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?