Saturday, December 1, 2012

Catching up with celebrating

So it’s been a long time. Missions keep you quite busy and left me no time for writing on the blog.   

The last time I wrote, I was in the middle of my Mumbai trip. My last two days there, I saw the Gateway of India and the Taj Mahal Palace, ate in the famous Leopold Café, and made certain to see the beautiful architecture. Walking around I felt as if you could plop some of the buildings in Mumbai down in London and things would look eerily similar if not the same. The reason? The British built most of downtown Mumbai back in the day. Now, of course, Mumbai is BOOMING. Next to a historical building will be a massive skyscraper. What most surprised me about Mumbai, besides the number of slums, was the number of skyscrapers. Mumbai = tall buildings everywhere.
Taj Mahal Palace
Taj Mahal Palace
Taj Mahal Palace

Gateway of India
Gateway of India

A tourist hotspot: Leopold's Cafe
Leopold's Cafe

Leopold's Cafe... one of the many gun shots

Some Western food at Leopold's Cafe.
Woah! A starbucks?!
3 of the thousands of skysrapers in Mumbai. 

A Library founded in 1847.
Older architecture.

Notice the skyscrapers next to the old British building. 
Classic Mumbai street food

One very special treat in Mumbai was to get to see some friends from Nashville. It just so happened that at the same time I was to be in Mumbai, Charlie and Mary Cook, two friends from Nashville, would also be in Mumbai. It was such a fun night to reconnect with Nashvillians and eat delicious food. I brought along my friend, Olivia, from Sweden, whom I was traveling with, and we ate in their very nice hotel restaurant. They encouraged us to order whatever I wanted. It was the first Western food I had eaten in months and so I splurged and ate a salmon appetizer and then I had delicious cheese and tomato ravioli for my entree. Absolutely delicious! Mumbai was the last leg of the Cooks' trip and I loved hearing about their adventures as they had been travelling through India. The adventurous couple had journeyed from Delhi to Rajahsthan to Agra to Varanasi to South India and finally to Mumbai. Whew! Their trip sounded so amazing and I must visit these cities. I am so grateful for their generosity that night. It was so fun to talk and talk and I could not ask for a better visit from such special people. 
Me and Olivia at dinner with the Cooks. 
Thank you to the Cooks for a fabulous evening! 
After a great trip to Mumbai, I flew to Bhubenswar for an international mission. Bhubenswar is known as the city of temples, which makes sense because temples there are like Starbucks in the USA… every corner, every shape, every size. The team on the mission represented nine countries and performed 118 surgeries!

The patients were not as shy on this mission. They smiled a lot more and were more curious about playing with me. One memorable incident involved a 14-year-old boy who had a complete cleft lip. Before he got his surgery, he would not even lift his head to look me in the eye. After his surgery he confidently approached me to shake my hand and said thank you, looking directly in my eyes and everything. Even though missions are 15-hour days, they are filled with such moments as these. You are surrounded by energetic people who have traveled so far to care for others and witness transformations like these. Missions are so much fun! 

Bhubenswar mission
On Thanksgiving day (HAPPY LATE THANKSGIVING!), our team visited the Konark Sun Temple, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We ate a delicious lunch of freshly caught fish from the Indian Ocean. (Yes, I did put my feet in the Indian Ocean.) The temple was fascinating. It was built in the 13th century by the Lord Krishna’s son. It is called the Sun Temple because it has detailed sun clocks everywhere so that the people could tell time. Every centimeter on the temple is a piece of art, carefully crafted to depict a story. 

The Konark Sun Temple
One of the many clocks.
See the details? This art was on every square inch of the temple. 
With my favorite animal.
The team in front of the temple. 

Fisherman on the Indian Ocean.
A peek at my Indian Thanksgiving meal! 
Happy Late Thanksgiving from the Indian Ocean! 
At the Konark Sun Temple, a member of our team found a baby with a cleft lip. We convinced the family to come to the hospital in Bhubenswar as part of their visit to the Sun Temple. The next day, they showed up. I will never forget the look in the mom’s eyes when she walked in. She obviously loved her baby with all her heart, but in her eyes you could tell she worries every second about how her baby will live a normal life. For some reason, I kept running into the family throughout surgery week. Every time I saw them, I gave them a huge welcome with a smile and hug. Like all families they were nervous about the operation and had no idea what to expect.

When the beautiful mother saw her baby after the operation she just started crying. I saw them in post op and the mother was so grateful as she pointed to the lip, giving me a hug (which is rare for strangers to do in India) and smiling like I have never seen. I kept thinking about what would have happened to the baby if we had not seen the family at the Konark Sun Temple, but thank gosh that we did.  
The family we found at the Konark Sun Temple. 
I also got the chance to go to Puri, which is an hour and a half away from Bhubenswar. While there, I got to see the spot where Hindus believe the universe was created. Only Hindus are allowed inside the temple that has been built over the spot, and people were waiting 4-5 hours to get a one-second view inside it.
The Jagganath Temple in Puri. 
Some street food in Puri. It was delicious! 
The most well-known and celebrated festival in Orissa (which is the state surrounding Bhubenswar) is the Puri beach festival. It happened to be going on while I was there! Concerts and dances were held, the most famous sand artist in India came and built sand art, and the beach in general looked like Panama City spring break. Families in beautiful saris were taking family photos on the beach, men and boys were trying to jump the massive waves, camels were being walked on the beach in case you wanted a camel ride, and the place was just jam-packed with people dancing and screaming and being silly.

Camel's everywhere.

A glimpse of incredible sand art. 
If you cannot tell yet, India is a celebration 24/7. 
My last day in Bhubenswar, I took a walk on the beach by myself for around three miles and I found myself getting homesick. (Note: home being my home in Guwahati.) I love the beach: the sounds, the smells, the sights are all stunningly gorgeous. At the same time, the ocean can be so vast and daunting. I was surrounded by hundreds of people crowding around watching the sunset, with my feet in deep waters that holds millions of creatures. I was putting my feet in something that touches every continent. India can be overwhelming sometimes. 
Well, I am not quite sure what it was, but at that time I just wanted to be in MY bed so badly. I wanted to be back in a city that I knew, back with the familiar and comfortable.
 Sending smiles from India,
Hannah Dobie

 Other pictures from my trip:

The mission's final party.
The mission's final party. 
Some of the nurses from the mission team. 

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