Day 1 on the Job/The day I became a “Motorcycle Babe”

***Dear CASI blog followers, I apologize for the extra posts! Another aspect of life here in Madhya Pradesh: the internet is not so great, which has made me resort to e-mailing my blog posts to people with better internet to be published! That last post was not intended for the CASI blog but for a different, more personal blog. A little taste of the trials and tribulations of being in rural India and trying to stay connected for you all!***


The real post:


Day 1, What a day!  Knocked out two life goals in one go!


Goal 1: Experience rural Veterinary Medicine in a drought-prone country that is not the USA (the main reason I am here in Madhya Pradesh, sweating out the remnants of theworst semester ever in the never-ending sauna that is the pre-monsoon season in central India)


Goal 2: Become a Motorcycle Babe (developed years ago when my sisters and I learned that our Mom had a boyfriend in College who had a motorcycle, and she often rode on the back.  We were so impressed that our Mom was such a rebel that we made it a goal to also become “Motorcycle babes,” as we called it)


The day started like any other, in the Mess, eating oats and chai and furiously drinking water to combat heat stroke.  After breakfast I met Dr. Gopal, the veterinarian for SPS, borrowed a helmet, and off we went!  As I sat on the back of Dr. Gopal’s bike, sun on my shoulders, wind in my dupatta, cruising down bumpy dirt roads interspersed with smooth new pavement, past brown fields recently planted for the upcoming monsoon season, bullocks pulling plows and goats impeding traffic, naked children congregating around their village hand-pump and well, women carrying water, sticks, or grain baskets on their heads, nothing but new ahead, I thought “this is the life!”


We met up with one of SPS’s para-vets (Veterinary assistant that handles most routine cases and vaccinations in smaller villages) at a veterinary sub-center about 30km away from the SPS campus and headed to a small village to check on a bullock that had a fever and was off-feed a few days ago.  When we got there, I saw GREEN animals!  A goat with blue/green spots, chickens with green feathers.  The chickens I could write off as some bizarre breed that we don’t learn about in vet school, but a blue-green spotted goat?  Thankfully the color was just paint used to identify the animals as belonging to the specific household, and not the reason for our visit.


True to form, the veterinary work took about 3 minutes (the bullock got an injection of meloxicam for fever and pain and b-vitamins), and the entire visit took about an hour.  I got the low-down on the usefulness of cow dung (used as building material, heat for cooking food, and fertilizer on fields), the difference between buffalo, bullocks, cows, and goats (details will have to wait for a later blog post, otherwise I would probably go over my data allowance here), was invited into the house and saw how cereals are ground using a hand-turned stone and stored in HUGE beautiful bamboo woven baskets that are re-sealed with mud, and was given some pretty shy looks by the children.


Work completed and socializing concluded, we headed back to the veterinary sub-center to wait out the heat of the day.  From 12:30pm to 4:00pm we sat in a little room, talking about veterinary medicine in India as a whole, in this part of India, the “livestock programme” at SPS, and going through the cabinet of medications used in the field.  As we discussed the generic names of medications and their use I realized firstly how much I learned this past year at PennVet (always good feeling when studying pays off), and secondly that interpreting the mechanisms, details, and use of specific drugs from broken Hindi-English into my basic understanding of pharmacology really reinforces my knowledge of treatments and disease.  Learning and understanding went to a new level as I was forced to fill in the technical details between gaps of translation.  More often than not I would resort to asking about the signs a drug treated, then worked my way back back from that to what the drug actually did and hat disease it treated. Many of the diseases have different common names and almost all d the medications have different trade names, and I was really thankful  to have learned all generic names!


After waiting out the heat of the day for a few hours and a lunch of lentils and little wheat balls about the size of baseballs, slightly friend then baked using cow-dung (how appropriate for the day!), we headed back to the SPS campus.


With two life goals squared away and incredible re-enforcement of relevant learning, I am ready to call it a day.  I am blown away by how much I have learned in 7 days and can only expect that with 10x the time there will be 1,000x the learning.  I can’t wait for tomorrow!





Blue chickens!!



Cow dung, one patty so many uses!

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