Week 1 in India!

Photo above: This is the MINDS Summer Volunteers group. From left to right: Matt, Vatsal, Amanda, Laurie, Brittney, Katherine, Irina, Eugene, and Amul (Program Manager) This is the MINDS Summer Volunteers group. From left to right: Matt, Vatsal, Amanda, Laurie, Brittney, Katherine, Irina, Eugene, and Amul (Program Manager)

Amul, the MINDS Program Manager. He's such an amazing individual and takes really good care of us!

Amul, the MINDS Program Manager. He’s such an amazing individual who is also a master of yoga and friggin’ badass! His son is also adorable and we all can’t wait for the opportunity to babysit for him.

Our first week here in India has been exciting to say the least. There has been a lot of adjusting we had to do. Not only do we have to deal with the 90+ degrees and humidity, the loud horns from the highway, dogs barking (and wailing) at 3AM at night, we still are getting used to the fact that we are in a whole other country where people have not seen people like us before (thus a lot of staring) and we can’t expect everyone to speak and understand English.

Most of the pictures posted here are from last Thursday, when we took a day trip to Champaner and Pavagadh.

Champaner was the capital of Gujarat under Sultan Mahmud Begada from 1848 until after his death in 1535 when it was shifted back to Ahmedabad by Mughal Emperor Humayun. During his reign, Mahmud had developed the area and made it one of the grandest towns in all of Gujarat. DSCN0067
We visited the mosque that was built there for the town, and afterwards visited the mosque that was built for Mahmud himself (this is information that I got from a Gujarat travel guide that a nice shop keeper gave us after we stormed the place for colorful Indian clothing, but that’s a story for later).

DSCN0056 (2)

Eugene is so insightful.

Pavagadh was fun. I got sick on the way to the top because the Hindu Mahakali Temple sits on the top of the hill. In order to get to it, Amul drove us up mountains and then we took a cable car. I thought we were there after the cable car, but you have to keep going up through the village and then climb even more steps to the top. It was great (sarcasm). Myths say that Pavagadh Hill rose from the cow of Rishi Vishwamitra who was blessed with an inexhaustible supply of milk who fell into a gorge. She couldn’t get out because it was so steep, so she filled the gorge with milk and swam to safety.

Holy cow! Yep, cows really do walk freely in the streets.

The sage didn’t want that to happen again, he prayed to the gods to help level the field. The gods answered by taking a chunk of the Himalayas and putting it in the middle of the Gujarat plains (again, I read this from the tourist book). At the temple, Katherine apparently rung a bell. She emerged with some red dots on her forehead looking super excited and yelling, “I’ve been blessed!” I was with Brittney and Eugene, and it was funny watching them force Brittney to drink out of the coconut. Brittney says that it was awkward since her coconut didn’t have any juice and they kept forcing her to drink. Eventually they broke another coconut and pour the juice into her coconut and to this day Brittney swears it’s one of the worst things she’s ever had. When Eugene and I got to them, they forced us to hold out our hands and gave some to us, and I can attest- it is SO GROSS. Then they stamped red marks on our foreheads (that took me FOREVER to wash off) and sent us on our way.


Dr. Niraj (right) uses an example map to show us how we should strategize documenting the landscape of the villages. Left to right: Matt, Vatsal, Amul, and Dr. Niraj.


We saw a monkey after the meeting with Dr. Niraj roaming the halls of the building. Makes you wish you went to school here, huh?

On Friday, we visited the MINDS office for the first time since being here. We had a meeting with Professor Niraj who went over out project with us. Since the medic mobile project is not yet ready, our team will be helping the MINDS Foundation by tracking the homes in each of the villages to be used for mapping out patients and campaign strategies. Yesterday, Katherine, Brittney, and I got to visit the village of Anandpura and take a tour of the village and meet a couple of the residents. Since Eugene was not able to go yesterday because there wasn’t space in the car, he’s out there today with Matt and Vatsal helping the social workers with their campaigning.

In our free time, we have grown fond of Bollywood and sit and watch videos as we perform other tasks, such as journaling and playing the 2048 on our phones. Seriously, Bollywood rocks- look up “Saturday Saturday” from Humpty—– (blanks mean I don’t remember what the name is) and “Hangover” from Kick. It is awesome! Eugene, Brittney, and Katherine have also been picking up some sweet dance moves that I’m sure they can’t wait to share with everyone at home. Please ask them about it if you get the chance.

Laurie (and the rest of the GROW Team)