Hi everyone! I apologize for not writing earlier, but things were pretty hectic for a while, as I was constantly moving around. This past week I traveled up to the north of India, to Jaipur, which required an 18-hour train ride; it was a sleeper train, so it wasn't too painful. The railway put the foreigners all together, so I was sitting next to a Chinese man and a French couple. The rest of the space was filled with Indian kids that were part of the World Karate Federation and had been competing in Mumbai. It was definitely a very inter-cultural experience as we all sat around and (tried to) talk about India, given everyone's language limitations. Most people speak at least some English here, and that has definitely been one thing that has made traveling easier in this country, as before I always had to operate in another language. However, Hindi is the main language spoken here, as well as many many other regional dialects.
Jaipur was definitely interesting. It's the capital of the state of Rajastan. Historically, it's where the maharajas were very predominant, and there are beautiful palaces and architecture all over the place. (There is also a particularly large amount of poverty among the general population since the maharajas kept most of the wealth and resources for themselves.) There are also many beautiful temples. However, this took some time to appreciate. I've realized that big cities in developing countries tend to all give me a similar first impression - a cacophony of sights and sounds in which the traffic, pollution and lack of infrastructure stand out the most. However, I had been told that India was unlike any other place in the world, and I knew that there was much more there than what first met the eye. After a few days, I began to see what everyone was talking about. Undoubtedly, the religious richness is a piece of this - it seems to permeate all parts of society, and there is a great amount of pride in the religious diversity and religious history of the country. Hinduism is the main religion, followed by Islam, but there are also Buddhists, Christians, Jainists and many many more.
OK, I could keep writing about this, but I'm off to my first rotation soon, so I better finish up. For those of you who still aren't sure what the heck I'm doing in India, I'm participating in a medical internship through Child Family Health International. I am now in the city of Pune, staying at the house of a married couple who are the coordinators of the program, and who are also doctors and professors of medicine. The first five weeks, here in Pune, I will be focusing on maternal and child health, and for the second five weeks the focus will be on rural healthcare in the city of Dehradun.
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and has had a good start to 2008! Write when you get the chance.