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Oh, the Places We’ll Go!

My trip to India started off just as my prior trips abroad: with a visit to the travel clinic to stock up on malaria prophylaxis and all of the vaccinations available to humans, a trip to REI to load up on unnecessary gear, and at least an hour spent in the grocery store staring at all of the western food I think I won’t be able to live without (and always ultimately do). I was ready for my adventure to begin, or so I thought…

A wicked bout of food poisoning literally hours before my flight was scheduled to depart nearly brought this trip to a screeching halt (of course I would get a GI illness BEFORE getting to India!) But alas, with help from my good friends Zofran, Peptobismal, and Ciprofloxacin, I powered through and made it on my flight. After 30+ hours of grueling travel (and by grueling I mean 12 hours of solid sleep intermixed with season 1 of Homeland), I arrived in Hyderabad.

This is my second trip to India, the first of which I spent in the northern part of the country in Uttar Pradesh and Rajasthan as a tourist visiting the major historical sites. I am excited to both be here as a resident and explore the healthcare system, and to compare the differences between North and South India. My outsider observations on the idiosyncrasies of the two regions are as follows:

Unlike much of the rest of India, Muslims make up nearly 50% of the population in Hyderabad (as would soon become abundantly clear at sunrise as the electronic boom of the call to prayer flowed through my window). I have also noticed that there are far fewer cows roaming the streets. While a cow or three can be spotted lazily meandering alongside the highway at any given time, they are not in-your-face apparent and certainly do not stop traffic as they often did in the north. The other major observation I have made thus far concerns the food. Oh the food! While I certainly enjoy a North Indian thali, nothing quite compares to the delicious curries, dosas, idlis, and chutneys we have experienced. We have a private cook (tough life, I know) who provides us with three square Indian meals a day. Per Dr Yadavalli’s instruction, we started off with “zero spice,” which means that I only needed 1liter of water per meal to prevent my esophagus from burning up. We have slowly adapted to the spice and now are ready to move to Level 2. Despite our progress, I doubt we will ever reach the level of a true South Indian.

Despite all of the differences, this is still clearly India as I remember it. Traffic (which consists of large buses, cars, auto rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles, pushcarts, and pedestrians) is as chaotic as ever with no clear rhyme or reason, bursts of color spot the dirty sidewalks in the form of women clad in beautiful safaris, and throngs of vendors flood the traffic at stop lights offering all manner of goods from electric mosquito swatters, to colorful jewelry, to Angry Birds helium balloons. After spending only a few days here, it is clear that Hyderabad is a dynamic, thriving organism with a wealth of history and knowledge to offer and I am excited for the journey to come.

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