I landed in Delhi on Thursday night and stayed 5 evenings in the city getting situated to life in India and oriented to work at the Antara Foundation. My first few days here were essentially spent resting, as I’ve been having difficulties adjusting my sleep schedule to the time difference here. In between naps I began to acquaint myself with the city surrounding my hotel, exploring markets, trying cafes, shopping at fruit stands and clothing stores, and generally just wandering about. My favorite finds so far have been the fruit stands as well as the many ice cream stands that are scattered within the streets. Fruit and Ice cream are my two favorite foods, and getting to have it here was just so comforting and made me feel very at home (it was also a great change of pace from airport food). I regret not taking more pictures, but I’ve been so lost in each moment and caught up in just taking in my surroundings that there hasn’t been time or many opportunities to take photos.
Monday was my first day of orientation at the Antara Foundation in their New Delhi offices. I am lucky in that the timing of my orientation coincided with that of another one of their fellows, as having another person to go through this process with has been comforting. The people working at Antara have been so kind and welcoming, and I feel so grateful for the amount of time and patience each person has taken in explaining the history, objectives, structure, and vastly detailed projects of the organization. We’ve been discussing and mapping out the many facets of their Akshada program, and I am astounded by it’s many “moving parts” so to say. The program is very comprehensive, and the structure of the health system in India is quite different from that of the United States, so it has taken me a little bit of extra time to understand that structure as well as how Antara is working with it.
Tuesday night the other fellow, Cearet, and I took an overnight train from Delhi to the city of Jhalawar, where I will be staying for the next 6 weeks. We arrived at around 6:00 AM and had just enough time to get ourselves cleaned up and prepared for our field orientation. We drove about 1.5 hours into the sector of Manoharthana, where we visited a community health center and were shown the maternity ward they were operating. We had the pleasure of meeting one of the four delivery room nurses, who is in charge of operating that block’s entire maternity department 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Thursday we drove to a village to observe the monthly Village Health and Nutrition Day.
En route to the village I had my first encounter with the effects of monsoon season. Several roads were heavily flooded, and we witnessed a couple of vehicles get stuck in the waters they had tried to pass through. Once we arrived at the anganwadi center that we were observing the VHND at, we found significant flooding engulfing the entrance and base of the building. I was able to get a picture of the flooding outside of the anganwadi center before we waded through the waters to get inside. Despite the raining and the flooding, many pregnant women, mothers, and their children traversed the elements to be seen and treated by the staff at the VHND.
I can’t even begin to write out everything I’ve seen, heard and felt here, and I use the word overwhelmed a lot but it’s the closest word I’ve found to capture where I’m at right now. I’m overwhelmed in the best possible way, I’m in awe of my surroundings, I’m learning so much, being humbled by the passion and energy of the people working around me, and so excited for what’s to come.