Sunday, January 24, 2016

Family and Gynecological Misadventures

One way to get to know people is to let them scroll through your camera roll when they commandeer your computer… Then really hope there’s nothing weird there, you keep saying, “nononono let me explain,” “well yes I do have a tattoo,” or “nono I do have friends… I just like my cat and dog.” You lie awake that night wondering WHY you have so many pictures of your cat but not so many of your family. I didn’t even have pictures of my extended family to show them, and in the past three weeks I have meet more aunts, uncles and cousins than I can remember.

Family is so important here. For New Year’s (my 3rd day in India mind you), we drove across the city and partied with someone’s brother in law and four or five other families. We ate food so spicy I cried, played Rummy until 3am, and stuffed cake into everyone’s mouths at midnight. I slept in their daughter’s room along with a grandma and three or four aunties on the floor and sharing a bed. The way family welcomes each other is fascinating to experience here. The house has been a revolving door of extended family members since the first week after. When I arrived, I wondered why the house had so many rooms for just a couple with two recently married children, but it makes sense now. 

My host dad's sister and her daughter Kavya came to stay with us about two weeks ago. Kavya is eight months pregnant and having some complications, so she and her mother made the six hour journey here to access better medical care. She is one of the sassiest humans I have ever met and brutally honest. She’s teaching me how to survive in India while minimally offending people, a little bit of Telugu, and how to laugh at myself. I knew we could become friends when one evening, she turned to me and whispered with a sly smile “Mike, today I did not bathe.” “Me either, Kavya.” 

The other night, Kavya came home from the hospital with some ultrasound reports, passing them around the living room for everyone to see. There’s no hushed private conversation about a diagnosis or hiding of papers from the doctors here. When I met a neighbor the first thing I learned about him was his persistent toe infection. Looking at Kavya’s ultrasound, I mentioned my sister was a midwife. “A what??” “A midwife.. like an alternative gynecologist/OB” *some talking in Telugu* "Oh so your sister is a gynecologist?" “Not quite” “She is training to be one!” “Yeah….” In the moment, I decided it was a technicality lost in translation. However, Kavya then asked if she could send her reports to Brenna for a second opinion. Ooops. Since Brenna is a gynecologist in training, I said we could try but she might not be able to help. However, Brenna offered an expert opinion and put Kavya at ease! For the next week, Brenna received doctors’ reports and gave gynecological advice to a stranger in India, a “friend of Mike”. As one Indian student told me, “Ah yes of course! This is India, anything can happen.”

Funny mishaps like this are what I have come to love about being here. Things get lost in translation, but people have been so genuine and willing to develop relationships. The little things like joking around at the breakfast table: “ Auntie likes weird things, the burnt poha [a breakfast dish we were eating], fish heads, chicken heads, my head” (WHAT), evening lectures from my host dad: “Enjoy India. You will get fat. And then nothing will happen,” Kavya scrolling though my camera roll and saying “wow Mike, you are a crazy American” (not sure how endless cat and hiking photos gave that impression) make this trip amazing.

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