Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Scheduled MRI - Christmas gift

Hello everyone :)  Here is a fun update - fun for me.  Hope it will make sense.

One of my goals during this fall was to be re-tested, comparing apples with apples, though another MRI.  This started to seem a bit impossible due to information I was given and which I possibly misunderstood.  The financial commitment felt too steep and as there were other tests that I learned of that were much less expensive, I thought maybe I would use those until an MRI re-test was approved for insurance coverage.

Thanks to a dear friend and work partner who pounded the pavement and eventually communicated with the CEO of St. Mark's hospital, an incredible reduction in billing cost was extended to me last week if I could be tested by the end of the year.  What a blessing!  After learning the news, Mom, Tim and I knelt down and offered up a prayer of gratitude.  The MRI is the most accurate of tests and this would help us see what direction we need to head moving forward.

Faith and trust have been major components of my learning curve.  That said, I also feel it would help me breathe easier knowing if what we have been doing so far has made an impact.  In the end, whatever types of healing that do occur will occur because of my Heavenly Father and his matchless power.  And I want to assist in making the best choices possible.

So, that wonderful news came last Friday, and then I later learned more good news, that my insurance company would most likely cover the MRI, something I'd been told several times was extremely unlikely.  And somehow, the scheduling to do so this week opened up and I was able to schedule my MRI for tomorrow afternoon at 4pm.  Even typing that feels a bit emotional.  May I ask for your prayers tomorrow?  Thank you.  It will be such a blessing to have this test, I truly feel so grateful.  Results will come a week or so after. 

Thank you to each of you beautiful ones for your prayers, for your messages, for your funnies, happy thoughts, and beautiful pictures.  You have lifted me.  You mean the world to me.

May each of you  have a most Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Introducing "Health Updates" :)

For the next while, I will use my blog as a way of updating how things are going with my little health situation.  That way, if any of you would like to check it out, you may.  You can post comments, I'll respond to them here in case anyone else is also interested in the same thing, and it will be a one stop shop so that you don't get a lot of emails from me :) but can get information as you would like it.

More than anything on here though, I want you each to know I appreciate your support and I feel blessed with so much good in my life.  Yes, my emotions are awesome at going up and down, fluctuating sometimes like a roller-coaster ride, but overall, the Lord is carrying me, guiding me, watching me, allowing me to learn how to listen to Him and how to make decisions.  I've got a lot to learn, there seems to be a lot of emotions internally that want to be processed right now, and hopefully I will be humble and open enough to learn what is needed.  I believe I will.

I have decided to make being wisely optimistic as my motto throughout this experience.  And to lift up mine eyes to Him.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pause due to Traveling

Hello there family and friends,

So, I have a quick moment to say hi and check in, but unfortunately, I will not be able to finish my other posts from this trip till later in the week, most likely the weekend.  We haven't had internet access for the past few days and it looks like I won't for the next several.  All I can say is that this country is A-MAZING!  I love it here so so much and never want to leave.  What a blessing to be here.

Love you all and I will post everything from last Wednesday on, by the end of Sunday this weekend.  Thanks for your patience!


P.S. It is so very inspiring to me to see how significant family, fidelity, modesty and chastity are to the people of India.  I'll have to explain more later, but over these last few days, I've listen to adults talk about the great importance of family and of making family your universe...oh, man, I really love it and have felt so inspired by all of the Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, and Christian believers that I've met and talked with here so far!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Eighth and Ninth Days

Sorry to everyone - I was trying to keep up blogging every day, but man, it has been hard to make time for that.  I write too much for you all as well - I know it - but it's taking the place of my journal while I'm here because Becky has just not found time for both with our packed schedule.  Thanks for your patience for whoever is still looking at this.  You're great!  I wish my videos would post, but most haven't been loading properly so I'll have to try that when I return.

Leprosy Colonies: Chettipunyam and Venkatapuram 

We went to the leprosy colonies on both Monday and Tuesday this week: Monday's was small; Tuesday's was a pretty good size with lots of new people and many not recorded in our records, so it was especially good to be there for them.  It was a full morning Tuesday, and as I've described previously, it is a very special, humbling experience being with these people who I can't help but note are my Indian siblings.  And how I wish I could speak their language and spend more time with them, hearing their stories, massaging their tired frames, and lifting them in any way they need.

On Monday, I rubbed alcohol on their fingers before pricking them to test Glucose levels - most of them didn't need much of a poke, but then some needed several places pricked til blood would come out - and it was really humbling to have to prick their fingers and cause them pain, even for a moment.  One woman needed it 7 times before any blood came - also, I'm a novice but with her, the nurse even struggled to find a good spot.  For a good number, the calyces are thick so that we need to go deeper.  Many are of course missing some or all of their fingers, and some of their hands are just round stubbs.

Another woman was really sick and hurt quite a bit all over her body.  Her teeth were falling out and stained red and brown from whatever root she chews on, and her body was quite frail.  Even though the pokes were light, she really didn't like it and kept pulling away as I tried to get a reading for her Glucose.  She kept trying to tell me about what was hurting throughout her body, but I couldn't understand the specifics and knew I couldn't take away her pain.  Really wish I could, but her Maker is aware of her - He's aware of each one of us and He has purpose for all we experience.  I don't know hers, but even meeting this woman has helped me double check myself, check my level of gratitude for all that I have, check my patience and kindness for others, and that is good.

Random List of Things I Love Here

- Their English grammar: "eat streets" = street food.  They use "coming" a lot for anything directional.  "This girl coming that road, then she coming this road." = She is taking a street over there and then will turn down this other one to get to you.  "You see my bike.  It coming." = You should see my bike.  I have it here with me today.  "The noise coming.  I go over there.  You make sure nothing coming, okay?" = It's getting loud or Beware of the noise rising in here.  I need to go down the hall for something.  Can you watch over everyone and make sure to keep down the sound, make sure they stay in here and that nothing happens to them?  Never realized what an important word "coming" is!

- My early morning runs have been amazing, so therapeutic.  My friend Hannah has been running with me outside of Rising Star on the country roads and then teaching me awesome ab workouts afterwards that hurt so good ;).  I've been grateful not to have had ants with wings flying around us this week.  They filled the sky last week and it felt like we were dodging them while running, trying not to let any get in our mouths, etc.  But we're nearing the rainy season so it has rained a bit in the evenings, and in the mornings following rain, there have been no flying ants! :)  Also, it is sooooo very green here with the skyline full of palmtrees and many other green bushes, grasses, trees and fields.  It is so wonderful to run with that as my terrain.

- Currency is rupees.  So far I've seen the following exchange rates of rupees for one US$: 50.75, 52.25, 54.7.

Super common to see this many on a motorcycle going to school, work or wherever else!
-The power and consequently, the lights, go out here quite a lot, like all day and night.  It's pretty funny, especially when you're in the shower at night!  So we always have a flashlight on us :) and that element just adds to this adventure.  My boys in my family looooove my flashlights, especially the headlamp.  When I'm at the hostel for family time, they beg me to take turns just to hold it and use it for two minutes.  "Auntie, pleeeeease can I use the flashlight?" it is something they desperately need :)  So funny.  We take turns and I've been impressed at how willing they are to bring the light back when their turn is up without me even asking for it back.

One of many, many Hindu temples that we see all the time. It's so fun how colorful it is.  They love color!

- That reminds me of night time with the boys when we've colored pictures.  Like I said before, I have one box of crayons that they all share, and their cute little Indian voices in sincere tones ask, "Rebecca, can I please change the color?" over and over.  They are super cute.  Kids will ask my name if they don't know me and then they have to spell it out for me.  The funnest thing was when they were coloring pages from the Harry Potter color book, they would return them to me when they'd colored both sides, and on their pages were all sorts of "I love you Rebecca" notes or their names all over the page or other messages.  Super cute - and it's neat how much they like writing in English because their chances of doing well in this country when they grow up significantly increase when they have great English skills.  Man, I will miss them more than I can express.

There are so many of these huts everywhere.  It's "super"...which is the word everyone uses here for anything great/cool/awesome :)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Seventh Day: The Sabbath Day, A Whole New Experience

Thought from Sunday: If you do all that is perfect and right, but have not love, it doesn't matter.  LOVE is essential!

Top 5

* Church was wonderful, can I just say that I loved it?  I really did!
The church building - beautiful, no?
Nusly, Marilyn and I stayed for all three hours and that was exactly what I needed, especially that last hour.  The lesson in Relief Society was President Eyring's talk from April's conference, "Mountains to Climb", and those women were amazing!  They were down to earth, very real about life, and so inspiring and encouraging toward each other about holding onto the gospel, to the scriptures and to the Lord.  During the lessons in the 2nd and 3rd hours of church, several personal messages, which I really needed, came to me.  He is so good to me, to each of us, and it has been neat to better recognize His the strength He gives me and has been giving me while here.  This is the rich life.

* Being dressed in a sari/saree for church!  It was really fun, and was thanks to the house mothers that I ever got into this loving outfit.   Wearing it was a cool experience, and hot.  How do these beautifully dressed Indian women do this all the time??  :)  Amazing.  Please excuse me, there are a number of similar pictures on here with me in the'd think one would be enough, but no, I have no shame, and since it is probably the only time I'll wear one for the next good bit of my life, I got a little camera happy, and feel this need to share with you all :)  Mostly, I just can't decide which I like best.  It's such a pretty outfit!

In front of the church's sign in Tamil

* Bus ride home – It took us about two hours to get there and over three hours to get back because we rode in the bus with one of the House mothers and the kids who attended church, back to their hostels/schools.  It really made me think and one, appreciate our nice van and the AC, and two, appreciate the faith, dedication, and diligence of these people to ride in that van/bus all the way to and from the heat, and in the humidity, and do this week after week.  I wish they could have our van, but still, that is so much time - and it humbled me to remember my very short distance I travel to church...and reminded me that I really can be on time if I can be on time to church that's 2-3 hours away!

* Dinner with the kids - I love sitting on the dinning hall floor with everyone, eating rice and curry.  It just feels so good and happy.  These kids, when you look into their faces, you see such good kids that are each so darn cute and also trying to make it here in the school/with their friends.  Anyhow, it was neat eating with them and feeling so much love for them and from them.  They all wanted to tell me a story - all at the same time, but each was an individual story and they wanted my attention on them - so funny trying to do that!  Makes you a little crazy in a funny, sweet way :)

* Evening time with my family...loooved it and felt a special love for them.  I never want to leave them, just realllly love them.  We colored again, and they were all just so sweet.  Man, when they are kind to each other, they are such so good and melt my heart.  When they are punks to each other, that's a fun little challenge ;), but for the most part, these kids look after each other, despite their huge streak of competitiveness :) out on the playground or in any game I've played with them in their hostel.  For the most part, they act like one big family of brothers (we have about 15+ boys in my family).

Yes, one final picture to document this momentous occurance of Becky wearing a sari.  Man, these are beautiful outfits.  I so loved wearing it, but after wearing it out in that heat and humidity all day, I'm even more in awe of all the lovely Indian women who wear these so often!  Thanks for looking at all these pictures :)

Sixth Day: Mahamallapuram

Top 5

* Saturday trip to Mahamallapuram, a cool village on the coast - we shopped a good bit, saw ruins, and walked along the shore.  Oh man!  I looooove the ocean, love, love, love it.  It gives me so much energy and strength; it renews me, refreshes me and gives me peace....and sooooo much happiness and joy!

* Shopping - being a consumer ;) - you all know how much I love that, but actually, it was fun to learn the types of things they sell here and to figure out how much things should cost versus some of the "special deals" we were offered
Shore Temple

* Ruins - Butterball and some of these other surround ruins - good times - fascinating to see such beautiful carvings - and yet, somehow, carvings and shopping, and seeing all the cool sites had less of an appeal to me Saturday.  Really, I preferred my time walking on the beach with Cassidy and Tony to the rest of the activities - it was so renewing.

Ruins near the Butterball

* Dinner - SO Good! - We had parodas (pratas) good and they were reminiscent of the rotis I had in Thailand

Really loved this carving

Thought this was so so typical of our surroundings and so cool - wanted to share with you all.

* Movie - Saturday night is movie night here and this week was the kids' choice.  They chose a modern Tamil love story - funny to see what made them laugh and excited since the climax of the film at the end was when the guy finally held the girls hand and she took it.  Exciting :)  That's my style ;)  It is interesting how the guys and girls are so separated here.  During the movie, the boys sat on one side of the floor and the girls on the other side.  

We stumbled upon this sacred Hindu traveling ceremony.  Aunin explained what they were doing but I can't remember.  It seemed pretty neat though.  People kept throwing water on these guys' feet, and then incense would be burned as in the picture, and there was a lot more to it, I just don't remember and didn't understand.
* Sleep - so tired!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Fifth Day: Dancing

Top 5:

* Tutoring, especially math again - worked with two boys this time - so fun to figure out some of these more complicated math problems that I haven't done forever - and to remember why I loooove math - you can figure it out!  It's not some nebulous concept that we'll never understand, it's super logical and makes sense! :)

The school's morning Concave/Devotional for all students before school begins

There are a few of the teachers here in the picture - they really impress me - they are teachers,  the woman are also often "house mothers" to a group (families) of kids, and they often spend from 6am - 9:30pm here, with those kids due to one responsibility or another.  A-mazing.  That's dedication to the future of these children.  

Want to see our room?  So clean :)  This room could hold 7 volunteers - but since our group is small we have divided it up for three of us,  Allie, Nusly and I.

This feel like home to me :)  It's a squatter toilet!  And it's what they use here in India - and what we use here too.  So glad.  Really miss those from Thailand :).

* Dance - wow these kids at the school can dance!  I want to learn from them.  There is an international dance organization that sends dance teachers all over the world to schools that communicate a need for dance education.  Sarah, who just left Sunday night, has been here for a number of months, teaching dance classes for each standard (grade), most days of the week.  She has really loved it and the kids love her.  She teaches what is called "Life Dance" which is a type of dance that teaches life skills to the dancers.  These dances are just so so cool.  On Friday, Day 5, we all went to the dining hall/outdoor performance center/movie night spot.  Each standard performed for the rest of the school and it was sooo fun to see them do their dances.  They worked so hard on them and really put their selves in to these dances.  I recorded each one but somehow my camera and SD card had some issues so I don't have a video share, but trust me, these were some fantastic dances.  And the thing I like most is that these dances are focused on empowering the kids that perform them, which these kids really need.  So good and such a special thing that Sarah did for all of them by coming and teaching them these dances.

All the kids getting ready to perform and watch the dances from each of the standards (grades).  It was an awesome performance.  Wish my videos turned out.

* Awesome Friday night dinner!
Special Friday night dinner with chapati!  So fun, so tasty.  Chapati is like a tortilla/crepe/prata all in one.  It was a nice break for some from all the rice and curry, which I actually enjoy a lot, but it was nice to have the variety.  AALaura, this area is used all year long, it sounds like, for dinners.  It's great and convenient that it's on our roof so we don't need an extra room to hold dinner...though I wonder how that works during the really rainy season... :)

Two beautiful shots of the sunset here from on top of our roof that I wanted to share with you all.

* Coloring books - for Family time Friday night, I brought a Harry Potter coloring book, thanks to Steph :)  Seriously, those boys loooove to color, and they each would chose one they liked, I'd tear it out of the book, and they all shared the pack of crayons I brought.  There must have been at least 10 of these kids sitting/laying on the floor all around me, coloring their pictures, saying, "Auntie/Rebecca, look at my coloring!"  "Can I change the color?!"  "Look at my picture!" "Do you like my coloring?"  So fun.  And it was sweet, once one started putting "I love Rebecca" or "Sanjay loves Rebecca" they all started doing that.  It helps me remember their names better too, combined with my notebook that I carry around.  At any rate, I looooove those boys so much - how is that possible that I can love them so much and hardly know them - and they're little boys, but there is this constant and growing feeling of love I have for them, it's amazing.  Somehow, they've gotten into my little heart and man, I do not want to leave them.  We don't bring cameras during family time because the kids go nuts over cameras and are easily distracted, but the last night, I will bring a camera so that everyone can see these beautiful boys.  I love them!

Yes, this is how we shower...with a bucket! 

* Done with work - I finally finished the work I was doing in the evenings during part of Friday, and that was super nice to finally have done with and now catch up on all my blogging and plain old sleep!

Fourth Day: A Bit of Heaven

Second Colony Experience: Calvary Nagar
Morning volleyball - love seeing the students out there playing before leave for the colonies.  These kids are so great - and it's so beautiful here.  This is right in front of our "Elephant House" hostel - and their school is way over to the left of this picture.

This day was a really special one for me.  The colony we visited is one I don't think I'll be able to forget because of the experience and feelings I had while there.  It was one less visited and there were a lot more people needing help.

Awesome cow hanging at this neat looking house.  There are cows everywhere!

Most nights last week, I felt pretty tired because I was doing some work from home late into the evenings, and Thursday morning I was really feeling the exhaustion, despite my early morning run.  All that morning, I kept trying to be more focused on the Lord, on our Savior and asked to be able to give His love to those we worked with.  Once we arrived at the colony, my energy jumped up and I felt so alive and happy to be there.  I was assigned to work with the nurse at the bandaging station.  We put on double sets of gloves and then she taught me how we would bandage their wounds.

Our vans from Rising Start - one carries the volunteers and the other the nurses and whoever doesn't fit in the first van.  They have been really nice to travel in and we love our drivers.  Super good guys.

Aunin - we LOVE him!  He's such a great driver, so funny, childlike and also super helpful and honest.  We met his daughter and wife and they were so cute - he was so happy seeing them too and that made me happy :)

Waiting in line for the clinic
Looking into the faces of these beautiful Indian people that came into our clinic, I kept thinking how much they deserve dignity and respect.  The are great people - and I couldn't help but think of my dad and grandpa as I looked at some of these men.  The colony leader appeared smart, wise, and kind - he looked like a respectable leader, and yet extremely humbled by the disease that he fought.  His ulcer was one of the biggest and deepest of the day - huge, open flesh, looking much like a shallow hole in his leg.  It hurt my heart to think of the difficulties these people face - rejection from society, isolation, lack of opportunity - I would never want that for my parents and grandparents.  Yes, life can still be meaningful and good, and yes, they have deep smiles and are often happy, but still, I can't ignore the disparities I see.

Those that come to the clinic bring their records in hand, get their blood pressure checked, and their blood glucose checked.  These numbers are recorded in their records and then taken to the nurses who decide what medications are necessary.

These are beautiful people with beautiful souls - I wish I could stay here, live here, and serve them forever - But really, we are here to help, the nurses and us do this as a necessary help and also as a reminder for these people affected by Leprosy to give themselves good self-care.  A couple of leprosy afflicted individuals came dragging their bodies in as they moved, many had stubbs for hands or feet, or partially missing hands or feet.  It was quite humbling to witness. And couldn't help but imaging the Lord being close to these beautiful people - being friends with them, laughing with them, and loving them.  It made me feel comforted as I felt so emotional seeing their pain.

Oiling and massage station, they come to this after their old bandages are removed, their ulcers/wounds cleaned,  and then afterwards they came to the station I was at where the nurse cut out and off the bad/rotting skin, placed special ointment on bandages and we then wrapped up their feet and legs - whatever needed bandaging/wrapping.

One of the most heart-wrenching moments for me was with this one women - I wish I knew her name.  She sat down and the nurse started cutting away the rotten flesh and bad skin around the ulcers - but there was one area around her ankle that she didn't want the nurse to cut.  The nurse explain that part really needed cutting and removing, but as she started into that area, it was quickly apparent that the woman was in great pain.  She began to cry and even now, as it is several days since then, it still causes emotion within me.  I didn't know how to console her and just kept rubbing her upper legs, squeezing her arm, and telling her it would be okay, but she quietly cried and cried.  My heart ached for her pain - not just for that day's pain, but also in the knowledge that this was one of a lifetime of experiences that would continue because of her disease - I couldn't help crying but hid it as best I could behind the face mask we all wore - I knew I needed to be upbeat and positive because this was so hard for her.

Men from the colony getting their medications from two of the nurses

With all that, I sincerely loved bandaging their wounds - it just felt like a sweet experience, even though I felt so nervous for the first few individuals, my hands shaking because I wanted to do it the right way and not mess up.  But our awesome nurse was wonderfully helpful and super patient with me as I learned how to wrap the foot and leg properly.

Loved these two men.  The one on the right is the leader of the colony.  Beautiful people and so fun and happy to talk with.

The very last man who came in could hardly walk.  J. J., one of the volunteers, helped him move from station to station and had to be careful with his leg because his ulcer was all the way up his leg, covering about half.  It was difficult to see, to sanitize and made me cry.  This man was also so humble, so sweet, and moved with great difficulty.  We used 7 medical pads to bandage up his leg - unbelievable.  I don't believe I've ever seen something so bad in person and it smelled terrible - of course it did.  He couldn't get his sandals on (people and organizations have donated shoes for many of these colonies so that they are tailor-made for whatever type of shape/stubb/partial foot each person has) and was super weak so that he had to sit on the ground against the building as we put away the clinic and left the colony, so he get his strength up.  That was tough.  Again, beautiful person and I wished I could lift him.

Washing our hands after the clinic

Church building in the center of the colony

Beautiful little kids at the school next to where we held the clinic

We've seen a number of these signs on various buildings so far - a variety of churches and organizations sponsor building projects, clinics, churches, homes or other structures in the colonies.  Pretty neat.

Little worship spot in the village before Rising Star's campus.

One of the things that has been very empowering for women in the Leprosy-affected colonies has been to learn a trade and participate in something similar to a Village bank and micro-lending.  This woman, with a few others, came to sell to us pearl necklaces, earrings and bracelets which they made themselves after being taught jewelry-making by previous volunteers.  They now have a full business (also selling in the states - "Pearls of Hope") that blesses so many in their community...and yes, I did buy some!  My first experience with pearls and it was fun :)  This woman was sooooo cute and I just loved her and her bobbing head (in India it means "yes" or "that's chill" or "whatever" when you bob your head from side to side with a smile -- I seriously love the bob and I'm trying to learn it!)