Thursday, January 26, 2012

All This and Forensics, Too - Friday, January 27, 2012

I've been woefully remiss in posting for far too long.  So much is going on,
it seems the day is over - and it's well into the night when I finally put my head
on the pillow.  I certainly can't complain, however.  I am almost at my half
way mark of my four month India stay and I am already starting to feel so 
sad at the thought of leaving.  

Yesterday was Republic Day here,  Though India gained its independence 
August 15, 1947, Republic Day marks the date the Constitution came into force,
26 January 1950. I spent most of it at Oberoi Mall. Started my morning at their 
spa, indulging color, manicure, pedicure, etc...what a fabulous place. 
Every treatment had a massage with it and, oh, how glorious that was. As I was 
walking out, Salim, a slim young male employee approached me and really made 
my day. He said he'd wanted to tell me when I was there three weeks ago and 
he couldn't let me leave without speaking to me now. I was  blown away when 
he said that he was so impressed with me, that I was such a kind, lovely and 
gracious woman, talking to everyone, smiling. He ended his kind words by 
telling me, "You must have REALLY been something when you were young, 
you are so pretty now." You could have pushed me over and I was walking on 
clouds for hours.

Another unbelievable thing happened to me this week.  Sunday morning, 
early, I leave for Jaipur, to attend the wedding reception of a blogger 
friend, Bharat Kshatriya, of Unseen Rajasthan.  I had planned to leave 
from there to go to Delhi on February 1.  An email arrived from Virginia
Lynch, our founding president of the International Association of Forensic
Nurses.  I have known Virginia since that day in August 1992, when
 a group of us met in Minnesota to form IAFN.  I often refer to her as
the Pied Piper of our speciality since she did, indeed, draw hundreds of 
us into the field.

At any rate, Virginia wanted to know if I was still in India as she would
be in Jaipur from the 1st until the 5th, attending a huge international 
forensic conference, at which she would  be presenting!  When I told her
that I was actually going to be in Jaipur and planned to leave on the
1st, she invited me to stay, share her room at the conference hotel and see
some of our forensic colleagues who are helping to bring forensic
nursing to India.  It is such an incredible honor to do so and, in the 3
years since my forensic nursing position with San Francisco ended, I have
been very absent from this world, which was the passion of my life.  At
the end of the conference, I will accompany her to Patiala in the Punjab
where I will, again, be sharing in the world of forensics.

It has to be karma that all this is taking place.  It is unbelievable that I 
will be able to combine my love of  India with my love of forensics.  
Someone, indeed, is looking out for me.

In the meantime, I've been enjoying life with my friends in my village, 
getting out and about in Mumbai and traveling the auto rickshaws like a 
pro, rarely even screaming at near misses.  When Oprah was here 
recently, her comments about the traffic rivaled mine when I first got 
here.  She, too, wondered how seven lanes can converge into one!

Here are a few pictures taken here and there.

Thia is the Sahar Village home of my friends, Ode and
Lorna Santos and their sons, Nick and Jake.  I stayed here
fourteen years ago, for ten days, when I last visited India.

A night time scene across the compound from the Santos home

The streets of Mumbai

Almost every home I have visited, be it Hindu, Christian,
etc, has an altar - these garlands drape statues, pictures, etc...but
are not worn, lei-like, by people

Traffic is unusually light in this photo.  Often, crossing the street is
fraught with danger!

Many people live in these lean tos, raising their children,
cooking meals, making do as best they can.  People are so
resilient here.

Out shopping for vegetables with Lorna

Entrepreneurs are everywhere

Don't these vegetables look fabulous?

You can see the condition of many of the roads...but, everywhere,
women are wearing the most beautiful saris!

My two "sisters", Lorna and Alma, off to another party!

My first jhumka ( earring ) purchase

This is not a real mang tikka on my forehead but I have, since, 
purchased one.  Why don't I look like Aishwarya Rai?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Delhi Belly, Mumbai Motion...Whatever, It Felled Me! - January 20, 2012

I guess I shouldn't have been so smug.  Six weeks in India and no health
problems.  Of course, I've been pretty careful, eating mainly at home ( not
hard, as Lorna is a fabulous cook ), drinking their boiled water or using my
Steripen faithfully.

About 2PM on Tuesday, the 17th, I began to feel distinct unpleasant
rumblings in my tummy.  Immediately, I took two Lomotil tabs and got
horizontal.  Of course, I couldn't stay horizontal very long, what with
racing to the bathroom.  Next, I started emptying everything out of my
stomach, a most unpleasant process.  I know I've been a nurse for 45
years but emesis is something I've not handled well.  In fact, I would often
warn my patients of this in hopes it might stem their nausea ( it never did )
and it was all I could do not to join them as they retched.

Thankfully, a dear Indian blogger and friend, Shiju Sugunan ( you
must check his "Cranium Bolts" ... ... for
the most incredible photography ) helped me tremendously.  Since I
arrived in India, I have spoken to Shiju frequently and we text often and he
totally amazes me with his incredible wealth of knowledge in so many areas.
He was full of good advice about home remedies for "motion" as my malady
is called here.  Slowly but surely, I began to improve.  The chemist also
sent over some medications as did the village doctor ( give me a break,
what self respecting nurse will go to a doc because of diarrhea - unless
it's their own primary care provider!  Of course, this high and mighty
attitude of mine got me hospitalized for five days last year, to the tune of
$50,000! ).

I am finally up today and applying eyeshadow for a foray to Hong Kong
Bank.  Perhaps, this is not the wisest thing as an auto rickshaw ride could
wreak havoc with my borderline stability.  I will take my ziplock bag along.

I did feel I was on the road to recovery yesterday when I went to see
with whom Lorna was chatting outside the front door.  There, was a lovely
lady, in a sari, carrying a huge bundle on her head.  She set it down, lay
it open and it was filled with all sorts of wonderful vegetables, including my
favorite okra, which they call lady finger here.  "Wait, wait," I begged, "please
let me take some pictures."  She agreed but I could only photograph her
from behind.

It seems these ladies get up very early in the morning and travel by train from
Vasai, which has been a farming area for 5000 years, according to an India
Times article I read.  There was once a no development order for this area
but, as is the way with progress, urbanization and building are replacing
the farms, which were called by the British, "the lungs of Mumbai."

For now, though, ladies like these, go throughout the villages, bringing the
freshest of produce, and head for their train ride home when the bundles are

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Mellow Yellow Monday #156 - Mumbai Auto Rickshaws - January 16, 2012

According to Wikipedia, "An auto rickshaw is generally characterized 
by a sheet-metal body or open frame resting on three wheels, a canvas 
roof with drop-down sides, a small cabin in the front of the vehicle for the 
driver (sometimes called an auto-wallah), and seating space for up to
 three passengers in the rear. Newer models are generally fitted with 
an CNG-fueled scooter version of a 200cc four-stroke engine, with 
handlebar controls instead of a steering wheel".

They are used as a means of transportation in many parts of the world  
My experiences, especially in Thailand and India, have been a bit 
terrifying because of the overwhelming traffic.  In Mumbai, these 
open sided vehicles vie with other auto rickshaws - and motorcyles, 
buses, and cars for road space, often merging from several lanes 
into one and are  literally, inches apart from the next one. Horns 
blare and tempers flare and I just hold on for dear life, grasping
my purse and whatever belongings I have with me ( with the open 
sides, anyone can reach in and snatch my purse from the death grip 
of my hands ).  Somehow, I must be getting used to the adventure, 
however, because I find I can actually glance at the newspaper now, 
when on my merry way and, if it isn't rush hour when I wish I had on a 
motorcycle helmet and leather from head to toe, I might even finish 
an article!!  

I am participating in Mellow Yellow Monday - add your
bit of cheery yellow and join in the fun.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Camera Critters #197 - Feral Feline - January 14, 2012

There are so many feral cats around Sahar Village where I am staying in
Mumbai.  They seem to serve a purpose in keeping mice and rats, from the
nearby canal and cargo area, at bay.  Some of them seem to be quite plump
and sassy, indeed.  Here is one of them.

I am participating in Camera Critters #197 -
check out the site and join in the fun.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nick's 21st Birthday, Better Late Than Never - January 12, 2012

I must say, I've been a bit remiss about posting since I got to India.  It's not
that I haven't been busy...and I HAVE been taking pictures...but I am having
so much fun, I find myself, at 2AM, eyeing the computer, then looking
longingly at my bed.  Somehow, bed wins out.  Then, lathered with Odomos
cream to fend off the attacking swarms of mosquitoes, with the ceiling
fan swirling, I cover myself with a blanket and sleep happily until Kamlah
wakes me with a cup of fragrant chai in the morning.

I cannot believe the number of parties that take place around here!  Of
course, one would expect them with Christmas and New Year's but, then
there was the January 1st First Communion round of parties.  That is a
really big deal here in India, akin to a wedding celebration, almost.  I'll
have to post some of those pictures as well.  Also, there WAS a wedding
here in the compound...on December 28th.  And, next, on January 6th, was
my nephew ( well, for all practical purposes, he is my nephew - I've
dubbed him such and he has made me his Aunty ), Nick's, 21st
birthday.  When I asked Nick what he would like for this special
occasion, he asked for me to write him a poem.  He inherited my Canon
digital camera when I bought my new Canon G12 so he thought that
was more than sufficient.

So a poem he got and I told him it would appear on my blog...sweet
kids here, they think my blog is a big deal.

For Nick, On His 21st Birthday
From His American Aunty

I haven't spent much time with you,
I've lived so far away,
But I can't say how much it means,
To share your very special day.

I only saw you once before,
You were cute as you could be,
The sweetest little seven year old,
Having fun and running free.

I must say, you sure have changed,
You are quite the man,
Most handsome, and so nice to me,
Since my visit here began,

I have had such fun with you,
And it's such a thrill to me,
Every time I see you smile,
And say to me, "Aunty" .

You've made me feel so welcome,
As have your entourage of friends,
That's part of why I'll feel so sad,
When my special visit ends.

I know your folks are proud of you,
As you turn twenty-one,
I know you'll be a great success,
But don't forget to have some fun.

With much love, Nick, and all good wishes for the future.

Aunty Carmen

Of course, his mom and dad, my beloved friends, Ode and Lorna Santos
threw him an incredible party, with aunts and uncles contributing all sorts of 
great food for the event.  There was a DJ and the party was in full force 
until Mumbai's finest arrived about 2AM to tell us to shut the music down.  
We did tone it down a bit but kept on dancing for a couple hours more.

Beautiful Mumbai moon

The outdoor contingent

Usually, some finds a log to burn helps to keep the mosquitoes 
away and adds a little warmth for the cooler late night temperatures.

Family and neighbors, Vera Pereira and Lulu Santos

Me and my other sweet nephew, Jake Santos

Party animals

Proud mom, Lorna Santos, and Nick's true aunt, Sonia Santos

This is my beloved friend, Ode Santos, who I met on my first Royal 
Caribbean cruise, the Monarch of the Seas, on April 16, 1995, right after 
we sailed out San Juan.  He was the Champagne Bar bartender and,
during that seven day cruise, I spent a great deal of time there.  He was the
first Indian I ever met, really, and we became instant friends.  Through him,
I met so many other Indian crew and that was the start of my relationship 
with the country and so many people.  In February 1997, I spent ten days
in Mumbai as the guest of Santos and his wife, Lorna, and I am back with
them this visit, and with their boys, Nick and Jake.

Chef Kumar, who actually has been a chef for Royal Caribbean and
other cruise lines, whipped up several fabulous batches of pasta for
Nick's birthday party

This is me with Noel Pinto.  He parked my walker and appointed himself my champion
for the whole evening.  Every time I got up, he would be at my side to escort me.  If I
needed a drink ( it was Old Monk Spiced Rum for me all evening ), he would pour it
And he was a terrific dance partner!  No matter that Noel is about forty years younger
than me!!!.  

Vera Pereira

This is me, minus makeup.  I was racing out in the morning, 
late, and I had no time for it.  I don't think I've been out in public,
minus my eyeshadow, in 20 years.

It was really a great party.  All of Nick's friends are terrific and so much fun. 
The adults always join in the dancing, too, partly, I think, because the music is
something that everyone can enjoy - less toxic than what I often hear at home...
not a lot of ramp with profanity, insanity, or depravity.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Water Fountain - Ruby Tuesday - January 3, 2012

Several months ago, I met a fellow blogger, Jidhu Jose, an Indian computer
engineer, working in Qatar.  His website is beautiful - but, of course, he IS a computer
engineer.  It is filled with variety.  Recently, Jidhu asked if I might write
poetry to accompany some of his photography which I said I would be
glad to do from time to time.  Of course, now that I am in India, all I want
to do is be lazy, drink chai, enjoy village life, travel about the country
and, occasionally attend to my own blog.

I did write this poem, inspired by a remembered love ( see, I wasn't
always an old hard hearted lady ).  Jidhu posted it on his site -
and I am making it my blog for today.  I thought it would be part of
a Ruby Tuesday post but, sadly, I see that series has drawn to an
end with the advent of the new year.

The kiss from your lips,
Refreshes my soul,
Quenches my thirst,
Makes me once again whole.

You are life giving water,
I can't drink my fill,
Though I have all eternity,
I need more time still.

Carmen Henesy