Here I am newly arrived in India enjoying my favorite things about travel. Yesterday I did some learning at a grocery store in Jodhpur. Cake mixes give directions for baking in a pressure cooker, since Indian kitchens do not include a traditional oven. The local term for the ubiquitous mustache is “mooch”. And if you ask the produce man to taste the grapes, he will pluck one himself and hand it to you.
I passed on the grapes.
And the grape.
Had extra toast the other morning and so fed it to the meandering cows on my morning walk. I admired the ingenuity of the man at a roadside tea shop, doing minor repairs, sans electrical tape, he used a bit of plastic bag to keep the wire ends together. And note to self, if I order a cappuccino, I should request it WITHOUT sugar, as it may well contain as much sugar as a bag of Halloween candy.
Plus, I met with the doctor who is coordinating most services for our clinic–called a “camp” –that will be held in the village of Kinai next weekend. We will have male and female eye professionals on Saturday. Village women are extremely uncomfortable if asked to remove their veil around men–I suppose the rough equivalent of asking me to remove my shirt–and we want to have as good a result as possible. On Sunday we will have dentists–again male and female, in separate rooms–and a general practitioner and gynecologist, and physical therapist both days. Typically 10-20% of villagers will appear for an event like this–that would be 400-800 here. “More should come,” said the doctor, “but they are afraid.”
“What is your biggest concern about planning?” I asked Goldie, my primary helper in all of this.
“Queue management,” he said. “Village people don’t know about lines. Or waiting turns. They will be very very curious, ‘You have electricity in there? I want to see now.’ No one will push or be impolite, but there will be a lot of people. A lot many. And we cannot control them.”
I’m learning a great deal here. “And what’s your second biggest worry?”
“You are worried about lunch?!” At first I thought Goldie meant that we’d have to feed 800 people! Fortunately not, but we must provide breakfast and lunch to all of the staff including volunteers and drivers. (Most are driving from Jaipur, two-and-a-half hours away.) That will come in at 40-50 people. (I’ve asked for two volunteers just to help clean and organize the 300 glasses frames.)
It’s not like we can order up a few dozen sandwiches from Panera Bread. Local custom requires a hot fresh meal. Pop-up lunch for 50 in a village with no safe water, no electricity, no restaurants or food services of any kind is a challenge, the last major organizational piece. We’re getting bids from wedding caterers, although this is a tiny job for people who do weddings.
Loving every bit of this, and yet…. a good part of me is still at home, rapt and horrified by what’s happening in Washington. Thursday I tried to watched watch the hearings with Brett Kavanaugh and and Christine Blasey Ford. And I do mean “tried.” There was endless buffering in fits and starts as I tested different sites and locations in the house and beyond. We drove around, looking for a good cell signal–$10/day from ATT to use international plan–and finally drove 20 minutes to get a better “dongle”, for WiFi. Things were more stable after that, except for what was happening on the screen. I stayed up past 4 a.m. hoping for….for what exactly?
Setting aside for one paragraph the possibility of sexual assault, I saw a man who knew he was being judged before the entire world, his entire world anyway, and yet refused to answer the most basic questions, lashed out at every turn, repeated rote phrases and tried to ask sarcastic questions to the senators. (That he apologized to one does not undo his behavior.) He is all too aware his every move is being evaluated and yet could not, for even a little while, maintain the reason and thoughtfulness I’d hope for from someone who will help decide the most important issues of our time.
And of course we can’t set aside the possibility of sexual assault, for even one paragraph.
All of this makes me happy, at least for now, that one of the issues on my plate is lunch for 50 people who are doing good in the world.