FREEEEDOOOOOMMMMM!!!!!!

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I can’t quite believe it. After weeks, no, months of stressing about this, I finished my Grant Application for my course a full day ahead of schedule. I figured I would have to take advantage of my current geography relative to the Prime Meridian and squeeze some extra hours out of the Aug. 31 deadline, but by 3pm on August 30 I’d finished performing sacrifices to the Maximum Word Count Gods and wrestled my work into some semblance of a coherent epidemiological document. That evening I did my final review and submitted it and will hopefully I never have to think of it again [this is contingent on a passing grade]. What a relief.

I’m also finally well again, thanks to my new colleague and his antibiotic recommendation – and a week and a half of starving myself on the blandest diet in the world, ugh. I had brought some azithromycin from Canada but he recommended something else. Here’s how you get drugs in India: you call the pharmacy, tell them what you want (“hi, I’d like 10 tablets of Drug X, please”) and they take your address and 30 minutes later it’s delivered to your door, for free. Total cost of drug regimen was Rs. 107 (about $2.00 CAD). The sick patient in me was pretty happy; the pharmacovigilance professional was horrified. No prescription, no consult, no patient information sheet, no ID. But, um, I’m better!

I barely know what to do with myself now. I could read a book for fun. Or start making use of the needlework and knitting my family went to all that trouble to send all the way to India. Or get out and enjoy the stench of drowning garbage and swarms of flies in the streets (I’m kinda over the whole monsoon thing now; it’s one thing to open my door to witness a magnificent downpour but quite another to wade through the muck trying not think about what exactly it is. ‘Cause it smells exactly like what it is.).

Here’s something I thought some of you would find interesting. It’s a building under construction just around the corner from my apartment.

There’s always a lot of construction going on; I guess it’s like that pretty much everywhere now, though.  The interesting thing about these builds is that whole families are involved as labourers and they actually live at the site. These are mainly migrant workers – a group that CARE is thinking will be our third program impact group. Of course, it took be about two months in-country before I figured out that the women I passed every single day carrying bricks on their heads were actually the people I was working for, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, these migrant workers live in the partly constructed building as it’s going up. It’s not plumbed or anything and there’s no electricity. In the morning, I can see the women cooking and doing laundry. The little kids play on the big pile of sand in front of the site. There is no heavy equipment and definitely no safety equipment. The scaffolding and supports is made of simple stripped tree branches and it all gets reused – they carry the poles on bicycle-towed wooden carts between sites. Huge lengths of rebar, too, get transported on bikes this way. Bricks get reused as well and there’s usually a huge pile of them in front of the site. On the day these pictures were taken, the task was making and moving concrete. It gets mixed on the ground, then the mixer barrel is hauled up that double ladder-y pulley system thing and emptied onto a tarp on the floor they’re working on. The men load it by shovel onto trays, then one of the guys will help get it up onto one of the women’s heads. She then walks it over to where the work is being done, another guy helps her lift it down, dumps it into another pile, and she takes the tray back to the pile to be reloaded. What really struck me is how fast they move. This is basically a human conveyor belt: there are about 5 or 6 women carrying cement on their heads and they are really walking at a pretty good clip. There’s no standing around or chatting that I can see, just a smooth operation using humans instead of machines. Even the holes and ditches are dug mostly by hand. The soil here is pretty sandy, but still. It’s a lot of physical labour.

I think I’m going to make some tea and start reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Expect it to be quiet for a while 🙂

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