Tag Archive | trivandrum

~ Paradise India: Trivandrum Travels ~

Now that I’ve unleashed some steam and opinions, I can now relive the beauty of South India. One months time there took me on a blissful trip to parks, zoos, shopping complexes, and beaches. I will take you on a cruise through India’s best!

June 23, 2011: Kedaram Shopping Complex, Trivandrum

Flowers anyone?

June 26, 2011: Napier Museum

Absolutely stunning pieces of artwork: statues of ancient gods and goddesses, ceramic figurines, wood works, masks, costumes, traditional instruments, currencies, and so much history! Entry fee was only a infinitesimal 5 rupees, which translates to less than a dime. The gardens were stunningly green and revitalizing.

Father and Son

Gazebo

The architectural design of the building was breathtaking. I found the sleeping lion humorous. There was also the dancing god on a stone. And the window ledges, which featured a chimeric creature somewhere between a horse and elephant.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight...

 

Ah, the Weight of the World

Lunch break at the Juice Boss and Hotel Taj

Apple Milkshake =)

Egg Biryani, Raitha, Spicy Mango Salad, Indian Food

June 26, 2011: Trivandrum Zoo

Right next to the Napier Museum, the Trivandrum Zoo featured mostly indigenous Asian/Indian animals. I’ve been to zoos in China and the Bronx. I’ve also been to Atlantis Marine World on Long Island numerous times. I love animals and so will you. Hey, I grew up on the Discovery Channel and Nickelodeon. I was bound to be an animal lover and avid learner of random facts. I will put up pictures of all the animals I saw, along with the interesting facts I learned at the zoo. Gosh, I feel like an excited kindergartener on a school field trip. At the zoo, I was such a tourist, flashing out my pink camera and taking pictures of animals at every angle possible. If medicine doesn’t work out, the paparazzi can be my next resume booster. I’ve already had experiences with the paparazzi at Shanghai (some Asian actor)  and Manhattan (Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were my backdoor neighbors).

Lion-Tailed MacaqueGets its name from its tail which has a tassel at the end like that of a lion

King Cobra: World’s largest venomous snake and the only snake that builds a nest! Its forked tongue is used to gather sensory data. Females are dedicated parents, as they use their tails to gather mounds of leaf litter.

Rhesus Macaque: Strong swimmers. Used for research =/

Banyan Trees and Prop Roots

Rose Ringed Parakeet: Immense capacity to imitate. Loud sharp screaming uttered at rest and flight.

Parakeet Alexandrine: Named after Alexander the Great when he returned from Punjab. Likes to nest in holes of large trees, very social and loud birds.

Silver Pheasant: Defends territory with whistling calls. Known to be aggressive to other species, such as attacking its keepers =/

Kalij Pheasant: Cluster distinctly into male/female groups. Quick runners, but fly when frightened. On the ground at daytime, in trees at nighttime. About 85% are born male, who also tend to stick close to the family and help out. How filial lol…

Brahminy Kite: Official mascot of Jakarta (Indonesia). Island of Langkawi named after this white bird.

King Vulture:  Expert glider, sometimes soaring for hours without flapping its wings. Nest sites are known to be smelly for the purposes of warding off predators.

In the jailhouse

Cinereous Vultures: Rather ugly looking critters. Largest bird of prey in the world. Heaviest bird of flight. Also known as the “Pilot’s Worst Nightmare” because they can fly at high altitudes, up to 2300 ft.

White Bellied Sea Eagle: Marine and migratory. Do not build a nest every year, instead, renovating old ones.

Golden Pheasant: They can fly, but they prefer to run =D During courtship, males jump from side to side of females, while making whistling & clicking noises.

Adjutant Stork: Solitary and shy birds. Named for it’s stiff march style of walking.

PARK OF WATER BIRDS … Could not tell which was what… Still, I’m proud of these pictures I took through the fence holes.

I Got an Itch

Great Heron: Deep harsh croak uttered during flight

Rosy Pelican:  Fishes in cooperative manner, swimming in semi-circles, flock drives fish towards shallow waters and then with sudden swish of the wings, catches the fish in its bill. Nests in old nests of flamingos. Elegant soaring bird.

Painted Stork: Until 18 months of age, young ones can make loud calls to attract their parents; afterwards, they lose the ability and must find another way to communicate with fellow birds…

Oriental White Ibis: Feeds in shallow water with head submerged. Silent birds.

Black Necked Stork: Only stork species found in Australia. More of a fish eater than other storks. Also eats reptiles, frogs, crabs…

Spoonbill: Feeds by wading through the shallow water and sweeping with partly-opened bill. Feeds many hours a day (hungry hungry birdies). Flocks fly in V-formation or single diagonal lines.

A very green lake down below:

Bamboo Tree

Cannonball Tree: Medicinal uses include analgesics, antiseptics, antibiotics, antifungal, disinfectants; Helpful for colds, stomach aches, malaria, skin diseases, & toothaches (young leaves)

Sloth Bear: Its love for honey has called for its nickname “Honey Bear.” Then why is Pooh Bear yellow?

Emu:  Calls consist of booming, drumming, and grunting. Booming is caused by an inflatable neck sac. Farmed for meat, leather, and oils =(

Indian One-Horned Rhino: Running Rhino started chasing some deer, running as fast as 40 km/hr. Likes to wallow in water during the day (lazy animals). Excellent swimmers (hard to imagine…) Active at night and early morning, mostly solitary. Official state animal of Assam, wherever that is… Seeing the rhino reminded me of Ace Ventura, which I saw on TV in India, the part where Ace is hiding out in a fake metal rhino and gets stuck and pushes out through the rhino’s butt. This unfolds to the astonishment of a family on the wild safari, believing the rhino is giving birth… and out pops a naked white man. Ouch…

Looks like a Tricerotop

HIPPOS!!! I love these creatures, but not at all huggable and lovable. Very violent-tempered animals. Spend most of the day wallowing in water or mud. Birth takes place in water. So does mating (kinky eh?). Third largest mammals on Earth. Though they look like fat & lazy animals, they can easily outrun a human at 48 km/hr. Known as the “Beast of the Nile” to ancient Greeks and Romans. Now I have an urge to play my favorite childhood game, Hungry Hungry Hippos!

Asian Elephant: Largest land mammal. Heaviest brain of the animal kingdom. Can sleep while standing. Wish I could do that…

Deer cohabiting with rhino and elephant

Cattle: Nothing special. Just hamburger.

African Cape Buffalo:  Known as “Black Death” in Africa since it is known to gore people to death (200 human deaths/year). Herd sticks together when there’s a predator, keeping the young in the middle. Daring enough to rescue a victim buffalo from predators.

Blackbuck: One of the fastest animals at 70 km/hr. State animal of Andhra Pradesh. Males fight to the ultimate end for sex. Males have bitter duels. They also mark their territories by rubbing their facial glands on tree trunks during mating.

Spotted Deer:  Very nervous animals.

Zebra:  Very social animals. Each zebra has a distinct stripe pattern.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight...

Tiger:  National Animal of India. Also known as the world’s favorite animal. Stripe pattern is unique for every tiger, like that of human thumb impressions.

Spectacled Caiman: Named for the bony ridge between the eyes that gives it the appearance of glasses.

Ostrich: Largest bird. Sadly they cannot fly, BUT they are the fastest two-legged animal.

Indian Peafowl: National Bird of India. Shy and alert. Males flare out their plumage to attract females.

Not the Laughing Kind of Hyena huh?

There was one casualty on this trip: my flip flop. I had to hop and walk on rocky roads until I could catch a rickshaw back.

And the Aquarium called “The Fish Galaxy”

Inside the Aquarium

Kissing Elephant Gardens

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WOE – India, Part 1

  1. Chaotic, cacophonous streets: No such thing as traffic lights, road signs, speed limits, crossing guards, or common courtesy on the streets. Roads are narrow, cramped, and bumpy, and hence the small cars and rickshaw taxis! With little traffic regulation, how are people to drive and walk safely? Vehicles speed and honk without hesitation, as there are no signs limiting speed and obnoxious honks. People also never stay in their lanes; they cross cross back and forth, without signaling most times. At times, I even find 5 vehicles driving alongside each other! Drivers are merciless and reckless. Motorcycles wind around precariously, cutting between cars and large buses. Motorcyclists usually do not wear helmets and they zip right past you. Rickshaw drivers get annoying too. Pedestrians are in clear danger, but no one seems frazzled whatsoever. I walked considerably to places, so much so that I’ve suffered through two broken flip-flops in a month trekking the broken roads and rocky paths. The thing is, people here do not seem to have a care in the world. Kids, students, men, and women – they don’t get fazed by the onslaught of vehicles. They go right on ahead and cross like it’s a leisurely walk through Central Park. They’re not afraid of getting steamrolled by honking, crazy cars! Take women and children for example; they ride the motorcycles behind husbands or fathers, comfortable and calm. Women sit sideways with their sarees and children nestle between their parents, looking giddy and happy-go-lucky. Sometimes, I see women driving motorcycles! I don’t know how they do it, but they are brave souls.

    Holy Sidewalks

  2. Vehicles are everywhere: Rickshaws, cars, buses, motorcycles, and trucks clog the streets. It’s not only the busy city streets; they also infiltrate where vehicles are not allowed, like parks and markets! It pissed me off whenever vehicles honked for meto move aside, when they should not even be ruining nature’s serenity at Neyyar Dam and the bustling nightmarkets! You would venture to think drivers were going to be more civil, but no no, they were just as impatient and mean. Seriously, they did not belong there, and still, they put others in danger. I thought I’d get away from the hellish streets at a park. Nope, those noisy bastards disturbed the harmony of the natural world. Markets were small and cramped as they were, with shoppers and stores. Still, stupid cars weaved their way in and drove poor pedestrians like myself aside, ruining the pleasant and safe shopping experience!

    Busy Pattom Road

  3. Cannot Drive for Life in India, and Never Will:  First, I’m too nice to use the horn. I tend to forget I have a horn to honk at stupid people. Second, I’d perpetually drive on the wrong side of the road. That’s because India follows the European model. Drivers are seated on the right and cars drive on the left side of the road. Everything is flip-flopped from what I’ve been trained to do in the states. Without even realizing, I’ll end up on the wrong side of traffic and that’s a grand disaster.
  4. Professional Jaywalkers:  Like I’ve said many times already, drivers are not afraid to hit you. That’s the feeling I get when I have to cross a street. Intersections are like battlegrounds. When I’m attempting to cross, I feel like I’m stuck amidst a crossfire, flanked by opposing traffic. Mad scary… Because there are few lights or signs, walkers really need to be extra careful. Looking both ways before crossing was never more important and life-saving! There’s a method to crossing busy streets. First, never run like a mad chicken, like me. It drew more unnecessary attention to me. I worried I’d get squashed into a pancake, but then I realized these cars cannot drive more than 20 mph anyway with the busy traffic and lack of road regulation. Cars were not going to hit me. Second, you cross smartly by inching forward until you’re in the way of cars and they must slow down to stop. Rickshaws did that, and so did humans.

    Medical College Junction... 5 Way Crossroad

  5. “Honk if you love my driving” =) This should be the bumper sticker on every rickshaw and motor vehicle. That’s how much noise pollution there was blasting my ear drums. Most of the time, they were excessive, honking at detonating decibels when I was literally fingerbreaths from them. Come on! Seriously, I hear you loud and clear. Thanks for busting my tympanic membrane jerk!
  6. Public Transportation = Roller Coaster Fun:  I’m talking about the hot buses. The moving metal boxes with punched out holes for windows. The buses felt unstable and ready to collapse if they run over another pothole. It was like a wild roller coaster ride where I needed to hang on for dear life. I thought NYU buses were crazy rides for my tuition, but these public buses in India were dizzying and heart-racing. They were old, rickety, and muggy. People squeezed in and crowded around, standing or sitting. There was no such thing as personal space; it was like a right lost in India. During rush hours, peoples heads and body parts were hanging out of windows and doors. The cheap bus ride experience was what you paid for…

Ketchup and Mustard Bus

Regional Cancer Centre

India was not a free expedition without purpose. Of course, I had a mighty mission in India. Unfortunately, I was not there to cure cancer, as my title may have alluded. Instead, I was there as a rookie medical intern to roam the wards and ORs and see clinical oncology at its finest. Well, not finest; the worst. Cancer is an enigmatic monster yet to be tamed. Lucky for me, I had my first clinical exposure abroad in tropical India. Everything I learned from first year textbooks and lectures has new meaning, something more tangible and practical. It’s one thing to digest mere medical terms and enunciate convoluted anatomical vocabulary. However, it’s a whole new world when I see the melon-sized single lymph node in the neck, the white and warty oral verrucous carcinoma, the blood and gore of surgical dissections, and the hideously painful process behind tumor excision. I had a pumping good time at the medical institution, whether it was watching surgery shows at the head of the table with the anesthesiologists, palpating neck nodes, or simply listening to the doctors teach me. I learn best by hands-on experience, and thanks to my first medical mission abroad, I have returned home with two journals filled with colorful diagrams, clinical notes, and many candid vacation pictures.

The RCC was located less than 3 km from the apartment. Every day, my friend and I took an auto-rickshaw to work. These little taxis are what the Chinese translate to “turtle cars.” They are small, popular, convenient, and cheap gas guzzlers. Each trip was a mere 30 rupees, or less than $1!!! Compared to the NYC metro subway, which is an astonishing $2.25 a trip, it was close to nothing, a mere dent to my wallet. The rickshaw ride took less than 10 minutes, for the roads were rocky, bumpy, and dusty. I had to hang on tightly for the rickety rickshaw ride because driving and riding in India was plain chaotic. It was like China, but worse. Vehicles and motorcycles veered all over the roads, crossed lines without signaling, or cut off other drivers. The streets were sites of cacophonous, obnoxious honking. Sudden braking and lurching forward were constant occurrences, much to my heart and stomach’s dissatisfaction.

Nonetheless, I safely arrived to work and back home in one piece every day. I managed to get a couple of shots of the nearby campus and facilities. Prepare for a grand tour through the RCC and the Medical College in Trivandrum, India:

Medical College entrance: The Golden Jubilee Gate

Through the Medical College

Pretty Ponds Are Distracting

Mother and Baby statue

En route to the RCC: Very beautifully distracting!

Rocks and Rubbles

A Villa Buried Amongst Tropical Shrubbery

Destination arrived: Regional Cancer Centre. The RCC is a specialty hospital dedicated to comprehensive cancer care and clinical research. Since its inception in 1981, the RCC has provided cutting-edge facilities for cancer diagnosis, treatment, palliation, and rehabilitation through surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy.

The Busy Street

A Field Across the Street

... Where the Stray Dogs Lounge

 A typical day around the hospital facilities… from the wards to radiation planning to food.

The entrance and hallways were crowded with patients and families. Long assembly lines and crowds of people infiltrated the units. There was very little privacy and personal space.

Pediatrics Ward... Colorful

In India, there is a greater emphasis on radiation therapy to treat cancer. Due to the high influx of patients every day, new and follow-up ones, oncologists there offset the load with quick, rigorous treatment. High-dose radiation in a short period of time is employed, for example, an intense 50 Grays for 3 weeks targeted to a very localized area. There, it is more economical and practical for doctors to deal with patients’ acute symptoms (ex. mucositis, hair loss, skin irritation) and help them manage their complications.

Linear Accelerator for Radiation Therapy

Tea break in India as compared to the luxury of Starbucks at the famed Stony Brook Medical Center. Check out the differences in the coffee shops and portion size. I actually prefer the tiny cups of lemon milk tea over astronomical grande frappaccinos. I love my milk tea, better with bubbles =)

Fuel Up With Caffeine!

Typical Breakfast in the Canteen: Vada with Lemon Milk Tea

Rice Water Soup and Pink Root Water... Hm.

The positive messages that are posted around the hospital, in English… Though South India boasts of high literacy rates, people coming in with advanced diseases are poor common people.

Lol... Cancer the Crab is the RCC Mascot

En Route to India

I had a sizeable 20++ hours of flying. I slept for most of the legs, though uncomfortably. I can fall asleep in many settings, no matter how uncomfortable and painful. Sitting up and with the person in front reclining and ruining my personal space, I still fell asleep for random durations. Here was my itinerary:  JFK –> London Heathrow –> Dubai –> TRV

The American Airlines leg to London was uncomfortable. I had a intermittently screaming baby diagonal to me and headphones that hurt my ears even more. I shouldn’t complain too much, as I was a fussy baby myself. A Hispanic baby would shriek and cry on and off. A few too many times, I was shaken awake by the screams. I couldn’t even distract myself with the movie I wanted to watch, “No Strings Attached” or tune out.  So for 8 hours, I tried extra hard to hit the internal snooze button. A few more devilish babies were situations on my final flight to India, but they were farther from my ears’ reaches that I could ignore successfully.

London Heathrow Airport was the most I walked around Europe, a foreign land I only dream of going to. I arrived at an awkward time, 6:30 am, when all was quiet and dreary. Rain started to come down, pitter pattering. Skies were gray and drab. I had to take a terminal bus to get to the right connection flight, and that was the most I explored London: air traffic controllers, underground basement and construction parts, fenced areas, and one dizzying bus ride. I passed time with my pleasure read, “A Thousand Splendid Suns” before taking a trip around the London [Airport] shops. Not like I bought anything, since I was carrying useless wads of rupees in Europe. And it was strange hearing the British accent live, in person, with my ears, and not on TV. Through security check, a British man directed me in the right direction and a brown girl with a British accent asked me to take out my fluids; it shouldn’t be such a spectacle, but it was interesting interacting with the British.

From London to Dubai, I switched to Royal Brunei, and from Dubai, I connected to Emirates. Oh, service and environment were soooooo much better. The flight attendants were more attractive beauties. The passionately violet seats were snuggly and spacious. No need for business class, when I have Royal Brunei and Emirates! The headphones worked and food was getting more appetizing. On the more luxurious international flights, I sat back to watch “What Women Want” (Andy Lau, Gong Li) three times because I fell asleep randomly and play games like Tetris and Blockanoids. The games were addictive, nearly tiring me out by arrival time. I had hours to kill, but I did not kill the game. When I got frustrated, I gave a big sigh and went to sleep. I woke up with renewed energy, ready to tackle Level 2, only to be shot down and embittered. Boo hoo…

Though I felt fat by the time I got off in India because of all the bread rolls I digested and lack of mobility, I enjoyed my main meals of chicken, fruits, and desserts. Thank goodness for small portions! On every flight, no matter how far I fall into a deep sleep, I always sense the food coming down on wheels like it’s a savage instinct. I awake just in time for juice and entrees and snacks. I had everything from biryani chicken/basmati rice to cous cous salad to caramel ice cream to yogurt salad and pudding. Complimentary on Emirates was wine and let’s say I enjoyed it so much I started feeling sleep soon after dinner. I was in a well-fed state by the end of my journey.

Dubai International Airport was fabulously beautiful. I took pictures of the central garden and flowing water. Stunning, clean, and picturesque. At first I felt strange snapping pictures of the airport, but then I saw a couple of Korean guys stand around to take shots of the pretty airport and I felt less awkward.

The final leg of the trip was aboard Emirates to Trivandrum. I arrived at an inconvenient time of 3:20 am, after which my friend and I waited out until daylight. To pass time, we watched “Source Code” with Jake Gyllenhaal, one of many movies I would end up watching in the span of 5 weeks…

I’d like to put forth that minority status feels genuinely weird. To London, there were plenty of whites and some Asians. Aboard Royal Brunei, there were more Arabs and Southeast Asians. At Dubai, there was a flock of Koreans. By the Emirates leg, I got to the gate with my classmate and took a good look around. Yep, I was the lone Asian girl with pale skin, almond eyes, and black hair. I stuck out like a bleeding ulcer. At least my friend could pass off as a brown guy, and probably even more if he grew a beard and got more tan. Me, I was going to be a lost cause; I could not hide or blend in behind sarees. Oh boy do I have stories from the streets of India… =/

INDIA!!!

I spent the past 5 weeks of my final summer vacation in India before I become a slave to boards and clinical years and get buried alive by books. It was also my first time traveling abroad and navigating independently, away from the clutches of my Asian mom and dad. At first, I was anxious about traveling by myself, to a foreign country outside of my comfort zone. I was entering malaria-mosquito-beggar ridden-poverty-typhoid fever-contaminated water territory. I’ve been warned consistently about not drinking the tap water there. I’ve had to get drugged up with expensive medications that my insurance refused to pay for because they were prophylactic; my insurance would only pay for meds if I get sick with the disease. How ridiculous is that??!! Paying for sickness but not prevention huh? I left the country with mefloquine, an expensive anti-malaria drug, some antibiotics for Montezuma’s Revenge (lol), nothing for typhoid fever vaccine because it was taking a hit to my butt pocket, and without MedEx, a health insurance program covering medical expenses in case things go awry abroad and repatriation in case of a disaster. I was treading shark-infested waters, while trying to save on incurring expenses. Going to India I was crossing my fingers (and toes),  hoping I would not come down with dysentery, typhoid fever, animal bites, rabies, dengue fever, weird tropical diseases, accidents, lost limbs, or lost head. Ok, I’m going over the top, but India was a foreign land far far away so my imagination could not be blamed completely for wandering to Pluto.

In the end, my trip to India was still worth it. Dirt cheap as hell and living the simple life, what more could I ask for? With $1500 funded for me, I had my plane ticket and most of my tuition covered. That meant I lived in India for a mere $500 for a good full month: apartment, cheap utilities, cable TV, travel channels, endless round of movies, traditional Indian cuisine, continental food with a tikka twist, desserts, gelato, cocktails, smoothies, milkshakes, assortment of fruits, MANGOES, coconut trees, beautiful beaches, seaside resorts, waves, sun, seafood, elephants, crocodiles, wildlife, waters, mountains, backwater cruises, rickshaws, and much much more.

Of course, my purpose was not just fun in the sun. I was there on a study abroad program with Stony Brook University, working as an intern rotating through the Regional Cancer Centre in Thiruvananthapuram (what a mouthful). There, I had a unique experience from surgical oncology to radiation therapy to crowded outpatient clinics (head and neck, chest, breast, gynecologic, gastrointestinal, pediatrics). I saw whacky clinical cases and worked with amazing, personable doctors. I stood next to mighty surgeons, watching their every dissection, chatted with otherwise bored anesthesiologists, and sat back and absorbed what the kind doctors were teaching me. A spark went off and now I have a renewed appreciation for anatomy, radiology, stitching, and much much more. Stay tuned for an educational course through the clinics of India.

Get VERY envious now, because I’m going to write a series of blog posts documenting a very luxurious, eye-popping time in Kerala, India, one of the greenest and most scenic places in South India.