The details

Coming back so close to the beginning of the school year has been an overwhelming process. After upwards of 24 hours of travel, my mom and I moved all of my things into my new house. I have a lot of things. I was greeted with a flood of familiar faces and things that I know so well but everything still felt kind of different. There’s comfort in the familiar, but I still find myself feeling oddly unsettled.

One of my housemates was also a fellow in this program, so we’ve been talking a lot together about India. It’s been so difficult trying to talk to other people about my experience and explain everything in an accurate and meaningful way, so having someone who totally understands where I am at has been wonderful. We tried to sit down one day and have an actual conversation about our time in India, but neither of us know what to say. Instead, we keep bringing up little details here and there, having small asides and glimpses into what we saw and felt. I think that because nearly everything in India was so different from my life here, there’s no way to address it all in one conversation. I feel like I can only explain the little details, one at a time to people. But no one can understand the magnitude of the differences or how all these subtle little changes compounded together into an experience that didn’t actually feel that different.

Words keep failing me. Looking back, I don’t really know if I actually processed or recognized everything I was seeing. I think there’s so much stimulation and so much change that I couldn’t appreciate it all at once. While in India, I found myself noticing a lot of the little details that were similar to what was at home, like the maggi noodles that tasted like ramen in the states or the trees that were the same as the ones in my grandmother’s yard. Now that I’m home, I have been noticing all of the little details that are different, like the milk and the queues and the busy streets.

Ultimately, I really regret not giving myself more time to adjust to being back here. I wish that I had more time to process everything that had happened and really figure out what I am feeling. But the academic year has begun, and school, work, and all my responsibilities are forcing me to think about other things instead. I have my pictures, I have my journals, I have the work I did there, and I have my intentions to go back. I am so thankful for everyone who has made this opportunity possible for me. I have a hard time expressing the overwhelming amount of gratitude I am feeling but I am beyond grateful for the last 7 weeks of my life that I will never fully be able to explain.


These women are talking to the Accredited Social Health Activist (the woman wearing blue) for their village. The ASHA provides health counseling to her beneficiaries and assists them in pursuing necessary health services.

It is my final night in India and I’m overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts. I left Jhalawar Friday evening and spent the weekend in Delhi with Cearet and her family. This is all so bittersweet. I really cannot find the words to explain how grateful and thankful I am to have been here and to have been granted access into the lives and culture of so many beautiful people and places. I am humbled, I am thankful, I am sad, I am excited, I am nervous, I am elated, I am confused.

This is a picture of the road and homes we would walk past daily to get to the market. Flooding from the monsoon spread quickly.

Everything is ending in a way that I would describe as “full circle.” I stayed in the same hotel that I spent my first nights in Delhi at. Having this weekend in Delhi before returning to the states has been really helpful for the transition out of rural Rajasthan. I found myself close to tears in a Starbucks, and paralyzed with overstimulation in a shopping mall. The gradual process of becoming reacclimatized to western culture is overwhelming, and I am scared of losing the intensity of my emotions and memories as I fall back into my routine and lifestyle at home.

The woman pictured in this photo is an anganwadi worker, and here she is providing hot cooked meals to children in her village. Anganwadi centers are similar to nurseries with an emphasis on nutritional services. The hot cooked meals are a service provided by the government to combat high rates of childhood malnutrition in rural sectors of Rajasthan. 

  I’ve been asked countless times, “so how did you like the fellowship?” and each time I freeze up and find the words escape my grasp. I enjoyed it greatly, and am leaving with the most meaningful and fulfilling experience of my life thus far. But there were still days where I struggled with the distance and differences of living in a place so different from what I am accustomed to and some days I found myself feeling nothing at all. I don’t know how to summarize the complexity of everything that has occurred. I have been processing a lot of my thoughts, feelings, and the things I have saw retroactively, and am still working to better understand and explain the intensity and complexity of my last 7 weeks.

The three women on the left are frontline workers that we interviewed for one of our case studies. They provide primary health care and nutrition services to the women and children in their village.

As I was leaving Cearet’s home, her father asked me “Chalein?” I asked if the word meant ready, and he replied that it was more of a “Let’s go!” My heart lifted and I explained how this set of words keeps reappearing in my life in different ways. It was a strange coincidence and Cearet and I agreed that the word had a positive and uplifting feel to it. As we hugged on the metro line and said goodbye to one another we repeated “chalein.” This ending feels much less scary and sad as I begin to look at it as the beginning of an opportunity to start giving more and contributing to the change that is needed in the world. I wrote in one of my earlier blog posts that I would describe India as “a lot going on.” I still haven’t found a better way to describe everything here and everything  that I’m feeling.   It’s very frustrating not being able to articulate where I am at right now,  but to compensate for my absence of words I have included pictures of some of the people I met and the context of such. As words fail me and I struggle with the end of this journey and my return home, I just keep telling myself chalein.


The Royal Tomb was probably my favorite spot on the tuk-tuk tour

I travelled alone this weekend to the city of Jaipur.  On my first day I walked through the Pink City to the Hawa Mahal, and perused through the bazars that lined the streets. Because I was alone, I found myself engaging more with the people around me than I would traveling with friends. While purchasing some trinkets from one of the stalls, a shop owner and I struck up conversation. The shopkeeper offered to show me a temple down the street, then quickly took off through the crowded market expecting me to follow him. I didn’t have to follow the shopkeeper, nor did I feel obligated to. But I chose to anyway, I guess because it felt right in that moment.

The Chand Baori in Jaipur

One hundred meters later, the shopkeeper slipped into a doorway in the middle of the market. I followed him inside and was greeted by a beautifully decorated, open air courtyard. Now alone, he explained to me how his father had owned this temple, and how there was an excellent view of the city from the roof. He went up the stairs to the roof and I continued to follow him to what was indeed a beautiful view of the cityscape. Looking out at the city and the mountains on the horizon, the shopkeeper pointed out various temples and gave me a brief history of each. I followed him back downstairs to a shop that his friend had owned, but I didn’t purchase anything. I thanked him for his time and for showing me his temple then continued on my way to the Hawa Mahal.

A very intricate entrance in the Amer Fort

Afterwards I was reflecting on this encounter, wondering why I felt comfortable following this man like I had. I absolutely would not have followed any stranger at home in the United States, but here, it just sort of felt natural. I did this again on Sunday, to a lesser degree, and followed a security guard at the Amer Fort through some closed passages to the roof of the fort. Again I found myself gazing at a gorgeous landscape alone with a strange man, and asking myself, “is this okay”?

View from the entrance of Amer Fort

A lot of the practices here do not have the same formality that they would in the United States. There’s been a lot of phone calls and spoken agreements, and I’ve found myself relying on nothing but the word of strangers for everything from my cell phone service to transportation. At first it felt strange, but after watching people continuously follow through on their words and their plans I just feel wonderfully optimistic about people and their intentions. The amount of trust and integrity that I’ve seen exhibited in the culture here has been awesome and moving and I hope to foster this same trust and integrity wherever I go.

Halfway Post

Women that I met in a village on the border of Rajasthan

It doesn’t feel like I have been here for 3 weeks. I have settled into a routine with work and the days are passing quickly. Not much has changed over the last two weeks, save for the weather. The monsoon season ended as abruptly as it began, and after a brief week or two of rain it is now over. This may change the way I structure my research and questions around the monsoon, but I still have ample time to figure that out.

One of the side entrances to the City Palace

I have been writing case studies for my internship here, and completed my first one last week. This case study illustrated the impact of a Nurse Mentoring Program initiative by telling the story of a nurse mentee who successfully managed a postpartum complication in one of her patients. Writing this case study took more time than I had originally anticipated, but I hope that I improve and become more efficient as I continue to write.

There’s a lot of turmeric in the food here so I took it to the next level and got a straight up turmeric latte at a groovy little cafe in Udaipur

Two other fellows and I traveled to Udaipur this weekend and had a wonderful trip. We spent two days in the city and got to explore the City Palace, Pichola lake, and the many phenomenal restaurants and rooftop cafes in the city. Udaipur was arguably one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. There were lakes scattered throughout the city, mountains lining the horizon, temples and ancient buildings, and quaint but colorful restaurants and cafes on every roof. The weather was lovely, the sun was shining, the wind was blowing and I could not have asked for a better weekend. At one point I ran into someone wearing a Detroit vs. Everybody shirt and exclaimed “Oh my god you’re from Detroit?!?!” They responded with confusion and were unsure of what I meant by Detroit but it was an exciting encounter nonetheless.

We realized we didn’t take any pictures together on our trip, so we snapped a quick selfie in the rickshaw on the way home

I continue to be amazed by the hospitality that I am receiving here. Everyone from my coworkers at my NGO to the frontline workers in the field to the strangers I meet in public have been wonderfully kind to me. I’ve thought a lot about giving here, like what has been given to me and what I will be giving to those I meet. I hope that the work I am doing makes a positive impact on those around me. I hope I am giving enough to others.

Week One

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.

I tried to get a picture that captured how busy and hectic the roads were but it doesn’t quite do it justice

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.

There are a lot of cows in rural India, they just kind of do what they want and sit where they please 

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.

Flooding from heavy rainfall outside of an anganwadi center 

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.