First and foremost, to all who are reading, welcome to my blog for this summer. My name is Maggie, and I (uncreatively) use alliterations in titles often. I’ll be updating WordPress periodically on my internship at Aravind Eye Care Systems in Pondicherry, India and all other things living across the globe may entail.
Applying to work with Aravind through CASI this summer was an easy decision. As a health initiative with a broad network and impressive business model, Aravind fits my interests perfectly. I’m a health and societies and economics double-major, so both the bottom-up medicine and economic sustainability aspects are things I want to learn about on the ground. I believe my time in India will compliment what I’ve learned in the classroom; I’m incredibly thankful Penn, with the help of generous CASI donors, provides its students with funding for opportunities like mine.
Alas, I’m setting out to spend ten weeks in Pondicherry, a relatively small city on the south east coast. I’m looking forward to seeing parts of the country that many short-term American tourists may not get to visit. As someone from Iowa City, Iowa, I know foreign tourists visiting New York, Washington D.C. or Los Angeles inevitably miss America’s heartland. They may not experience Midwest-nice, state fairs, family-owned diners, national parks, and other aspects of American culture found outside the metropolises. I’m hoping that staying in Pondy, along with a little time in Delhi and Madurai and traveling where I can on weekends, will help me get a more holistic view of Indian culture—one which I may not have been able to grasp as a tourist just passing through Delhi.
Preparing for my trip required doing number of tedious, paperwork-heavy tasks including obtaining a second passport (I am studying abroad in the fall and need one passport back in the states to be sent to consulates for visa applications for my program), an Indian visa, getting reimbursement from insurance for travel immunization received from Penn Student Health, etc. Much of it was time sensitive and made me nervous, but of course everything worked out and in hindsight I wish I wouldn’t have let myself get so stressed about it.
I made sure to pack a variety of my favorite snacks from home, vitamins, electrolytes (weather will be around 90-100º F most days), and over-the-counter medications I may need. In addition to a point-and-shoot digital camera, I’m bringing my dad’s Pentax K1000 film camera that he bought sometime in the 1970s, which magically surfaced for the first time in a while (decades?) in my parent’s garage about a week before my departure.
I felt weary of the 21 hours of travel ahead of me as I boarded the plane May 17th, but the thought of all the new adventures awaiting me in Delhi and beyond kept me in good spirits. I bid a much-anticipated farewell to my American comfort-zone as the plane ascended.