First few days…

After some serious travelling, I arrived at the house of my host family around 10.30 p.m. local time. Everyone in the house is really lovely. There are three French girls (Annais, Marie and Christina), Esther from Germany, Jenna from the U.S.A. and Celine from Belgium. The first night, my room was still occupied by two volunteers who were leaving the next day so I slept in the room that Jenna and Esther share. The next day, Jenna and Celine showed me where to exchange my travellers cheques. I’m really lucky in that both Jenna and Esther have been here for a over two months each and both have a lot of advice to share! On the way back from the back, we went to a shop for ice cream before going back to the house and packing for the weekend trip.

We met a load of other PA volunteers at the office in Madurai (pronounced Mad-your-eye) and then we took two small buses to Kanyakumari right at the very South of India. I thought it would only take a couple of hours as Madurai is fairly South… I was WRONG. It took us six hours to get there but it was definitely worth it!!

The Friday night we had dinner in the hotel restuarant and then headed to bed as it was very late. The next day we got back on the bus and headed a local garden where you could overlook coastline. The water was beautiful and is the point where three different bodies of water join, you could even see the different colours of the different seas. Next, we headed to Padmanabhapuram Palace, it was HUGE. There was loads of beautiful carved stone and wood everywhere. After the palace trip, we headed to the waterfalls, I can’t remember the name but its somewhere in my photographs! Then we headed back to watch the sunset but we weren’t in a great place to see it. Unfortunately, the next morning was really cloudy so the sunrise  colours were very muted but it was fantastic all the same. Our hotel balcony looked right over the town, the church and the coast. The church broadcasts chants, hymns and prayers via some sort of megaphone at all hours of the day, it was very bautiful and I managed to get loads of pictures. The next day, we took a ferry to the island 100 meters or so away from the coast to see the temple and statue before heading back home.

Today, Esther, Luke and I had our tour of Meenakshi Mission Hospital and it is HUGE!!!! Tomorrow I’m oing to be in the Gynocology and Obstetrics department and I’m really looking forward to it.

Anyway, must dash… need to walk home for dinner… will try and update in more detail very soon =]

P.S. Please excuse my millions of mistakes, trying to type and super-sonic speed!!!! xxxxxxxxxxxxx

 

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(8) Leavin’ on a jet plane.. (8)

In Glasgow Airport at the moment waiting for my flight to Heathrow. My flight leaves at 15:05 so check in will hopefully open in the next hour or so =] I got here UBER early. I seriously over-estimated how long it would take Mum to drive me to the bus station. Luckily the lovely bus driver let me board the bus even though my ticket was for half an hour and two buses later. Arrived at Glasgow Airport just after 10 a.m. and headed straight to Starbucks for some much needed caffiene! I hardly slept at all last night, was really excited/ I must have checked I had packed my passport, tickets and money about a MILLION times! But yeah, not sure how expensive internet access will be at Heathrow so thought I’d update before flying there. The journey so far has been quite relaxing, I think its because I’m feeling very prepared which is nice. My rucksack isn’t too heavy either. I posted a pic of it on facebook yesterday… I tried to copy and paste it in to this post but the pc won’t let me 😦 Oh, also, one of the girls from the house I was initially meant to be staying in has emailed me back and said that she too is up for travelling at the weekends. Fingers crossed we can get a big group of people from as many different placements as possible. Anyway, must dash, not much time left! xxx

 

P.S. Sorry for spelling mistakes… combination of no Google Chrome no check my spelling and very fast typing! :p

Packing!

I really cannot believe how soon I leave for India!  The last week has been really busy; I’ve finished work, sorted out my room and bought the vast majority of things I’ll need for India (and Spain).

I’m not taking a massive amount of clothes with me but I am pleased with what I have bought. I have a few pairs of white linen trousers for wear in the hospital and I also bought some plain white blouses. At the moment I’m still trying to decide what to wear to travel in but it will definitely need to be comfy as we’ll be travelling for over 30 hours!

Most of my shopping has been for toiletries and med supplies. I now have LOADS of sun cream, mosquito repellent, antihistamine, immodium etc. I also bought an explorer First Aid kit, a travel hair dryer and a sun hat.

However, my favourite two purchases have been the rechargeable batteries (for my digital camera) and a solar panel charger for the batteries. My digital camera seems to drain batteries really quickly.  Its brand new but even testing the camera and changing the settings appeared to drain the life of the (disposable) batteries very quickly.  Long story short, the solar panel is very efficient and environmentally friendly.  It also has a USB attachment so if I’m in an internet cafe I can plug the charger and batteries in to the comp and they’ll charge whilst I’m catching up on emails or posting on this blog =] Below is a pic of the charger…  it folds flat for packing which is nice…

Anyway, fingers crossed that by tomorrow night I’ll be fully packed.  Although the packing hasn’t started, I have looked out everything I’m taking.  I’ve also looked out all my clothes for Spain so that I’m not running around like a headless chicken for the short space of time that I’m home.

I will be taking a mobile phone with me but for emergencies only.  I’m leaving my nice handset here and taking a cheap phone I picked up in Vodafone yesterday.  I will hopefully have access to Skype whilst in Madurai so will make calls home that way.  I’ll need to check but I’m fairly sure India is four and a half hours ahead.

Going to wind things up and head to bed as I have another busy day tomorrow.  I still have to get my travellers cheques and photocopy them along with my passport and visa.  I also need a case for my camera and some passport photos for my pass at the hospital.  I’ll hopefully post a quick update on Tuesday night with a picture of my packed rucksack =]


Rucksack…

MY RUCKSACK HAS ARRIVED!  Its all getting very real now =] I’ll need to start packing it soon! It’s perfect… obviously been used before but still in great nick with plenty of life left in all the straps and all the zips and clasps are working perfectly.  Its a little smokey but I’ll air it outside and it’ll be awesome =] I’ll post a pic later in the week. x

Meenakshi Mission Hospital

Update time =] Yesterday I got confirmation that I’m going to be volunteering at the Meenakshi Mission Hospital and Research Centre.  Although Meenakshi Mission Hospital is regarded as a private hospital, it is managed by a non-profit trust that aims to provide accessible and affordable healthcare to all.  The Meenakshi hospital is heavily involved in charity work and works with organisations such as the Smile Train.  The hospital is also involved in the Save the Little Heart Scheme which sees the staff of the hospital cover 50% of the cost of corrective heart surgery for infants born with Congenital Heart Disease!  The hospital also provides free HIV treatment and palliative care.

The hospital was founded in 1985 by Dr. N. Sethuraman after an American Christian missionary inspired him to train as a doctor.  From the pictures on the site, the hospital facilities are very basic.  Saying that, Meenakshi still has a broad range of departments with an A&E and ambulance service.  The hospital employs over one thousand staff and has a total of 46 departments which treat pretty much everything including cancer, diabetes and paediatrics.  The hospital also has dental and ophthalmology departments. Below is a picture of the Meenakshi Mission Hospital.

Because my placement has changed (from Jawhar Hospital to Meenakshi), I’m now staying with a different family.  This new family also look lovely;  the couple have two children (a girl aged 9 and a boy aged 4) and the wife’s widowed mother also lives in the family home.   There will be another four volunteers staying in the house and all four are also on placement at Meenakshi Hospital.

So yes, only 11 more days till I leave!  Getting very excited now, can’t believe its almost here after months of planning! Oh, also, apparently the hospital has an internet cafe so when the doctors I’m shadowing are having their lunch break or whatever, fingers crossed I’ll be able to update my blog =] Last day of work tomorrow, well, later today!  I didn’t manage to get to Primark last weekend so that’s on next week’s to-do list…  I’ll no doubt post about my purchases soon =] x

Visa, Camera & Rucksack

My passport is only a couple of years old and I’ve never travelled outside the EU on it (i.e.  no stamps).   I sent my passport away knowing that the visa application process could take up to six weeks but my passport and visa were returned within a week!  Below is a picture of my very shiny visa =D I know for sure that I’ll get an entry and exit stamp at Mumbai (Bombay) and apparently some states will also stamp passports.

For years I’ve always used the cameras built in to my mobile phones but I decided that if I was going to be taking photos in India, I’d need a proper camera.  I bought the Kodak Easyshare C182 which has really good reviews. I’m really impressed with it. Its a 12 MP camera and also records video and sound.  The camera doesn’t have any built in speakers so when playing back videos on the camera itself, you can’t hear anything.  However, when I’ve uploaded the videos on to my laptop and watched them from there, the sound quality was really good.  Below are some pics of the camera I’ve taken from the Kodak website.  As you can see from the pictures, the camera has a huge display screen on the back which is really clear.  The camera also has both digital and optical  zoom functions,  face detection,  red eye reduction,  self-timer,  flash and digital anti-blur.  Most importantly, the camera takes really good pictures.  I’ve also ordered (and received) some memory cards.  I’ve decided to take/ buy single use batteries.  Although rechargeable batteries are better value for money (in the UK), batteries in India are really cheap.  It was also worth considering that there is only one socket in my (shared) bedroom.  At nights, this will be occupied by a mosquito killer plug-in and I’m obviously not going to leave my camera at home to charge during the day.

The software that came with the camera is really easy to use.  However,  I’m not sure whether or not I’ll be able to upload photos without installing the software and this  is obviously not an option on a PC in an internet cafe.

Yesterday I won an auction on eBay for a 75 litre rucksack.  Including P&P, the total cost is £31 which I think is a bargain. The picture on eBay is a bit rubbish so I’ll post a pic of the rucksack taken with my camera once it arrives.   I wanted a second-hand rucksack so that I don’t look like a rookie traveller or like I have a lot of money.

This week I’ve also been reading up on safety/ general advice on a site called IndiaMike.  The site has LOADS of different forums, including an entire section of the site dedicated to first time visitors to India.  A lot of the advice has been really helpful and the forum contributors are both experienced tourists and Indian residents.  I’ll be posting more info on what I’ve read later in the week but I’ve linked the site so feel free to explore yourself,  it may even answer some of your own questions!

*Correction

I’ve deleted my first post as it made no sense…  I’m leaving on the 30th of June and returning on the 1st of August, not the 2nd.  Sorry for any confusion!  I hope to update this blog every day or so whilst in India but until then, this will just be filled with all the details, preparation and excitement. =]


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