It's amazing to think I have been here two weeks. It's extraordinary how the initial wariness and nervousness of being somewhere totally new and strange (apart from some remembered familiarities) gradually eases into increasing boldness about exploring one's environment. As mentioned I am staying at RUHSA campus which is in the heart of the countryside. It is a small area with many low buildings scattered along its dusty paths - hostels for students, visitors and young doctors; residential houses for staff and their families; offices and training rooms; a hospital; a little shop with a public telephone; a post office and a canteen for anyone who needs sustenance.
There are lovely, lovely people who live & work here, they are so helpful, welcoming, smiley, hospitable and friendly. The most important person on the campus is the Wonderful Immanuel for whom nothing is too much trouble. Whatever you ask of him, however obscure and seemingly impossible, he sorts it out. I have told him that he has set such a standard that I am going to try and find increasingly impossible tasks to assess the limits of his brilliance. Personally, I don't think he has any limits, but I've warned him he's going to get some serious challenges now! Mr Handy Anandan has already been mentioned. He sent two electricians in today to earth my plug, which I was very glad about as my laptop has now stopped giving me electric shocks everytime I touch it.
After the pair of barefoot Sparks had finished earthing my room they moved on to fix a light outside on the passage. They asked if they could plug their drill into my socket. Of course I replied, turning away to continue what I was doing. When I turned back I realised that "plug in" was not an accurate description of what they had done. The drill, which I could hear whirring away in the backgroud ended in two wires which they stuffed directly into the two bottom sockets. Amazingly neither did they fall out nor kill anyone and they finished their work and went away happy at a job well done.
The doctors here are also lovely, so keen to talk about their work, which they all feel very dedicated to. They are all committed to delivering the best possible service to this little rural communty and are full of new ideas and projects to improve things. Dr Rita, who will be instrumental in the project I am working on, is about to start cervical and breast cancer screening in the villages, which is non-existent so far and people are presenting late with uncurable disease. The training officers who will be the main source of expertise and enthusiasm for the project are absolutely amazing. They have had so much experience with delivering services to the villages from healthcare to economic projects. Again they are bursting with ideas of what we can do further.
The plan for our project is to start with an appraisal of the needs of the village we are going to set up the community centre in, which is called Keelalathur. The team so far consists of myself, Matthew A who is extremely experienced and has been at RUHSA for many years, but is far from running out of ideas; Selvakumar who is a psychologist and who is keen to increase mental health provision, a subject after my own heart; Dr Rita, as previously mentioned, who is a community Medic and who has a postgraduate degree in epidemiology and her junior Dr Shrikanth; Jumbulingam who's also phenomenally experienced in fieldwork and a couple of others, whose names I have shamefully forgotten. I am really looking forward to our first "staff meeting" which will take place next week as both myself and Matthew are away for a week.
As well as the local staff there are 8 Australian social work students who are doing a project in the surrounding villages based on the WHO's Healthy District template. They are all lovely people who have a great sense of responsibilty to their work here. I have only got to know a couple as they are all quite busy, but Romi, who has just shaved her head completely - something she has always wanted to do, hurt her foot last week so has been around more than the others and so I have been able to spend some time chattng to her which has been great.
I am currently in Vellore having to be online several times a day for my MSc in International Primary Care which started today so I have left my rural idyll and am in the hustle and bustle of central Vellore!
Thank you to those who leave comments, because although I feel like I'm writing this extremely sef-indulgently for myself, it is nice to know what people think if they are reading it. Of course I don't know who they are from usually, so they are probably unknown internet surfers with a special interest in worms!