Wednesday, November 30, 2011

The Beaches at Last

Our second day dawned in Thailand.  We had slept in and today we would head for the beach.  Having equipped ourselves with beach towels and light clothing, we caught a two hour ferry to the island of Kho Phi Phi.  After a quick drive from the hotel, we pulled out of the dock and started the sea journey to the long awaited island beach resort.  We sat on the bow of the boat and watched several fishing vessels, and beautiful islands of varying size pass by.  The deck of the boat was packed with fellow travelers from around the world.  Soon we could make out the shape of a huge cliffy island.  The island’s shape became increasingly vivid as we turned around a corner and entered a bay surrounded by the sandy shores of Phi Phi Island.

After docking, we picked a boatman from the crowd waiting at the dock to take us to our beach stay.  We had to catch a short water taxi to our resort.  Our water taxi driver lead us onto a long, open, wooden boat.  In the middle section of the boat was a tarped area behind which the captain sat and controlled the motor.  The motor was big and square with visible moving chains and an open gas compartment.  Attached to the motor was a long poll with a propeller at the end to power and steer the boat.  I chose not to take pictures with my new camera because of the ocean spray.  Instead,  I used my old, homey, tourist cam.  In no time, we were approaching the destination of the day, the hot sand of Hat Yao, or long beach.

Soon, we were settling in to our long awaited beach resort illuminated by the setting sun.  We walked up the shore and hastily threw our gear into the room and headed to the waters of the Andaman Sea on the West cost of Thailand.  We played around for a short time.  The water was perfect, but soon it was getting dark.  We showered off and had dinner and then I had to get an early start on my blog so my family and I could watch a movie!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic! 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Swimming Pool and Clean Sheets? Oh My!

Last night, our family caught a 3AM flight from India to Thailand, after which we flew to a island called Phuket, feeling exhausted from the all nighter.  We stepped out of the airport and into sun and palm trees.  Outside the airport, several taxi drivers and tour agents crowded us, advertising their services, but I hardly noticed them.  After so long in India, with clawing and persistent vendors. it took me a long time to even realize these salespeople were talking to me.  I kept thinking that I should be stressed out about the crowd, but I was not. 

From the airport, we took a cab to Phuket Town, and eventually to our hotel.  Out of the car window, I took pictures with my new camera.  The ground outside was free of litter, and drivers on the road almost never honked.  This was a nice change from the street culture of India.  We checked into our hotel with a swimming pool and clean sheets.  I was surprised that I could actually walk on the bathroom floor with bare feet.  In India, most of the bathroom floors are wet and grubby.  What a change!

After settling in, I jumped into the swimming pool and felt the cool water on my relaxed skin.  When swimming was over, I walked with my family to eat a nice lunch of delicious Thai food, after which we walked back to the hotel for a four hour nap. 

After so much hard travel, Thailand feels so good and so relaxing.  Six months have gone by and we are officially half way done with our world trip.  I think the hardest traveling is over and I’m excited to explore the rest of Thailand.  Tomorrow we will take a boat to an island, Koh Phi Phi, where we will relax on a beach for however long we want!  I can’t wait!

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Good bye India, Hello Thailand!

We have finally finished the rickshaw rally and I am currently sitting in the hotel room, tired and thinking about my India experiences.  I found India to be a unique, interesting, and at times, chaotic country with amazing culture, but also many stressful situations.  I leave India with memories of powerful family connections, chaotic cities, and extremely stressful travel.

Of all the amazing things I have seen on this rally, the cities were insane.  I found the streets chaotic with few rules and drivers who swerve, honk, pass with head on traffic, and pay little attention to pedestrians.  The air and streets are unclean and smelly.  Within the cities, my most difficult experiences involved travel.

My travel experience in India was harrowing in all forms of transportation.  One of the hardest ways to travel was by train.  The trains and the stations were crowded with people.  I  frequently found our group racing back and forth beside the train searching for our car.  In this chaos though, eventually some helpful man would lead us to the right car.  Even with train tickets, we had to remove other passengers from our sleeping car beds so we could sleep.  Once, my dad got into quite a heated debate and had to push and shout to get other passengers to give us our seats.  Trains were scary, but rickshaws were downright dangerous.

As my readers know, we had a serious accident in our rickshaws.  After this experience, traveling in rickshaws became very scary and stressful for me.  Drivers often drove too fast, too close, and turned too quickly.  On several occasions, I was in tears while traveling the chaotic streets, fearing for my safety.  In fear of trains and rickshaws, we turned to travel by car.
The consequence of the rickshaw crash
Sadly, we found driving in cars also scary.  Choosing a long car ride instead of a crowded overnight train, we experienced heavy fog, several traffic jams, a break down, and an overall even longer and scarier ride.  Even with the chaos, however, I have met a number of extremely nice people in these crazy cities who bend over backwards to help us out along our journey.   

The most amazing aspect of our India adventure has been the people.  In the rural areas, the villagers helped each other and cared for one another like family.  It seemed as if entire villages help raise all the children.  They even called their fellow neighbors brother and sister.  The grown ups all fetched water from the community wells and herded their mammals of choice through the dirt paths of the village.  The people I met, invited me for a cup of tea, fed me, and became my friends.  The Indian doctors and members of our Rally for Health team, welcomed me, helped me, and as I left, even gave me gifts.

Leaving India, I am glad to be away form the stress and chaos but will miss the family connections I have seen and the friends I have met.   Even though India is one of the coolest places on earth... see ya in Thailand! 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Today my parents bought me a camera with full manual mode and I am so excited (and a little overwhelmed) to use it!    

Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Train Ride

This morning, I awoke after a long cold train ride into the dark fog of New Delhi.  It had grown so cold during the night that I had to share a bunk with my mom to keep out the dangerous chill of the ride.  Morning came and Abi, one of the Indian doctors on the team, woke up my parents, Ivan and me with the message that the New Delhi station was ahead with an arrival time of approximately thirty minutes.  The cabin blurred into motion, our group gathered our luggage from around the compartment and organized it into one big pile on one of the bunks.  It had been a tough night.  Everybody on our team was spread throughout the crowded train.  Some of us even had to jump off the moving train as it pulled away from the Bareilly station because there was no room.  They had to take a taxi to Delhi and have not yet arrived.

Upon arrival into the New Delhi station, the entire gang from all around the train hopped onto the platform, all with the same feeling of joy to be on stable ground and away from the stress of the moving metal tube.  The plan was for he Rally for Health team to stay at the medical college complex where the young Indian doctors from our group study, including Abi and Vicas.  Outside of the train station we caught two large vans for transport to the college campus.  We arrived at the college guest house and checked into our rooms. 

After settling in, my parents ate breakfast and ran errands while Ivan and I slept and regained our health and spirt that was taken by the long droning night on the train.  Later, Ivan, Abi, and I went to the school cafeteria to eat omelets and toast.  After breakfast Abi gave Ivan and me a tour of his college.  We walked into a building and saw surgery rooms, class rooms and labs where the students study.   

Tonight we will get a good night’s sleep and tomorrow night we will fly to Thailand.
I hope I will have a little more fun there.  I am feeling tired and uninspired and will appreciate the beaches of Thailand. 

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic! 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Filming with Seth

Today, my parents, Seth, Ivan and I stayed back at the orphanage while the rest of the team worked at the same clinic we worked yesterday.   All of us who stayed at the orphanage had a down day in our rooms, with occasional naps, except Ivan who was up and out the entire day.  The only thing that Seth and I did was film Seth playing with the kids from the orphanage.  This took place around lunch time, after which Seth took a long nap.  I had a fair amount of school work that I completed effortlessly, but the most exciting part of the day was filming with Seth. 

Seth and I walked into the orphanage cafeteria and set up the tripod in a small room with low, long tables and short, wooden chairs, behind which was a kitchen with sinks and dish racks.  While the camera was on the tripod, Seth taught me all about a video camera which is surprisingly like a digital photography camera.  I had to focus the camera with a nob on the lens and adjust exposure and white balance, all of which is adjusted on a still camera.  I got the video camera rigged and started recording Seth playing with the kids.  Around the tiny, dingy, white tables was a swarm of kids laughing and trying their best to communicate with the foreign white man.  Seth learned Hindi numbers from one to ten and the youngsters learned English numbers one through twenty. 

During filming, the lunch bell rang and a woman carrying a bowl of rice and dahl entered the room.  Dahl is a typical Indian lentil dish served over rice.  Soon kids started lining up in front of the woman and getting their plates loaded.  Seth and I acted quickly.  Seth, my video teacher, thought I was ready to take the big camera off the tripod and film the kids eating.  I felt honored that Seth put so much trust in me and my filming that he allowed me to hold the camera.

Kids Washing Dishes
That was basically my entire day, but the next few days to come will be much more interesting.  At midnight tonight, we will jump on an over night train to New Delhi, our last stop on the rickshaw rally.  From there, the Rally for Health gang will split up into their separate directions, some to home and some to other travel destinations.  Our family is leaving for the beaches of Thailand on the 28th!  It will feel so nice to be away from the chaos of India, but first we must venture overnight through chaos and travel to one of the biggest Indian cities, New Delhi.

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!

Denny, a close friend of ours, asked about the weather and climate.  This is a brief summary:  In Rajasthan, the air was steaming hot and languid, leaving it’s victims sluggish. The air in Uttar Pradesh is either too hot or too cold.  Also in Uttar Pradesh, the fog is thick in the morning and night, and the air is infested with bugs, some of which carry dangerous diseases.  The air everywhere is smoggy and polluted, with no rain. 



Friday, November 25, 2011

Going Manual

Today, we drove to a clinic to set up and help the sick locals in the town of Faridpur, very near the town we’re staying in, Bareilly.  Inside the clinic complex there were several out buildings.  One building had a room that we used for a pharmacy.  Another building had a room with desks and old hospital beds.  This is where the doctors would diagnose patients.  Next to the clinic was a primary school.  When we arrived, the kids were being picked up from school.  This seemed odd to me because we had not even had lunch yet.  They left in bike rickshaws pulling a caged wagon in which the kids would ride.  It looked like they were being carried away to prison.  Ivan and I took pictures of the bike rickshaws leaving the school. Once the kids left, my mom used the school room for a physical therapy area.

Later in the afternoon, Ivan taught me about the functions on manual cameras, such as  aperture and shutter speed.  He taught me this because he and Dad have talked about getting me a better quality camera with manual settings.  After taking some photos around the clinic, Ivan and I wandered the streets taking photos.  After ten minutes or so, my camera ran out of battery power. 

While taking pictures on the streets, I gained an appreciation for a new type of photography, film.  Due my dead camera battery, Ivan let me shoot a roll of film with his film camera.  I had only thirty-six pictures on the roll so every shot counted.  The film was black and white, so my pictures could not be beautiful in their colors and they had to be beautiful in composition.  I had to focus each shot by hand and change the aperture and shutter speed with a nob on the camera.  I cannot promise this, but Ivan said that he will scan the film and email it to me.  If he does that, I will put the photos on the blog. 

Ivan also taught me that the wider the aperture, the shallower the depth of field.  If the depth of field is shallow, then only a small subject in the picture is in focus and every thing else in the photo is blurry. If the depth of field is deep, then a large area of the picture is in perfect focus.  The shutter speed is how quickly the camera takes a picture.  If the shutter speed is very fast the camera lets in very little light.  Also, the picture is less blurry if the shutter speed is quick. If the shutter speed is slow, the camera lets in a lot of light.  If the aperture is wide, it lets in tons more light than if the aperture is small.  So say if you wanted a shallow depth of field and the light was very dark, you would have to turn the shutter speed way down to properly expose the picture.  These functions can only be changed with a nicer camera that has a manual mode.

After a day at the clinic, we drove back to the orphanage where I interviewed one of the clinic’s directors, an 80 year old American lady, named Lillian, who has lived in India for 60 years.  She took a steam freighter ship to India when she was twenty.  She was very chatty and happily talked to me about her life.  She had always wanted to be a P.E. teacher, but her mother had always wanted, in vain, to go to India to be a missionary.  So, Lillian gave up her PE teacher dream and came to India.  Though the interview was interesting, after a long day, the talking made me tired and I was not very inspired for this blog.  I will write more on the subject tomorrow.

Thank you for reading Rohan geographic!

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today the Rally for Health group drove from the medical center and hospital in Farrukhabad to a town named Barielly.  I woke up early this morning expecting to have a quick breakfast and be on our way.  We walked passed the construction to the cafeteria, but our leaders turned off the usual path before we arrived there.  We then realized that we were up for not only breakfast. 

We walked through an alleyway smelling of sewage and emerged into a new section of construction.  This building site seemed bigger, more important, and more professional.  The structure seemed much taller and wider.  In every nook and cranny all over the structure were workers wedged into every possible position.  Laborers passed boards and bricks to different floors by dropping and throwing the needed supplies.  Even though the construction workers in the USA are more trained and professional, the workers here seemed more skilled in teamwork. 

We passed the construction site and entered into a hospital and into a room with taped green fabric squares for floor tiles.  Around the room was a ring of plastic chairs surrounding two tables, one with drinks and one with food.  The drink table offered water and tea, and the food table was limited to chips, cookies, and sandwiches.  We chose not eat the sandwiches because the ingredients were raw cucumbers and tomatoes.  In India, anything raw has the risk of upsetting a Westerner's stomach due to bacteria.  We ate a limited breakfast of chips and cookies and soon were introduced to the president of the medical center.  He gave us a tour of the hospital. 

We were allowed into the emergency room, which looked bigger than most of the other ERs that we have seen in India, but still much smaller than an American ER.  There were a few patients inside, but we could not see them closely.  There seemed to be fewer medical gadgets and more space, and the beds seemed less modern.  The hallways throughout the hospital were open and not very active.  All along the hallways were doors with numbers and descriptions above them.  Even though some of the rooms had patients inside, some parts of the hospital were still under construction.

We walked back outside, where the cars and rickshaws were waiting for us.  We had rented new rickshaws that looked more colorful, comfortable and spacious.   Unknown at the time, the rickshaws were more of a pain than the ones we had used at the beginning of the rally.  I rode in a car, with Ivan, Mom, a translator and the driver.  The translator, was a kid about 16 who was the son of our driver. 

The most notable part of our drive was stopping at the Ganges, a holy and famous river for Hindus and non-Hindu Indians.  We stepped out of the car on the bridge into total chaos.  All around us were cars, bikes, trucks, rickshaws, and pedestrians, some of whom were beggars.  Everything and everybody came up to me at once so I knew I needed to get my observations and photos quickly!  I looked over the bridge and saw families in rowboats fishing and kids playing in the river.  On the shores were also families living in tents.  I was expecting to find burning bodies on ghats (a Hindu tradition we watched in Kathmandu at Pashupatinats)  but did not see anything of this sort.  I presume there are certain sections of the river used for play and others used for religious ceremonies such as burning bodies.  I watched for a while, but soon we all jumped back in our cars and rickshaws.

We continued on with a specific plan.  Our car would drive far ahead of the others to our night’s destination and get the situation and rooms set up there.  The other support car would stay behind with the rickshaws, which drive more slowly.  Also, by this time, the rickshaws were having trouble shifting, and some were breaking down.   Occasionally, the drivers would have to restart and tend to the vehicles. 

Up ahead, we had a harrowing drive of dodging in, out and around other cars, tractors, bikes, horse and oxen drawn carts, pedestrians, and trucks that could have exterminated every one in our car with even a slight accident.  When the scary drive was over, our car pulled into a sweet courtyard with flowers and a playground.  We were told by the hospitable headmistress that this is an orphanage, serving 55 kids from this area.  The headmistress showed us to our rooms where we settled in and took nice, warm showers. 

The gang showed up and a surprise awaited us.  We walked downstairs for dinner and were greeted by some of the orphans.  A line of children were waiting to bless us by placing a beaded neckless around our necks.

We were then ushered into a large room with tables and food.  It was Thanksgiving!  The entire group sat around a long rectangular table and ate mashed potatoes, chicken, gravy, peas and carrots, and soup.  For dessert, we all had a huge slab of chocolate ice cream and an amazing piece of cake.  I am thankful to be alive and healthy, and even though I have survived accidents, I am still well, and have an amazing support team of my two best friends, Mom and Dad.   

Thank you for reading Rohan Geographic!