anyway, thanks for reading. Love you all, Bryce

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Mango Mayhem

I'm not known for being resourceful or good at problem solving, but believe you me, when there's a bag of mangoes on my bed, no knife to peel them with, and dinner is more than an hour off, simple objects in my immediate vicinity morph into multi-purpose supertools. Let me explain.

Yesterday, I went to the market with some girls from the class. It was fun walking through Jamkhed, which is loud and lively and has children everywhere that stop to wave and smile. Some of them can even yell to us a few English words. Anyway, we made our way down a narrow alley lined with merchants and food and trinkets until it opened into a massive gathering of fruit and vegetable stands. The first stand I stopped at was selling only mangoes and the little boy running it cut off a slice of the one he was holding and gave it to me. I put in my mouth and let me tell you, this was a glorious moment. I've never tasted a mango so sweet and soft. Anyway, I asked "Rupee Kay?" which means "How many rupees?" to which he answered "uhn fo fi-rupee"--One for five rupees. One for five rupees. Likely, you do not understand the gravity of this man's statement. Five rupees is worth a little less than a dime here. Like 9 cents. So, I got seven. Seven giant, succulent mangoes for about 65 cents altogether. After I bought them, we kept walking through the town until it started to pour rain. We ducked under a tarp from a fruit stand until a rickshaw--basically a go-ped with three wheels and a big metal cage for passengers to squeeze into--pulled up and offered us a ride back to CRHP which was about a mile away. For twenty rupees (about 40 cents, and split four ways), we thought it was a steal. We jumped in and he drove us home, the rickshaw creaking and rattling the whole way. Rickshaws are everywhere in India from what I've heard, but, you might be interested to know, rickshaws here are all known for having speakers and sub-woofers that make western car audio systems sound like ipod earbuds. Anyway... mangoes. So I took them into my room, set them on the bed, and scanned my room for a knife or something made for cutting things. Nothing of the sort. Anywhere. I shuffled through my desk and through some things in the bathroom, but to no avail. Nothing sharp. By this point, my heart rate had increased considerably. This called for action. I, almost instinctively, grabbed my passport from my left front pocket and sunk the thin, hard cardboard corner into the skin of the first mango I could grab. Since I'll need it to get through customs on my way home, I reasoned that I should not over-saturate the passport with mango juice. For a replacement, I grabbed my cell-phone charger from the wall and inserted one of the metal prongs (the part that plugs into the wall) into the slice I'd made with my passport and cut a rough line all the way around the mango. Unfortunately, since the prongs weren't long enough to pry the mango open, I had to find something a little longer, but still thin enough to fit between the layers of mango. Believe it or not, a 50-cent Euro coin in my desk which I was given in Amsterdam did the trick. In just minute or two I'd devoured that thing. And let me tell you, it was worth every awkward second of cutting my mango with random objects and every awkward second of having to clean them off after. Every single second.