Monday, July 18, 2011

Toilet Paper and Granola Bars

By: Kim

While Team India held plenty of interest meetings throughout February, I’d say the group was truly established when David said, “Okay, really guys, who really wants to go on this trip?”

“I’m in,” Siobhan said.

“I’ve opened my summer up just for this,” said Martin.

“Me too,” I replied.

We were in a circle at Med Ed. One by one, we responded. While some were not sure, others were confident.

From that day on, the Team was set: David, Molly, Martin, Siobhan, Morgaine, Dawn, Cristina, and I. Folu joined us a bit later.


The planning began.

We soon met with Team India 2010, who gave us their first-handed advice about the trip. Dr. Chandy has been bringing UCI medical students to India for the past three years. Like last year’s group, we will visit Vellore (a teaching hospital known for their international elective rotation), Gudalur (a jungle/tribal clinic), and Bangalore (India’s largest cardiothoracic hospital). But unlike last year, we will split up at the end of our trip, with half our Team travels to Jamkhed to work with the Comprehensive Rural Health Project.

Team India 2010 shared with us a comprehensive packing list, and some items seemed completely random to us at first glance. The list included items such as: “toilet paper – but make sure to keep it in a plastic bag,” “chain and lock,” “flash light,” “wine” and “lots of granola bars.” But we soon found that the toilet paper is for airports, restaurants, and many other bathrooms without toilet paper---it’s like a scarcity here. The chain and lock will be for locking up our valuables when we’re not at our rooms. The flashlight for avoiding stepping on large scorpions while walking around at night. The wine as a token of appreciation for the doctors in India. And granola bars are for rushing out of our rooms at 8 AM to get to our first clinic on time.

Our final days concluded with a couple of meetings with Dr Chandy and his Cal Tech research team. His team developed some great devices to possibly improve medical education and rural health, and we’ll be testing these devices as we travel. On a random note, I learned something new about Cal Tech during one of our meetings: the school has a beautiful hotel on its campus with an amazing outdoor restaurant!

We’ve been told what to expect in India: It will be hot. There will be a lot of people. There will be bugs. But what could not be more understated and overarching is that this will be the trip of our lifetime. We will be traveling with our fellow classmates and an amazing professor. We will see and learn so, incredibly much in the next 4 weeks. I can’t wait.

Bathroom at Chennai Airport
Scorpion at Vellore


Seven of us stepped onto Chennai’s airport at 2AM on Saturday and found Dr. Chandy and a few others waiting. As we waited for the rest of our group to arrive, crowds and crowds of Indian people filed into the baggage claim room as well. Women wore beautiful sari dresses or traditional tops, men in more modern button-down shirts and loose pants. I noticed the people were considerably shorter and leaner, reserved and smilier, than those back in America.

Being India's fourth largest city, Chennai is also one of India's most humble, and you can tell by the airport bathrooms. It doesn't boast the fanciness of Mumbai or the modernness of Bangalore, but Chennai does feel friendlier from the start. As we waited for the rest of Team India to arrive, the security TSA officer helped Dr. Chandy out by letting him use their computer and internet. The officer even let me borrow his phone so I can make an international call to my mom to wish her a happy birthday (happy birthday again Mom!).

The streets outside are in bumper-kart traffic, population extremely dense, and weather oppressively muggy. We weaved our way through the maze of streets in our van and made it to our dorms in Vellore. We settle in and have the weekend to explore the town and campus before clinic starts on Monday. Let the adventures begin!

Unloading our van

The girls go clothing shopping!

Our walk to lunch

Community Health and Development clinic


  1. I promised my mom I would let her know I'm alive and well. Love you Mom. You too Pops. ;)

  2. Trying to figure out how to reply this is my 4th try. Love the pictures, what an adventure. Glenda and I want to hear all about the food and spices. Looks like it will be rice with every meal. 97 here today with 100% humidity. Love and miss you both and keep us updated, I like it that you kept your promise and glad to hear you are alive and well.. MOM

  3. Looks like a great group. Just think about how when you are back at home in the fall and studying for endless hours at yet another Starbucks a bathroom where you BYO TP will sound like tons of fun! I miss you Molls. Buy lots of cute fabric so I can make things for you when you get home.

    Love you,

  4. Looks like you guys are going to for sure have the experience of a lifetime as you said. Keep up the posts! I'll be living vicariously through you :)