12 April 2016

India: week 2

The following week I started on medicine- much more my style. Also, slowly, I started to make friends- I literally didn't have friends the first week at all. Turns out my dorm was the antisocial one. Everyone eats in the same place and takes the same bus, so I gradually made friends.

On Tuesday we left clinics early and went out to lunch and Adi- one of the students who is from India- ordered everything for us- such as chapati/naan, daahl, paneer, chicken masala. Everything was so good and it cost about $1.50!

We are trying to book trips which is causing some of the most ridiculous stress. Indian systems are filled to the brim with beaurocracy. Everything is layered in five million layers of red tape. For example, to book train tickets you need to have an Indian phone number, which requires a passport and all this other bullshit. It's unbelievably annoying - but that's part of what travel is about, recognizing what your own system does well. 

We even went to the train station and tried to figure it it but it turns out India is a giant cluster, no way around it. we found out the trains were full for Kerala and we'd have to book emergency tickets, which open two days in advance of the date of departure. (more crazy beaurocracy!) 

then we went and got rose milk. My new obsession. Then I went home and slept from 6 pm to 6 am. This keeps happening and I think the heat is tiring. I don't know how people get anything done here. Maybe they don't. The number of times I've seen shop keepers asleep in their shops is ... Numerous.

Anyway so on Wednesday I found out there was an air conditioned gym. It's >100 every day, guys. HOW DID I NOT KNOW THIS? There is also an amazing pool, apparently. Anyway, like 25 of us went out to dinner and GOT BEERS and it was awesome. Food was overall so so; beer was expensive but I haven't drank beer in awhile.

I went running for the first time. I'd been timid because I only have American running shorts, but within the CMC campus it seems to be okay. There also are guards posted every 300m or so. If you say hello to them they stand up and salute you. It's my new favorite thing.

The whole international hostel went out last night and it was awesome. Everyone is friends with everyone which is my favorite kind of social network. The CMC campus is kind of like camp- there's a gym, cafeteria, and multiple hostels and you just end up all making friends with the people in your cabin, erm, hostel. I shared courses with my new friends Brett and Julien and we got paneer, tikka masala, daahl, and fuck tons of naan. So much naan. I'm not very good at only eating with my right hand yet, but today I watched slumdog millionaire and got some pointers. I still spill a lot.

I literally had a hangover from that one beer (it was a big beer!) the night before so I took a 5 hour nap. Man real life is gonna suck without nap time. 

On Friday we left for Mysore, which I'll blog about soon!

08 April 2016

vellore, south India, April 2016 Week 1

On rotation in Vellore India!

Week one
when I got to Chennai at 2 am their time, I was detained at immigration for two hours for having the wrong type of visa.i got the e-tourist one and apparently I should have lied and said I was a tourist here OR gone all the way to the embassy in NYC and gotten the student one (nope- wasn't gonna do that). because they told me I needed the student visa and made me go to my email and print out all sorts of bullshit further proving I was student-ing. I had to convince them also that this was not my residency, I was not making money. I was pretty calm about it because I was like, look you and I both know you're going to let me in. so suck it.

so that was fun. I will have to work on that. plus side: my luggage and my cab driver showed up.

then I took a 3 hour taxi to vellore. there were lots of cows in the streets and several times we drove straight at other cars, playing chicken until the last second. I was very delirious so I was more passively noting this. anyway, we got to CMC (Christian medical college) and I got my room. it has fans, which are good. the guest house is on a large campus of students- think almost like a college campus- but very shady, lots of trees, etc

so then I slept 2 hours woke up and had to make my way to CMC for a intro meeting with Ms. Sheela (everyone has a Ms or Mr before their name. so cute). the guy at the front desk said CMC was downtown, I would have to take a bus. so then I walked around and got lost before even leaving campus and had my first "what that fuck did I get myself into" thought. cried a little. then moved on. took the bus downtown and didn't know where to go so I got off when all these people wearing stethescopes  got off. seemed like a pretty safe bet overall. I walked into the hospy and wandered around and no one could tell me where I was supposed to meet this Sheela person. at this point I'm an hour late but it's India and also, fuck it. Finally I was directed to the development office where a nice Englishman explained I was in the wrong place. so I had to leave and take the bus BACK. this took awhile as the first 2-3 buses were so packed with people that people were hanging off the sides, like full blown India style, which I am not ready for, I need at least some paneer before I do that. So I took the bus and got back onto the original campus and found Ms. Sheela at the next building over from where I was staying. (isn't it ironic? don't you think?)

Sheela gave me my week's assignment. "are you interested in ob/gyn?" I laughed. She said, well, "you're going to ob/gyn for the week". there goes my whole life philosophy of never having to see another woman's placenta again. dreams shattered.

Then I took a 7 hour nap. Then I just bought indian clothes to wear to work,.. It involved leggings so I am okay with this. In fact I may bring this look back. Now I'm trying to figure out how to make the internet work on my phone. and figure out where I can eat. I've been eating only gummies for two straight days.

Anyway so this morning I had masala dosai (which is like a crepe with potatoes and masala) at the canteen (which is the cafeteria) and again saw my German friend. She has been here three weeks and is quite a gunner. She studies all the time and hasn't travelled anywhere but she's super nice and knows everyone. On the bus I met a Swedish girl who was nice. I think it'd probably help to meet people if I had a real phone but I'm kind of lazy about that. 

Oh I saw a monkey. It stepped on my foot actually.

I went home and took a nap and then went to the canteen for dinner by myself and didn't see anyone I met earlier. I asked if there were any samosas and the guy did that bobble side head shake thing. Why do Indians do that and what does it mean? I can't figure out if it means "yes" "no" "you ignorant hussy" or "I'm kindly putting up with you". So I could not tell if there were samosas so I switched my request to the special on the board. When I brought my ticket over the girl looked at it and laughed. She showed it to the cook staff and they laughed. I openly asked, "what is funny?" And they all did the bobble thing. 

So the thing came it was like curry noodles and very artisanally arranged on the plate. When i came up to get it the entire staff came up to watch me and they all started giggling. I should mention this thing cost 125 rupees whereas most things are like 30? So I imagine this is the equivalent of someone ordering ribeye at Maine Med or something . Whatever, it was delicious.

On Thursday I ended up going out to dinner with some people from the hostel. One of the guys brought us to a nice restaurant and we ordered what I would consider classical Indian food- naan, chicken curry, fish, paneer masala. 
It was really delicious. Then we went and got rose milk on the side of the road. Rose milk is exactly how it sounds- milk with rose flavor. 

On Friday I had my last day of OB/GYN. It was some of the residents last days too and they bought a cream cake, which we ate with our hands. Did I mention I didn't get dysentery yet? Not that I got dysentery from this cake, but at this point I didn't even think about the cream and shit that likely could have produced it.

That night some guys from the hostel next door went with me to the Vellore Fort. Unfortunately Friday is a holy day so Part of it was closed so we just walked around the Hindu temple. There were so many monkeys!

Then me and two of the guys decided to travel around the markets. One of them wanted to try pan and I agreed not knowing what this was. It turns out it's like tobacco rolled up in a bunch of leaves with some spicy white sauce on top. We took a bite and it was terrible and as I mowed through it I looked up and a bunch of guys at the next stall were quite literally pointing and laughing at us. So we took a picture with some of them.

Wandered around the markets more and bought dohtis (those clothes men wear like diapers?) and then set back. The next day I went to Pondicherry.

Other interesting tidbits about India-
 The coffee system is interesting. They boil coffee in one pot on the stove and then milk in another pot. When you order they combine them very dramatically and give you two cups- one for pouring the hot liquid into to cool off.

There is so much fresh juice. If you order orange juice, it will be made in front of you.

There is no toilet paper- this appears to be a trend anywhere outside the U.S.- and what you're supposed to do is use your left thumb to wipe your but and then there are buckets to rinse. So you NEVER EVER eat with your left thumb.

It's very hard to find alcohol here especially for take away. Also apparently women can't buy it.

Monkeys are everywhere- hanging off the windows in the hospital, outside the canteens (cafeterias)- and they will try to steal your shit.

Women wear the most beautiful saris. In fact in the hospital nurses and CNAs wear saris; doctors wear the long dress shirts and leggings that is very comfortable (I wish I could bring this look back!)

The predominant religion is Hindi; but many people also are Muslim or Christian. Everyone seems to exist pretty much in harmony. 

Sometimes Indian men hold hands.

There are no side walks in India. Except in Pondy.

Nashville, March 2016

Torres del Paine National Park, Chilean Patagonia, February 2016

el Calafate, Argentinian Patagonia, February 2016

From Buenos Aires we took another flight to El Calafate, the Argentinian hub for Patagonia. In case you're wondering where Patagonia is exactly, it doesn't really have strict boundaries. It essentially encompasses the whole south western region of South America across Chile and Argentina. 

El calafate is the hub for the parque de los glaciares and also about five hours from Torres del Paine. The town itself is a tourist town for hikers- think like Breckinridge or something. Interestingly, as it turns out, Argentina often runs out of money, and when they do, they don't deliver any money to El Calafate. So we spent a decent amount of time hunting down ATMs and waiting in line only to discover there wasn't any money in the town. 

In el calafate we made some interesting kiwi and Australian friends. One of whom, Steve, had spent days in town trying just to hunt down the ATM. 

From el calafate we took a day trip to el perrito moreno, one of the largest remaining glaciers on earth. Driving in was incredible. We stopped at an estancia- farm- on the way in and hung out with guanacos (Argentinian llamas) and sheep and stuff and drank maté. We drove in and a rainbow appeared over the first sight of the glacier. What?!?
I think pictures do it better justice, but just to say - everywhere you looked was incredible. The water is a nice greenish blue due to the sediments in the glacier water- this is called leche de glaciar. You are actually encouraged to drink it!

We took a ferry near the glacier and from up close you can hear that the glacier is actually ALIVE. It's moving and creaking and bits falling off- but according to the Rangers there, this wasn't global warming- as this glacier is actually being created at the same rate it is destroyed.

Then we walked around for awhile. And almost missed our bus back. I don't deal well with situations like that. 

El chalten 
From el calafate we took a three hour bus north to el chalten. I had heard of this place as a hikers or climbers paradise- and yes, that's what it is. It's home to the famous fitz Roy, a climber's dream, and has hiking trails stemming out from every direction in the town.

Oh here's a picture of the drive in: ***

we stayed in a Jenky hostel with terrible wifi, but no pasa nada, the hiking was incredible. The first day we started a hike to laguna de los torres. This hike took us on the back side of fitz Roy, in front of a beautiful lake. That was likely about 10 km of easy hiking. 

From there, lee suggested we try to walk around the lake to the glacier on the other side. It didn't seem so hard, really. In Theory. But the walk was all scree and it took three hours in the blazing sun, resulting what turned out to be an amazing farmer's tan. It turns out we couldn't much walk on the glacier but it was amazing just to be there to see it and hear it. Glaciers are alive, as it turns out. 

As we scampered back down during sunset we ran into these crazy birds. Like giant, woodpecking, hunger games birds. 

Then we drank some pisco sour and collapsed. 

The next day we headed up to Laguna de Los Tres, which apparently has the most amazing view of Fitz Roy. This turned out to be true. We ran into our kiwi friends from Calafate as well! The end of the trail was quite steep but with an amazing payoff. For me, one of the most amazing things was watching the colors of the water change with different light. We got really lucky in Chalten because we had really good weather with views all the time. 

Buenos Aires, February 2016

Patagonia was a trip of a lifetime. I had wanted to go there for years and hike in Torres del Paine- purely because I had seen the photos enough to know that I had to go there one day. The time seemed perfect to go in February- which is their summer, and thus less likely to get sucked into a blizzard. I found two friends equally as stoked and we set off.

Buenos aires
We chose to fly into buenos aires (instead of Santiago de Chile) purely because we heard BA was a city not to be missed. This turned out to be true. After a grueling 20 hours of flying we rolled into BA. The city is huge. The main areas of the city are a mix of gritty street art, European architecture, and wide highways with shady trees. Kind of like if Madrid, Berlin, and Paris got together and had a kid who loved street art, it would be Buenos Aires.

We stayed in a grungy party hostel in San Telmo (the artsy, artisan part of the city) which was pretty nasty and smelled like sweat and moth balls. That was so so. We stayed here at the end too and there was a whole jazz ensemble living next door who rocked some serious jazz flute all night, every night. Yikes.

We spent three days in Buenos Aires, and there were a few highlights:
- a bar in San Telmo called lebowski's whose principal drink was the White Russian and filled with eclectic stuff. The bartender was likely the most stoked person I had ever met and insisted on making us these drinks called "jagerinha" which is just jäger and limes. Yikes.
- an open antique market in San Telmo which sold everything from antique radios to old cellos to a human skull. Yep.
- the gay club we went to in Palermo called "Amerika" which had free sex on the beach drinks with cover and also had hoses attached to all the lights. At three AM, the entire club got doused. Also, I got hit on an unfair amount for a gay club. 
- the famous Recoletos cemetery where lots of famous people are buried, including Evita
- that time we treated ourselves to a wine tasting 
- then right after went to a place called "La Carniceria" and had delicious beef and gin and tonic, met another medical student there, and went with him to smoke cigars and drink whiskey

we returned to Buenos Aires after our trek for two more days. Did I mention the summer climate? Sweltering would be putting it delicately. You know when you take a shower and you're already sweating by the time the shower is over? It was like that.

In any case, on our return we had some more adventures:
- went to the oldest café in Argentina and got some fancy cafe
- watched flamenco at a dance class, which was kind of fun because we got to see real people
Doing it and not professionals
- ended up at this weird outdoor concert by the Teatro?
-tried to go to the Teatro and convince them we were medical students on rotation there and failed
- lee ate a bad empanada and was holed up with some form of dysentery, so will and I went off and bought lots of artwork in San Telmo. We found some really hip stores with awesome art and will invested in a sheepskin
- we found a really awesome bar with home brewed beer. The Portland in me was thrilled.

Highlights from the West Coast Interview trail, December 2015

On rotation in Colorado, October 2015

On rotation in California, July 2015

Peru, May 2015