Wednesday, June 11, 2014

All of the Updates!

Things have been crazy, in a good way! I've been keeping a mental list of everything I want to write about but just haven't found the time to do so between course readings, paper writing, field, exploring Calcutta, and hanging out with friends.

The fingers are doing much better. Writing is still difficult, and typing is still more time consuming than it used to be, but my fingers are functional and I'm still just so thankful they're not broken. I think they feel a little bit better every day, and I imagine that they'll heal up perfectly fine with no long-term damage or anything. It still amazes me that they were properly slammed in a door and sticking out the other side, and the bones did not break!

On Friday night we went out to experience the nightlife in Calcutta. We went to The Park Hotel, which is a 5 star hotel that has a bar and a few clubs in the lobby/first floor of the hotel. At the first bar, there was live music...a band singing entirely in Spanish. We had no idea what was going on, but we paid an exorbitant amount for our drinks and enjoyed the live band, and later an even better one. Later on some other friends met up with us and we left and went dancing at one of the clubs. Nightlife in Calcutta is interesting, at least the circuit that we experienced on Friday night was. None of the women were as conservatively dressed, actually I was probably dressed conservatively in my spaghetti strap, knee length dress compared to some of them. Also, we attracted A LOT of attention at the various places we patronized. I'm getting used to being stared at, but it's still a little bizarre to be approached by random men and told that I'm beautiful. Multiple times in one night. Luckily, Laura knows a few choice phrases in Hindi. ;)
Me and our friend Aman
 Tonight we had class and I think it may have been my favorite class yet. I really connected with the readings that we did. There's one book, written by Cindy Patton (who I just found out is at Penn!) called Globalizing AIDS that I just loved. To borrow from the back of her book:

As AIDS began to appear around the "global village" in the early 1980s, the closeness brought by new technologies no longer promised wondrous cultural exchange; instead it made possible the transmission of a frightening new kind of disease. International scientific institutions and news organizations quickly constructed a "place" for AIDS in the global imaginary: from the heart of Africa and gay bathhouses in San Francisco to the back streets of Southeast Asia and poverty-stricken neighborhoods in the United States. Such simplistic accounts helped recycle racist ideas about Africans and Asians, intensified homophobic visions of irresponsible gay sexuality, and ignored the scientific and human reality of local experiences of the epidemic. 

In Globalizing AIDS, pioneering cultural critic Cindy Patton looks at the complex interaction between modern science, media coverage, and local activism during the first decade of the epidemic. Patton's critique of both the production of scientific credibility and the implementation of public health policy at the local level offers a bold reevaluation of how we think about AIDS and an innovative way to approach the reality of the disease.

Reading from her point of view about the beginning of the AIDS epidemic was fascinating and I really appreciated the raw, honest way in which she wrote.

Food... I really need to update about the food I've been eating. I'll update in pictures:
This is a masala dosa. One of my favorite foods here... it's basically potatoes, carrots and peas in a masala sauce, wrapped in a thin crispy bread. You eat it with your hands and dip it in sambar (sort of like a lentil soup) and coconut chutney. Or if you're LB, you just eat massive quantities of the coconut chutney. ;)

"Pizza" was actually really good! Flat dough with masala spices and pieces of melted paneer (cheese).
This is chaat. It was described to me as "kind of like nachos" and "kind of like mini wheats"'s potatoes, chick peas, crunchy chip things and other randoms, covered in a yogurt sauce with a red chutney, topped with crunchy noodles. It's the first food in India that I wasn't fond of!

Phillip and I went to the movies with LB and Aman. We got two kinds of corn! Popcorn and Masala corn, which is basically a cup of steamed corn mixed with salt and masala spices. SOO GOOD!
Malai Kofta. Sort of like vegetarian meatballs, with naan. 
The research: So Sandra, my partner, and I have finally nailed down exactly what we'll be researching. I couldn't be more excited. The women at Durbar started a group for HIV positive women. It's called The Network for Positive Women. This group provides support for HIV+ sex workers in the collective, as well as anyone in Calcutta. They have educators, counselors, provide food for those who need it, as well as clothing. We're going to be studying the positive effects it has on women who are HIV+ or have AIDS and the success of this resource.

I've mentioned Pintu before. He's sort of our coordinator at Durbar. He works so hard to coordinate all of our schedules, make sure we have translators and also ran our entire orientation when we first arrived. He has been an invaluable resource for us, and we so appreciate his hard work. This is me and Pintu today at Durbar:

And I am still in love with the kittens that live in the Durbar offices:
Kumkum and Lalita, Nirmal's daughters, are still major parts of the sunshine in my day. Last weekend they came to our apartment and played with me for awhile. They're so expressive and hilarious. I showed them photos of my dog, Sydney and my niece Kylie. They asked if Kylie has a pink backpack (Nirmal had to translate that one for me). When I'm really missing Kylie, I find these sweet girls and they help fill that hole in my heart!
This sweet girl... me and Lalita. :)
 The other day Laura (our TA) took us to see where she lived last year when she was on the trip. She lived in New Alipore, so we got to see a new neighborhood in Calcutta and meet the caretaker at her old apartment, Maity. Laura brought him some photos from last year and a UPenn tank... it was such an emotional reunion, Maity was so happy to see her. I thought that he was going to tear up, it was so incredibly sweet. I almost cried myself. He just kept saying, "Oh ma'am. Thank you ma'am." So sweet. And also, we got to ride in a tuk-tuk for the first time!! Tuk Tuks are these crazy three wheeled taxi scooter things.
Me and Anna in the back of the tuk-tuk!

I'm probably missing a ton of stuff from the last few days, but as usual, things are a whirlwind! Tonight we're going over to hang out with Akash, one of the owner's of Sunshine, the store where we bought most of our Indian clothes. We'll probably hang out with him and end up at Fairlawn... one of the only outdoor bars I've seen here. It's super chill and they serve beer and Indian+Chinese food.
Outside of Fairlawn
Today Laura and I walked around the neighborhood for a few hours. In the moments that I have nothing to do, I find myself still staying away from the apartment...I love finding a new street to explore. We found a soccer field with an older youth soccer league starting up practice. We were so tempted to run onto the field and join in. We sat and watched them for a long time and just's so nice to have friends here. Last night Phillip, Anna and I sat on the roof until 3am and had one of those great cleansing conversations that ends in a group hug.

Oh, I almost forgot! We planned two upcoming trips. One for this weekend (Darjeeling!) and one for next weekend, to the state of Kerala. It's in southern India, next to the Arabian Sea and we'll have to fly there with a layover in Mumbai. We're going for a long weekend because Anjali has family there, who has graciously offered to host us! A man at the luggage store today told me to try the excellent seafood there...crabs and lobster. I'll get back to my Marylanders about how they compare. ;) 

Time to sign off... I have to get in the shower before we head to Sunshine. I wish I could write more. There's always more to say. I'll be back soon.

With love,

PS. I still don't want to leave. 


Meghan LP said...

Wow! Your night out on the town seems so interesting! I'd love to hear more - you know...who did you meet, what did you do, where did you go, just love hearing about the nightlife! :-)

Toni Lupro said...

I have been checking a ton for the travel updates -- can't wait to hear! :)

JustJude said...

Thanks for the updates! Love the photos and reading about your adventures and about your routines there. Don't worry - while you might be thinking about Kylie, she has not forgotten you either. She was talking about you last weekend when we saw some My Little Ponies" and said, Aunt Kristen would like this one. And then last Saturday, I gave her a bath after we finished our painting project. I was rinsing her hair with a cup of water and said, "Do you still like it when someone just pours the water over your head and it gets in your face?" She replied, Yes. Then after thinking for a few seconds she said, "Grammy, do you know what Aunt Kristen does? I lay down in the tub like this (as she leans back on her arms) and she pours the water just on my hair." I asked her if she likes it when you do that and she thought a minute and said, "Yes, I like it." Made me smile. :) Love you!! Mom

Tricia Dolgin said...

So amazing! Where has the time gone!! The food so wonderful. I hope you have learned how to cook some of it.

Just think - you still have the elephants to look forward to!