Tsunami Team Diary July 22, 2005

7/21 | 7/22 | 7/23 | 7/24 | 7/25 | 7/26 | 7/27 | 7/31 | 8/5 | 8/7

Today, we went to Stanley Medical College. We were trained for three hours on disaster effects by two psychiatrists, Drs. Thiru and Venkatesh, and their clinical psychology doctoral student intern Sangeetha Madhu. We learned about survivors’ unique responses to the three-minutes-tsunami in comparison to reactions to the Gujarat earthquake, another natural disaster that took place in India. Some of the tsunami survivors’ responses are specific to the Indian cultural context and to the tsunami phenomenon itself.  At the same time, we were pleased to find out that our manual’s information, which we complied at Antioch, is consistent with the knowledge and professional experiences of the two psychiatrists. We will now revise our manual with new knowledge that we are acquiring here. Drs. Thiru and Venkatesh have been training volunteers in Sri Lanka (an island nation to the South of India that was completely unprepared for post-tsunami) and relief workers in Andaman and Nickobar islands (an Indian territory).

Stanley Hospital, staffed by the teaching faculty of Stanley Medical College, is a General Hospital that is free for all people. When we arrived in the morning, there were hundreds of people, mostly the poor, who had come for care. At the emergency area, there was a sign that said Zero Time Wait. When we left in the afternoon, the hospital hallways looked strangely empty because service hours were over.

Sangeetha Madhu like our clinical psychology students is doing a lot of testing of children at the hospital and at a private practice. She showed us non-verbal tests of block design, like the Bhatia test, and the Indian TAT. Gargi hopes to obtain these tests to show Antioch students. There is a strong school of clinical psychology, VINHANS, in Bangalore, which has a large data base on Indian assessment and testing norms. VINHANS has also begun a specialization on Indian neuropsychological assessment. Gargi would love to visit this school sometime in the future.

Sangeetha Madhu and Gargi attended the same undergraduate school, although 20 years apart. Neither believed that this connection was coincidental and concluded that there was some meaning to this. So a trip to Women’s Christian College was deemed necessary. Gargi discovered that her college has expanded beyond all imagination. What she experienced as a school of humanities has thriving departments of sciences, mathematics, computer science, and psychology. When Gargi went to college in India, psychology was not an academic discipline. Now Women’s Christian College has one of the finest departments of psychology in Southern India. So here’s where Gargi may want to come back and teach one day. But we doubt this because that she could not take the hot weather. The classrooms are not air-conditioned and neither is the library. The benches we sat on in the school courtyard were baking, while Gargi visited the college principal. Gargi found out that most of the professors she studied with were dead.

An internet wireless card would cost us $400.00. Not being able to afford that, we’ll need to go to internet cafes to send you our journal entries. Last night, Miko pirated an internet connection right within our air-conditioned office (by day)/bedroom (at night). That’s how we were able to send you our first journal entry. But we could not open the responses that some of you sent back immediately (thank you cheerleaders.). We also wanted to send you pictures, but the attachment got too heavy and Antioch’s FirstClass system refused our pirated entry. Our laptop, video camera, and international cell phone are working marvelously- to Linda, Kristen, and Miko’s electronic skills. Gargi says that all that she knows is the use of paper, pen, and pencil because that’s all she learned in school. So she writes at 2.00 a.m. (not being able to sleep due to jet lag). In school, Gargi probably also learned how to function with less sleep.

Our Host FamilyWe got our train tickets to Nagapattinam, which is six hours to the south of Chennai, where tsunami relief efforts are in operation. Interestingly, our reservations don’t show our names, but instead our sex and respective ages. We went to a three-storied shop, called Nallis, which specializes in Southern Indian silks. Here Gargi bought a Kanjeeveram silk sari for the grandmother of our host family. We have also brought gifts from New England for all members of our host family. On Sunday we are invited to a special lunch at our host family’s home. The diet in Southern India is mostly vegetarian. Kristen thrives on hot vegetarian food, and we have become pretty good at eating with our fingers.  Coffee and tea, whether sold at street-side shops or in nice restaurants, are unbelievably rich, creamy, and sweet-putting Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts to shame. Since these beverages are sold in very small cups, we don’t seem to get enough. We have a late night snack of street-side Indian tea.

Gargi Roysircar, Linda Lee, Kristen Robinson, and Michiko Ishibashi Antiochians at Tamil Nadu