One of the questions for the AIF yearbook asked us “Describe a moment during the past 10 months in which you felt very proud.” I originally wrote, “I spent the majority of my fellowship interviewing health workers, community leaders, and men and women of Kutch to assess the current health status and find areas for interventions. I spoke with hundreds of people and observed countless health programs in order to learn, understand, and eventually give my input. The last week of my fellowship a medical student from the UK came to KMVS to learn from me about women’s access to reproductive health care in Kutch. At first, I was very confused. I still felt like an outsider and wasn’t sure I could teach this student anything she couldn’t read online. However, within the first few hours of her visit, I was organizing site visits, setting up and translating interviews, and even being interviewed myself. Not only did I feel like I had legitimate things to say, but for the first time I felt like a member of the Kutch health worker community.” I am still incredibly proud of that moment, but after today I have another answer.
My last day of work with KMVS was yesterday. I woke up early, practiced saying the thank yous I wrote out in Gujarati the day before, and packaged up a chocolate cake to share with everyone at the office. I wasn’t expecting much, just a few minutes of coworkers awkwardly feeding me cake and a wrap up conversation with my boss. Instead, I was greeted in the meeting room by all my coworkers, samosas on samosas, and another chocolate cake. Everyone went around the circle sharing stories from my fellowship. We talked about my morning routine of saying hello to everyone in the office, my ‘strange’ preference of water over chai in the afternoons, and of course the dog bite. They always mention the dog bite. It was finally my turn to say my thank yous to all my coworkers and friends. This was, without a doubt, my proudest moment of the fellowship. Not only did I feel like I was part of the Kutch health worker community, but I also really felt like I was part of the KMVS family.
My fellowship definitely had its challenges and I was tested at times, but all in all I know I grew, professionally and personally. I came into this fellowship slightly doubtful of my skills. The project I was about to take on was overwhelming and I wanted to make sure I excelled at my first job out of college. In addition to the professional challenge, I was moving to a remote area of India where I knew no one. The first half of my fellowship was by no means smooth sailing. My mentors pushed me, my friends challenged me, and my roommate questioned my cooking skills.
During one of my more trying moments, I was given a piece of advice from a dear friend and mentor. In this, my last blog post, I share the advice with you in hopes that it guides you as much as it guided me.
There once was a bird who lived up North. She flew every day – high and low, through mountains and valleys. One day, the bird was quite tired and cold; she could not fly anymore. She decided to rest her wings for the night and lay on the ground.
She was so cold through out the night she could not sleep. When she thought she could not handle the cold anymore, she found herself covered in something warm. A cow had come and taken a poo – a warm, glorious poo. She was so thrilled to be covered in its warmth she began to sing. She sang at the top of her lungs, so the cow could hear her appreciation.
Some near by coyotes heard her calls, and thought she was in danger. They ran over to the poo and dug her out. Once they pulled her out of the poo, the coyotes realized she was not in danger, and they were quite hunger. She didn’t stand a change. She was gobbled up almost instantly.
So what did you learn from this story? Or are you just sitting there confused? When I first heard this piece of advice I had no idea what to think. But now, after this 10-month fellowship I realize the three very important lessons of this story.
Lesson 1: When you are in shit, don’t sing
Lesson 2: Those who shit on you, aren’t always your enemy
Lesson 3: Those who pull you out of shit aren’t always your friends.
So good luck new fellows! May the odds be ever in your favor.