Monday, May 27, 2013

Kansas and Colorado..

Hello everyone! A quick update from the road. As Nilit told you in the previous post, we're really making our way to San Francisco! I'm getting giddy as we get closer to California.

A few days ago we drove from Telluride, CO to Holbrook, AZ to visit Nilit's parents. We then made our way down to Phoenix, where we'll get to spend some quality time with my family and our friends as well. After that we head over to LA, and then up the state to San Francisco! We're really looking forward to the rest of the drive. Don't forget to follow us on Firepin, here. It updates live if you happen to check it while we're driving!:)

Nilit left off at St. Louis, but our trip through Kansas is certainly noteworthy.. Actually, let me first back up a bit.

When Nilit and I first planned this trip, we kept two of our bikes out of storage purposefully because 1) we didn't know when we would ship our things from storage and if you know me at all, you know I can't live bike-less (especially in California!) and 2) we read an article in Bicycling magazine which outlined the 50 best rides in each of the 50 states. Our rough plan was to do the ride from that article in whichever states we were passing.

I can't say this worked out as we planned. Some routes were out of our way, and others (Pennsylvania) we preferred riding with a friend in Pittsburgh. But we did do the planned ride in Kansas (Gypsum Hills), and it was amazing.

Rolling hills, and beautiful views of the red Gypsum in the soil. After we were done riding, Piccolo enjoyed the landscape as well..

We started driving, and our plan was to spend the night somewhere on the border of Kansas and Colorado (en route to Denver). The town of Colby, Kansas seemed reachable at a reasonable hour after our bike ride. The first we heard of the storms brewing in the midwest that day was during our post-ride meal. We were eating sandwiches at a small convenience store/sub shop (the only real place to eat in this small town), and we met a few guys sitting next to us who happened to be professional meteorologists. They told us baseball-sized hail and tornadoes were likely, which was hard to believe considering the clear (hot!) ride we had just finished. They gave us a lot of information, some of which admittedly went over our non-meteorologist heads. However, they did recommend that we leave for our road trip quickly. They were storm chasers, and they were certainly staying put there for a reason. We were worried about Piccolo and the hail. We were worried about the tornadoes, but our new meteorologist friends weren't freaking we should be okay, right?

We left quickly, and the skies were still blue. The picture of Piccolo taken above was taken in blissful ignorance. It really doesn't look so bad out here...What storm are they talking about?!

Still, we heeded their advice and kept driving. Slowly, we started noticing clouds in the distance and, more alarmingly, storm chaser cars everywhere. We passed a fully-armored car that looked something like this: 

(Source here)

We started to wonder if we were actually safe. The good news was the storm chasers were driving in the opposite direction. We hoped this meant the storm was not headed where we were. Still a bit frazzled and nervous, we ended up pulling along side a storm chaser who was parked at an intersection to heed his advice. He was amazingly friendly and checked his radar and other storm-chaser-super-sophisticated-equipment-things when we told him we were headed to Colby, KS. He told us not to stay where we were. Keep driving west, but take the northern route. If you're fast enough, you will split the two major storms. You should be able to drive between them. But GO...NOW.

Go we did. After driving west a little more, I checked a radar app I had downloaded with the advice of the meteorologists at the convenience store, and saw this.

We were at the blue dot, and headed the direction of Dodge City. During the whole drive, we would look left and right and see thick dark black clouds and rain/hail. In the middle was sunshine. It was surreal.

After driving about 5 hours that day, we made it safely to Colby, Kansas that night. We were so grateful for our luck and the help of the meteorologists and storm chasers. We heard about tornadoes touching down different parts of Kansas (including the town we had lunch), and large hail, and of course the tragic news in Oklahoma when the storm hit there the next day. We couldn't help but think that it could have been different for us. We could have ridden our bikes longer and gotten delayed, not even aware of the pending threat. We could have had an ordinary lunch instead of an informative one and not even realized that we were driving into two potential tornados. We could have driven a southern route, into the storm, without the help of the storm chaser. With luck, things worked out for us and we are so very grateful for that. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those who sadly, weren't as lucky.

The next day, we drove through Denver and stayed at a lovely downtown Airbnb. We had some dinnertime beer and Vietnamese Pho and called it a night. We were starting to feel the chill from the Colorado mountains, and the hot noodle soup was a perfect end to our day.

We spoke with our (fellow cyclist) Denver hosts, who let us know that the winter cold was stretching into the summer. We had originally planned to do a bike ride up Mt. Evans, a 14k peak in the Rockies. They let us down gently saying that it was likely snowed out. This was sad and relieving at the same time - we were likely not in good enough shape to conquer the mountain right now anyway. Climbing 5,000 feet is one thing, climbing it at altitude is something else. They told us instead about a paved bike route that went up to Vail Pass. It was possible there was some snow on that trail, but it was likely to be clearer than Mt. Evans.

So the next day we geared up (purchasing some cold-weather gear from the amazing flagship Denver REI store), and started our ride up Vail pass. It was chilly, but bearable. The ride was all up, which was difficult at altitude. But we got into a good pace and just kept riding. The ride is on a paved path, separate from the highway - which was fantastic. As if the thin air wasn't enough, the views were also breathtaking.

Snow flurries in the air.

Nilit enjoying the beautiful, cool air.

As we rode along, we started noticing patches of snow on the sidewalks. We decided to ride through the shallow patches, but we came across some deeper ones where snowshoes may have been preferable to our cycling shoes..

Each time we came across a deep patch of snow, we could see clear path on the other side so we just kept hiking it out - wanting to ride as much as possible. We were having a blast, anyway. Eventually, unfortunately, we looked ahead and only saw snow for miles ahead. So our plan of making it to Vail Pass didn't quite pan out, but we had no complaints. We were on our bikes after all, and the views each direction were just gorgeous.

We were slightly cold at this point, but our new REI gear was doing a good job of keeping us pretty warm. At least that was the case until the clear skies disappeared, dark clouds formed, and rain and hail took its place. The ride out to Vail Pass also happens to be straight uphill, so the return trip was all downhill. The bitter cold eventually got to us, and slowly we went from jovial and chatty to focused and quiet. Later on, we concurred that both of us at that point were internally debating on which would keep us warmer - riding fast (thereby exerting more energy), or riding slow (thereby creating less head-wind). I ended up cranking it out and flying back to the parking lot. I was cold enough to imagine that my fingers were going to fall off (likely an exaggeration), but kept going anyway. Nilit joined me in going fast soon after he saw what I had decided. We got back fast, set the bikes down on the grass, and immediately hopped into the car for some warmth. I took my socks off since I could no longer feel my toes. They were blue and swollen. Fingers were much of the same, but a little better. Still shivering and without saying a word, we both just smiled at each other and busted up laughing. An adventure, for sure..and we honestly wouldn't have had it any other way.

We eventually packed up our things and made it to our Airbnb host's house which was perfectly toasty and cozy. After a hot shower, we were ready for dinner and sleep. A local brewery was the perfect cap to our long day.

We spent the next couple of days first driving to Telluride (where we also went on a ride! This time at higher altitude) and then through the Four Corners (where Utah, Colorado, Arizona, and New Mexico meet) down into Arizona. Check out the pictures below of our ride and our beautiful welcome to the southwest.

Another thing that we noticed while driving was that Piccolo (the mini) attracts lots of friendly attention. He is also quite photogenic, so people who are digging the car usually wave and snap a few pictures. Nilit came up with the idea of creating a Twitter account, and posting a sign on the car asking folks to post pictures to share if they'd like. So, we posted a sign (admittedly a cute one), and some people have liked it! So check us out on Twitter @cxcountrymini and also check out #CrossCountryMini. A couple of people have tweeted pictures, which is way cool.

Today we leave from Arizona to head to LA, where we will get to catch up with friends. We're then planning to begin our drive up to Northern California, with one night stop somewhere in between. Stay tuned for more photos and stories. Thanks for reading!:)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Friends and Family

Hello Everyone! I know its been awhile since we've posted and we wanted to let people know that things are going well. We've been traveling across the U.S. with Piccolo (our '74 Mini) at a leisurely rate. Between taking breaks to see friends and doing some bike rides, our days have been a little longer than expected. There are a couple of reasons for that: 1) the route we are taking is really photogenic, 2) Piccolo's (self-imposed for mechanical reliability) top speed is about 110 kph (68 mph), and 3) We need to fill up the ~5 gallon fuel tank every 150 miles or so. You can follow our trip and see the places we drove through at this link:

Our first entry to the U.S. was Maryland and were greeted home with this sign:

Made by my awesome niece and nephew!

We received a wonderful welcome home and it was great to see family and shed the weariness of 36+ hours of air travel and 10+ hours of jet lag. We struggle the first night to stay awake until 9:30pm but we needed to get over the jet lag as soon as possible. The next day we decided to run some errands. Shreya was excited to see her bike again and decided to take a "quick" ride along some of the roads near Laural, MD. 2.5 hours later she returned refreshed and ready to go! We took Piccolo in to the shop to get him ready for the long trip across the country and then decided to head to our old work stomping grounds. We got there a little late in the evening but still got to see our friends. Luckily, we planned for a happy hour later that evening and got to see some more friends. We had such a great time that I completely forgot to take candid pictures and group shots. I missed out on a great opportunity but there is no way I'll forget the fun times we had catching up with everyone!

Our first stop on our trip west was Pittsburgh. We left this a short drive to ease into the road trip mentality and to get a good technique down on what we needed in the car. Piccolo is pretty small so we need to be creative on where to keep things, and what things we needed on top vs. packed away for later. We got into Pittsburgh prior to lunch and met up with a friend so we could get in a ride to see scenic Pittsburgh:

Riding through Pittsburgh!

Afterwards, we met with some friends at D's Six Pack and Dogs. Again, I was completely caught up in the moment and forgot to grab pictures. However, if any of you guys head to Pittsburgh, this is a must stop, they have an entire beer CAVE, and that's all that really needs to be said.

Before heading out of town.
Our next stop was going to be St. Louis. However, we took our time getting pictures in Pittsburgh and just having fun on the road. Piccolo attracts a lot of friendly attention and we end up chit-chatting with a lot of cool people along the way. We ended up staying the night a few hours outside of St. Louis because it got late fast. However, the next day we had to stop and get some pictures:

Westward bound.

There is a lot more to the story but I'm running out of time. We're in Colby, KS right now about to head out to Denver, CO and Shreya is working on a post to cover the middle section of U.S. What I really wanted to talk about at the end of this post was about how blessed we are with the friends and family that we have. We are so lucky that it is hard to even tell the difference between friends and family. I think back about the time spent with them and nothing but smiles come to my face. I know we are moving away from some really great people on the east, but I know we'll stay in touch and see them again. As we are moving away from some, others will be closer, and new ones are always around the corner. This song reminds me of all of you guys and I can't wait to hang out with everyone again!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Chennai - Almost the end!

Nilit and I are in Chennai! Following a few days of sight seeing after our volunteer work in Patna, we arrived here - our final destination before returning home. To be honest, it's nice to realize that.

I haven't written much about the little things that we have gone through, and the hardships. Before leaving, I promised myself that if I'm going to blog about our experiences on this adventure that it wouldn't be sugar-coated. If people want to read about what we are going through, they will know what it was really like.

So here goes: Yes it's been rewarding, but it's also been hard. There have been days that I've cried homesick and frustrated, times when we've had to bite our tongues and exercise our patience. There have been times we have been hungry and dehydrated, and unable to communicate this to the people around us. We have had stomach problems. We have had nights that have been so hot that we can't sleep and when we uncover ourselves for some cool relief, we're only welcomed by mosquito bites. There have been months of cold bucket baths. We've encountered shy people, welcoming people, overbearing people, friendly people, and deceiving people - everywhere we have gone. 

We have had language barriers. I speak some Hindi, but that doesn't work in Tamil Nadu or rural areas of Orissa. We have made mistakes and miscommunicated. I even put a tape mark on someone's eye pre-op (to indicate which eye requires surgery) that was the wrong eye, because I misheard the Hindi. I realized it quickly, but the family noticed it quicker.

When you look at all the individual little things that make you work a little bit harder than usual, or act a little bit different than usual, it doesn't seem like much. But when you add it all together for so many months, it gets pretty tiring. 

I do think there exists an adjustment period during which you get used to any new environment. I'm sure that we've adjusted to India more than we realize, and I even expect to be a little thrown off returning stateside. But I think adjusting completely has been hard for us because we haven't spent long periods in each location. I would say we adjusted in Orissa because we were there for the longest stretch of all the India locations (a month). We knew the local market and became friendly with hospital staff. While traveling for sight seeing and going to Bihar and Chennai, it's been much harder. Suddenly you have to adjust to new sleeping quarters, figure out the bathroom/shower situation. Where can we get filtered water? Where can we wash & hang our clothes? Should we put up the mosquito net? Plus, adjustment when you meet new people - your coworkers. It takes some time to just figure out the appropriate & most effective way to talk (or hand gesture) to someone - and we have truly worked with countless numbers of people here. That can be hard.

All these things are not things you have to do when you're in a place called "home" - no matter where home happens to be. All this is figured out while you adjust, then you begin a routine. You know where to get things done. You know what you can safely eat without becoming sick. You know how to talk to people around you, and you become comfortable. I miss that comfort.

I mention these things only in an effort to provide a complete picture here, nothing else. I'm not complaining (not here, anyway - I save that for venting to Nilit and emails to my friends - thanks for listening you guys!). I am grateful to be happy and healthy, and to be in a place where we can decide to live abroad and unemployed for 6 months. We knew we wouldn't have a place called home, and we knew that it would present challenges and new experiences we couldn't have any other way. We live an amazingly blessed and easy life, which becomes even more apparent when you meet patients who can't even afford a pair of shoes.

Not to mention the pros of our trip here have far outweighed the cons, which I hope is evident in this blog. We are helping people. We helped the hospital in Orissa with lots of administrative tasks, and we are still planning to help them remotely by continuing to work on the fundus camera project and a medical records database project. Chennai has been really rewarding because we are in a position to be able to provide a good amount of hands-on help to the optometrists. We learned (read: created a cheat sheet for) Tamil numbers, so we can do visual acuity tests with a Snellen chart. Recently, we visited an outreach camp in the slums of Chennai with the optometrists and helped perform free visual acuity tests on over 220 patients and handed out free reading glasses to people who needed them.
Nilit working hard.

Using the cheat sheet!

Motorcycle driving through the eye exam. No big deal.
And that's just one example of an outreach camp - one during which we actually brought our phones to snap a few pictures, and one during which we knew the count of patients. We also handed out glasses to patients when we were at the outreach camps in Patna, Bihar. When it comes to glasses some people just walk away with their new pair. But most people open them, put them on, and look down to the registration paper they have in their hands. I can't tell you how many times people's faces light up with excitement once they realize they can read again; or if they can't read, they can at least see the small font. They look back up at us with amazement, as of we just performed some sort of magic trick. They also thank us profusely, saying a silent "namaskar" with their hands, smiling big and nodding their head at us. They then go on to tell the people around them that it works! Look at this number, I can see it! The others generally don't get as excited as them, but the happiness is contagious.

There have been countless moments like this, related not just to handing out glasses but to talking to post-op patients, and taking their hand and exchanging smiles despite the language gaps. There was a woman who told us we were "God's workers" as I helped her take her surgical covers off. On one particularly hilarious day, Nilit had just finished screening a patient at a camp who then got up out of his chair. Before either of us knew it, and before we could get the next patient seated, out of nowhere an elderly woman with a hunched back grabbed the plastic chair and headed toward the door. She moved slowly but persistently, only looking ahead and using the chair as a walker. We were so dumbfounded, we just watched her walk ever so slowly and leave the room, and Nilit kept the screening pace up by doing standing visual acuity tests. I then watched her slowly leave the front gate of the building. She just kept looking forward, using the chair as a crutch. All the staff looked around at each other, completely puzzled and paralyzed by the odd situation. What is she doing?! I think she just stole that chair. She sure was slow, but she got away. Ha! It was absolutely hilarious. Nilit has a theory that she's been planning a chair robbery from the school for months. Who knows, but we still remember that and get a great laugh out of it.

We have also met such hard working hospital staff and doctors,  who work terribly long hours, oftentimes skipping meals and getting few hours of sleep. We wonder how they can do this everyday. It has all been truly fun, awakening, and inspiring.

So, our time here is creeping to an end. I have begun to count down the days. I just hope that we can soak it all in before we head back. It's all important, I think - the inspiring times, the sucky times, the frustrating times, and the happy & fun times. All things to remember, ponder and hopefully learn something from.

I also have wanted to thank those of you who encouraged this blog and have continued reading! It's been practically therapeutic for me to get these sorts of thoughts down, and I'm sure I'll be glad I have it all "on paper" years from now.

This is not to say goodbye of course - we will continue to post. I still have a couple of Guatemala "throwback" posts already scripted, and I know Nilit has some things to add. 

So stay tuned! :)

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Art in India

Art work is everywhere you look in India. This is not hyperbole. It is literally all around you. Even the simplest sari that the woman picking wheat on the fields is wearing - it is colorful with prints and a border, and is likely handmade. The big semi-trucks carrying everything from fruits and vegetables to concrete and bricks are hand-painted in all sorts of colors with designs of flowers or different Hindu gods. Same goes for the pick-up trucks and rickshaws. Store fronts are also painted in bright colors with creative fonts, and animated advertising.

Some of it looks totally ridiculous or gaudy to the Western eye, which tends to favor simplicity over intricacy. But when you look at it all closely, you recognize the amount of detail involved and steady hand required, and realize that it's made with true creativity and artistic skill.

Traveling India you also see amazing sights like the Taj Mahal, where thousands of pieces of marble have been intricately carved into floral designs and Arabic text with hundreds of thousands of pieces of colorful gems inlaid. Or you see a temple with carvings of Buddha the size of a Dollar coin, and carved archways that not only perfectly frame the monument inside, but have such detail that it leaves your jaw hanging - wondering how many hours of skill it would take.

Then of course, no matter where you are in India, you hear music in the air. At temples you will hear religious hymns from worshippers accompanied by soft drums. In the market you will hear loud, thumping Bollywood songs coming from store stereos. Sometimes car horns and back-up warning sounds are even programmed to play these upbeat tunes. India also has cinema (Bollywood itself, of course!), all types of dance, classical music, instruments like the sitar and tabla, photography, paintings, bronze sculptures, and stone and wood carvings - all of which have such a rich history here. 

Still, what I think amazes me most about it all is not necessarily the art itself, but the people behind the art and around the art. India embraces art like nowhere else I've seen.   

Nilit and I went to visit a gallery in Jaipur, where we were able to watch demonstrations of artists commissioned there by the Indian government to showcase their trade. We met a man there who worked on inlaid wood. He demonstrated how he carved an intricate design in a piece of wood using a chisel and hammer. The design was sweeping, and he hammered and turned his instruments with ease. The depth of the cut in the wood was only a few millimeters. He then took a sheet of copper and cut a thin strip from it - he cut it fast, and straight as an arrow. He laid the wire over the matching carved area of the wood, and hammered it in. Just a few seconds later, the copper strip was inlaid and flush with the wood. No adhesive. In order to make dots, he cuts a small piece from a thin wire, thereby making a tiny cylinder. He uses his knife to make a tiny hole in the wood where the design goes, and hammers in the cylinder. The designs were incredibly articulate, and his hands moved amazingly swiftly. I wish I had pictures to share, but photography wasn't allowed.

He spoke to us about how inlaid wood work was his family trade; secrets passed on through generations. His father, grandfather, great grandfather all did the same work. He showed us a wooden box that his father had made for the government as a gift from India to British royalty, adorned with the Prince of Wales feathers. The feathers were detailed and precise. He also showed us a big vase attached to a small stool, both filled with small designs of flowers, leaves, and other sweeping intricate designs. He showed it to us and told us that his father had made it years ago. 

"It is a masterpiece," he said. "It took him more than 5 months of work." He looked at it as astonishingly as we did, and handled it delicately. We told him it was amazing. He was smiling softly and beaming with pride. "My father made it," he said again. "Masterpiece."

We bought this little box from him. Though meager, we're hoping it at least in some way helps his family continue this beautiful trade.

We also had the pleasure of visiting the countryside in Srirangapatnam, a small island town near Mysore in the state of Karnataka. We visited farmers and craftsmen. A man who is a first-generation copper carver; men who build and paint (surprisingly ornate) bullock carts; and a new type of inlaid-wood carver.

This sweet man (first-generation copper carver) works out of his house.
A man carving for a bullock cart - You can see one painted behind him.

Inlaid wood work

A different type of "inlaid" wood work - None of this is painted. All shades are different types of wood, cut into tiny shapes and then glued together like a big, amazingly detailed puzzle.

The pictures behind this man (the father who owns the business) are all of the puzzle-type inlaid wood work.

What strikes me most is the Indian passion for all of these beautiful things. Indian people love intricate designed clothes - whether it's small tie dye patterns, stamp prints or embroidery. As long as you can afford it, you purchase the most elaborate design possible whether it's clothes, or decor for your house or your rickshaw. And even the smallest towns are adorned with bright colorful temples and sculptures and carvings of various Gods. And Indians without their Bollywood movies, dance moves, and songs would just be fish without water.
In what is always regarded as a "developing" or third-world country, you might not expect art to be all around you at all times, and see that so many resources are allocated toward aesthetic beauty and artful entertainment. Frugality would dictate that you do what is necessary, and nothing more. But the truly amazing thing about India is that all this art is part of the country's inherent culture. There's no "art scene" - it's just there, all around you. Nobody would do without it. There is no question about its necessity, because without India's art there is no religion, entertainment, clothing, or decor. Without its art, there really is no India.

What's even better is that we learned that the Indian government recognizes this as India's true specialty, and supports exporting of art and handiwork. When we visited a government-supported marble carver in Jaipur and a carpet-maker in Amritsar, they told us we could purchase anything and have it shipped back home for free - subsidized by India. We can't afford anything big enough to ship right now - but we were really happy to learn that these skilled people of India, who work so hard, were getting true support from the government.

I'll just leave you here with some more pictures, because my words utterly fail in comparison. I recommend clicking on one and seeing the rest as a slideshow for bigger images. Enjoy!

Touch up paint. Humayun's Tomb, Delhi

Fabric block-printing in Jaipur. The stamps are hand-carved and then pressed into the cloth with colored ink for designs.

Bodhgaya, Bihar. The place where Buddha is said to have reached enlightenment thousands of years ago.

Small Hindu dieties in the operating room at the Patna hospital
Around Qutub Minar, Delhi

Saris laying out to dry near the holy Kaveri River

The Golden Temple - Amrtisar, Punjab

A woman dancing in Rajasthan

Sheesh Mahal, Amber Fort, Jaipur

You've seen pictures, you've heard it's a world wonder - but if you haven't seen it in person, you just haven't seen it. Truly breath-taking.

A man carving marble - The top is temporarily stained with henna so the carved part is easier to see. Real Indian marble is non-pourous, so the henna washes right off. It is then inlaid with stones.

A beautiful marble table with inlaid stones.

Agra Fort, Agra, Uttar Pradesh

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Arrival and Depature in Patna

We heard the news from the United States about the bombing and subsequent suspect chase in Boston. Our thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected!

Today is our last day in Patna, so it's fitting to write about our arrival and living situation here now. We arrived here last Thursday from Delhi with out any airport issues. When we arrived, we noticed a man who was holding a sign with only my name. I told Shreya, "well, looks like my ride is here, I'll see you at the hospital. So long sucker!" And then she punched me. After that we told the man that we were both volunteers. He looked a little worried, looked at our backpacks, and asked if we were sure both of us were going to the clinic. We assured him we were both volunteers, and he engaged his Bluetooth to call for the car. We decided to nickname him Barney, after Neil Patrick Harris from How I Met Your Mother, as he was relatively well dressed and Barney sometimes answers his phone with a Bluetooth device and says "go for Barney". Anyway, once the car came we understood his concerns:
The actual car that picked us up was slightly older version of this car.
It was a Maruti Suzuki Alto, which isn't a problem by itself, but was filled with Dr. Sinha, a driver and a large baby stroller built for twins. We were adding, Barney, Shreya, myself, two 13 kilo 65 litre (ha metric!) packs, and two small-ish day packs. We piled in semi-India style (no one on the roof), with our backpacks on our laps and all the other gear packed around us and headed to Dr. Sinha's house. I'm not very claustrophobic, but I did have to talk myself down from a panic attack. Five people, plus luggage, a twins stroller, and a dwindling A/c in temperatures hitting close to 40 C (fahrenheit conversion), in a car smaller than a Honda Fit had my head spinning. We did make it home with no issues and a great story! We dropped off our stuff at the guest room (sorry for the poor quality):

One of the coolest things we got to do here was participate in an eye surgery! We got to scrub in and help lubricate the eye while the doctor performed a phacoemulsification. "Scrubbing in" to a surgery is a big deal. You have to make sure that you are as clean and bacteria free as possible to ensure that the patient does not get an infection. There is a detailed process for how to get the soap, how to wash your hands, how long you wash, what process you use, how you put on your apron, and what to touch to get your sterile gloves on. It was an intricate process that Dr. Sinha guided us through. Our jobs during the surgery were to provide a saline solution to keep the eye moist every time Dr. Sinha said "VSS":

Don't pass out!
As the saying goes: Nothing is constant, except for change and the way things operate day to day here is "the same as usual" which means everyday is totally different. No two days have been the same and we've been floating around trying to be ready for anything. Some days Operating Theater starts at 9 other days at 11 or 12. Sometimes we put ParaCain (description) drops before the patients enter the OT and sometimes only in the OT. Sometimes we give medication, sometimes we don't. Sometimes we plow through a bunch of auto refracts after OT, sometimes we head to the charity clinics, which themselves are at different locations depending on the day. Out of the 10 days we have been here we expected at least two days to be the same (the clinic is closed on Sundays). So in the morning when we wonder what is in store for us that day we respond with "the usual" meaning we have no clue. This has contributed to the excitement during the day as we never know what will happen after we finish a task. The experience here has been great, and kinda feels too short. We head out early tomorrow so I'm going to cut this blog post a little short and wrap up with some pictures. Enjoy, and we'll report next from South India!
Distributing glasses at the charity clinic.
Post surgery...what's going to happen next?!?
Patients waiting for check up post surgery. Gangsta! 
One of the staff at the hospital, Premila. Always smiling and laughing!
The team after a long hard day at work unwinding.