Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Temples, Take-Away and The 'Things We Take for Granted' List

PROJECT: Physiotherapy, University of South Australia
WRITTEN BY: Suzannah Michell

Week three in Palampur started with a bang! Our weekend was spent in Amritsar where we were lucky enough to visit the Pakistan border and the Golden Temple. Fun fact: the Golden Temple has more visitors annually than the Taj Mahal!

Whilst our trip to the Golden Temple was vastly different to our experience at the Taj, there seemed to be some common themes: it was hot. Like, really hot. 45+ degrees hot. We planned the day to visit the border and the changing of the guards in the afternoon, and then see the temple on Saturday night to cope a little better with the sauna-like conditions. Our little bus spluttered it's way triumphantly the 5 hours to Amritsar and then the further 2 to the border between India and Pakistan WITH air-conditioning (for most of the time).

The border first: this bewildered author had no clue of Pakistan and India's long term and ongoing wars, violence and feuds prior to the spectacle that occurred at changing of the guards. Imagine two soccer games going on side by side - cheering and all - separated by two metal gates. But the soccer players specialize only in high kicks and yelling. And they're wearing peacock-esque hats and military uniforms, sometimes holding guns. Yeah, well that happened for a good hour. Pakistan and India performed similar displays of gymnastics, strongman posing, screaming and marching whilst separated by the border's elaborate gates. All the while, the extremely large crowds gathered on either side of the border cheered and yelled and danced to the music of their country, trying to outdo each other.

The closing ceremony featured the opening of the gates and quick synchronized lowering of the flags. The finale: a really high, high kick and a scream. Really, I'm not lying - it was strange. Bobby, one of the main organizers here, said that the kicking was to show the opposing side the sole of their shoe as a sign of strength. Whilst Julie mused that it really seemed like a show of good faith to each other to keep the peace. One thing is for sure, it was kind of fantastic, and the vibe was electric and intriguing. If that wasn't enough to round out our trip to the border, we were also patted down and searched 4 times on entry to the event, and it was by far the most number of photos we've been asked for. We were even asked to hold people's babies.

Note: 45 degrees + large crowd + 7 hours by bus + multiple photos with people's children and families = slightly disgruntled travellers. Enough said.

So the Golden Temple next: so nice we visited here twice! Once by night, and then again in full sun. Holy moly batman, that's a nice temple. You have to remove your shoes and place them in lockers on entry then walk through water to cleanse your feet, but the shoelessness was worth it. (Thanks Julie for teaching us all about parasites that can enter your feet by burrowing through your skin that live in water). At night it was like this shining beacon surrounded by water hovering in the darkness. By day it was an immense feature of light surrounded by the vivid colours of India. The first night we stumbled into the temple we may or may not have exited out of a different gate than the one we entered. After some shoeless strolls through the overpopulated city, our shoes were recovered! Whilst dirty, we were thankful that night of India's obsession with burning all roadside rubbish and the lack of glass or suspect liquids in our path.

One more important note from our weekend trip: if you thought we fought over chicken bones, you should've seen the lengths we went to acquiring McDonalds and KFC. The latter was more difficult due to Amritsar's, the holy city’s, pure vegetarianism. But after some crafty Google searches and an excessively long tuk-tuk ride we all had some Kentucky fried solid food to consume. McDonalds was actually located very close to our hotel though! And McPaneer ain't so bad! The McFlurry was arguably better though. Ice cream solves all problems in 45 degrees, let's be honest.

My goodness and that was only the weekend!

This week we started at new placements - rotating around to gain a better spread of experience. Everyday we arrive back at the house for lunch after placement and share stories of confusion or success from our days, revel in the contrasts of Indian physiotherapy, or boast about what delicious treats we were offered on home visits.

In general we decided this week was a bit of a "things we take for granted week" though. So here's the short list:
- Running drinking water
- Air conditioning
- Electricity
- Medicare and private health insurance
- Opening your mouth in the shower
- Fresh and safe meat and poultry
- The ability to safely cool and store meat...
- Currency with less 0's
- Relative social equality between men and women
- Automated washing machines
- Long-handled brooms
- Solid foods
- Australian Heath literacy
- Knives
- Napisan oxidation plus
- Less hand sanitation requirements
- Access to basic groceries
- Beer
- Road rules
- Less need to give way to livestock
- Indicators
- Quiet streets
- Animal welfare league and the RSPCA
- Beaches
- Alan keys (you can't fix a wheelchair without one!)
- Blending in
- Understanding conversation
- Rabies shots

A special thank you to Bobby's dad who also hosted a private tour of his tea plantation this week! His resemblance to the monopoly man was uncanny, and his touring skills were unparalleled!

Golden quotes for the week:

"Things like this just wouldn't happen if I had a knife and fork!" Luke

"Laurence, you should put henna on your face. It will come off straight away" Leah

"I've given up! I'm boycotting pants!" Alex

"I'll bring my Alan key tomorrow!" Undisclosed

"If you can dodge traffic, you can dodge a ball" Laurence

"That's 133 beeps! In only 3kms. A new record." Tobi

This weekend we're going for a 9km 'moderate' walk through the foothills of the Himalayas. I'm forecasting it as a bad episode of survivor... "12 people begin the journey and only the strongest will survive..."

Suzannah, on behalf of Tobi, Luke, Leah, Viv, Maddie, Tina, Alex, Laurence, Teagan, Nadia and Julie

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