It has been nearly a month since my arrival in Bangalore. This blog post is long overdue…
Bangalore has been absolutely wonderful thus far and surprisingly easier to adjust to than I anticipated. From day 1, there was preparation work to be done for my research project, a substudy of Dr. Ekstrand’s original HIV stigma behavioral study.
The original Dristi HIV stigma study had nursing and ward staff as participants. The study has expanded to multiple hospitals in South India and a few in the north as well with a total of 3,600 participants. Because of the scale of the project, there are many people and multiple teams at St. John’s and UCSF who are involved. I was able to meet the team at UCSF before arriving at Bangalore as well. In Bangalore, I met the members of the team that administer the assessments, the intervention team, the health informatics team who help manage the IT portion of the project, the onsite principal investigator Dr. Srivnivsan (who also happens to be the dean of the medical school at St. Johns), and numerous others. So the first week was primarily going around and meeting everybody.
My study would be on a continuation of the current Dristi study but on a much smaller scale with about 120 medical student participants. I only have two and a half months to conduct 120 interviews/intervention sessions. Working with the tight timeline seemed very daunting, especially when I would be using the first week to jumpstart the study and navigate around both the campus and research staff/ medical school administrators. Luckily, when I came, this was not an issue. Everyone here has been extremely kind and helpful with showing me the ropes of the original study and assisting me with starting my own. I even have my own cubicle :D. Even though I technically do not have any lab/project mates, the health informatics team have become my work friends since my cubicle is within their office space. There is Divya, Rhadika, Dhina, Shaju, Benedict, Murthy, and Varun. I spend most of my mornings and lunches with them. We even celebrated a birthday this past week. While I am the youngest amongst my coworkers, it is still a delight to talk with them about anecdotes from their daily lives, memorable experiences, culture, and food. Working at the health informatics office has given me a feel for workplace culture in South India. The vibe seems a lot more relaxed, unlike my experience in the US.
I’m excited at the progress I am making in the project and completing it seems more of a reality now.
My second weekend here, I was able to schedule a trip with Remy and Catherine (from Rice University). We took a bus tour around the major sites in Bangaluru. We visited a couple temples, Tippu Palace, Lahbagh gardens, and Cubbon park. Overall, it was a nice, relaxing trip and we were able to see many of famous landmarks in Bangaluru.
My third weekend here I was able to visit Coorg, a hill station in Karnataka, with Catherine. Despite severe rain that would never cease, the landscape was breathtaking with lush greenery surrounded my thick layer of mist. I regret not bringing a better quality camera so my camera on my phone will have to do. Our homestay was on a coffee plantation (which is what Coorg is known for) so we had access to great coffee 24/7 further fueling my coffee addiction. We also visited Bylakuppe, a Tibetan settlement in Karnataka containing one of the largest Buddhist monasteries I have ever seen, on our trip to Coorg. Even though the rain prevented us from doing much, the trip was very relaxing and much needed after a long week of work.
And this past weekend I went on a trip to Hampi, a small town full of historical ruins of an empire that once one of the most populated cities in the world during its time. I went with multiple people that I have met through St. John’s Research Institute as well as a medical students. We went visited the ruins via bicycle and Moped which both were quite the experience (also a great reminder of how much I need start going to RSF more often). We stayed in the bazaar which was right across the temples which meant that every morning we would hear music sounding from the Virupaksha Temple and watch the temple elephant walk towards the river for a daily bath. Before this blog becomes too long-winded, I will just post pictures of the trips.
The food here is amazing and relatively inexpensive. There are so many Southern Indian dishes here that I have never tried at home. But it took a while for my stomach to get used to thus during my 2nd week here I was recovering from a minor illness. Occasionally, I do miss home food so I am on the lookout for a good Vietnamese restaurant.
On a side note, I celebrated my birthday last week with both my coworkers and friends I have met here. Thanks for the cake Remy!
That’s all for now!