What I love about my classes here is that we take a lot of field visits. It gives me the opportunity to take all the information I have learned in class and see it in action. My Public Health class took a trip to a few rural locations to see how the health centers work there. I met amazing people who have a passion for helping others regardless of the cost, and I also experienced a little bit of culture shock.
I debated whether or not to put this in here, but I think it is important to show the ugly side of the culture here as well. We were on our way to the rural health center when our cars stopped for a tea break at a roadside restaurant. We were just about to get back in our cars when we all heard a commotion a few cars down. What I saw was very horrific. A woman was being held by several men (which turned out to be her male relatives) and hit in the head repeatedly. Why you might ask? Because she had left home to elope with her boyfriend. It is common in India, especially in the rural settings, for the parents arrange marriages for their children. Somehow this family had found their daughter before they could marry. A man tried to step in and stop her from being beaten but was told, “This has nothing to do with you.” The woman was dragged to the car and taken away. I felt so small and so helpless that day. It was my first true meeting with culture shock.
On a happier note, the rest of the trip was amazing! We visited a Naturopathy center where mud treatments, yoga, acupuncture, and other practices are used to treat patients. We drove through the mountains to a village where several brave and amazing women work to provide health care and education to the surrounding peoples. We heard their amazing stories of how their strength and courage allowed them to rise above oppression. One woman is now a local politician in her village after overcoming such challenges as having her crops burnt by her political opposition. And another woman owns her own restaurant. These two and several others all run a self-help group which seeks to educate women and introduce them to new places. For instance, they are now planning a plane trip to New Delhi since most of the women have not traveled far from their villages. After that, we visited a school who seeks to eradicate malnutrition among the village children. At the school, the children who were learning English sang the ABC’s for my group and recited the different phrases they had learned so far. I was so impressed! The dedicated teachers there do amazing work. We also visited a village hospital that makes the most of its limited supplies. The staff is only made up of a few people but is expected by the government to take care of a population of 8,000 (made up of 18 villages). Most of the villages are inaccessible by car, so those who need care often times must be carried for miles to the nearest facility. This trip was quite the experience, and I will not be forgetting it anytime soon.