Archive for December, 2008


Christmas in Madurai

Dec 26, 2008 in Uncategorized

Gathering around the Christmas TreeThis week I stayed in Madurai and took some much needed rest after nearly two weeks of traveling. So on my Sunday off this week I walked around town and checked out the local sights, some for the first time during the day! See the pictures that I took on along the way in the gallery below. It was nice to relax a bit as the pace of progress in the lab has quickly picked back up. I’m happy to report that I’ve had a good results in my experiments this week too!

In other news, Christmas in Madurai was a success! A few of my coworkers brought treats to the lab, and I managed to procure a special cake from a local bakery (see photo). Despite working a full day, and attending two lectures, it still felt like a holiday! The lab-mates came over to my apartment after work for a small celebration. I even agreed to have Henna on my hands… Santa Claus on the right and a Christmas Tree on the left, with candy canes on my fingers… hopefully its not too noticeable! Haha.

As for the party at my apartment, my friends who had the means to cook at home did so, while the others showed up with snacks from local shops. It was certainly a merry Christmas as there were more than 15 of us playing games and laughing together. I can’t say that I didn’t miss home, but this was as good as Christmas gets in a land of festivals.

Singapore and Bangkok

Dec 19, 2008 in Uncategorized

I’m back in Tamil Nadu after spending ten days on winter vacation. I split my time between Singapore and Bangkok, visiting with friends Shauna and Jared from Kansas. Within the first few days of being back I saw a buccal stem cell transplant (even got to follow up today!), presented my data at lab meeting with Dr. VRM, and gave a lecture to students in the lab preparing for their national CSIR exam. A very productive week so far! The patient who got his stem cell transplant had previously undergone surgery for his acid burn, received at the workplace, which was unsuccessful. This attempt was potentially his last hope for vision in his blinded eye.

I haven’t posted an entry since I went on vacation, so I’ll write a bit about my overseas experience. By the way, Fulbrighters are allowed two weeks outside of India during the duration of the nine month grant, and now I’ve used up ten days! Anyway, I first rode eight hours by overnight train from Madurai to reach Chennai, which is where I caught my flight to Singapore. The flight was nice, cheap, and only four hours long!

It was great to see friends from back home. We took in all the sights of Singapore, like the Night Safari at the Singapore Zoo (where you can even have Doctor Fish nibble on your toes!), and several of the Singapore Museums. I was especially interested in the South East Asia civilizations museum, which had an extensive exhibit on India, with drawings from the 18th century of the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai! It was amazing to see such a great preservation, something I haven’t seen yet in India. It was very educational as well; apparently the Indians established what we call the Arabic system of numbering, along with plenty of other interesting firsts! “We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made.”
Albert Einstein

I think the thing we all enjoyed most was the food, which was well priced, although not cheaper than in India, and tasty! The other thing that made Singapore a lot of fun is the fact that there is a large population of Indians there, especially natives of Tamil Nadu. In fact, some of the first rulers of this Island nation were of Indian origin. It was nice that I got to keep my Tamil skills polished while I was away… even if it can barely get me around, it usually at least gets a smile!

I also made it to Bangkok, which was in doubt due to recent protests at the airport. It did seem like there were less tourists there because of recent events, if for no other reason than the fact that my hostel lobby was always nearly vacant! In a way that was good news for me because the volunteer guides were happy to go with me to explore the city. I went to the major tourist destinations like the Grand Palace, Temple of the Dawn, and Buddha monuments. It was great to take water taxi rides too. It may be the fastest way to get around Bangkok, considering the massive traffic congestion.

Overall, I have had a great past two weeks and am looking forward to the next two, which will involve a lot of catching up work in the lab as well as some small celebrations for Christmas, my birthday, and New Years. Merry Christmas everyone!


Orphanage – Dayspring Home

Dec 02, 2008 in Uncategorized

Fortunately I was far away from the terrorist attacks which recently hit Mumbai, and there were no safety issues for me in Madurai. There was some progress to report in the this week; I finally got my PCR product for making my In Situ Hybridization probe. Its good news as it means we can begin experiments that brought me to Aravind! Hopefully we can have some data collected by late December or early January… It would be nice to have something to talk about at the upcoming Asia ARVO conference.

The most interesting thing that happened this weekend was my visit the Dayspring Home, a one and a half hour journey from Madurai. I learned about this orphanage for children whose parents are infected with HIV through a friend that I met on my Pondicherry trip, Zoe. She is working to establish a trust and increase grant funding of the facility as well as spending quality time with the children. There are 24 children staying at Dayspring Home now (fourteen boys and ten girls).

On the way we faced some obstacles, such at the bus breaking down and having to wait on the side of the road for another one… things in India do seem to work out in the end. It was great to spend a day with the children there. We bought books (coloring, English lessons, etc.) and fruits to give the children, and played games with them. My favorite was cricket, which we played with a coconut tree branch and crate. Each time I managed to hit the ball I dropped the bat and ran, much to the amusement of the children!

Knowing that I’m a medical student, Zoe had me look at some of the children who were injured or sick. One boy had a case of impetigo and one of the girls had a sprained wrist. Fortunately we had the topical Mupirocin the boy needed for treatment of his rash… I wonder how often children like this go without any treatment at all. Anyway, I was happy to lend some medical knowledge, although I obviously still have a lot to learn! Zoe commented that it was great for the boys to have a male around for once, and a group of us in the lab are planning to visit again soon.