We havent had internet for the last 24+ hours, so here’s yesterday before I debrief our first working day!
Today was a deliciously lazy day; after breakfast we went to the chai shop on the campus grounds and waited for what we had been told would be cow races. Cows are very sacred in India, and so none of us had any ideas about what to expect. The races were to start at 10am, and in true Indian form, nothing started until around 11:30 (India time is definitely a thing). Cows from ASSA’s pastures were brought in and tied to a fence outside one of the main reception buildings; they had been adorned with flowers and various colored spices or chalks. In my efforts to take photos, I moved off to the side of the cows, and one of the older gentlemen watching ushered me into a spot near the staircase so I was able to get a few shots. This seemingly simple gesture is reflective of the general atmosphere at ASSA, and the places we have visited thus far; everyone is so genuinely kind and wants to ensure we are having a good experience in every way.
The cows were fed what I assume was Pongal, and bananas (!!), and showered with flowers. The people who look after the cows were also given gifts for their work. After that the cows were untied and turned loose to wonder the grounds.
After lunch, we enjoyed some downtime and then took an auto to a nearby temple, Mahalingam Mountain temple. The ride was about 40 minutes, and there were lots of people out and about. The main form of transportation here is walking, or motorcycles. Many people don’t wear helmets, and suffer head injuries or spinal cord injuries (SCI) in accidents; the majority of the people at ASSA with SCIs have been in motor vehicle accidents. We passed through smaller villages, and the relative poverty is something I’m still having a hard time comprehending. Everyone is dressed very well to celebrate Pongal, and the colors of the women’s saris are amazing. I didn’t take photos of the villagers; it felt rude to snap photos of them as we whisked passed, without their permission or any inkling of who they are as people and their stories.
Many of the temples are built at the top of steep or long stair cases; the devout will go up on their knees or crawl. The temple we went was at the top of some very steep stone stairs; you also must go barefoot. The auto driver agreed to wait, so after tossing our shoes into the auto we climbed the sun-warmed stone stairs. The stones were just hot enough to encourage your tired legs to keep moving, and not remain idle too long, lest you feel like you were burning the soles of your feet.
The views were ABSOLUTELY worth the climb. The temple itself was stunning, intricately carved stone and passages. The surrounding hill sides were full of palm trees and fields. Many people were at the temple celebrating Pongal, and we had many people approach us to take photos or inquire where we were from; many children are very curious, but when we waved they would often become suddenly shy and hide. We met some very nice families, and after a long walk down the stone, we found some cold drinks. 3 soft drinks cost 14 rupees (less than 50 cents CDN), which is wild to think about. The price difference in every area is absolutely incredible; for a 40 minute auto ride to and from the temple, and for the driver wait for us, was 400 rupees, or about $8. Definitely a change from a $20 cab ride in Calgary to downtown, or a $50 cab ride from the airport in Montreal!!
Tomorrow is our first official day of work; we will meet with Ram and be assigned patients for the upcoming weeks. I will be working in early childhood intervention, so with children under the age of 6 I believe, with sensory impairments, on the autism spectrum or developmental challenges. This is the understanding I have at this point, but I’m sure I will learn a lot more this first week! I am able to draw on an offsite Canadian OT who specializes in pediatrics, as my supervisor here specializes in adult/neuro (stroke, SCI etc.). We most likely will be working from 9:30-5:30 every day; seeing clients in the morning with time for documentation and research in the afternoon. I’m pretty nervous about the language barrier but hope I am able to draw on some mime/act things out and depending on the special education teachers’ schedules, have them interpret; a few of them speak (some) English. We will also be continuing games night for the SCI clients on Wednesday evenings, and adding in a games night for both the Boys and Girls dormitories in the coming weeks. People from the ages of 16-30 live in these dorms, and we’re hoping to run the games nights on the same evening for both groups. I’m not entirely sure what to expect, or feel very confident in my skills… I’m having some doubts about how much I really know and how effective I can be; I’m hoping I will pleasantly surprise myself but also preparing to crash and burn… Fingers crossed!