Finally, my apartment in Darjeeling is all set up. I have a place to store my clothes, the necessary cooking implements, and curtains to help keep the first sunshine in the morning out of my room. It has been an interesting week adjusting to the different lifestyle here in Darj, where everything closes early and walking is really the only means of transportation around town. Even getting here was an adventure. Everyone had been telling me how cold it would be in Darjeeling. For some reason I expected the temperature at Bagdogra airport, which is at the bottom of the mountains, to be cooler than Delhi, but it definitely wasn’t. The heat and humidity was stifling from the moment I stepped off the plane. Bagdogra is a small airport that also serves as an army airport, so the feeling there is different from other airports I have been to. On the bright side, it took about five minutes for us to get our bags. After we found Priscilla, the project officer from CHAI sent to pick us up, we went straight to the Siliguri market to buy groceries in bulk. After jamming our car full of luggage and food, we started the long drive up the market. There were many parents bringing their children to the boarding schools in Kalimpong and Darjeeling, so the road was very crowded. Because of this it took almost twice as long as usual to get to the top. Along the way, the views were some of the most beautiful I have ever seen. As you drive up the mountain, the road further up becomes clearer through the clouds and you can look back on the valleys below. If the windows are open in the car, you can feel the air getting cooler and cleaner as you reach higher altitudes. For much of the time, the cars are alternating between driving through thick vegetation and being right on the edge of the mountain, making it possible for the people on the outside of the car to look straight down the cliff out their windows. Ever so often you drive through a small town or village with buildings that look like they are stuck to the mountainside. Eventually the road meets the toy train track. The two weave back and forth, crossing each other over and over again. I have had many experiences with this drive in the last week since we have taken two trips to the field to become acquainted with some of our partner schools for the health education program (CHHIP). We reached Darjeeling around 7pm. It was already pitch black out, so it was difficult to see much of the town on the drive in. The day after arriving we jumped right in to work, working a seven-day week to make up for some time that the organization lost earlier in the month. It has been an interesting and informative week, and I am looking forward to continuing my work with CHAI and CHHIP. Next month some information on the organization and its programs!!
Megan believes that health is an integral part of international development. To achieve maximum potential within a community, that community needs to be healthy. She has come to this conclusion because of her experiences abroad and in the US during her undergraduate and graduate degrees. While in college, she spent a summer volunteering at an orphanage in rural Rajasthan. During this adventure, she saw the many health issues facing women and children in India, particularly in rural areas with limited access to health care. This trip inspired her undergraduate thesis and motivated her to pursue graduate degrees in social work and public health. While in graduate school, she solidified her interest in sexual and reproductive health and maternal and child health. These areas were the focus of her research and projects throughout school. She participated in an internship in India at MAMTA: Health Institute for Mother and Child in the summer of 2012. During this internship, she had the opportunity to learn about Indian health systems and adolescent sexual health schemes. She fell in love with India during her volunteer and internship experiences and wants to live there on a permanent basis now that she has completed her graduate degree.