Monday, December 13, 2010

Final Preparations

It has been quite a while since I last posted and preparations for my trip to India are well underway. I am scheduled to leave in three and a half weeks and my excitement is definitely building.  My only remaining stress is that my visa is still being processed in the Indian Consulate in Houston. Obviously that needs to be completed before I can make my trip - but I must trust that everything will be finalized on schedule so it does not impede my plans. 

The most exciting shift in my preparations since the last post was that I attended the Diwali celebration at the university and was reacquainted with Veeraraghavan, a young man who was in one of my classes Spring 2009.  As luck would have it, he is from Tamil Nadu, the region I am heading to.  Veera has generously offered to assist me by introducing me to wonderful information related to the culture, mores, and standards of the area.  His time spent with me and my family have given us all more assurance that I'm making a wise decision in heading to work at ODAM and his input has greatly aided productive preparations.  Watching the hit film "Enthiran" on Rajnikanth's birthday was certainly an experience I owe to Veera's generous sharing.

One of the most exciting prospects of my upcoming trip has been the opportunity to speak at the TedX-Salem Conference to be held on January 29th.  I am honored to have been invited to make a presentation at this event and hope I can do justice as a Ted speaker.  If you are unfamiliar with and the concept behind this idea-sharing forum, I would encourage you to check out some of the online presentations - there is a world of inspiration available there and I feel privileged to be a part of the Ted community in whatever way I am able.

Probably the most surprising thing about my trip preparations, at least to me, is how I have been whittling away at the lengthy list I prepared of items to take - realizing now how few of my "necessities" are really important.  At this point I hope to take just as little as I can so that I can more fully live the experience - participating in the local environment by dragging along less of my present life/belongings.  My son Bradon tries to live a minimalist existence and often accuses me of being a hoarder.  While I don't believe I exhibit all tendencies of hoarding, I have accumulated far more possessions than I can conceivably use in this lifetime and am almost willing to concede that it could be time to lessen the burden of these things which actually possess me.  Perhaps my time in India will provide me with the impetus to make such a lifestyle change.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Still Preparing

First, let me apologize if you are checking the blog expecting information from India at this time...  my trip has been delayed a couple months and I won't be leaving Texas until January 6th.  It's a long story and getting all of the details ironed out has taken more emotional energy than I would have liked and also delayed my posting to the blog as I was waiting until everything was settled.  I'm not certain that it truly is settled now, but at least I am moving forward.

Basically my preparations are well underway.  I have visited with a nurse at Passport Health who provided me with very helpful health and travel information for my trip - and who gave me several shots in preparation.  I had no idea such a company existed but am grateful for the ease with which they provided such useful assistance.  I will be visiting there again this week for my second Hepatitis B shot but otherwise have all the inoculations and prescriptions for such wonderful things as malaria.  I also purchased a fun water purifier while there that makes me feel prepared for anything.  I have seen my physician, had blood tests, a mammogram, and received a clean bill of health.  I saw my ophthalmologist and have a new contact prescription.  I will be seeing my dentist this week for a cleaning and checkup (and hopefully won't need anything more!).  I've purchased a mosquito net and an incredibly caustic chemical to soak it in - but am feeling less than enthusiastic about the treatment after reading all of the hideous chemicals it contains.  I want the mosquitoes to leave me alone, particularly since half of the diseases mentioned as risks in the area I'll be going seem to be borne by the little bloodsuckers, but don't really want to transport biohazardous materials in my suitcase. 

After all of the hoopla related to the ticket delay, I finally have a flight on Lufthansa going through Frankfurt.  The initial itineraries investigated took me through Doha, Qatar, which sounded more exotic.  Frankfurt in January sounds like an option which could run into risky weather, but one takes what one can get with a free ticket.  I have applied for my visa and have not yet received it, which seems to worry some but I still have two months before departure so believe all will be well.

One advantage to the delay is that I will be working an additional two weeks into November that couldn't have happened had everything proceeded as originally scheduled.  It took longer to process the hire of my replacement and this gives me a chance to train her - and makes me feel better about leaving the faculty and facilities I have cared so much for over the past decade.  Another positive result of not leaving until January is that I will be able to spend the Christmas holiday with my family.

So please bear with me and check back on the progress of the exciting trip closer to January.

Take care,

Friday, September 17, 2010


For those unaware, I have been working for the past two years on a masters degree in Geography with a focus on international development, refugee issues, gender violence, poverty reduction, and humanitarian assistance, with the intention of pursuing a career in the international community.  It has been difficult for me to push myself to leave the comfortable job I've held for over ten years, but was prodded to action when I was provided an opportunity to travel to India.  This came about in a most miraculous way - my family often attends events in the area sponsored by different cultural groups and in August we went to an Indian Independence Day celebration sponsored by the Indian Association of Austion.  We had a great time and stayed till the end in order to hear the results of the raffle - and I WON the grand prize, a round trip ticket to India!  That was the impetus I needed to make a life shift and I searched for internships, fellowships, jobs, or volunteer positions and finally found one that felt like a perfect fit.  

Early November I will be heading to the Indian state of Tamil Nadu to work with the Organisation of Development, Action, and Maintenance (ODAM) in the village of Tiruchuli, south of Madurai, closest large city is Chennai.  I will be posting updates as I have them - the main surprise so far is that I need to bring my own toilet paper ;-)  For details on the organization, check out their website at

Check back to see the progress - but I can't promise I'll be working to keep this up until I head to India.  I'll be busy packing and learning to speak Tamil!

Wish me luck,