Saturday, August 20, 2011

Travels Part II

So this past week was awesome. Here are some of the highlights:

1) Aug 15 was India's Independence Day. We went to the Ashram where they raised the flag. It was a nice little ceremony. Something that they do that I enjoy is before opening the flag they fill it with flowers so when it's up in the air all the flowers fall like confetti. And then every one hands out candy and sings the national anthem. After the Ashram we went to a park in Coimbatore where they had lots of dancing, music, etc. etc. to celebrate. All the kids in the villages nearby had been practicing for months to prepare for performing at the park, it was really hot and really well done. While we were there the press asked us to take a picture by India's flag. I felt like I was famous. Literally, there were so many reporters taking pictures I didn't know where to look. And a big crowd of people formed around us, who were all taking our pictures too. It was pretty fun. The next day we were in not 1 but 3 newspapers!!!!! The Hindu, The Indian Express, and another one in Tamil. And those were just the ones that I looked at, I think we were in more. Don't worry, I got multiple copies for everyone to see and I will give you all my autograph when I get home =)

2) We went to the state of Karnataka just north of us to the cities of Mysore and Bylakupe. I got to go to a Tibetan displacement camp which was really neat. The camp has an interesting dynamic in that the families live in India and it is their "home" but really it is not their home. They come from a completely different culture. We spoke with many of the store owners who told us about how their parents/grandparents fled Tibet and came to south India. They were given this land by the Indian government but when they settled here it was a jungle area, so they had to clear the area first. It would be such a difficult situation to live in.
While we were there we went to the Buddhist Golden Temple that's in the center of a Monk monastery. This was so incredible! The Golden temple was gorgeous and it was so quiet and peaceful. While we were there they had a school training where many young monks came to pray and give offerings. I got to be in the temple when this happened and it was sooooooo incredible to see! They all recited the mantras together and there were specific parts where they blew horns, rang bells, burned incense etc. etc. etc.It was a rich sight to see. It was also completely relaxing, as i left I realized how relaxed my body was.

3) We also went to an elephant interaction camp where I got to ride an elephant! It was fun and way far up. They also showed us how they feed and bath the elephants in the middle of the Indian jungle. If you paid you were able to help wash the elephants, but I decided against it when I saw one of the elephants enter the water and go to the bathroom. I was not about to pay to go into dirty water....but it was cool to see the washing process regardless. And the the way they ride the elephants is cool too. They sit near the head and put their feet behind each ear, it's kind of like using the gas pedals in the car. I want a pet elephant now!

4) Finally we went to the Mahajara's Palace in Mysore, It was huge and beautiful! Mysore is a cool place mostly because it worships a female deity named Chamundi. She is the royal family's principle god and protector. She is known for killing a demon who was half human. He received a boon from Shiva (or Vishnu..I can't remember) that allowed him not to be killed by the hands of man. So Parvathi (the wife of Shiva),in the form of Chamundi, came down and killed the beast and saved humankind from his wickedness.It is an awesome story and city.

So those were some of my adventures for the week! Until next time....

Peace Festival

I just thought I would do a follow up to the Peace Festival, it was awesome! However, it was a really really long day. We left at around 6am and didn't get back till 9-ish at night. I was beat, but it was worth it. The festival was held at a local Gandhian University that had a huge campus and was very beautiful. And over 1,000 people came, so it was a success! They had different organizations and kids dancing, different speakers on peace, and there was a breakout session so different age groups got together to talk about what they could do to promote peace. It was really interesting. They also handed out awards to 25 people who have done things for their community. Among the most memorable was a small boy who goes around to his neighbors for rice donations. He then gives the donations to families who are infected by HIV. The amazing thing is that he's doing this on his own, no one is helping him and he's about 10-11 years old! There was another guy who's in his early 20s and he takes corpses who do not have any known family members and he gives them a proper burial according to their religious beliefs (generally cremation). There were so many inspiring people there who are doing a lot to make a difference.
There was also a very touching video about Hiroshima that was shown. I will try to find it and post it here. It's pretty graphic, but it made me think more about the consequences of our actions.
All the dances had themes about stopping violence, poverty, etc. etc. etc. and the last dance was especially powerful. It was done by the kids of Shanti Ashram and the song spoke about love. It was touching mostly because at the end EVERYONE got off their seats and the stadium was filled with clapping. Then tons of kids and teenagers rushed the stage and started dancing with the kids. It was really neat to see.
Anyway, it was a great experience. Many of India's greatest peace workers came together and shared their thoughts and ideas. And many youth came together and participated as well. It would be awesome if this type of thing happened more often.

Monday, August 8, 2011

More Adventures

And here we are with our guide

Here I am on the Backwaters.

So this past week we went to Kerala and it was amazing! It is so different than Tamil Nadu (the state where I currently am) it's like a whole different world. It was a lot more modern, they speak a different language, even the food was different...that made it difficult to order food sometimes. For example, here a roast is a big crepe with dipping sauce. So one night we ordered roast and it turned out that in Kerala it is a sauce that you use to put on parrotas, chapathi (kind of like a tortilla), etc. etc. So we had to get more food. But it was really good; I actually kinda wish they made it in Tamil Nadu. Anyway, we stayed on the border of the Arabian Sea in Eurnakulum and were able to do a lot of neat things.
We took a ferry to the nearby island and saw the Dutch palace which was made mostly out of dark tea wood. Actually, the best part about the Dutch palace was that it had murals depicting scenes from Hindu stories/legends (mostly involving Rama, Krishna, Siva, etc) and was REALLY cool to see. I am still amazed by how culturally rich India is, and the stories are fascinating. This probably has to do with the fact that I’ve never heard them before so the stories always are new and exciting. The palace was older than the US and the murals were beautiful…unfortunately I couldn’t take picture! We also went to see an old Catholic Cathedral, which was the oldest cathedral in all of Kerala. The Portuguese had a big influence on Cochin so there are many Christians, which generally isn’t the case. We also saw a Jewish Temple. So basically within a radius of about 2-3 Km there is an old Catholic Cathedral, Hindu Palace, and Jewish Mosque. There also is a Jain temple, but we weren't able to go see it because we didn’t have enough time.
We also got to go on a tour through the backwaters of Kerala. That was a calming experience too! It was just us, our tour guide, and boat man on the a rice canoe. The water was cool and the only thing you heard were the sounds of the birds chirping and those who lived nearby working in their homes. It was so tranquil and there were SO MANY plants and spices that grew there. Cochin basically has any spice you could imagine. It smelled terrific! And on the tour we saw the plant form of everything. Now I know why the spice trade was so popular. And the interesting thing is that it's still thriving today. India used to trade with Rome. Not only has it survived Rome but has survived so many other world events. Anyway, the backwaters are a must for anyone traveling to south India.
So there are some of my recent happenings. I LOVE traveling!

Monday, August 1, 2011


Hey All!

So this post is going to be a little different because I have been thinking a lot about the idea of peace and religion. It is not really something that is focused on in the US; we tend to be a country that promotes 'Freedom" but not necessarily "Peace".

Something that Shanti Ashram is currently working on is called "The Peace Festival" which gathers the community and city of Coimbatore together to promote peace. It's going to be held August 9th because that is around the time that Hiroshima was bombed by the US. Now maybe my school education is seriously lacking, but we never seemed to really focus on the results of Hiroshima. Actually, I can't really remember talking about Hiroshima much past middle school and we certainly don't acknowledge when it happened. When we do talk about it, we generally talk about how "we ended the war early" by bombing Japan and little else. I know that some people made the paper cranes to commemorate it, etc. etc. I think we know the general effect that the bombing had, but we don't really like to think or talk about it. However, among the people I have met from here and from other countries, Hiroshima is an important symbol of the effects of war and the need for peace. Life is something that is very precious and must never be taken. However, Hiroshima took many lives and left the remaining ones to slowly die....even if the war ended quickly.

Part of the idea of this push for peace is that we should get all the governments to not only get rid of their nuclear weapons, but all weapons (including fire arms) in order to promote a more peaceful society world-wide. Another part of this idea is inter-religious acceptance and understanding. We need to have an open mind about others' beliefs and try to understand instead of judge and/or discriminate. Shanti Ashram has been part of an alliance with many different organizations, both religious and non-governmental, world-wide. These organizations got signatures from people in every country saying they support peace and called each country to get rid of their weapons.

Over 50 million signatures were obtained and submitted to the UN. Japan alone raised 10 million and the US had less than 200,000. Now, maybe there were differences in the way the NGOs went about getting the signatures; however, I do think it's interesting that a country the size of the US only got such a small amount to support peace. But I guess it's not that big of a surprise when you think about the debate on the rights associated with holding/owning weapons. The majority of Americans are not willing to give up that right, and feel no need to turn in their weapons before their enemies turn in theirs.

I'm still not 100% sure where I stand on this subject. On the subject of inter-religious peace, yes, I completely agree. And that's also something that is waning in the US. We say that everyone has the right to religion, but when you live in an area where the majority is Christians it doesn't seem that hard. I wonder what people would think about the right to religion if they heard a Muslim prayer call 5 times a day, or if their Hindu neighbors smeared cow dung on the driveway/sidewalk. My neighborhood would complain to the city without a moment's hesitation. I think that we still have a long way to go in the US before we have true "inter-religious peace". On the subject of firearms and weapons, though I certainly don't agree with war, I do think that the right to have weapons is important (and this may be my American upbringing shining through). But the more I see what people do with weapons the more I think it's a good idea that nobody has them. Unfortunately, I also don't think that's realistic though it would be nice. Anyway, there's some food for thought about the ideas of peace and religion.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

HIV Research

Right, so I've realized that I haven't given much of an update on my research project since I've been here: So far it has been a really good experience.
For those of you who don't know I am researching how HIV effects women and their children in the villages around Coimbatore. I am interviewing several women to see what challenges they have in their lives and how their lives have changed since they have found out they were HIV positive. I initially just wanted to study how it effected the individual "woman" but I quickly learned that HIV is a disease that doesn't just effect one person, it effects the entire family. Coming into this I knew in general that their lives would probably be made more difficult, but I wasn't aware of how much.
For example, many of the women are widows or their husbands also have the disease and are unable to work. As a result she is the main provider for her family. So the monthly income is generally around 2000 rupees a month, which equates to more or less $40. Just to give you an idea of how much that is worth here, their monthly rent, is also about 1000 rupees a month. So in order to pay everything they get extra money by sending their kids to work or doing extra jobs on the side, or if they've told their family and their family is supportive sometimes they can get support from them. As I've spoken with the women they've said that one of the most challenging things is that in order to maintain a reasonable health they need to be on ART medication. But this requires strict adherence to a schedule of taking it twice daily with a healthy meal before each dosage. These women do not have the money to eat a healthy meal before each dosage, which can give them side affects and make them sick. So really, they need the ART in order to be able to work and provide for their family, because they are the only ones that are able to do so. But they are not able to meet some of the necessary requirements to take ART effectively. So this can cause the women to get sick, which will cause them to miss work and make even less money. It is a very viscous cycle.
Have you ever been sick and not have energy to work? This past week I haven't been feeling very well and I was reminded of how hard it is to work when I don't have proper health. I couldn't imagine feeling like that regularly. And generally when you have HIV, you more easily get infections, illness, etc.etc. etc. depending on the state of your immune system.
So something that I think would be good for those who are HIV positive would be some sort of educational course, that would allow them to learn how to eat healthy while on a low budget. Of course assistance with buying food would be a great help too, but the problem with outside funds is that the only last for so long,whereas if they know what kind of food will give them more energy and nutrients they can help themselves for longer on a lower budget.
Anyway, this is just one aspect that I've been finding so far in my research. I'll try to write more at a later time.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Shanti Ashram

Ok, so during my time in India I have been volunteering with an NGO called Shanti Ashram. It's pretty much the coolest place EVER. The Ashram was started about 25 years ago as a grassroots organization that has many different community interventions like teaching women how to sew so they can get better jobs, HIV care and support for those who are infected or affected by HIV, anemia screening, inter-religious teachings and peace, etc. etc. It's founded on Gandhi's principle of Sarvodaya, which means the progress of all. Basically it's a movement that Gandhi started to try to better society as a whole by having members of society help others so that they all can progress and live in peace. The programs are really interesting and I've really enjoyed helping out and trying to make a difference. Every day is something new and I generally usually learn something new about Gandhi and his teachings of peace. I'll have to write about that in another blog. Its something that we never really learn in the US but is considered very important in this part of India.

We get to go to a lot of small villages for the programs, which is always an adventure. As soon as I step out of the car all the kids instantly look at me. I pretty much stick out like a sore thumb around here. I find that I get a variety of reactions: some start yelling the few English words they know "What is your name?" and "Hi, how are you?", some just stare me down--they are not ashamed of looking at you for a looong time--and others cry. The last one has happened a surprising amount.

Hahaha...there is this cute little boy that lives in the house next to us and he gets soooo scared whenever he comes within 5 feet of us. He will smile and be shy in the arms of his family members, but the moment they try to bring him closer to us he screams, so basically I scare the children. I've been here for about a month now and he is just getting used to us. The other day he even shook my hand for about point 2 seconds before bolting in the opposite direction which was a huge sucess! I honestly think that the kids here are probably the cutest I've ever seen. They have big brown eyes and the school girls where their hair inbraids with red ribbon and flowers, and the boys wear shorts and a red tie. Every day the mother of the house where we are staying, Jeeva, holds an after school program at her school. Just imagine 30ish kids on your front porch every day, never a dull moment. So every night I sit out there and try to do homework or help the kids with their English homework. The other day they wanted us to play games with them so I taught them "Thumb War"....big mistake. I've seriously played that game like 100 times within the last week. I always win, but the kids are getting better. I knew it was a hit when I was standing at a bus stand and a kid i'd never met before came up to me and said, "Auntie...war". So if anyone wants to challenge me when I get back, I'm ready. They in turn have taught me how to play their version of "down by the banks" (the hand game). Basically instead of having to take your hand out of the circle, when it lands on you you have to grab your neigbor's ear with that hand. I have no idea why but that's what they do. It actually makes for a more exiting game. Anyway, those are some of my adventures as of lately. Until next time!

Thursday, July 7, 2011


Hey Everyone,

So, I tried to get some good pictures of the buses here. This is the best that I got. If you look closely you can see how full it is. Stay tuned until next time!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Oh the Joys of Traveling

Ok, so part of my goal is to give you all a glimpse into Indian culture and my time here. If you want more than a glimpse you will have to come here and enjoy India in all it's glory! I'm gonna start off with the local transportation. With a population of 1,155,347,700-ish people with more than 60% living in rural areas, transportation is a big issue..and apparently has improved immensely over the years.
So everyday I have to take the local transportation to and from Shanti Ashram and it is an adventure every time! To be honest I'm not a huge fan, but I'm getting used to it, on a good day it takes about 50 minutes, on a bad day 2 hours. Basically we fit as many people as humanly possible onto a bus. It's actually quite amusing that at the front of the bus it says that the max capacity is 88...we get at least double that on a daily basis. Just when you think that there is not any room left the bus stops to pick up 10 more women. The women are in the front and the men are in the back, and they get on the bus through different entries. To be honest i think the women are much more ruthless than the men, especially the school girls and the old ladies. You would think that these sweet little old ladies were fragile...wrong! They throw elbows like nobody's business. Also, people generally don't form lines/obey the "American rules" of waiting in line. I'm trying to understand the cultural aspect of this...but I haven't come up with anything yet. Until then my blocking out skills from basketball are very useful.
That being said, people are VERY honest and willing to help. For example, it's proper bus manners to hold somebody else's bag if they are standing and you are sitting. People also take other people's money to hand to the bus assistant and give them back their change. I've even had people open my bag, pull out my money and then put it back for me when I was standing couldn't reach it. This is a very positive part of Indian culture that you don't see very often today especially in the US. Also, it is expected that EVERYONE pays when they get on the bus. Everyone wants to pay the assistant and will be sure to do it before getting off the bus. If it weren't for this aspect of honesty I don't think that bus assistant would ever be able to charge everyone because there are so many people on the bus. I don't think I've ever really been worried about someone stealing from me. I'm always careful of course, because there are different types of people in every culture. But i have been cheerfully surprised by how honest people seem to be here.
I try to blend in but unfortunately I stick out like a sore thumb. Whenever I go places I become very aware at the fact that people are staring at me.Hahaha.....there is a cute little boy in the neighborhood where we live and he is completely afraid of us. His older sisters try to hold him and bring him to touch us but he absolutely will not do it. He will stare wide-eyed until he gets about 2 feet away from us and then he starts crying. I guess we look VERY different even in Salwars.
Anyway, these are some of my experiences. Until next time!

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Welcome to India!!!!

I am finally in India! It took a really long time to get here....I left on Monday and didn't make it till Wednesday late afternoon. Once I arrived in Chavadi on the bus I had to get off and walk carrying all my things on a dirt road for a little less than a mile. It's totally worth it though, and luckily I didn't pack very much. The area is beautiful! We live in a small village called Chavadi Pudur and it is just outside Coimbatore in Southern India. I am living with a small family that is really nice and friendly to us, like a family away from home.

Last week I went to Shanti Ashram to get started on volunteering there. It is SUCH a cool place. Basically it is a NGO that focuses on the health/poverty alliviation, development,etc. problems in the rural villages around Coimbatore. The Ashram is a big place with lots of trees and vegetation. There is the main office, ampitheater and main building where everything takes place. When I visited they were doing a program to check the Anemia levels of mothers and their children. It was awesome to see. I'm excited to be here for the next few months with all their programs.

The weather has been really cool and rainy. Apparently it is the rainy season here so this type of weather should continue throughout the summer. Luckliy it is a warm rain so it's not like it's freezing cold. Unfortunately, I forgot to pack my umbrella so I will probably have to invest in one here (however, it took me 3 1/2 years in college before I broke down and bought an umbrella so maybe I will stick it out).

The culture of India is so rich and different. I have never been to this part of the world before so I am trying to soak it all in. The majority of the people in the village where we live are Hindu and there are various temples and occasional ceremonies that take place throughout the week. I already saw a baby blessing and a festival for the rain. I will have to write about what Ilearn in later blogs. India really is so unique in that there are SO many different people, religions, history, etc. that influence the culture today.

After preparing for this for so long it's hard to believe that it is really here. But I am excited for everything that I will learn and for being able to (hopefully) understand a different way of life.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Journal #30

I thought that the video that was shown in the last few minutes of class today was really interesting and the director did a very good job of creating a short film that leaves you thinking for the rest of the day. I find it interesting that he used such a creative way to tell a message that we have heard many times. I felt that throughout the video I was aware that something deeper was being shared; however, the audience did not know what it was until towards the end. Maybe this is because it was divided into 2 parts, but I found the parallels between the 2 parts to be very moving. For example, in the first part of the video the narrator talks about how the workers make the tomatoes and the woman who sells flower perfume for money uses that money to buy the tomatoes. Then when she is making pork (dead pig) for dinner the tomato that is not good enough is thrown in the garbage. In the second part the workers live on land named for flowers and the tomato that is not good enough to feed to the pig is thrown out to those who do not have money. In the first part the tomato goes down the food chain of human-animal-trash. If we are to take this same senario for the second part it is human-animal-those without money (AKA-trash). One way of looking at these videos is that the trash in the first part is representative of the poor in the second part. The poor are treated as though they are not humans (like the Jews....) even though they have the same characteristics as everyone else. It seems to be an unforunate truth that eventhough we know that poverty is a problem, it is still very abundant, and growing everyday.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Journal #29

As I have been reading Gandhi throughout the semester I am increasingly imporessed by the life that he led. Throughout his efforts it didn't seem to matter if he was put in jail or not, in fact he said, " civil obedience, once properly launched, needs no leaders." The only thing he looked for was freedom and to do what's right. Not only is it impressive that he continued with this mentality for the majority of his life, but that others recognized it as well. Some of his opponents have stated, " Be careful in dealing with a man who cares nothin for sensual pleasures, nothing for comfort or praise, or promotion but is simply determined to do what he believes to be right. He is a dangerous and uncomfortable enemy because his body which you can always conquer gives you so little purchase over his soul." The fact that Gandhi put everything he was into his beliefs and did not expect praise was part of his great success. The way Gandhi went about creating reform is very different than the way Americans have tried to do it. Gandhi tried to do it without violence, though he did not mind breaking the law (there were some US leaders who have done this, though they seem to be the exception). In general it seems the US is very quick to take up arms to solve problems. This how we make change, by showing others that we are bigger, stronger, and quicker....and many Americans have come to believe that this is the best way to produce what we "believe". I would find it hard to believe that there would ever be 20,000 US Americans willingly to peacefully walk hundreds of miles to protest and be willing to be beat, put in jail, etc. etc. in order to stand up for what they "believe". However, I do think it is more feasible for 20.000 Americans to take up arms and "fight for what's right". I am interested to go to India, and to learn more about their culture and learn more about thier rich history and how they view life.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Journal #28

I was recently reading articles about illegal immigration and what the US is doing as far as legistation is concerned to solve this problem. As I was reading the article and the different viewpoints that the informants addressed I started thinking about how US citizens are not really good about understanding other cultures (at least according to the comments I have heard and the articles that I have read). People tend to say slandering comments about the "mexicans" (which is a word used to describe anyone south of the US/Mexico border), how they need to learn English and stop hopping over the border and to have their kids here, etc. etc. etc. These phrases paint a very different picture of immigrants than the ones who I know. Whenever I have met an illegal immigrant they generally have 2 or 3 jobs and are trying to save money to send back home. I am not writing this post to discuss the politics of illegal immigration, but about how we as US citizens view other countries, and why our scope is so limited. A few months ago CNN came out with a statistic that only 30% of US citizens have passports, and 44% speak a second language. For an international "super power" these numbers seem low. Now I realize that not all US citizens have these close-minded beliefs; however, I do think these beliefs are common. Part of it has to do with the fact that the US is separated from a lot of the other countries in the world, making it harder to travel.. It seems that we are loosing the curiosity and desire of finding out about other cultures/countries, even though these cultures are quickly coming to our door in a world that is constantly growing smaller. I would think that technology would make it easier to travel, but it seems to be taking away from travel. Why go to Rome when you can have a treadmill that puts pictures up of Rome and simulates the roads so it's as though you are "in Rome"? Hearing these comments and seeing how others view different ways of life give me a greater desire to have more cultural experiences and learn about others ways of life. There is so much to learn and so many ideas and beliefs to hear and think about. As time gets closer for departure I become more excited to go and have another immersion experience.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Journal #27

So the conversation on culture shock got be thinking about my experience with culture shock and the different parts of it. I thought it was interesting that different people explained the different ways that they experienced culture shock, yet everyone agreed that what they had experienced was in some form, culture shock (or at least the irritability stage of culture shock). However, with the discussion we had I wasn't really satisfied with the definition we had of biculturalism. From what I understood from what people were saying, they believed that biculturalism is when you take one part of a culture and make it into your own. If this is the case, then I don't think you necessarily even need to go through the other stages of culture shock in order to do this. We come in contact with different cultures on a regular basis and generally that contact leaves an influence on our lives. For example, I remember reading an article where in California there were gangs from Mexico and gangs from Laos who were fighting and did not like each other at all. However, what was interesting about these gangs was that the members both spoke English with a Mexican accent. So even though technically the members of the gang from Laos did not ever go through the stages of culture shock from being in a Mexican culture, they still were affected by that culture. I guess you could argue that since they lived in a heavily populated Mexican area they could have passed through culture shock, I would think that they were passing through culture shock from being in the US, but taking on attributes of the way Mexicans speak English. I think that in order to be truly bicultural, it takes years of living in one place. And even then, I don't know that it is ever truly possible becuase I think that in some way we always change the way we adopt a certain part of another country's culture. For example, after living in Chile, I have become accustomed to drinking Mate. Even though this is a custom done in several countries in south America, the way that I drink Mate is is this really bicultural if it is changed? I guess I still haven't come to a complete conclusion, but it is intersting to think about.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Journal #25

I was nervous to do the Social Situations Scavenger Hunt at first. Mostly I was nervous to have to start a random conversation with a person I didn't know. However, after I thought about it for a while I realized that I will have to do something similar to this in India, so I better get used to it. I think for some reason it is more difficult to go outside your own cultural norms instead of some one else's cultural norms. But regardless of the difficulty of the situation I will have to try to find a way to meet new people in order to do my research. I also found it a bit hard to know what to take notes on, so I just wrote everything down I could think of (and what we wrote down in class before hand). Here is a brief outline of what I wrote down: 1) Greeting started from roughly 10 feet apart; both walking at a quick pace male was going in one direction and the female in the opposite direction The male said "What's up" and the female said "hi" The female made a slight hand motion that was semi-circular Continued in opposite directions 2) Conversation took place 5 feet apart Both were standing under the bookstore sign Both were leaning against the wall The male had his hands in his pockets The female used frequent hand motion when talking Both had made eye contact and then looked away periodically 3) Both females were sitting down across from each other One female was holding a bottle of water while talking and had her legs crossed She was wearing black pants and a black top The other female was wearing a pink shirt and her hands were crossed on the table Both used the phrase "So my news....." and proceded to tell circumstances of their lives Both used a lower tone of voice than the conversations around them Neither one was smiling or laughing during the conversation 4) The males were 4 feet apart standing outside near a building Both had hands in their pockets, there was no hand movement during the conversation Both males were swaying side to side The conversation lasted about 30-45 seconds The conversation ended when one of the males showed the other his small, black, plastic device (looked like a phone) and then began to talk into it while he walked away from the other male. The other male said "See ya" and turned to walk away in the opposite direction 5) I began speaking with a younger male (early 20s) at a booth He stayed seated the whole time Asked where I worked and then asked my responsibilies His hands were crossed and he was leaning back in his chair during the conversation He spoke about his job and his desire to study 6) I asked permission to sit down The woman stopped reading her book and consented to my sitting down When I asked about her book she closed the book and proceeded to speak about what she was reading. She then asked me a question. We took turns asking each other questions about favorite classes, majors, goals, When she was ready to stop talking and continue her book she said "Good luck with everything" and then opened her book and began reading. No other words were exchanged until I got up and left the table. 7) While I was speaking to one male another one came up and greeted the male I was in a conversation with The entering male had a bag of blue candy and discussed his thoughts about the candy He offered the candy to his friend and after a short period he offered the candy to me. He was standing during the whole conversation; however, the male he greeted was seated. He had a backpack and jacket on I found that I had a hard time not assuming situations or observations. However, it was fun to be able to not only view people's conversations and interactions but then view my own interactions within my own culture.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Journal #24

In class today the discussion got me thinking about what might really happen while I am in the field. Generally it is easy to just think about the overall idea of going to a foreign country and not necessarily what problems can occur or what might take place during that time. For example, I really have no idea how I am going to get from the airport to my home; at first thought I just lazily said that it "will all work out and I won't worry about it now". Although there is truth to that statement, I have not been taking into consideration the fact that I don't know the language fluently, I don' t know how to exchange the money, and I don't know how far it is from one city to another. These things could make it a lot more difficult trying to get to my city. But if I take time to ask and research the best way to get from the airport to Coimbatore before I get there life will be a lot easier when something unexpected happens (e.g. the train leaves without me). Even though we can't be completely "prepared" we can still gain more knowledge about where we are going. And in addition to that knowledge it is important to be flexible like Ashley taught. I remember when I was in Chile so many unexpected things happened to us on a daily basis that if we weren't flexible we would not have had a good time. For example, I remember one time we were trying to go into Argentina on a trip and had to take a bus to Santiago (about 3 hours from where we were staying) and then switch buses to go to Argentina. Unfortunately we forgot the temporary visa that they gave us at the airport that was needed to leave and enter the country (...yeah I know, that's kind of embarressing to admit). Although we could speak spanish at a conversational level, it was still very difficult to navigate finding a bus that would take us back to our house before all the local transportation stopped and before it was too dangerous to be traveling. Luckily everyone in my group was fairly level-headed so we were able to work together and make it back without a problem. Had we not known about the local transportation in addition to being calm/flexible and not freaking out, we would have had a much harder time. So even though I do not know everything about where I am going or the challenges that I will run into, I still want to think about the fears that I have and do my best to answer them now that way I will be better equiped to handle the stressful situation when it arises.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Journal #23

Today the discussion we had about putting certain labels on situations/people/etc changes our perspective. It is interesting to think how we put certain labels on things without necessarily knowing it. For example, while I was in Chile on my mission I was teaching English to a group of people and I was the only North American in the room. Somehow we got onto the topic of continents and I mentioned something about 1 of the 7 continents. Everyone in the room starting laughing and asking me how many continents there were. I told them that there were 7 and they laughed even more. Apparently in South America, it is taught that there are 5 continents. Now at that time my immediate reaction was defensive, I had always been taught that there were 7 continents, not 5...THEY were wrong not me. I even got so defensive about it I had my mom look it up for me to see where in the world they teach that there are 5 continents instead of 7 (to see which was the more popular). Looking back on this experience, I overreacted (obviously) but I was also not thinking correctly about the situation. Our idea of a continent in the US is obviously different than the idea of a continent in South America, we put a different meaning on the same word. One is not necessarily "right" and the other "wrong" but they are different. Now hopefully if I encounter a similar situation while in India I will react differently, knowing that large differences on the surface of a problem are the product of different cultural ideas and beliefs.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Journal #22

I recently read read an article about culture shock that I found interesting. It discussed the different levels of culture shock (Honeymoon, Crisis, Adjustment, Mastery) and what actions are found in each level. Whenever I travel I find that I experience some sort of culture shock (whether it is large or small) and as a result feel that everyone experiences culture shock in some form or another. The difficult thing about culture shock is that while you are experiencing it many times it is difficult to recognize the fact that it is culture shock that you are experiencing. For example, when I went to Chile on my internship I went with 2 other girls. These girls were my friends and I had lived with one of them before this trip. Now, during the "Crisis" phase of my culture shock I got irritated at them for things that normally would not have bothered me. It was the fact that there was so much around me that was unfamiliar and that I could not "handle" that the normal small things became too much. It took us a while before we realized that our common bickering was caused by culture shock. However, once we discovered this we were able to fix it. When one of us was doing something that got to the point of being annoying instead of arguing we would do something different: go for a walk, go to our rooms to write, go get ice cream, etc. etc. and we were able to peacefully get through our Crisis stage.
I think that my favorite stage is the "Mastery" stage becuase this is where I feel you truly learn the lessons from everything that you have gone through and you are able to take those lessons home with you. in this stage you are used to everyday life and as a result you are able to better understand the culture you are in, the people you are surrounded by and the life you are experiencing. This can be difficult for many because it is easy to get stuck in the Crisis stage or the Adjustment stage for the majority of the trip. However, I have learned that the best way to deal with Culture Shock and get through these stages is to learn how to recoognize each stage and as a result be able to move through each stage to a point where you can enjoy the experience of living in another country.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Journal #21

At the Inquiry Conference I went to a session that discussed women's education in Africa. One of the most interesting things I found about this research project was the fact that many did not agree with female education because they believed that it made the females "rebellious". This comment made me wonder why they would think this way. Is it due to the fact that the women are now learning other things and no longer want to stay at home and learn how to be a housewife? Or is it that what is being taught is of a more western nature and therefore when the women put into practice what they learn it is considered "rebellious"? Or is it a different reason entirely?
In many of the readings that I have done for my project the lack of female education has always been considered a major issue. When women are more educated, not only do they do better economically in life, but they also help thier family members. Also, when discussing HIV, many women are not educated on how HIV is spread; and as a result are more at risk to become infected. Since many women are dependent on their husbands (due to lack of economic freedom, education, etc. etc. ) this poses a serious problem when taking into consideration that many times it is the husband's actions of being unfaithful that cause the woman to get HIV.
But even though I think that women's education is important and necessary, I wonder how the instruction of HIV prevention will be viewed by others. Will these women now become "rebellious" becuase they want their husbands to be tested for HIV, or becuase they want to wear protection so that they are not at such a high risk for HIV infection? Coming from a western public health standpoint, educating a woman so that she will do this is essentially the goal; however, according to other cultures, this type of education is undesireable. I think that this issue is more than just a cultural one, I think that it is deeper. Not educating a woman to protect herself so that she will be more submissive and "obedient" is wrong, no matter what the culture.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Journal #20

I thought that the reading for today's lecture/the lecture itself was very interesting. I always find non-verbal communication to be very interesting. We all know that non-verbal communication is something that is important, we have all been taught this many times;however, very rarely do we actually pay attention to what we are doing and the possible signs that we are giving off. In addition, how we act and our non-verbal communication changes with each situation. After I read this article I paid closer attention to my body language: how I acted when I was angry, tired, at work, at home, etc. etc. And I found that I changed quite a bit. While I was at work I focused more on my posture and made sure that I was trying to be "proper" but when I got home I threw my coat on the couch and the farthest thing from my mind was if I was sitting up straight.

I always think about a discussion one of my roommates and I had a few years back. She had just gotten off her date and was mad becuase her date did not pick up on the "hints" she was giving him. She never actually vocally said that she was not interested; however, she felt that she had told him non-verbally that she was not interested. He thought otherwise. Even within the same culture certain non-verbal signs can be taken differently. Now this can be hard when trying to go to a new culture. Especially if you are just learning how to act and what is acceptable and what is not. I have found that it is fine to be observant and view what others are doing. However, I think it's also important to take that with a grain of salt and be careful with what you emulate because what might be ok for one person can be very different for another (as seen in our own culture). Regardless I think that learning about different ways of communicating (whether in your own culture or another culture) is an interesting life-long process.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Journal #19

I went back and listened/read the article about polygamy in America. I must admit I was very surprised by this article for many reasons. I suppose it is because when I started reading it I was thinking as a member of the LDS church and as a result I already formed opinions about people who have branched from the original LDS church. However, I quickly discovered that if I wanted to gain anything from this article, I had to at least try to separate myself from my pre-concieved ideas and try to be open-minded.

I found that the photographer's ability to tell a story from an outside perspective to be very good. I felt that she was able to try to look at everything subjectively and was able to give general information about a group of people that the majority don't really know about or understand. However, I found it interesting that even though she and her partner went to the same places and spoke with the same people, they came up with different theories. At one point in the interview the interviewer asked her if she thought the polygamist colony was a matriarchal society like her partner wrote about in his article. She said that she did not think that it was as matriarchal as he did. This goes to show that even though two people can be witnessing the same events and experiencing the same things, they perseive it differently. Although we try to be as subjective as possible, it is impossible not to form opinions. So even though she essentially tried to give a "real" look into polygamist colonies, we are still seeing this information through her eyes and through her bias. Although I think that it's impossible to be completely free of bias, I do think that researchers must try to do it in order to provide the best data possible.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Journal #18

As I was working on my IRB Proposal over the weekend, I was doing more research about Shanti Ashram and how it will work into my project and I discovered a new dynamic that might affect my research. Shanti Ashram is based largely off of Gandhi's teachings, one of which is that religion can have more power and influence in creating world peace than politics. As a result, as part of their prevention methods for HIV, Shanti Ashram is working with the local religions to help teach about HIV infection, and to decrease the stigma. It makes sense that they would work with religions since it is the belief that religion is one of the answers to help solve the world's solutions.

As a general rule in public health, most prevention programs tend to try to work with the government. I've been taught many times that in order to have a successful program, the government needs to be involved and generally legislation of some sort is involved. Needless to say I am very interested to find out how this program works. I think that religion can play a very important part in public health prevention programs, depending on the place and culture. For example, in a place like France, where religion is not necessarily a pertinent part of the culture or modern society, I don't think this type of an approach would work. However, in a society where religious belief is important and is considered a vital part to learning and life, I think that it could have positive outcomes.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Journal 17

The past few days have been very eye opening in regards to my project, they have helped me think about the holes in my research.

For example, when I read the second IRB proposal I paid attention to the details that were left out of the example. This helped me seewhat I needed to work on with my project. Even though the student had a good idea, she did not develop it enough and did not think out the small details. For example, she didn't really elaborate on how she was going to find her target audience. Many times we don't think about the details like that. We tend to think "My target audience will be women in India..." but what will we do to find those women, where will we look and how will we know when we find them.

When I talked to my mentor he pointed out a few of the details that I need to improve. He suggested that I try to show some of my questions in Tamil to prove that I can effectively make questions in another language. I also need to decide exactly how I am going to choose my audience and if I will just be focusing on women who have HIV or women who are at risk for HIV. We discussed how important of a problem HIV is in that region of the world and the need for good education; however, the scope of this project needs to be made feasible for a college student. I think that with more work and fine tuning it can be improved significantly.

Journal #16

As I have been continuing to read the biography of Gandhi I am more impressed with the person Gandhi became to be. Perhaps one of my favorite quotes of the book is:

"He had a violent nature and his subsequent mahatma-calm was the product of long training in tempermant control. He did not easily become the evenminded, desireless yogi. He had to remold himself. Recognizing his deficiencies, he made a conscious effort to grow and change and restrain his bad impulses. He turned himself into a different person. He was a remarkable case of second birth in one lifetime."

This shows the nature of Gandhi, the fact that he was not always a peaceful, wise, spiritual person. He had to mold himself into the man he became. He was able to achieve and become the person with the values he taught about. I think that in part is what made his words and teachings so powerful, the fact that he lived them. And that it is possible to achieve that peace in one's life.

The organization that I am working with, Shanti Ashram, is largely based off of Gandhi's principles. They took from his teachings and created an organization that seeks to help others and achieve peace. From an American perspective the idea of achieving peace sometimes seems unattainable; however, this was a main goal of Gandhi and his followers. In the life of Gandhi he was able to achieve peace within himself and help others do the same, and his teachings are still achieving that purpose.
The organization that I am hoping to work with

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Extra Credit

I went to the extra credit opportunity and played Raffa Raffa. I was the in the alpha group and I spent my time trying to trade and get all the different types of cards. I found that after a while I really came to like my culture. At first it took time to get used to, but once I had played a couple minutes I became better at it and I started of thinking of strategies of how I could improve and move up in my culture.
With coming in contact with the other culture, it helped to be able to talk to the group that previously saw them (I was in the second group to go). It wasn't completely foreign and I was able to use what they said to try to be able to jump in right away. However, something that I noticed was that in trying to understand thier culture, I automatically started comparing it with my culture. I tried to find out the purpose of the "game" and I assumed that they were trying to win. Even though our cultures weren't alike and they really weren't trying to win, I automatically returned to what I knew. I don't think that was the most effective way to go about learning about the beta culture. Now, I obviously didn't have a lot of time to observe, but because I tried to figure out how to "win" I missed a lot about them. Had I went into thier room and not try to quickly make sense of things by comparing it to my own culture, I think I would have done a better job understanding.
Something else I thought was interesting was the fact that afterward, the majority of the people preferred their own culture. Even though, technically, everyone was randomly put into thier culture (we were not divided into our cultures by our likes, dislikes, goals, etc. ) they still preferred thier initial way of life. It was something that we were used to and comfortable with and as a result we liked it more than the alternative.
Even though this was just a practice and it lasted a short amount of time, I think that we can still find a lot of truth in that activity of how to understand another culture, the importance of trying not to compare another culture to your culture, and not focusing on what you consider the "bad parts" of the other culture. Had we been able to come to a more complete understanding of other culture before coming together to talk, I think that our thoughts about which culture we prefer would be different.

Journal 15

I think that the article we read for this upcoming class period (Choosing a Site and Gaining Access) was interesting. The idea of the different types of involvement and ways of gaining confidence in an area were particularly of worth. The read in and of itself wasn't really that captivating but it did make me think about where I will go and what I will be doing. Of the 4 different types of roles researchers play in their study I think I hope to be a "Participant as Observer" (researcher that is overt and an intimant friend of the participants). The reason I am hoping to be able to be a participant as observer is because I feel that since I am going to be retrieving personal information about HIV it would be best to have a relationship with the women that I am interviewing. In this way I would be able to really get a feel for, and understand their relationship with HIV, their story, and how much they know about the disease. I agree with the quote by Holy, "The researcher does not participate in the lives of the subjects in order to obseve them, but rather observes while participating fully in their lives..."I think that ideally, being able to conduct this type of research will lead to a better understanding of the lives of women in India. However, the problem with this type of observation is that it assumes that you are able to become friends with the people you are observing. I think that this might be a difficult task to gain the confidence and trust enough to talk about a sensitive subject; however, I believe that it is possible. I also think that getting in contact with the gatekeeper (I believe in my case it would be the organization I am working with, Shanti Ashram), will aide in getting in contact and gaining the trust of the population I am observing. Luckily I think that the gatekeeper in the community I am observing will have a positive affect and not a negative one, on how the women will react. I am assuming that Shanti Ashram has a positive reputation (from what I have heard from other students who have been there) among that community and that through them I will be able to get into contact with the necessary women in order to conduct the research.
One thing that I realize that I have not yet thought of is my strategy for entering the community. How I will do it and how I will gain their confidence. I also think that I need to narrow my target population more so that I will be able to more easily identify what I am researching and so that I will be able to ask women more effective questions. I guess that is something that I will have to think about and figure out.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Journal #14

In order to prepare to go to India I am learning Tamil. It is the language that is spoken in the region of Tamil Nadu and is of Dravidian origin. I am quickly finding that Tamil is nothing like anything I have ever learned before. I have taken many language classes for romantic languages; however, romantic languages tend to have more similarites to English, which make them easier to learn and understand. I know that I will not be able to become anywhere near fluent before going to India; however, I think that it's important to at least become acquainted with the language before going to live in another country.
Language is a very interesting method of communication. There are 2 basic types of communication: Verbal and Non-Verbal. So when learning with Tamil there is so much more than grammar. Language encompasses humor, slang, culture, social context, etc. etc. Even within the English language, two native speakers can easily misunderstand each other. I just recently had an experience where I was speaking to a friend who was not a member of the LDS church. I was explaining how I love to travel and how I was going to India. She then said, "Yeah, it seems like you are a very worldly person." By that statement she meant to say that I was someone who enjoyed learning about the world and gaining more experience. However, with my LDS heritage I immediately took it as something negative (generally the word "worldly" has a bad connotation in LDS culture) and then I realized that she meant it in a different way. Even though we are both from the same home town and are around the same age, there was still a language difference. If this type of miscommunication can happen so easily in my own culture and language, I can only imagine the experiences I will have in India!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Journal #13

I've been reading the biography of Gandhi and I think it's fascinating! I find that it's interesting how the author describes his life and how he acted when he was a child. For example, Gandhi went through a rebellious phase where he ate meat, smoke, and even didn't really believe in a god or religion for a while. For some reason that really surprised me because we tend to forget that even spiritual leaders are real people and they have moments of weakness and learning periods as well. However, I contrast the information that is given about Gandhi in this book to what is said about the history of our spiritual leaders within the church. Very rarely do we hear the "rebellious stages" of the prophets of the church and if anything is said, it is generally vague. I am also taking a President's of the Church course where we are learning about the lives of all the previous prophets of the church and in the book that we read it really doesn't talk as openly about the downfalls of the prophets. Although the readings to say that they were human and made mistakes, had issues, etc. etc. they don't give examples.
I think that this is a cultural example of how we view our religious leaders. For example, in "The Cultural Dimensions of International Business" it discusses how the image of leaders is different in every culture. In America, it's a positive image to see the President in jeans, or showing love towards his family, etc. etc. We enjoy knowing that he is "human". On the other hand, in some cultures the leader of the nation is never photographed in jeans, always in a business suit. The leader is meant to be strong and the citizens don't necessarily want to see his/her "human" side. I feel that this is the same way within our religion. Although we recognize that the leaders of our church are only human, we are never really openly told about that part of their lives, it is always very positive.
Now admittedly I am not an expert on Hinduism; however, I do find that the fact that this type of content would be printed about the major spiritual leader of Hinduism shows that the believers are not as concerned about the past image of their leaders. Or maybe it just shows that the author of this is book is not as concerned about portraying Gandhi in a perfect light as other authors of books of other religious leaders. Regardless I think that this is an interesting concept worth looking into.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Journal #12

For class this week I looked up articles about social stratification in India. Even though when we think of social stratification we tend to think of "India", I still learned a lot that I did not know about social stratification in India (and of course some things that were not that surprising).
The caste system is generally identified with Hinduism and is not supposed to allow caste-based discrimination. Unfortunately, even though the caste system has changed quite a bit from what it originally was, there are still many instances of discrimination and violence that occurs between different castes. In the readings it stated that the superior economic and political power of the upper castes is what keeps the lower castes suppressed, not necessarily the viewpoint that one is a higher caste and therefore has more rights.
Historically there were 5 castes:

Harijans-the "outside"

In this caste system the most influential caste were the Kshatriya. However, in recent years the caste system has undergone changes. Now the government has documented castes and subcastes in order to implement "reservation" (help those who need it). These castes include:

Scheduled Castes
Scheduled Tribes
Other Backward classes

I am not sure to what extent people identify themselves with this "new" caste system; however, there has been problems with what people view as "reverse discrimination".

Although there are still problems due to the caste system in India, they have still come a long way. One of the biggest political improvements was in 1997 when President Narayanan became the first low caste president. He was able to gain a higher education and move through the education system to become president of his country even though he was originally from a lower caste. Today the current president is a woman, Pratibha Patil. I think that both of these instances are very big improvements in the past several years. Especially when you take into consideration that segregation used to be so severe that people of different castes could not even share the same drinking area (similar to racial segregation in the US). Even though there is still much room for improvement, the majority of the articles indicate that India is heading in the right direction.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Journal #11

Ashley suggested that I read "The Future of Mankind" by Dr. M. Aram. He is the founder of Shanti Ashram, the organization that I will be working with while in India. I think that this book is very interesting to read, not only because I am learning about the values and beliefs of the founder but also because it was written in the 80s. The problems and the worries of the 80s are different than today. For example, one of the biggest issues he discusses is the fear of Nuclear Holocaust. Although this is still a threat in today's world, it is not as big of an issue as it was in the past (meaning very rarely do people talk about the fear of a Nuclear Holocaust, usually people talk about the fear of Terrorism). In this book Dr. Aram makes some predictions about the future and the problems that may arise. For example, he discusses the fear of unemployment, ecological damage, over-population, etc. etc. and how many people fear not being able to live past the year 2000. Looking back from 2010, it's an interesting perspective to see what the worries were in the time period the book was written.
However, even though there were some differences, the ideas of the book are very applicable today. Something that I thought was fascinating was that he attributed the human crisis to the following problems: demographic, economic, political, military, and religion crisis. However, he believes the the way to solves the human problem is through the educational, cultural, scientific, technological and spiritual dimensions. He believes that world peace is possible because:

"Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men, the defenses of peace must be constructed."

Dr. Aram believes that although religion/spiritual beliefs can be part of the problem, it can also be part of a powerful solution to the world's problems. His beliefs are heavily influenced by Gandhi's teachings and beliefs.

Generally I have heard that world peace is not possible. That there are too many problems and too few solutions. Since war has existed since the beginning of time how could we possibly live without it? It's hard not to believe that type of logic (at least in my way of thinking). However, India was able to peacefully rebel against British rule and succeed. And it was because of this way of thought and the example of Gandhi that India was able to accomplish something that (to my knowledge) has never been done before. It just goes to show that there is not just one way of doing things...even freedom. I am even more interested now to be able to go and work in an organization that is based on beliefs that are very seldom seen in American culture.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Journal #10

This week I watched a movie called Little Teresa. It was actually done by a previous student who worked with Shanti Ashram in southern India on a field study. It was very well done and relates to my previous post about women who are HIV positive in India. The documentary focuses on a woman named Meenakshi and her story is the same as many women: her husband gave her HIV and then he died of AIDS. His family blamed her and would not help her so she was forced to find a way to care for herself and her child. Meenakshi is amazing in that she stood up and admitted she was HIV-positive and then became a spokesperson for HIV-positive people. So obviously, the topic of HIV is becoming more noticed; however, according to the statistical information that we have about HIV infection rates, something more needs to be done.

In one of the clips, Meenakshi was teaching women about HIV and she asked how someone contracts HIV. The women responded that it was by blood transfusion and/or a "bad relationship". When the counselor started to tell them about the dangers of unprotected sex (not just a bad marriage) and suggested condom use the women in the circle started giggling and laughing. Honestly I don't really know if this reaction is a cultural reaction or just something that most women tend to do. Generally here in the US some women tend to have the same reaction. They believe that if you are in a "good relationship" you will not get HIV and do not stop to think if their partners may have the disease. And then when a solution is presented, generally they tend to laugh and giggle. However, with time condoms has become a more frequent term and is no longer a taboo subject (when talking to an older audience). Even though initially the women may react by giggling, the depth of the subject matter is realized and taken seriously.But I wonder if the same solution would work in India. Would it work just to continually push the importance of using protection or should a different cultural solution be presented? Or if there is no other solution, is the way in which it is being presented effective? This is what I am wondering with my question, are the methods to prevent HIV that are being taught effective or should something else be done?

Monday, January 31, 2011

Unstructured and Semistructured Interviewing

I found the articles that we read on interviewing practices to be very interesting and helpful in general. As a student who has done very little research and/or interviewing I can use all the help I can get. Mostly throughout these articles I was wondering if their advice would work in another country and another culture where the norms are completely different than that of our own. Obviously not all cultures have the same communication/body language signals and I think that that would be a big factor in conducting an interview.
For example, one of the suggestions was to probe in order to get more information out of the person you are interviewing without making them feel uncomfortable. One of the specific probes used was the "uh-huh" probe. However, not all cultures have that filler. In the US "uh-huh" means that you understand,for us it is implied that you are encouraged to continue because the listener understands. However, in other countries (even English-speaking countries) that might not be so. Now of course if you are conducting the interview in another language you shouldn't expect to be able to use this same phrase and get the same result; however, it is interesting to think that something like the word "uh-huh" generally is not found in a translation dictionary, yet it is something that has a lot of meaning and is used in daily language. So a big part of interviewing is figuring out communication cues and words/phrases that may not be taught in class or found in a dictionary. This kind of feels like a daunting task for someone who doesn't know a lot about where they are going. And this isn't exactly something that can be found in literature, it has to be experienced. Or especially the non-verbal responses, those are things that have great significance, but that you normally would not know had you never been to the country where you are going.
However, I did like the suggestions about helping people know that the information you are asking about will be kept confidential, earning their trust, etc. that can be used cross-culturally and is very good advice.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Women in India

As I am furthering my research on women in India, especially relating to HIV, the more complex the problem seems to become. I know that suppression and violence against women is not just singular to India; however, what does make India unique is that it seems to be contributing to its high infection rate of HIV. I am also learning that many officials feel that it is this mentality (specifically trafficking) that is causing this epidemic in India.
For example, India has a high trafficking and sex worker problem. In studies done the percentages of HIV-positive sex workers has been as high as 50% (of those interviewed). So what happens is that the workers transmit the disease to their "clients" who then infect their partners who are faithful. In most cases these are the women who are in a monogamous relationship. This continues until either the male or female experience signs and symptoms. If it is the female, she is generally either beaten or kicked out of her house and forced to live with her parents (if they will take her) for being HIV positive. Or if it is the male who experiences the symptoms first the woman is still blamed for giving the male HIV. Now obviously this is not the case in all situations; however, it is the most common result of being HIV positive in the studies performed.
The problem not only arises in the cultural treatment of women, but also the fact that the women are not able to protect themselves. They cannot force a male to wear a condom, yet nothing is available for them to use one themselves. HIV prevention programs in India as a whole are not very efficient yet there doesn't seem to be an option to improve. The most common response to lower HIV infection rate is to stop sex workers and human trafficking; however that is a legislative process that can take years. So until that can be accomplished, something needs to happen now to educate and help the women in India, and everywhere else this is a problem.

Monday, January 24, 2011

1/24/2011-Culture Blends

I think that the topics of culture and language are very interesting and important in any field. Yet is surprises me that so many people are apathetic when it comes to understanding another culture or language. I could really relate when the author spoke about being "number one", I have seen it not only in American culture but other cultures as well. It seems easier to assume that there is only "one" correct way of doing things and of course it is "my way". While reading the article about culture and language I remembered a specific experience I had with a person at a crepe party. Someone had asked me how to translate "What's up" into spanish and I replied "Que onda", now if translated literally it means "that wave", which of course doesn't make much sense in English. This person became very flustered at the fact that it didn't translate directly from Spanish into English and wanted to know why "they" would say something so "stupid" that doesn't make any sense. I tried to explain that it was because it was an entirely different language from English and although directly it didn't make any sense in English the meaning was still the same. Just becuase it wasn't English didn't make it "stupid". Unfortunately he was determined to think that in Latin America they should make their words and phrases just like American words and phrases and couldn't understand why it wouldn't happen that way. Although this is more of an extreme case I have seen a lot of people view different cultures and languages under this light. They can't understand why it isn't done "the right way".
Since I am going to a country where I don't know a lot about the language or the culture, i imagine I am going to have some difficult times with these barriers. I am trying to learn more about them;however, I have found that even though I am aware that they are completely different from my own and that just having good vocabulary doesn't mean that I will be able to communicate effectively, it is still difficult to keep an open mind when in the middle of a problem. It takes time to learn and understand how to communicate in a culture, and unfortunately there is no substitute.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Annotated Sources

1) Rebecca de Souzaa
a University of Minnesota, Duluth, Minnesota, United States
Women’s studies international forum [0277-5395] de Souza yr:2010 vol:33 iss:3 pg. 244-252

This article discusses the dilemma that many women in India find themselves in; mainly they are loyal, married women who are infected by their husbands. Two women were interviewed and gave their stories of how they became infected. Other topics in this article include: patriarchal societies, the stigma of HIV, NGOs, cultural attitudes that lead to the spread of HIV.

2)Jayati Ghosh, Vandana Wadhwa, Ezekiel Kalpeni.The Vulnerability to HIV/AIDS among women of reproductive age in the slums of Delhi and Hyerabad, India. Social Science & Medicine. Vol. 68, Iss:4 Feb 2009, pgs 638-642

This article discusses how the cultural and economic status of women make them more prone to HIV attraction. In addition to the level of education in order to prevent further HIV spread. It was found that women tend to place more emphasis on motherly education instead of school education and as a result do not have a sufficient knowledge of HIV contraction. Also discuses the lack of empowerment among Indian women, freedom of communication, and economic autonomy.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


As I was doing my research over the weekend I was getting more excited about my research project and the information that I was finding; however, I was also discovering possible problems within my question. In almost all my articles it talked about how it was difficult to find women to interview becuase HIV is a very taboo subject due to religious views and myths about the disease (eg. that you can get it just by touching the person or being near them). Unfortunately that is a common problem that occurs when trying to teach (or study) about a disease. Many people "hear" certain "facts" about a disease and then presume it to be true. Combating these myths is often a major public health concern. And it will also be a major concern with my research. However, I do still think that I will be able to research HIV because I will hopefully be able to work through Shanti Ashram, which is an organization that specifically deals with HIV in one of their programs. I am still exploring possible other options; however, I do think that I would still like to continue forward with my current research question.