Sunday, January 13, 2013

Welcome Back to Sensory Overload

I missed it. I missed having loud noises drumming in your ears, strong smells hitting your nose, dirty air touching your taste buds, crazy sights floating across your eyes, and the touch of a dirty kid’s hand coming in contact with yours.

I missed walking into the slums and hearing “Sister, Sister, Sister!” and then wishing you had twenty extra arms to carry twenty kids. I missed greeting the patients every morning in the pre and post op ward as they nervously sat waiting for surgery. I missed walking into the center and saying good morning to all my friends. The rainbow colors of the women’s clothes, the chaos of peoples' lives here, the sheer insanity of it all, welcomed me back with open arms.

When the security guard at the hospital heard my voice down the hall, she started running with open arms and exclaiming, “HANNAH! OH HANNAH!” For ten minutes, we talked about what we had done for the past three weeks, with a lot of hand motions, broken English on her end, and broken Assamese on my end. I gave her a couple of packs of Reeses butter cups. I had brought bags of them back from the United States.

I brought lots of presents for my friends here. From Nashville postcards, to bags of marshmallows (a lot of people wanted marshmallows--interesting), I brought back little goodies and thank you presents for so many friends here. (Below are photos and captions of my friends with their presents.)

Pinky's brothers love the marshmallows.  

Pinky's mom loves the Nashville toffee (and the bow that it was presented with).

Let me catch you up on various odds and ends…

Rosie, my roommate, is still home in Australia and she is letting me borrow her scooter for the time being. I am having so much fun driving the scooter around town. I honk a lot. One thing is for sure: There is no such thing as texting and driving. (Amazingly I still see some people doing it.) There is ABSOLUTELY NO WAY you could look off of the road for even a second. You will for sure get in a wreck. And yes, in anticipation of your questions, I wear a helmet. And second, Rosie gave me scooter lessons before I left.
Me and peachy (the scooter).
Two friends I met at ISLC, which is the Operation Smile Student Conference, came to Guwahati to observe the center. It has been so much fun having Claire Crawford and Kristen Trivelli living with me. Kristen is a student nurse at Georgetown University, so she came to observe nursing practices at the center. Claire came as part of the U-Voice program, which allows students to be “journalists” on missions. I REALLY encourage you to check out Claire’s blog at It has some amazing stories of what the Guwahati Cleft Care Center is all about (including special patient stories).

Fabric shopping with Claire. 
Kristen, a student nurse. 
Last Sunday, my other roommate, Kristin Lay, who runs the Pratyasha Foundation that assists slum kids, was flying back from California for the holidays so I was in charge of making all the kids lunch last Sunday. I successfully made food for 85 kids and we took it down to the railroad tracks. I cannot believe I made dal, a tricky dish to make, for over around 85 kids.
Making the dal. 
Yummy dal
Lots of rice!


Yummy lunch
I really missed the kids from Lakhtokia (the slum where the kids live) while I was home. A lot more than expected. We fed the kids today (Sunday) and we are also going to feed them tomorrow (Monday), which we don't ordinarily do. But tomorrow is Bihu, which is a cultural festival that celebrates harvest time, especially with rice. There are three Bihus and each represents a special time in the farming calendar.  Bihu is celebrated by feasting, like most Indian festivals, so we are feeding the kids the extra day. We plan to pass out hats, as it is winter in Guwahati, which means in the low 40s at night… BRRRR! And thanks to some Swedish nurses currently working for Operation Smile here, we will also pass out toothbrushes, soap, and toothpaste.

Toothbrushes, toothpaste, and soap.

The amount of rice needed to feed Lakhtokia kids for two days. 

An upcoming project in the slum includes what we're calling "street kids day," which is when we take the kids from the slum to a local orphanage to give them showers, clothes, and in general play with them. Also, we hope to soon start taking them to school. We are going to try and make some progress on this front this week by going to the school and meeting with the teachers and administrators there. We need the school's buy-in for this to work out. Once we meet with the school officials, then I will report on how that went. Keep your fingers crossed!

Sending smiles from India,

Other photos from the week:

A snapshot from the 15 hour plane ride. What a beautiful sunrise!  
The view from Pinky's neighborhood. 
Remember Pinky ( Pinky's house is the one with all the clothes in front of it. 
Diganta before surgery
Diganta after surgery with her mom.
Her mom is too sweet. (Read more about Diganta at
An after is coming soon! She was all smiles. 
It's cold in Guwahati! 

Some delicious fish from a fair. 
Kissing the fishy. 

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