Thursday, July 16, 2015

Cleansing Lepers

Summer flies out of Chennai for Delhi in one hour to start her touring leg of the trip. Here is her last email from the leper colony:
(Caution: some descriptions might be a bit graphic) 

So today was my last day at rising star's campus and I'm a little bit heartbroken. It was hard saying goodbye to all of the kids, especially the adorable Sarabi who I posted the picture of. 

Today we had the medical rotation, best for last I must say. A few days ago I had mentioned to Michael (the medical coordinator) that I was interested in the oil station, where basically you rub oil on the patient's legs around their ulcers. However....on the bus ride to the colony, he handed me the super long list of instructions for the washing station. Without a doubt the most difficult one. For some reason he felt like I needed to do it haha, which is actually so true....I was convincing myself that doing oil would be just as good, and there was no need for me to do the hard washing job. But in the back of my mind I kept thinking I would be disappointed in myself if I went home without doing the washing. Buuuuut that didn't stop me from being extremely nervous!

After several quick prayers and a few deep breaths, I watched as the first bandage was removed. And it was the biggest ulcer I'd seen so far. About the size of a softball, it covered the entire top of what's left of his foot. Since this colony didn't have a community hall, we had to work outside. Never in my life have I hated flies so much. Seeing them swarm to eat the ulcers nearly made me sick, it was definitely the worst part...seeing each ulcer covered in flies. 

Here's a bit of the process if you're interested: when the patient comes to my station, I inspect each foot/leg and count the number and size of each ulcer. Judging on the sizes and locations, I fill my basin with enough water and antiseptic solution and count out the needed number of towelettes. I let the ulcers soak for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring the water and battling flies when necessary. When their feet are done soaking (sometimes it's only one foot, depending on how many ulcers or legs each patient has) I use the first towelette to firmly wipe the ulcer (that part was tough at first). Additional wipes depend on the size. Once it's cleaned out, I dry the rest of the foot and put a booty on then send them to the nail clipping station. 

The last patient was even harder than the first. He's currently in the process of losing a toe, so what remains in the toe's place is a pink ball that looks very similar to a small brain with the blood and veins visible. The flies were exceptionally fond of this patient, and wiping his "toe" was hard because I think he felt it. Most patients lose feeling around their ulcers, but some aren't so lucky I suppose. People told me after my 18th birthday adventure that once you go skydiving, you can do anything. I've found that's not entirely true.....but once you've cleansed the ulcers on a leper's foot, then anything is possible. I'm so grateful I had that amazing experience, it is certainly something I'll never forget!

She had her name written on her arm in henna. 

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Medical Rotation in India

We got another email from Summer. Enjoy!

So yesterday was our second medical rotation, and the busiest one our coordinator has seen in a loooong long time! It was so busy that we ended up needing two washing stations! And with me as the water manager, that made for a long and exhausting shift. I was also cutting of bandages whenever I had the time to do so! As water manager I was responsible for filling up the two huge containers of water whenever they started to run low. After each patient's feet were cleansed, I carried the dirty basins ridiculously far away to dump them in a safe location, wash them with water and then with sanitizer, then quickly bring them back. I was constantly making the trip back and forth since we had so many people, sweat was pouring down my face. At one point as I was dumping a basin, a cow marched right up to me and stood over my two buckets. The cows here can be aggressive and the people let them do their own thing, buuuuut I needed those I slowly and carefully reached under the cow's gigantic head, got what I needed, thanked him, and went back to my business. After that he just stood a few feet away and ate some trash. 

I was quite nervous about cutting off bandages. I had no idea what to expect underneath them! I'm required to wear double gloves and a mask for that job. I had to sanitize the cutting utensils (they were basically fancy doctor scissors) between each use, and with my water manager job on the side, doing all of this was rather stressful. Luckily my first ulcer was a small one, but they gradually seemed to get bigger throughout the day. The ulcers are yellowish dead skin on the outside with soft pink something on the inside, they can get pretty nasty, but the anticipation is the worst part. I was right next to Sierra who was doing the washing, and the first time she went to wipe off the ulcer, I had a knot in my stomach and I could feel myself tensing up. But she did it, and I watched it, and it was fine! The nervousness was mostly just from not knowing what to expect, but now I feel like I could do the washing station and be fine. Some of the volunteers were playing Jenga with the kids, and a few of the patients joined in! One lady is missing both legs and she rides around on a little board with wheels, but seeing her face light up while she played Jenga was amazing. 

After our exhausting but awesome rotation we drove a little ways to visit a Hindu temple. The hike up was very long and very hot but i love hiking, and the view was sooooo worth it! I absolutely love the chalk drawings they have in front of each house here, and the ones at temples are even more extravagant. Oh some of the things us volunteers have been doing....the other night we had a dance party on the roof, and last night we played 'never have I ever' and had a giant dessert potluck. The people are awesome and I wish I could stay all summer. 

I just fried myself up some Parotas, I was hoping to bring them home but apparently they expired yesterday. So I guess I'll start eating them now! Some sort of bug(s) attacked my foot today after dinner so now I have 6 bites that are driving me crazy, they aren't mosquito bites so hey at least malaria isn't an issue here. Love you guys, stay safe and brush your teeth. Enjoy faucets with water that you can actually put in your mouth.
Love, Summer

She posed in front of this chicken coop in honor of her cousin Ellie that just passed away last month at the age of 12. Ellie had designed and constructed the cutest coop for her little hens in Utah. Much cuter than this one in India. 
She's having a blast with her friend Lindsay. 
She already purchased henna bottles to bring home. 
This was a text I got from her this morning (which was already late at night for her): Hahaha we were having a lip sync party and now the Indian police are outside because we were being too loud 😂 so we have to stay in our rooms haha but it's all good

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Church in Chennai

Just to clarify: Jen here. I just post the pictures and emails Summer sends. Ok, now that I made that clear, enjoy: 😜
Church was awesome! Our plan was to leave after sacrament meeting to go shopping at a mall, but we ended up having to stay for all 3 hours. Which of course ends up being a good thing! Sacrament meeting was mainly in English but one lady gave her talk purely in Tamil. We just laughed politely when everyone else laughed. One thing I've been amazed by is their speaking ability! Both of the youth speakers started off by saying they were very nervous (if the size of my congregation was doubled by strange white people I would be nervous too), but they both delivered amazing talks. I actually went to the young single adult class (since I'm one of those now) and that was fun, but we played a name game at the end and Indian names are IMPOSSIBLE to remember. In young women's a sweet little beehive taught the lesson about keeping our covenants. She had extra time at the end so she asked us to bear our testimonies, I got up and said a few quick things but nothing too exciting. sari. I was pretty sorry I wore my sari. Lindsay's and everyone else's saris are soft and silky and wonderful, mine feels like cardboard. For some reason mine is a different type of fabric that's extremely stiff and it doesn't want to cooperate. So I was trying to tame my wild beast all day and that made our two hour bus ride there and back even more hot and miserable. But on the way home we stopped at dominos pizza, it felt so good to not eat rice for once! The employees took pictures of us because I'm sure they don't have 20+ white people walk in their store every day. 

A few days ago we took a micro grant tour of one of the leprocy colonies, it was amazing to see how much rising star had helped these people. By giving grants they allow leprocy affected families to provide for themselves as apposed to begging on the streets. I bought two paintings from a room full of incredible artists, most of them missing several fingers. My favorite painting is a scene of a woman sitting out on her porch, and I didn't hear the story behind it until after I bought it. There was a man who lived across the street from my artist and he passed away not too long ago, so in honor of him, my artist painted what he saw every day. So the woman sitting on the porch in the painting is actually the artist herself. I was able to meet her and take a picture with her! 

It's easier to eat with my fingers now, I don't know why we started eating rice with forks in the first place. I do wish I could use my left hand though. I don't think I can ever wear jeans again, the clothes here are so comfy (excluding the dreaded saris of course). 

Today I have the medical rotation and I was actually given two jobs (because I'm the coordinator's favorite;). I'm the water manager, so all of the old basins used to wash ulcers get dumped out and rinsed by yours truly. Definitely not the ideal job, especially since in this colony you have to walk the length of a football field to get fresh water. But the oiling job was already taken, I called dibs for next time! My other job is way more exciting, I get to cut off their old bandages and unwrap them, so basically I get to reveal whatever horrors await the person at the washing station. So we'll see how that goes. After that we get to visit a temple! (Not the LDS kind, the closest one of those is in Singapore).

That's all for this email, have fun doing whatever you guys do without me, probably eating out every night and watching my favorite movies. 
Love, Summer

P.S. I bought myself some delicious Parotas, and if you don't know what those are, I'm so so're missing out. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Leper Colony Life

Venacom from Rising Star!! I absolutely looooove it here, I'm dirty and sweaty and exhausted but so very happy. The children are my highlight so far, they remind me so much of my kids in Fiji. Haha the only difference is that these kids are used to white people volunteering with them, so sometimes they're more interested in my phone than me. But we have "story time" every night where we go to the girls hostel and "tuck them in" I guess you could say. Lindsay and I were assigned to a room with older girls and I'm super glad because they know English very well and we're able to have good conversations with them. They sleep on the floor with just a thin blanket and a pillow. Compared to the rest of India, the volunteer toilets in the elephant house are considered upper class, even though it's literally a porcelain hole in the ground. That still takes some getting used to, especially in our long chudadars, or Indian outfits.

The construction rotation was exhausting because we carried bowls full of bricks for 3 straight hours. The Indian workers stare at us girls and we can hear them laughing at us as they carry 20 or so bricks on their heads. In India any interaction a girl (especially a white one) has with a man can be considered flirtatious, so I have to be very careful even introducing myself to people. The one and only place in Chennai where holding hands is acceptable is the zoo, which we visited yesterday! It made me happy to see so many cute Indian couples out on dates. We also went to a typical Indian "mall" or "junction" and I bought stuff to do henna tattoos.

The medical rotation is always a favorite, and personally I think our group visited the best colony because we met Abraham. Right as we walked up he started singing and clapping with his deformed hands, it looks like he's missing fingers but they're really just tiny stubs. We all joined in his clapping, and as soon as his song was over he started praying out loud. I have no idea what he was saying but it was amazing nonetheless. Then we set up shop and I had my own little station for the eye drops. I was in charge of recording each patient's name and of course putting two eye drops in each eye...some patients were more challenging than others. And some eyes were harder to look at than others because leprocy causes the face to droop, which means they have a hard time blinking and often their eyes dry out and they go blind. Also it's extremely hard to get a patient to look away from you when they don't understand any English. But when I was all done and the patients were having their ulcers washed, Abraham came and sat by me. At first it was just silent, but then I told him I liked his singing. He immediately bobbed his head and started up again haha, it goes on for at least 5 minutes. Everyone loves him. 

The education rotation is often the most challenging, but for me the most exciting. There can be some extremely difficult students, especially Sribanu who fell asleep when I was trying to help her in the computer lab. But I loved working with the fourth graders on math today, at first my boy was super confused and frustrated but it was so fun to see him slowly understanding it and doing it on his own towards the end. 

I love the other volunteers, you basically form an automatic bond with people when you suffer through agonizingly long plane rides and a never ending heat. Faith and Carson are AMAZING, I didn't realize Carson is the main leader here for the summer! Faith is the education coordinator so we're with her all day when we have the education rotation, she's pretty much perfect. All of the coordinators are in their mid twenties and I haven't met anyone in charge yet who's older than that. 

Lunch and dinner are rice and curry curry much curry. And I definitely hate curry I've decided. But for dinner we also have a lentil soup that I put over my red rice and there are hard boiled eggs, served warm. Today for lunch I cut myself an apple and had peanut butter with it, so life is good. But thanks to all the snacks I brought, I'll probably be the one and only person capable of gaining weight in India. My biggest complaint is only having one clean drinking water faucet, which means brushing my teeth/retainer is at least a 10 minute process because I have to get a cup of clean water and take it to the bathroom. The bucket showers are actually sooooooo awesome, when I get home I might just fill up a bucket haha instead of using the shower head. 

Well I love you guys, hope all is well back home. It's nice having wifi but at the same time I miss just being away from everything haha, that's why I haven't been texting much. I'll keep you updated on all my adventures and don't worry, I take my malaria pills. 

P.S. Kiss Zeedo and drive Tono Penske for me.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015


We just carried bricks for...2 hours and 45 minutes, we went above what we were supposed to do but hey we came here to work so it's all good. I'm absolutely exhausted though! 

Yesterday I did the education rotation and it was AWESOME. We worked with UKG (kindergarteners) with the alphabet, then 2nd graders with reading, then 6th graders with math in the computer lab. The kids are sooooo so cute and they smell like the kids from Fiji haha, which is a good thing and it makes me miss my Fiji family. 

I took my first bucket shower, it was actually super nice and I felt clean finally! But now after carrying so many sandstone bricks I'm filthy and sweaty again. So tomorrow is medical stuff, I'm excited! 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Skydiving on my 18th birthday!

My #1 bucket list item was to skydive in Fiji. Since I was too young in Fiji, I had to do it here in America. It did not disappoint!!!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

They have a bathroom now! :)

The family that I built the flushing toilet for, had at least 8 kids there at a time.  They were really excited about this new addition.  I gave them all American names, and they named me Susana (you can see where I signed the wall right behind the kids).  They couldn't say the 'r' ending to Summer, so Susana, in their awesome accents, was much easier.  They also called me Susan quite a bit.
 As you can see in these pictures, their house was maroon, so they picked this hunter green color for their bathroom (which is just a small room on the side with a toilet).
 I still have green paint on my legs from it.  ;)