It’s Saturday morning in Mungeli, India. the hospital is open. the kids are in school. but as you might expect, it’s quieter than a weekday. the outpatient clinic is more or less closed. normally bustling with patients for everything from x-Rays to physical therapy to dental care, today, it seems more staff members than patients wander its hallways.
sandy and ken and hannah and Mary Linda and Stephanie and I all have busy a busy day ahead of us, but we are all coming to the realization that Monday, and the loooooooooong journey home, will arrive all too soon. but when we start to pack our bags in the coming day or so, we will pack up some beautiful images, distinctive sounds and enough memories of this experience to last a lifetime.
I’ve mentioned before that Stephanie and I are building an updatable digital directory of staff and students with pictures and information. well, one of the hard parts of the project is that the nurses and nursing students all work different shifts and schedules. so one night this week, we grabbed the rest of the group and went to the nursing school where each class has 2-hours of study tables. so, almost every student was there.
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ken and I photographed each one (this is no small accomplishment when you consider that young women are the same everywhere…they don’t want their picture taken except on their own terms and you have to do goofy stuff to make them give you a real smile). once photo’d, the girls went to Stephanie, Mary Linda and sandy who tried to record names and year-in-school. in reality, they presided over the deterioration of mandatory study tables into a bizarre social hour: ask one girl a question, 4 others help answer. take one picture, 2 other “models” weigh in on whether or not it’s good enough or needs a retake. while their teachers may not have gotten what they wanted out of evening, I’m pretty sure what should have been a quiet night of studying was a lot more fun because the circus came to town.
just FYI — i use that phrase a lot (the circus coming to town) because wherever we go, we attract attention. it’s inevitable. we don’t seek it out, we just stand out — the color of our skin, the way we dress, the sound of our voices and no doubt, the click of our cameras.
another night this week, we took the circus on the road when our guardian angels accompanied us into mungeli to have dinner and look for new clothes. (photo below)
just FYI — you can fit at least 21 people into an ambulance (with room to spare). thank goodness the town center is not far from the hospital. you get a dozen nursing students in an enclosed space, all dolled up to go out on the town and you quickly become overwhelmed by the decibel level inside a rolling metal box.
the ladies found saris and other traditional Indian tops/blouses/shirts — some off the rack, some tailored at prices that’d make you think we ‘d been drinking instead of shopping. ken and I each grabbed traditional Indian shirts that fall below the knees (we are two sexy beasts). all colorful. all different. all picked out with the help of our guardian angels (if you don’t know what that means, check out the previous posts). all will serve as reminders of this extraordinary experience.
it’s FYI — on every mission trip, there’s a certain amount of exploration. you work the majority of the time, you get to see something with the time that’s left.
part of our time as tourists was spent in the kanha national park — a tiger preserve. over 1000 square miles of land and a mere 90 tigers in the wild. seeing one is a BIG DEAL. we met people who had been there for 3-4 days, on 1-2 guided tours per day and had still not seen a tiger. we piled into a safari jeep at 6am on a cold, cold, cold, cold, cold, cold Friday morning…
just FYI — I (and I am not a cold-blooded person) wore 5 layers and was still cold.
…and headed into the park. 6 tourists, a guide and a driver squeeze into a modified jeep, watch the sun come up and hope against hope to see a big kitty. about 2.5 hours into our trip, I thought I saw a wild boar off in the distance. I asked the driver and guide to back up. they did, but said, it’s only a peahen. telephoto lenses confirmed it.
but as we were about to pull away, suddenly, a frantic, screaming whisper from our guide, “TIGER!” just to the left of the boar-turned-peahen, the black and orange stripes of a Bengal tiger beamed in the early morning sun. then, the not-so-silent clicking of a monkey, alerting the jungle to the large cat’s presence. and then, the repeated warning screams of a spotted dear herd gathered a few hundred yards away. in the end, tiger posed for all of 5 minutes and then retreated back into the jungle, passing on breakfast this Friday morning.
no lions. a tiger and yes, a bear too…oh my. perhaps rarer than even spotting a tiger, we saw a sloth/black bear stalking spotted dear, crossing the road right in front of us. our guide noted it was only the second bear he’d seen this season. toss in some jackals, black storks, several (and rare) varieties of deer and other aminals and it was quite the adventure.
meanwhile, our adventure continues over a final weekend in India.