Last day of the program…

The last day of the program involved visiting some historic sites in New Delhi – and unfortunately, as has happened throughout this program, one student (Nicole M) stayed at the hotel because she was a bit under the weather 😦

We started with a visit to the beautiful and serene Lotus Temple which is the place of worship for people of the Bahá’í faith, dedicated in 1986. Though I have known of this religion, we took the time today to learn a little more about it, and the temple personified their teachings of oneness of God, oneness of religion, and oneness of humanity. The world would certainly be a better place if everyone believed this and did not use religion to divide people and create conflicts…

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Our next stop was the Qutb Minar – the tallest stone and brick tower in the world (73 meters) built is 1192! This is the oldest structure we have visited and it is interesting also because although the tower was built by Moghul (Muslim) emperors, there is still evidence of the Hindu and Jain temples that existed alongside and the architecture reflects the typical arches associated with Muslim structures and writings from the Koran on the tower as well as of Hindu and Jain architecture. The icing on the cake was that my college friend Deepu (1981-1984) came to meet me there and is included in our group photo!

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After lunch at a nice restaurant for our last hurrah, our next stop was India Gate which was constructed as a memorial to Indian soldiers who lost their lives in World War I – fighting for the British army as India was still under British rule at the time.

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We also drove up the Raj Path (Kings way) – at one end is the India Gate and at the other end is Rashtrapati Bhavan (the Prime Minister’s office) and the parliament houses.

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Next stop was the tomb of another Mughal emperor Humayun, built in ~1530. However it was pouring rain – evidence of the monsoon season, so we waited on the bus for a while playing two truths and a lie. Finally, we decided to give it a go with ponchos and umbrellas to see these ancient structures that are being preserved and renovated.

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Back to the hotel to pack, dinner in-house in the hotel, and final discussions about travel etc. as 10 of the 12 students have left for the airport for the long flight back home. We wish them all a safe journey and happy reunions with their families…

Travel and the Taj Mahal…

Friday July 19 was a travel day; we left Mysore later than our planned 7am because trusty Shivu arrived very late 😦 I was frustrated at first and then had to put on my “Indian culture hat” and say “this is India”!

Our flight was fine and our bus picked us up at the airport as planned and took us shopping at Dilli Haat – a large cluster of shopping and eating stalls representing a number of states of India. The students had a great time shopping and we ate dinner there before we went to our hotel.

One more hiccup of this trip – they hotel said our booking had been cancelled!! Luckily I was able to reach our travel agent who had made the arrangements and he apologized and arranged for us to go to another hotel close by – the same one we had stayed in last year – phew! Just seems to be the theme of this trip to keep having these hiccups!

Saturday July 20: Taj Mahal

We left our hotel at 8am for the long drive to Agra to see the Taj. This year we were much better prepared than last year! We left earlier, made sure we had extra water bottles, ate lunch upon arriving in Agra and then went to the Taj. Our driver also took us to the West Gate (last year we went to the East Gate) – and it appeared that the West Gate entrance is less crowded.

We got a guide, got our tickets and proceeded to the imposing West Gate…

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Our first glimpse of the majestic Taj Mahal through the archway of the West Gate

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Though the heat was intense, the beauty of the Taj, built over 22 years in 1630 is surreal. Everything is symmetric, the marble is so pure, the work is so detailed, and it has been maintained so beautifully, it is awesome…

We had a short 5-minute rest after exiting the Taj…

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Took a final group pic…

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and then stopped for some more shopping…Ravi being the salesperson here… 🙂

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Some of us chose to ride in a horse carriage (called a tonga) to the parking lot (instead of the electric golf carts that are typically used)

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And then it was back on the bus for the long drive back to Delhi, where we ended the day with some yummy gelato at the place called Dolce Gelato right across the street from our hotel. One student still under the weather 😦 – and tomorrow is our last day of sightseeing some of the historic sites in Delhi…

 

Safari Day 2…

A very early morning start today: 6am safari

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Started with several small mammal sightings including…

Wild boar:

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Ruddy mongoose:

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Striped neck mongoose:

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Indian tree squirrel:

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Barking deer:

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Some new birds including swallows, kingfisher and painted storks…

A monitor lizard..

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Again saw several peacocks and a herd of gaur including a baby!

And just when we were about to give up and end the safari (it lasts 3 hours), we came upon a group of 7 elephants (including a baby) at a watering hole!!!

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What an amazing way to end the safari!!!

Drove back to Mysore, packed, and went to dinner at a rooftop revolving restaurant from where we watched the illuminated Mysore palace…

Tomorrow we say goodbye to Mysore and our trusty driver Shivu and leave for New Delhi for a couple of days of adventure there…stay tuned!

Safari Day 1

A very lucky day on safari for us today!! We arrived and were assigned our rooms – ours is the Tiger Room…

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It is a very relaxing and peaceful place!

Lots of monkeys around our cottages

And we are off on safari!

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Lots and lots of chital deer…

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Sambar deer…

So many peacocks…

Peahen…

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Indian gaur (the biggest among the bisons)

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Lots of birds, though I only captured the large owl, the tiny green bee eater, and rock pigeons…

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Langur monkeys…

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Elephants!

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And for the grand finale – a leopard!!

We ended the evening around a bonfire after dinner…

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…and are ready for another safari at 6am tomorrow – let’s see what it brings!!!

Fun and work all in a day…

Tuesday July 16:

The day started with 11 students going to a yoga session very thoughtfully organized by Spoorthi Mam (she has done so much for us this year including setting up several screening days as well as the invitation to the dance recital, and now yoga!)

 

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The students enjoyed it thoroughly, while Lexi and I slept in a little and then enjoyed an Uber auto (aka tuk tuk) ride to meet them after yoga

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After yoga we went to Chamundi Hill. The hill is an icon in the city of Mysore with the famous Chamundeshwari temple at the top

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The legend is that the Goddess vanquished the demon Mahishasura, and we took the “mandatory” photo in front of the giant statue of the demon

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Then of course there was shopping at the stalls that cater to tourists

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The beautiful view of the city from the hill top

And a brief stop at the Nandi (the bull that is Lord Shiva’s vehicle) which is halfway down the hill

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After all this fun, we had lunch at the lovely Amrutha’s Restaurant (where we went last year as well) and then proceeded to Maharaja’s High School for the afternoon schedule of screenings

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We screened 87 students and 15 staff members

Followed by a short gathering of the teachers at the school who thanked us for coming, and were very impressed with the Kannada spoken by our students!

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Once again, HUGE thanks to Spoorthi Mam for making all the arrangements! Since this was our last clinic we showed our appreciation with a small gift from Purdue…

Student reflections about their progress from their first clinic at Purdue to their final clinic in India:

  • I feel like I am faking it less. At Purdue I smiled and pretended like I knew what I was doing… I never saw the eardrum. Now, I can find the eardrum, gauge patient’s responses, now don’t feel like I’m faking
  • I got comfortable interacting with patients
  • Earlier I was terrified, and never saw the eardrum consistently; now I am more confident
  • Here people feel privileged to have the opportunity to get their hearing screened – made me realize not to think of what I am doing as just doing it. It is a big deal. Now, I am more excited, and feel I am doing something that’s actually important
  • My flexibility has increased, I am going with the flow without getting worked up
  • My problem solving skills have really improved
  • Today was not my best day, but I stuck with it and improved!
  • I am more confident with basic skills and less afraid to ask when I need help

Sneha Kiran (Ray of Love)

Note – not many pics today as we do not post pics in which the child/patient can be identified…

The day started easy enough as we were to leave at 10am – finished breakfast at 9 and went to the ATM. Just as we were leaving for the bus the laundry arrived creating some confusion as I asked for the bill and the man did not have any…but we got it figured out and got on the bus just a few minutes late.

We finally left at almost 10:15, but luckily Sneha Kiran has several signs leading up to it so we found it easily! Like last year, James started the proceedings sharing information about how he founded the organization as a place where children with cerebral palsy (CP) could get care under one roof, after he had to take his son with CP to different places for different services.

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Then the principal Sonia spoke about the programs. Finally Navya, an SLP who seemed very cheerful gave a presentation on the things she works on with the kids. She has been at Sneha Kiran since 2 months, and has 5 student interns (4th year BSc students) who rotate every month.

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By this time it was noon so they decided to have us observe the classrooms after lunch. I went in to chat with James for a bit and he said that donations are down since the new government. I learned that the teachers who are so cheerful, enthusiastic, and positive are paid a very low salary, which i9s typical in India (my mother was a school teacher for many years).

We ate our PBJ lunch in the same room and then I met some of the kids in the hallway. One little girl appeared to be non-verbal but very smiley and quick! I took her pic and she wanted to take mine!

Gowri’s pic of me!

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She was walking with a girl who I chatted with and she was from Germany, volunteering here for one year, but leaving in about 2 weeks. Another German girl is here too volunteering for a year though the German government program! I think Germany is doing a fantastic job getting their youth to volunteer all over the world and subsidizing their programs!!! I met these German volunteers in Zambia as well, and the great thing is that because they stay for a full year they assimilate into the local culture as well as have a sustained impact!

We started our tour on our own in the first classroom  and enjoyed interacting with Uday and a few other children (I wish I could remember more names) in the room. Then onto the next classroom where the SLP Navya showed up. She took us to the computer room and showed us some of the adaptive technology and actually had a child Vikram come to do a demo for us – that was really awesome! He showed us how he could type and also do a coloring game on the computer. We went to 2 more classrooms where we met Shruti, Lavanya, Amulya, Tapasya, Hrishikesh (who communicates with full sentences pointing to his book), Tejas (who communicates with yes/no nods only) and several others (wish I could remember all the names of the kids.

Here is a link from their website: Child

Unfortunately we had very little time, and it was time for the recess at the end of the day. The kids had fun playing passing the ball followed by wheelchair musical chairs!!

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Then Malathi and another teacher taught Betsy and others a few dance moves! 🙂 (will try to post it on FB)

A fun day with children with severe disabilities who are living their life to the fullest surrounded by dedicated teachers and parents who are joyful – it is always great to visit Sneha Kiran!

 

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Student reflections:

  • Brought tears to my eyes to see how low tech AAC can make such a huge difference
  • The teachers were so happy and enthusiastic!

Thank you Sneha Kiran for allowing us the opportunity to learn from you!

Screening, screening, screening…

July 14:

Today we left early at 7am and traveled about 1.5 hours to the Jawahar Navodaya school which is located in a remote area close to the edge of a forest/wildlife sanctuary. The school is a residential (boarding) school with a large 20 acre campus…

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We screened more than 300 children from 6-10 grade with our 11 students working together (one stayed sick at home unfortunately)…

 

 

The group at the end including the Audiology India volunteers and school principal..

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And we all got a bottle of fresh honey collected by the tribal villagers from the nearby forest! Once again a HUGE thank you to Spoorthi from Audiology India for organizing this event for us! It provided such a great clinical experience for our students…

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Reflection from student:

“At first I was not not sure why they sometimes don’t understand the directions. After one little girl cried, I thought about it more and realized I’m not sure how ANYONE understands what we are saying. We are saying “beep beep – hand” in their language, but not pronouncing correctly, and saying the same thing over and over if they don’t understand.” In fact, it’s amazing how many kids DO understand the directions with just those words, smiles, and gestures!!

Presentation, palace, and shopping…

July 13:

This morning, we found our way to a school called “Bachpan” (which means childhood).

  • As usual they first offered tea as per Indian hospitality 🙂
  • Also as usual the videos in my presentation did not work but I put them all (well almost all – missed one) into a folder and we were able to play them – phew!
    • HUGE thanks to an Audiology India volunteer for taking the time to come early and set up the projector for us!!
  • The presentation went fine…
  • and the best part was that the teachers were very interactive and informed and engaging

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  • The group picture before we departed…

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  • We FINALLY made it out of there and after lunch we went to the Mysore palace

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  • There was not any line for the tickets, so I thought Ravi was mistaken when he said it was crowded – well I was the one mistaken!!
  • The crowd was immense; but we quickly found a guide who took our slippers and took us into the palace
  • We flowed along with the mass of humanity, but the guide did manage to get us together to explain things along the way – it was quite an experience
  • I guess it was a bad idea to go to the palace on a Saturday, especially a 2nd Saturday which is a holiday for many people…but here is the group after…

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The rain did not dampen our spirits as we saw the palace elephants…

  • After that we went to the market as planned. The students had fun buying anklets, spices, tea, knives, bangles etc. in the busy market
  • Then we stepped out and all 12 students got henna on their hand done by three henna artists who were very efficient
  • The results:
  • So – another day, unfortunately ended with another student illness, yet they maintain their good spirits…even while sitting on the roadside!

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School screenings, fun, and cultural learning…

By Betsy:

Today was a fun filled day as we continued expanding our cultural and clinical knowledge by completing hearing screenings at a government residential school, visiting the Kishkindha Moolika Bonsai Garden/Aviary and attending a dance performance by the Academy of Bharathanatyam Dance. I’ve noticed that no matter what we encounter on this trip, there are always cultural lessons to reflect upon! Even as I write this blog post, the power has gone out, which has happened several times since we’ve been in India. Although a power outage is miniscule, it is still something that is different from our typical everyday environments in the United States. These small changes highlight the importance of embracing even the small differences and being flexible!!

We couldn’t have asked for a better morning, starting off with the school screenings for 6th-8thgraders! As soon as we got off the bus, we heard the joyous sounds of a marching band and children singing and clapping. As we approached, each and every student surrounded the entrance and courtyard of the school and gave us a huge warm welcome. The positive and loving energy radiated throughout the entire building. Even after welcoming us as a group, they welcomed us each individually by blessing us with a rose and bead garland.

Wearing our bead garlands…

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This touched my heart and pumped me up for the day! This type of hospitality has been a common trend throughout our time in India. It seems as though every place we have visited, people have been extremely courteous, welcoming, thoughtful and always attending to our needs. There’s almost always someone giving a warm welcome and/or goodbye, offering tea/coffee/snacks, offering a place to sit, giving us small cultural presentations through song and/or dance, and much more. Although the attention can be overwhelming at times, it’s something we are very appreciative of and have become accustomed to. Before the screenings commenced, the principal of the school shared his story about how his daughter has bilateral hearing loss and how she wouldn’t be where she is today without speech and hearing professionals. He expressed his gratitude toward our field of study, which made me feel even more inspired, comfortable and connected to the facility.

 

Throughout the screenings, I was blown away by the children. They were excited, attentive, respectful and eager to spend time with us! Since a lot of children in India learn English in school, we were able to have simple conversations with them. I thought it was adorable when one of the students asked me, “What village are you from?”. Despite some of the language barrier that did exist, the children were able to understand the screening task quickly and respond consistently! They were very impressive! Due to the organization, cooperation and fluidity, we were able to screen 140 children! Woo hoo!! This was our 5thscreening day of the trip and I could really tell everyone has increased their confidence and that we are working really well as a team!

Screenings…

And of course Spoorthi Mam – who helped organize this program for us through Audiology India…

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Next, we headed to the Bonsai Garden and Aviary, where we enjoyed the calming essence of nature! At this garden, there was a large and beautiful collection of bonsai trees and plants from all over the world. Along with the trees and plants, there were several statues and art pieces which were representative of Indian culture and religion. For example, some of the plants had connections to the Indian zodiac system, Indian classical music and natural remedies for different illnesses.

At the Bonsai Garden…

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Next, we visited the aviary which is a rehabilitation center for birds. We were able to see a wide array of beautiful birds and colorful parrots from all over the world!! These activities were the perfect way for us to relax, while still exploring India!

We ended the evening by attending a classical Indian dance performance. There were dancers of all ages who were dressed in beautiful and extravagant costumes! I was extremely excited for this!! Dancing is something I am passionate about, therefore I was eager to experience and learn more about Indian dance specifically. A few years ago, I took a Bollywood dance class in the US, which is dance-form commonly used in Indian films. The performance we attended today displayed a different style of dance known as Bharathanatyam, which is a more traditional style. Although this is different than Bollywood, I was intrigued to see if I would notice any similarities to the dance I learned back at home. Typically, in Bharathanatyam, the dancers tell a religious story through hand motions, neck/head movements, and facial expressions. For example, one of the dances told a story about when Krishna (one of the major deities in Hinduism) was a child. As I watched, I noticed that the hand motions were almost acting as a form of sign language to help tell the story.

Finale of group dance about Goddess Lakshmi…

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Above – one of the tiniest dancers in the pose of Krishna playing the flute

In the end, I concluded that there are in fact similarities between Bollywood and Bharathanatyam. Although they have a different vibe, they share similar signs and meanings. I would love to learn Bharathanatyam in the future!! This experience showed me that something as simple as dance can have a much deeper cultural significance!

Learning to work with individuals who are blind

By Anyia:

Today the group of us headed out to Divya Jyothi, an institution of computer science for the blind, to do hearing screenings. The whole facility was impressive, and fully funded by public donations with generous volunteers that come to help during the week.

There was a total of twenty-seven students and eight staff members that we tested. At first a few of us were nervous about how we would communicate with the students, for majority of the group this was the first time interacting with the blind. Instead of relying on the simple language words we knew paired with our usual gestures to communicate we found ourselves more dependent on the staff to translate the screening instructions to the students. The language barrier was prominent today as we could not explain further than the basic words to let them know what we were doing and lacking the ability showing them the tools being used.

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Due to them not being able to see what was going on around them some of the student appeared nervous when we stuck an otoscope in their ear; which caused us to change our approach and be more cautious when working with them. While screening we worked by tactile skills, guiding the students to the seat and using touch to let them know if we were on their left or right side; some even went as far as letting the students feel the tip of the otoscope to provide more comfort for the student.

Once the screenings started and we got used to working with the students the screenings went smoothly. I feel, as a collective, our screening clinics are getting better as we go along. We learn from our mistakes from previous clinics and fix it for the next one. Although, we were nervous in the beginning about working with an unfamiliar group of people we were able to adapt and had an efficient day.

Post-script by Lata Krishnan:

We spent the afternoon at the Mall of Mysore, where students shopped for outfits, jewelry and gifts…

 

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And ended the day with a shopping trip to the supermarket near ODP to buy lunch supplies for tomorrow – using a very interesting shopping basket with wheels! Thanks to Lexi and Candace for coming along to help carry the supplies back!!

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