|Staying Healthy: Aug. 14th
|One of Sues diversions is the Overseas Women Club.
This is a club of expatriate women who meet once a month to support each other, swap finds
(furniture stores, people who import cheese, reputable doctors, etc), and help newcomers
get adjusted to Bangalore. Sue, perhaps because of her German ancestry, has become friends
with many German and Dutch ladies.
|Invariably, the discussions will move to health, this being
the number one preoccupation of a new expatriate. The stories of Westerners, expecting
Western medicine, run from the ridiculous, to the scary, to the paranoid
|Paranoia runs deep. We heard about one lady with 3 young
children who lived on imported canned food for a year. Her children were not allowed to go
to school, nor were they allowed to leave the house. On the other hand, fear about any
operation that involves blood is justified. Last year, a study done by a local health
agency revealed that over one-half of the doctors in Bangalore were unaware of how AIDS
was transmitted. Since a doctor can literally buy a degree, you have to really check out
your doctor. Similarly, in all but the very best hospitals, a quality check of blood
supplies revealed that 35% of all samples were tainted with HIV. India has 3 million AIDS
cases, and the number is growing. The President of the Overseas Women Club is a nurse who
does volunteer work. She has noted that Indian men are becoming aware of AIDS and are
trying to avoid it by having sex with younger and younger girls (ten-year-olds are now
considered safe enough).
|Since feranghis (foreigners) are deemed to be a
source of entry of AIDS into India, an AIDS test is required to obtain residency.
Sues German friend Sigrid recounted how she went to hospital to get her AIDS test
and was told to go to room 4, queued up, was eventually told to go to room 2, where she
queued up, and then was eventually told to go to room 6. Half a day later she got some
someones help in room #6. It didnt look like an AIDS room, because all around
were posters about helping the blind. Apparently, because of her German accent everyone
interpreted AIDS to mean eyes. Next day she tried a different AIDS clinic, and after the
usual maze wars she knew she was in the right room - a bowl of used syringes was on the
counter (help yourself!). After an hour or so, a counter person appeared and told her to
go to a particular lab. She gets back in the car, drives to the lab, and finds its
closed. It's a Muslim holiday so no tests are being given! So she goes back to the AIDS
clinic. The counter person assures her that there is a Hindu lab that is open (she can't
telephone to make sure because they have no telephone), The process repeats - she goes to
the second lab, and theyre closed also. A whole workday has now passed. On the next
day, her third, she tries again and succeeds. This time she wisely brings her own syringe
obtained from the company-supplied expatriate emergency kit. This is one of the many
reasons Sue and I havent applied for residency.
|For westerners, a stay in a hospital alternates between
anger and fright. Sues friend Katie, a former Chicago lawyer with an unconquerable
positive attitude, had her appendix taken out at the local hospital. The claim to fame of
the hospital was that it was the cleanest in Bangalore. When the spiders proved to be too
much, she moved out trying her best to keep her stitches intact.
|A few months later she woke up with a sore throat and a
fever. The diagnosis was "bad tonsils madam", and a tonsillectomy was required.
She recalls standing up, stripped naked, being scrubbed pink by an army of women with
Brillo pads and crying from pain and embarrassment. First of all, Katie had freckles. This
was diagnosed by the dark-skinned nurses as a skin ailment; the cure was to simply scrub
those freckles off!. Then the nurses had to see the skin under her toenails (if your skin
turns blue under your nail, you have an oxygen delivery problem). First they tried
scrapping off the polish with razor blades. The blades apparently were not sharp enough.
The next attempt was to try using gasoline. This also failed. The nurses then sent a peon
to fetch some anesthetic from the local pharmacy. At that point she rapidly dressed, left,
and took a first class air ride to Singapore, where she had her tonsils out in safety.
|The expatriate discussions eventually move to the health of
the children and servants. One story from a German woman was about her maid. Apparently a
suitor approached the maid and professed his love. This is an extremely forward thing to
do in India, and is never, ever done. The maid was bewildered and didnt know what to
do. The suitor continued to press his aims, and finally in a truly demented moment he
decided to prove his love by lighting himself on fire. He died in the hospital three days
|Another German women trying to lighten the discussion told
a story about her driver. He had become very sick, and had been admitted for surgery. His
wife comes by asking for 10,000 rupees to support the family while he got better. Good
drivers being very hard to find, she quickly gave the wife the money. Two days later
another women came by asking for the same amount for the same reason. Did the driver have
two wives? Or did he have one wife and one trickster, or was it two tricksters? Well