Clinic Photos – Day 1

On day 1 we were able to serve more than 150 people for vision and cardiac services. There were twenty referrals for cataract surgery.

We had both female and male clinicians.

We held the clinic at the school and they had to double up on classrooms so we could use three classrooms as treatment rooms.

Thanks again to Manhattan Beach Vision and Napa Methodist Church for their donations!

Proud of his medication!

Frames with their prescriptions to be processed…


I got my eyes checked too but made sure I was last in line!

We have one more day for other medical services including gynecology, dentistry (we’ve got two dentists coming!), orthopedic, general practitioner, and physical therapy. Stay tuned for further updates!

Click to Donate!!

Just a reminder… There is no cost of any kind to the individuals served. I am not an NGO. There’s no paperwork or overhead. It’s me—and YOU—helping people who need it.

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Getting the Word Out

Gearing up for the our clinic this weekend in India. Lots of logistics. We’re

“Farmer’s market” in Kanai at your doorstep every morning.

working in a cluster of five tiny villages close together, two of them named Kanai. Total population of 4,000.

We will be using the school building to provide vision, medical, and dental services on Saturday and Sunday.

This is an extremely rural area. We need to bring everything with us. The closest ATM is 18km away as is the nearest grocery. A man rides by every morning on his motorcycle selling fresh vegetables, a sort of mobile farmer’s market. He weighs produce on a balance scale. One of his weights is missing, replaced by rock. The produce man, however, does not sell hand-sanitizer, Betadine, scissors, or any of the many things we’ll need.

Electricity is a novelty to be gawked at from a distance. No running water of course, and what water there is has dangerously high levels of fluoride, causing serious health problems to bones and teeth. (We’re bringing lots of toothpaste and toothbrushes.) The government has locked some of the hand pumps and painted them red. A water tower is under construction to pipe in water from Bilaspur Reservoir, the primary water supply to Jaipur, a city of 5 million people. Although the monsoons have just finished, Bilaspur is only 26% full.

Running water is a novelty beyond imagining. “Is it really true that everyone in America has a pipe with water coming into their house?” one of the better educated men asked me.

“Yes, that’s true.”

“How many hours a day is the water available?”


“And you can DRINK that water?”

Literacy rate among women in the village is 20 percent.

Poster advertising our vision, dental and medical clinic.

How to get the word out?

Word of mouth is always the best advertising and that is true here in an absolutely literal way. Local helpers have created a poster.

Even more directly, on Thursday and Friday we are hiring tuk-tuks to drive through the villages with a megaphone and announcements.

Now that’s what I call social media.


Tuk-Tuk, the town crier will go with a megaphone with a more modest tuk-tuk than this.

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Is it is Jet Lag? Or is it the Senate hearings?

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.

The man on the left is giving a boost to the man on the left, who probably ran out gas.

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Adventure Sports: Hang gliding to shopping.

“Is hang gliding the one that looks like a parachute?” asked the young woman at the lunch table.

Having a bit of trouble with images today…..enjoy the story!

“No,” said Sandra Grantham with authority. “A hang glider is more like a kite and you are suspended horizontally underneath. You control your flight with a bar.” She explained that you learn at the beach running on little baby dunes, and progress to ever higher hills. “My goal was to take off from from Glacier Point in Yosemite, the only place in Yosemite you can hang glide from. But you had to be a Hang 4 and I was only rated a Hang 3.”
A crash while hang gliding damaged Sandra’s hearing—“Have you been to England before?” she asked me, because she heard “England” instead of “India”. Now then I HAVE been to England, so that sent our conversation sideways for a little bit, but we found our way back as we will here now. Sandra was positive that the crash had been caused by her equipment. Something had prevented her from controlling the craft properly.   “The owner of the shop didn’t believe me, so he took my kite out himself for a flight.
“He came back white,” having nearly crashed badly. The vertical supports, in fact, were completely out of alignment.
Was it that she’s a woman? Or was it the white hair?  Sandra didn’t say exactly how long ago this happened, but in the telling it sounded recent. Sandra is 74, lives in nearby Niles, California, and, unlike many of us, has no need for the folderol of hair color. Or, it seems, folderol of any kind. “Have you been here before?” I asked, meaning 1440 Multiversity, where we are taking Brave Magic, with Cheryl Strayed and Elizabeth Gilbert.
“Oh yes,” said Sandra, “I was here right after they opened last year, for Zen Tango.”
Zen Tango. I just let that sink in.
 I love mealtimes here, and not just for the fresh food I do not have to prepare or clean up. Every table is a community table. The conversation meanders all over: current events, creativity, science, the miracle of being here,—“I feel like I’m having an affair with myself” said Susan from Massachusetts—, children, careers, hang gliding, travel and even shopping.
Especially shopping WHILE traveling. I like to buy things I can actually use. I once bought almond extract from Country Cupboard in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, because I knew that every time I used it (which is only for cheesecake) I would remember visiting Jessamyn as a freshman at Bucknell. Marmalade from England—not India—provides the same memory hit. So do the little ebony earrings I got for a dollar at a flea market in Zambia. I thought they were so cheap it wouldn’t matter if I lost them. But costing a dollar has become part of their charm.
“I was on a world cruise,” said Sandra, “and our very first port of call was Bali. In the market I fell in love with a pair of beautiful carved wooden hands.” Sandra positioned her polish-free hands elegantly a foot in front of her face. “I loved those hands. I love hands in general and I was working as a massage therapist then. But Bali was our very first stop. I thought I’m on a WORLD CRUISE, and I can’t buy everything I like. But I so much regretted not getting those hands.”
I still remember the outfit in the shop window 20 years ago in Edinburgh. When I went back later the shop was closed. And then I had to catch my flight. And I especially remember the reclining Buddha from my last trip to India. It was exquisite, white marble, somewhere between 80 and 120 years old. It was a little expensive, of course it was. It was also heavy, even though it was only about ten inches high. How would it do in shipping? I was also tired and overwhelmed. I had bought a number of things already and the store itself was enormous, a warehouse that went on and on, sensory overload to the max. The opposite of zen tango, or at least my vision of zen tango. Some pieces in the place were new, made for Restoration Hardware, for example, and some were old. Some were relics, figures from old temples, and some were trinkets for a bazaar, already falling apart. I didn’t have enough faith in the moment to respond to the Buddha that called to me.
I started to share this but Sandra stopped me.
“No. No. There’s more to hands story! At the end of the cruise the ship organized a white elephant sale for people to get rid of the things they’d purchased that they didn’t want. So of course I went. And there were my hands!”
I laughed, quite sure my Buddha is not going to appear at a white elephant sale. Then again, I am only a Hang 3 shopper.
Sandra is definitely a Hang 4.
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above the sink at a public bathroom in 1440Multiversity.

So before departing for India I’m sleeping extra, packing thoughtfully, and making sure the details of my life are in perfect order before leaving for a month. Right?

Wrong. I am spending a wonderful few days with Elizabeth Gilbert—Eat, Pray, Love—and Cheryl Strayed—Wild—at 1440 Multiversity outside Santa Cruz on what I’m calling a writer’s weekend. It’s sort of that, we are certainly doing writing, but it’s more about facing whatever is inside of us and allowing it to empower whatever is trying to get out into the world.

“If I have one piece of writing advice,” said Liz yesterday, “and I really do have only one, it is to know who you are writing to.

“When I ask someone who they are writing for they usually say something like, ‘anyone who has ever been hurt and is trying to heal’, or ‘women over forty’. Folks, that isn’t someone, that is a demographic. You cannot speak to a demographic. You speak to a person.”

With Eat, Pray, Love, she was writing to her friend Suzy, who was going through exactly the same divorce experience. “She was exactly me, but with a kid.” With her forthcoming novel it is a different friend, one who could relate to the topic of showgirls and women who really do want to have a lot of sex.

I love Liz Gilbert, really I do, she could be a stand-up comedian if the writing career falls apart, but when I am writing I do not think of one person. I think of a small group of friendly people around the dinner table. When I write here in this space I’m writing to Ellie, and Joan, and Ted, and Bobbie, and Linda, and Ijaz, and Stacey, and Trissie a few more. Maybe a few dozen more. Maybe a few more than that. Certainly not a demographic.

Not only are Liz and Cheryl charming people and engaging writers, they are also insightful teachers. One of the tools is writing letters to various aspects of ourselves. Because it really is just a few of you here, push your chair out a little from the table and make sure you are comfortable. Have another cookie if you like. Since we are cozy I feel safe enough sharing one of the most powerful exercises.

The idea is to let your fear talk to you. For five minutes. Let it say its piece, directly. Liz gives the prompt, which is the first line of the letter.

Okay. Go:

“Dear Karen, I am your fear. This is what I have to tell you. You are paralyzed right now. Notice that? Even thinking about hearing from me, dealing directly with me, puts you in a state of panic. But really, the thing you don’t think about is that that is my job and that I serve a good and useful purpose. Really, I do. I watch out for you. I protect you. I work to keep you safe, but…and this is hard to admit, sometimes I am too good at my job. The carpenter pounds nails. The surgeon cuts flesh. And I instill terror. There, I said it. Terror.

            It is my one and only job. I can try to do it a little less vigilantly if you can at least admit that I am here. No one wants to be ignored.

                                                                            Respectfully, Your Fear.”


That felt good. Now I think I’ll have a cookie.

And finish packing.

Many great sites over the weekend. Redwood trees. Sunshine. Delicious food. Wonderful people. And this is one of my favorites. Two fathers onsite, being dads, taking care of their little ones so that their wives can participate in the workshop.

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