Chowpatty Stares and Stiffed...

Trip Start May 31, 2006
1
5
18
Trip End Jul 11, 2006


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Friday, June 9, 2006

Greetings from Bombay,

Since I left you last I have been taking a little break from the medical aspect of the trip to enjoy some of the things that Bombay has to offer. Again as I've said we live up in the north part of the city well away from the tourist regions of South Mumbai. A bunch of us spent yesterday afternoon down by Chowpatty Beach. Chowpatty is pretty large for city beach standards. It is filled with Indians all relaxing and enjoying the cool breeze off the water. They sell all sorts of sodas, food have fair rides...etc. It's really interesting for all of us to walk around because we attract such a crowd, especially the tall girls. Indians rarely see the tall white women and they are totally enthralled by it. All I can think that is going on in their heads is Bart strolls up to the podium in Blazing Saddles and blurts out "WHERE ALL THE WHITE WOMEN AT!"...it really is quite a scene as they are totally surrounded by the kids and large groups of younger guys just sit around us and stare. I have some great pictures that I'll post up when I get to an Internet café that doesn't run Windows 95.

The beach although relaxing is quite disturbing as well. It is laden with trash and homeless people, especially kids. That seems to be the trend in India...all the types of people everywhere...poor kids nagging on you everywhere. It really gets to you, although at the beach all they wanted to do was get their picture taken. They LOVE seeing the picture on the screen of our digital cameras. Just like in Belize I think that many of these kids have rarely seen their own faces in a mirror. This one guy who was about 50 with his daughters even tried to pawn his (really cute) daughter off on us. He called her Sweetie and told us that she was interested in a nice American. I took my picture with them and actually ended up talking to them for a little. Everyone is just so friendly and loves talking to all of us. I also really noticed a difference in the people in South Mumbai compared to North Mumbai. They are definitely way more used to seeing foreign people in the south and therefore are a little less awed. I also have to thank little Miss Amy Sanghvi who sent me to her uncle's sweet shop right near Chowpatty. Frankie, Courtney and I just happened to stroll into it (Amy did tell me about it and to look out for it...I didn't just randomly walk into a shop and ask "are you Amy Sanghvi's uncle?"). The LOADED us with so many different sweets and treats...it was very thoughtful of them.

So as I've been saying I haven't been having the greatest of clinical experiences so far here. The other groups seem to have been having more luck than mine so hopefully when we do some of our other rotations things will turn around a bit. Everything does seem to be hit or miss though...but we are all making the best of it. So remember how I was at the slum clinic this week? The other three in our group were assigned to a clinic in a wealthier area and spent time with a General Practitioner there. It was interesting to see and hear about the differences in the clinics. His was MUCH larger and in three hours the guys saw 5 patients where as ours saw 60+. This again illustrates that VAST difference between rich and poor here. The wealthy clinic Doc, Dr. Apte is a total goof and loves to go out and have a good time. After Chowpatty many of us met up with him and their clinical group at a cool Irish Pub (yes, they are even in India) in Bandra. It was actually in a hotel and when you entered in the front door of the hotel they let you through this random swinging door that was part of the wall...sort of like a secret door, but not. The place was vintage Irish pub in looks but they had NO GUINEESS or any other beers besides Kingfisher (the Indian Budweiser) and Heinkiken. It is a big Karioke bar and the songs were a mix of Indian tunes that everyone sang and Western songs...with two rounds of Summer of '69 by Bryan Adams. They did have a HUGE list of western songs and we did Hotel California and Bohemian Rhapsody (not the best choice to showcase ones vocals). It was a pretty good time had by all. Funny thing though...Dr. Apte had to leave after a bit because he left his mobile at home and it was important that he had it with him bc. he was on call (yes, at the bar and on call). We just all figured he picked up the tab because he ordered EVERYTHING the entire night, ate a ton and was the one pushing all the food and drinks no everyone. But no...he totally STIFFED us and left us the bill. Not that any of us minded paying...for all that we had it was only $14 a person...it was just funny that he did that. We all laughed about it...

So Wednesday was my last day of doing medicine this week as I took the last two days as "personal days'. I mean it is my last summer...give me a break. Wednesday afternoon actually ended up being quite interesting. We went to the Sarvodaya Hospital just north of where we are. It is mainly an HIV/AIDS hospital but it also has a TB ward. Indian society still does not understand HIV or AIDS and many people still associate it with being Homosexual. Homosexuality is actually illegal here, although there are many social programs in place for LBGT people. It all seems sort of under the radar. We actually even had a tough time getting a rickshaw to take us as the first few wouldn't even go anywhere near the hospital. When we finally got there we found a colonial style hospital set back from the busy, dirty road that contained a small Hindu temple, some in-patient wards and a walk in clinic. We were supposed to meet with a doctor who was going to take us through the HIV wards but as with many things here he was running on IST (Indian Standard Time, meaning no time or VERY late) and didn't show up. Another crazy old man doctor took us into the TB wards instead...starting spouting off all these treatments (to which we all looked dumbfounded since not only could we not understand him, but we have yet to really have it in school). He then told us that he was disappointed that we didn't know anything and basically called us out...then said "go see patients" and jus sent us out into the wards. It was actually very cool and we listened to many lungs. You could compare what you heard to the x-ray's and charts (which were stored under the mattress mind you) and see if you were able to figure out if you identified where the TB was in the lungs correctly. The ward was mostly very young and thin women and it was very sad to see all of them so helpless. I felt badly even trying to listen to their lungs, as it must have been a shock to see 9 white people stroll into the normally quiet ward. After the TB ward we talked our way into going to the walk-in HIV clinic to sit down with the doctor and the counselor to see how they treat walk-in patients. The set up here isn't that much different than in the US to be honest, or at least for HIV. They have a similar counseling and confidentiality situation and patients come in and it is totally free. They counsel the patient on HIV and what the disease entails, test them and then offer post counseling as well. If the patient does have HIV (which MANY MANY do here) they offer life long counseling as well as provide all the necessary medical treatments. The gov't here does supply all medicines and treatments free to it's people. Now...this is all in theory as millions and millions of people are unable to utilize this care but for those that can access it (and that doesn't necessarily mean have money because private hospitals exist for those people), the care is not as bad as one would think. It's pretty amazing that the Anti-retroviral treatments that are THOUSANDS of dollars a year in the US are 100 % free here. Just some food for thought...

So a few interesting things about India for today:

1. EVERYONE answers their mobiles wherever and whenever. In lecture the docs answered while they were talking, in clicic the doc's answer when they are seeing a patient, in stores, in movies...EVERYWHERE. Indians, rich and poor, are attached to their phones.
2. Instead of saying yes (although they do say yes), many people do this head nod thing that is really quite funny. I took a video of our coordinator Sampeda doing it and I'll post it next time I can upload something.

Well I am off to the beautiful southern state of Goa for a weekend of relaxation. A few of us booked a weekend at one of the Taj resorts for some much needed clean air, beach and relaxation. It will be nice to get away from the pollution for a few days. I'll have an update for all of you when I return on Monday. Enjoy the first games of the World Cup! Go USA (and England)!


Cheers,
Michael
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