Archive for June, 2010

Shots! (Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots!)

June 25, 2010

From Japanese encephalitis to hepatitis, typhoid to tetanus, dengue fever to yellow fever, I’ve learned more about diseases and vaccinations in preparing for my trip to India than I thought I’d ever have to know.

It’s been a hassle getting everything I need for my trip. In the past month, the vaccines I’ve gotten and the medications I’m supposed to take have blended together in a blur of travel clinics, referrals and prescriptions. If my mom didn’t have an M.D., I don’t know how I’d be getting through.

I feel lucky to have lived as healthy a life as I have. I did break my wrist two years ago when I was viciously mauled by a 12-foot grizzly bear (by which I mean I fell off my bike). And every year I get stricken by the seasonal flu once or twice. But I’ve never suffered any major injuries, been sick for more than a week, or taken medicine for more than a couple days. And for an American kid, I’m about par for the course when it comes to health.

But my health has very little to do with luck.

One number tells a story far better than any anecdote I could give you: 78.4. That’s the life expectancy for an American baby born today. With a rank of 38, that number puts the US akin to countries like Luxembourg, South Korea, Chile, Denmark and Portugal.

India’s life expectancy, on the other hand, is 63.7. That puts them at 115th in the world, just behind Iraq, and just ahead of Kyrgyzstan.

Those two numbers say more about how good we have it in the US than how “bad” it is in India. The rest of the world hasn’t caught up either, with the mean just shy of 69.

India’s also come a long way in recent years. The life expectancy there has risen 21.3 years since 1960. Compare that to the world’s increase of 16.4 in that same time period, and the 8.6 year increase by the US.

In short, we have a lot to be thankful for in the US.

Life expectancy can’t tell the whole story, of course. It’s just a crude estimator of the health of a country. But the fact is, the health of Americans is relatively stellar. For all the deficiencies the US has, the infrastructure for healthcare is outstanding.

We have ambulances that get to emergencies quickly in every city. Our streets are paved, sweeped, and shoveled of snow. Our water is not only pure, it has added fluoride. There are countless problems that never concern us and likely never will, because the infrastructure is in place. We can afford to walk outside without bug spray and ignore our mosquito bites.

These are luxuries afforded us in the US that won’t be there in India. These shots I’m getting are a testament to how nice it is in America, just because we never need them in day-to-day life.

If only there were just some way for me to go to India without getting all these shots…

Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Shots! Everybody!


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Dreaming about India…in my dreams

June 20, 2010

Most of the time when I dream, the plot goes something like this:

At a baseball stadium at my school in math class, I’m in a footrace with my friend for a green napkin that I need so I can polish the bubble gum off the trees in my backyard, except my backyard is now in my kitchen and I’m eating McDonalds french fries on a roller coaster, and I’m putting chocolate syrup on them because I have a craving for something spicy, and I’m suddenly in a car, and just as I’m about to put the fries in my mouth a T-Rex appears and starts rapping an Eminem song…

…And I wake up. And I forget it all. Although the song stays in my head for a while.

There is no “why” in dreams. Mostly, they’re just random snippets of the past, scrapbooked together without the hindrance of the thinking part of my brain to recap the “what”.

However, I still remember my dream from last night.

I was in a parking lot outside a one-story recreational center. There was probably a party of some sort going on, as people were bringing American food inside. I specifically remember chocolate cake, and possibly Doritos. Later we watched an episode of Futurama where Bender was acting goofy. (Look at the detail on Bender’s Wikipedia page!)

These were just the random musings of my mind, though. It was the routine nightly meandering of my hippocampus, my memories selected as if a hand from the deck of a million cards.

But as I was standing in the parking lot, something curious happened. “I’m in India,” I thought, even though the setting of my dream didn’t resemble anything I’d ever seen in India. I realized that the weather was quite nice outside, if a touch warm. I thought of this blog, and thought I’d post something reminding everyone of Nagpur’s weather.

Then I woke up. Well, technically I woke up after Bender stopped singing.

A strange feeling set in once I realized I was conscious. I was sad. It was the same feeling I get when I wake up from dreams where I’m about to eat a slice of pizza, hang out with a friend, or watch the Cubs win a baseball game. It certainly had nothing to do with the Futurama episode.

A couple days ago, while I was on the bus, I had a feeling similar to that of being on an airplane about to take off. I had an urge to board an airplane, to take off, to experience something new. After all, I haven’t left central Illinois since I went to Chicago last month. I think I’m ready to go there right now.

Or, you know, I could just go to India in my dreams.


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Weather in Nagpur: Dispelling the misconceptions

June 14, 2010

Note: Fahrenheit is used throughout this post. C=(5/9)F-32


It’s a word I’ve heard used to describe the weather in India by dozens of people I’ve talked with as they prepare me for this year. The more I heard that word, the more anxious I became about my year abroad.

See, I’m the kind of person that thrives in cold weather. I’m comfortable in shorts in 40 degree weather. I wore no more than two layers of clothes all winter. On February days as my classmates would hurry back to school from P.E. in the freezing air, I’d enjoy the frosty breeze in a t-shirt, arms outstretched.

My teachers have chastised me for not wearing a coat. My friends know me as a “polar bear”. My grandma won’t let me out the door between October and March unless I’m wearing a thick cotton-stuffed coat – or two. (Love you grandma! :))

In short, I get along much better with cold weather than seems normal for, you know, a human being.

One day in May I went online and checked the weather in Nagpur from an ocean and a half away and saw it was 88 degrees. ‘Not too bad,’ I thought. Until I realized that while the sun was high in my location, it was pitch black – the middle of the night – in Nagpur.

‘I wonder how hot it is during the day,’ I wondered. I clicked.

116 degrees Fahrenheit.

And I, of all people, would be spending 11 months in that?

But I did a little more research on my own. The average temperature in Nagpur is about 92 degrees – certainly not cool, but quite tolerable. Whereas the hottest months in the U.S. are June, July and August, India’s temperatures are at their peak in April, May and June. That 116, then, was much more an outlier than the norm.

Average Monthly Temperatures

The temperatures in Nagpur are actually far more constant than those in Champaign. For eight months, the average high temperature remains between 83 and 91 (all in which I’ll be there). In fact, in July and August, the temperatures in Champaign and Nagpur are quite similar.

And of course, you can’t forget about the monsoons.

Average Monthly Precipitation

That huge spike you see in Nagpur’s precipitation is because of the annual monsoons. Each year, from June to September, the subcontinent is cooled off by the humid air from the Indian Ocean. 80 percent of India’s precipitation occurs during this season.

Basically, the monsoons make the thunderstorm that passed through Champaign this afternoon seem weak. Three inches of rain a month? Pshaw. The 10-day weather forecast for Nagpur reads “Scattered T-Storms” for the next ten days.

Here’s one way of comparing the two cities: Champaign has stable amounts of precipitation, but widely varying temperatures. Nagpur has relatively stable temperatures, but widely varying amounts of precipitation. It will be hot, but I’ll be able to adapt.

I’m pretty sure I won’t be packing a coat.


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How did you find out about this blog?

June 10, 2010

It’s been six days since this blog’s grand opening. Since then, I’ve been busy making adjustments, such as adding links to other sites at the bottom of each post, un-screwing-up the RSS feeds (which don’t work as well with Firefox for some reason), organizing the right sidebar, and censoring wildly inappropriate comments. You know who you are. 😉

So for hopefully the only time this year, I have a post that’s only really helpful for me. This really isn’t worthy of its own post, but there is more content on its way! If you have any suggestions for this blog, post them here.

Answer away!


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What’s up?

June 4, 2010

Hey everyone.

For those of you that like to skim everything you read, here’s all you need to know:

I, Chris Yoder, will be spending 11 months in Nagpur, India next year, and writing a blog about it, starting in July. This is the website you should come to when you want to read about it.

For those of you that actually read everything all the way through, I have more for you. In fact, if you read everything all the way through this year, I think you’ll find this blog more rewarding than those who like to skim.

You may be wondering, as you read this the first time: “What is this about?”

Next year, I will be spending 11 months in Nagpur, India through Rotary Youth Exchange. You can read more about “why” here. The exchange is a cultural one, wherein students learn about their host country by living the life of their peers.

But my time will be wasted if I’m the only one who learns. So I decided to share my knowledge – of both American and Indian culture – with as many people as possible by writing this blog.

As I’ll be a student of Indian Culture, I’ll also be a teacher. I’ll be explaining to you the things that happen, so you can learn from them just as I do. But I don’t want to bore you. I’m not just going to restate the things that happen to me everyday. Instead, I’ll try to take a “why” approach to the things that are happening. Or maybe the “what” will be interesting enough. Don’t be afraid to give feedback on my posts. Please comment, and do so as much as you’d like.

Just as there are Americans who aren’t familiar with Indian culture, I’ll meet people in India who aren’t familiar with American culture. This blog is for all of those people too. I want everyone to be on the same page. Not only will I explain my Indian life to those of you back in the U.S., but I’ll explain my life in the Midwest to the people I meet in India. I fully expect to talk about both baseball and cricket at some point this year.

I don’t know how often I’ll be able to post. I’d like to post a couple of times a week, at least. That may or may not be reasonable. The main point of the exchange is to adapt to another culture, and I have to maintain a tricky balance between being online and being online too much. Assimilation is key. I can’t spend too much time on Facebook and Google Chat with people back home, or I won’t be able to live my life as it was intended.

That said, I won’t forget about all of you at Uni, in Champaign-Urbana, in Illinois, in the U.S. – my friends, my family, my teachers, even those of you who don’t know me well or don’t know me at all. This exchange isn’t just for me, it’s for all of you.

It might behoove you – especially for the time being – to subscribe to my blog by putting your email in the little box on the right side of the home page. That way you get a reminder in your inbox every time I write something new. Since I don’t plan on writing as much between now and July, you’ll notice when I start posting in earnest. If I get boring, you can always unsubscribe (although I’d prefer if you tell me that I’m getting boring first).

You also may find it easier to comment if you have a WordPress account, since I won’t have to approve your comments every time. In fact, yes, please do create an account, even if you just use it for this.

One last thing: every post will end with a smiley face. When you see it at the bottom of my posts, consider it a reminder that all is well.

Smile everyone.


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