Saturday, December 6, 2008

Farewell India

It is hard to believe, but we are in our final few days of our stint to India. We are amazed at how fast the time has gone! We have thoroughly enjoyed out time here in India and will be sad to say goodbye to those we have come to know so well. This week we went out for our farewell dinner with the Structural department Alex has been working with. This friendly bunch treated us to a very delicious Gujarati meal.


Ritesh, Nirav, Ghanshyam, Bhavik, and Ashish



Khyati and Sunita




the go-to guy, Ankoor, enjoying his meal.



all done.







Alex opening his first birthday present.... lots of neat fruits and...

sugar cane! mmmm delish!

We will be leaving Ahmedabad on Wednesday and making a stop in Delhi before we land in Chicago on Thursday. Thanks to everyone who kept up with us during our stay in India and for our faithful blog readers. We look forward to sharing our India experience when we return to the States.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Palitana

The city of Palitana is a sacred pilgimage location for followers of the Jain religion. For others, it's an incredible place a half-day's drive away from Ahmedabad with some amazing scenery, topography, and architecture, if you're up for the climb up Satrunjaya Mountain.

Randy, Kirstie, and I left Saturday afternoon for this remote city in southern Gujarat. As we neared our destination, our driver Gamer navigated his way through bumpy and damaged roads scattered with mutts and ferrell hogs, asking several strangers for directions before we found our hotel located a couple miles outside the city. Most of the lodging in Palitana is dorm-style accomodations available only to Jains. We had three hotel options, and though I was interested in checking out the $3 options that the travel agent advised against, I may have deterred Kirstie and Randy with stories of sweaty sheets and brown water at other such economically-priced hotels I visited during my first trip to India. So we stayed at the Vijay Vilas Palace. It was a rustic, quiet, century-old house with six rooms for guests. We were the only ones there, and had a relaxing evening with a delicious home-cooked meal and good conversation, then hit the sack early to prepare for our morning trek.

The Vijay Vilas Palace

About an hour after sunrise, we started our 2000-ft, 3500-step climb up Satrunjaya Mountain. It was an unusually overcast and foggy morning; the air and temperature were as nice as we've had in our four months here. I absolutely love mountains, probably since I rarely get to experience them as a midwesterner. Of all God's creation, the scenery from a high range captivates me the most.

The climb turned out to be pretty manageable, with steps the entire way, and plenty of switchbacks to provide a steady slope.

Nonetheless, some folks elected to make their way up the mountain with a little assistance.

We also saw several cows and donkeys on the way up. I don't know if they were Jain cows making a pilgimage or just tourists like us.

Watch your step! The steps were filled with droppings. I don't know if most of it was holy crap or just the regular kind.

Step #3000!

It's even better in person.

At the top of the mountain, there are somewhere between 850 and 1200 temples, depending on whom you ask. They are all built almost entirely out of marble, and construction took nine generations to complete, starting in the 11th century.



Here we are as high as we could go. A security guard showed us a ladder behind a temple where could climb up on the roof. This is probably one of my favorite "couple-pose" photos of us ever, and it also features my incredibly economical $0.50 haircut.

The combination of natural beauty, impressive architecture built nearly a millenium ago, and the challenge of the climb made for one of my favorite experiences during our time here.

We have only one week left on our international stint, and I really appreciate the symmetrical way this trip bookended our journey along with the Acropolis. As we reached the summit and peered down slightly below us, we could see hundreds of temples packed together, worshippers scattered among them, young and old, rich and poor. And we heard distant chants from those at the main temple, having completed their pilgimage. Though no tablet like the one on Mars Hill was nearby, we were again reminded of Paul's words from Acts 17, and they seemed even more relevant.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

a glimpse

I thought I'd show you some of the sites I see through out my days here. In an upcoming post, Alex will share some pictures from the office.

a great place in our courtyard to read. do try to follow the posted sign and make sure not to spit! haha!




our friendly security guards. they wanted to look professional for the picture.

where we get our exercise on

another great place to read, especially to beat the heat and sip on a delicious Tropical Iceberg

Upper Crust...great bread and cookies!


a few blocks down is Reliance Fresh...a small grocery store

across the street from Reliance is a nice little park. the sign continues to crack me up... "maintained by mother dairy"

my favorite little store Anokhi


the "landmark" near our apartment complex. our sociey's address is "behind Indian Petrol Pump".



Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Creatures

From street dogs to elaborately dressed elephants, Ahmedabad is full of many kinds of creatures. Some have been unwelcomed visitors in our flat, while others just hang out on the streets. Luckily some are living at a local zoo we visited.



this fellow greeted me as I walked into the kitchen





unfortunately his tail never made it out of the kitchen. we tried catching him with a bowl, but the rest of him escaped!




a beauty was spotted wandering around in our courtyard





this gang was a little camera shy and ran off as I took their picture





cute kid at the zoo




video

translation: snakes bite!




turtles at the zoo




video

Pences and pigeons don't mix well


Friday, October 31, 2008

our new nephew....



Benjamin Caleb Rawlins. This new little bundle of joy was born October 31st at 10:29am. Weighing in at 7.5lbs and 20in. long. Brad and Steph made a dash to the hospital at 10am (leaving Kate at home with a friend). After Brad parked the car, he made it upstairs just in time to meet his new son! Ben is already proving to be one fast kid. Everyone is doing well and we are so happy for this new precious life.



kate and her new baby brother

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

The Hospital

Monday night around 2:00 am, I awoke out of my sleep with a severe burning sensation in my chest. It didn’t feel like any danger to my heart or lungs, so I wasn’t too worried. But for nearly two hours it continued. I drank some milk and downed some Pepto-Bismol, which helped me eventually go back to sleep. The next morning I still felt a little pain in my chest and the upper part of my abdomen. I’d never experienced anything like this, but attributed it to some kind of extreme heartburn or indigestion.

Before work, Randy (KJWW’s American mechanical engineer in India) called and said he wouldn’t be making it into work that day, for he’d spent the night vomiting and diarrheaing. Aaaahh, food poisoning, I thought. Probably related to what I experienced last night. Was it the chai we drank from the dirty tea stand in the middle of nowhere on the way back from Udaipur? Was it the McDonald’s we’d eaten later in the day? Equally suspicious.

As the week continued, Randy endured a couple more days of weak stomach and dehydration, but improved to full strength by the end of the week. On the other hand, I was experiencing some other digestive system troubles – increasing soreness in my esophagus whenever I tried to swallow, accompanied with some gastrointestinal bleeding.

So on Friday, I asked Ankoor, our company’s do-everything assistant, to set me up with a doctor. Unable to set an appointment with a private practice family doctor that day, he settled on sending me to the “expensive” hospital. So off I went, with our driver and a co-worker along to help navigate through the complexities of a large hospital with many non-English speakers.

After a consultation with the doctor, he ordered up a series of tests and also wanted to admit me for a couple days. I talked him out of staying at the hospital, but he did schedule me for blood, urine, and stool sample tests, along with an X-ray, a sonogram, and an endoscopy. He also prescribed three different medicines.

A bit nervous about the bill for all of these tests, I called Kirstie to have her contact our insurance company and see if there’s anything we should do. She was away from the apartment at the time, so I can imagine her panic upon hearing this news and sprinting home in a worry. She was unable to reach our insurance company; however, after seeing the total for the doctor consultation, X-ray, and sonogram, I realized there wasn’t going to be a big need for insurance. The final bill, with the endoscopy, laboratory samples, and prescriptions added in later, came to about $150, and I was able to put it all on KJWW’s company credit card. I expect this all might have been well over a thousand dollars in the US, so I definitely understand the appeal of medical tourism.

First I went to give blood and waste matter samples. Many bathrooms in India don’t have toilet paper, but I thought perhaps the hospital would. Nope. Fortunately, I couldn’t go #2 anyway, so I dodged the need to use faucet-and-bucket cleansing by electing to collect the stool sample at home.

Next was an X-ray of my chest. I’m not sure why this was necessary. Expectedly, nothing in my lungs or rib cage or heart size was causing my digestive problems. Later that day I returned for a sonogram. During the exam, the door kept swinging open for all the passers-by in the corridor to peer in at the American with a gelled-up belly and pants unbuttoned. As the radiologist scanned around my abdominal area, I wondered if I might be having a boy or a girl. A sign outside the sonogram room stated that it’s illegal in India to determine the gender of your baby before it’s born, so the doctor just told me my liver, gall bladder, kidneys, stomach, pancreas, spleen, bladder, and prostate all looked normal without mentioning anything about the baby.

The next day I dropped off a cup with my refrigerated poo at the lab, and received my blood and urine results – all normal. Then I was off to the endoscopy. This was the most exciting and dreaded part. At first when the doctor told me I needed an endoscopy, I was picturing a colonoscopy, and I was like “Whoa whoa whoa, is that really necessary?” And he said it’s not very uncomfortable and will only take about 15 minutes. So I thought, “That’s what she said!”

In an endoscopy, the doctors stick a tube hooked up to a video camera down your throat and explore all the way into your stomach. Going into this, I thought this must normally be done on men at least 50, and based on the other two men in the waiting area, it’s more like 90, actually. As I sat on a cot and awaited my turn, someone flipped the TV from a Bollywood movie to professional wrestling, and all the nurses and other staff took a break for a while to watch a tag team match.

First the doctor asked me a few questions about the problems I was having, then I was given a sedative, which made me relaxed yet awake throughout the procedure. A couple squirts of spray in my throat numbed my gag reflex, and I soon had a flexible tube travelling down my digestive tract. Ten minutes later, the doctor had found everything he was looking for and more. Hopefully you don't find these photos too disgusting:


  • Pill esophagitis, an inflammation in the lining of my esophagus (you can see the affected white area above), caused by taking a pill right before bed with only a small drink of water. Doxycycline, my malaria medicine, is one of the pills most commonly associated with this rare diagnosis. Not fully passed to the stomach, the pill lodged in my esophagus and in just a few hours, caused damage and symptoms mimicking esophageal cancer.

  • An ulcer, which could have come from a number of things, most likely painkillers, too much alcohol, smoking, or a specific type of bacteria. My money’s on the latter.



  • A polyp, which is a small abnormal growth, rarely cancerous, but usually harmless and can sometimes be linked to the same bacteria that causes ulcers.

Doctors say the esophagitis will take 4 or 5 weeks to heal. They will be doing a biopsy on a couple stomach samples, and there’s not much reason to be concerned at this point. Every sign points to benign. Hopefully my interjection of humor in this story lets you know I don’t have much more than a small grain of worry in me about this. I’ll found out later this week or next week for sure though, and give an update in the comments area below for any caring readers. Meanwhile, any prayers you offer for quick healing and good test results are greatly appreciated.

If you’re interested, I received a CD with the full video of the endoscopy, and I’d be more than willing to share that with anyone upon request. It’s quite interesting and gross!

Monday, October 20, 2008

Udaipuuurty

The Venice of the East was quite a stop for us this weekend as we ventured about four hours north to the city of Udaipur. With three beautiful lakes, surrounded by breathtaking mountains, it was by far the best sites we’ve seen here in India. For this post, we must let the pictures do most of the talking…
The two Palaces on Lake Pichola
Our hotel... Baba Palace. Great location, great view, and a great name!
View from our room of Jadish Temple
more Jadish Temple
the carvings were so amazing!
Entrance to the City Palace
Gardens of the Palace
I pretended to take a photo of the tile work, but really I was stealing a shot of this HOT mustache
the Palace was so grand with hundreds of rooms, secret hallways and spectacular views
the doorways are a tad bit short

camel ride... note that the front seat is a LOT more comfortable! Especially for boys. The camel's hump was in a really inconvenient spot for Alex.

we got a first hand look at some painters hard at work





this lake palace was in the Bond film "Octopussy"



we took a lift up to the hills for a great view of the city