Anjali's Blog

Day 3

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Insider looking out. Take a moment to think about that statement. Insider looking out. What does that even mean? What does that look like? It was our day yesterday. We took an amazing day trip to Kumbhalgar and Ranakpur. For under Rs 9,000 total, we rented a bus for 24 people, traveled to these two areas of India, went up the fortress at Kumbhalgar in the monsoons and into the Jain temple in Ranakpur, had plenty of chai stops along the way and ate a buffet lunch at a restaurant along the way back. 12 bajas (children) it was their first time ever seeing these sights, this culture and history of India.

In our group, only two were foreigners, meaning only two non-Indians. To go see these sights would be amazing in and of itself, but to do it as a group of locals, wow. The busride was filled with laughter and hand games and picture taking. The children are so content just entertaining themselves, no ipods, no radio playing, no movies to watch, just the company of each other. We don’t do that often enough elsewhere. It is easy to become so self-absorbed that you miss out on these wondrous opportunities…opportunities to be a kid again, to play dress-up and hairstylist, to play hand slappy games, to simply enjoy each others company.

A little rain doesn’t stop this group, that’s for sure. We traveled to Kumbhalgar first, being monsoon season, it was quite rainy. We stopped on the side of the road to get umbrellas and ponchos for the group, though when you see the pictures they did not help too much! But the monsoons don’t stop life from going on, and nor was it going to stop us. We trekked on. The fort was built in the 15th century, so picture a very steep cobblestone fortress, and that is what we were climbing up. Reaching the summit, unfortunately there was no view to admire because of the rainy weather, but the smiles on the kids faces was enough for us to feel like it was a success. The decent was a bit tricky for me, as steep, wet cobblestones plus wheelchair can be quite treacherous. We took the decent nice and slow, and I came down backwards the whole way with assistance being guided and lifted over stairs etc.

The fortress is filled with all kinds of hidden corners and tight spots, like a giant jungle gym designed such so that the elephants couldn’t get through. After Kumbalghar we loaded our soggy selfs back onto the bus and headed towards Ranakpur.

On the drive to Ranakpur we stopped for lunch at a restaurant along the way. It took a great deal of negotiating to get a good price for our large group, but in the end the 24 of us were able to eat for 2,000 Rs (currently Rs 50 to the US dollar).

Our journey continued on to Ranakpur, through some beautiful areas of India, where tigers and cheetahs and other animals live, though we didn’t spot any we were told to look. We did, however, see wild monkeys!! I was pretty excited about this one, as I’ve always loved monkeys from the time I was quite little. I have always wanted a pet monkey. Monkeys just make me happy, I don’t know why, but they have this carefree, adventurous way about them.

In Ranakpur, we were there to visit this gorgeous Jain temple that has 1,444 unique handcarved marble columns. The architecture and the presence of such a sight is breathtaking, not to mention the history. When we arrived, we encountered some more wild monkeys. I decided I wanted a picture with a monkey, so I posed near one of the monkeys. Ian asked me if I could move a little closer, so I did. Mr. Monkey didn’t like that so much and decided to scream, nash his teeth and swat at me, and of course, Ian caught that on camera too! I told Mr. Monkey, no and to behave, he put his arm down and posed for the picture. We also decided to swing from the trees with the baby monkeys, really just for fun.

On to the temple. Again, we were met with resistance for my entering the temple with my wheelchair. Because this was a religious temple, we decided it was not worth fighting. For any visitors entering the temple, you are requested to remove your shoes, any leather (belts etc.) and for women, if you are on your menstral cycle you are asked not to enter. There was a sign outside explaining all of this. So, we left my chair with the sea of shoes and I climbed onto Ian’s back for the climb into the Jain temple.

Remember what I said about being an insider looking out? This was the moment. This temple is world renowned, so it is a popular tourist spot. We were a spectacle, because we were the locals. Foreigners were stopping to take pictures of us because we were Indian. Finally, on the other side, and truly an integral part of this other side. I don’t really know how to explain this, but, I am truly Indian. It was in this moment when that realization occurred. Part of me wonders too whether leaving my wheelchair outside contributed to this, because just sitting with the children or others on the stairs of the temple, there was no line of demarcation between us, we just were a group of Indians visiting the Jain temple, which the Americans, French, Germans, Swiss were simply in awe of.

The temple itself was so peaceful, so powerful, so serene, regardless of your religious or spiritual beliefs, I firmly believe there is something in there for everybody.

Last night when Ian and I were looking at our pictures, we had to both laugh when there were pictures of little white kids taken by some of the members of our group. This is the whole concept of being intrigued by those different from you, natural human curiosity. Though, neither Ian nor I felt like we needed to have pictures of random white children, we kinda felt like we know them already and that it was a little bit creepy. But nonetheless, it goes to show what it truly is like being an insider looking out, as opposed to an outsider looking in as we so often are. Ian summed it up nicely, “kinda cool to be on the other side, huh?”

Kolkata tomorrow!

Anjali surrounded by children from Udaipur on her, and their, first visit to an ancient Jain temple.

Day 2

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We had another exciting day in Udaipur. We went to Seva Mandir to have a debriefing meeting to discuss our visit to the school for the Deaf and school for the Blind.

We all went around and shared our initial thoughts with the visit. My thoughts and impressions some of which I wrote about yesterday was just the overwhelming amount of potential that I see there. The kids have so much curiosity and there are so many little things that can be done and sustained. Other volunteers shared their first impressions of poor cleanliness and the need for the schools/dormitories to feel more homey. The school did very much have an institution feel to it, the walls are bare, not a lot of colors which is rare in India. The other concerns had to do with how segregated the kids are from the rest of the community. They are locked in there, and many locals don’t even know the schools exist in the area. Everybody had such great questions about the typical life for Deaf and Blind individuals in India, what happens when they finish school? Are they taught a trade? What is it like when they go home on holiday? Are they accepted at home? I recommended everybody read the book, Deaf in Delhi, that I read actually the last time I was here. They also expressed concern for the fact that there are no girls at either school who board. At the school for the Deaf there are a few girls who come during the day, but where are the others? They have to be somewhere.

We brainstormed many ideas for programs/activities as well as little things that can be done around the grounds. One of the challenges many of the volunteers face at the school for the blind is not knowing Hindi is a tremendous barrier to communication because all visual cues and gestures are useless. We talked about ways of engaging other senses, tactile and smell. I met one little boy who was exceptionally curious about the textures of my wheelchair. I presented an idea of a sensory garden to capture some of the herbs and spices of India right there on the school grounds. We talked about making sensory books for the kids with different fabrics that can be found throughout the streets. So many possibilities. They want to start a radio program with some of the older kids too as a way to bring music and running an operation to the school, something they can be a part of and also reaching out to the community as it was broadcast.

We talked about the numerous possibilities at the school for the Deaf too. Ideas for dance and theater productions, getting them a video camera to record some of their own mini-videos. Reaching out to other schools for the Deaf in India as well as schools for the Deaf abroad. Using technology to introduce them to Deaf adults in India or abroad; Finding Deaf adults and centers in Rajasthan. Numerous challenges, but a ton of potential nonetheless. It was so exciting to be a part of this, I only wish I could be there to implement some of it. The volunteers also expressed the desire to have a study done, case study and interviews with some of the Deaf and Blind students and their families to find out, what is the typical life of a Deaf child in India—are the same affordances available to them, i.e., marriages, working etc. Nobody seems to know the answers to these questions. How great would it be to find out these answers, another reason to become fluent in Hindi…another new goal.

After leaving Seva Mandir, we had a wonderful rooftop lunch looking over the Monsoon Palaces and hundreds and hundreds of years of history. As we were up there admiring the view, you just have this realization that pictures can give no justice to the beauty of Udaipur. Every place you look is like a full page spread in National Geographic rich with history, colors, and life. \

After lunch we went to City Palace to experience some of the history firsthand. City Palace was incredible. Getting in to City Palace, well that was a little bit more interesting. We arrived via rickshaw and the officials took one look at my wheelchair and said, no. Too many stairs, not possible. We told them, no problem, be carried. The first guy agreed and said okay, free for her, handicapped, others pay. Well, in order for handicapped to get free ticket you have to show proof of disability with a government issued disability card. I don’t have one of those, so we were told to go talk to the guy who signs off on the papers. Ian went in to negotiate with the man, but he did not believe that I had a disability, he thought Ian was trying to scam him. So he said he needed to see me, Ian pointed down the stairs to where I was, he wanted me to come meet him. Ian carried me up. The short version of the argument was that he would sign off for me to go but not my wheelchair. He said no flat places anywhere, not allowed. Ian, having been to City Palace before, knew yes there are stairs but on each level there are plenty of flat places to explore before moving on to the next level. We knew we needed my wheelchair to come with. That was simply not allowed. Other individuals with disabilities began to form a line to also get signed off, the paperwork they had came from the hospital and it counted as their physiotherapy for the day. One man tried to help me, to show me his papers and to ask why I didn’t have any. I explained I was from America, born in India, but no papers. The man was getting quite angry at this point, arguing back and forth with Ian and giving many unhappy looks to me. At one point he said, “handicapped cannot travel from abroad!” It was a brand new thing for him to ever have a person with a disability there at City Palace who was a tourist; even though it is one of the busiest tourist areas around. Wow. He tried convincing us that it was not worth going up, bad view, no fun. After about 15 minutes of yelling and arguing and negotiating, Ian miraculously got a ticket for me AND my wheelchair to enter.

Now, this place is filled with security guards and workers, none of whom had ever seen such a spectacle. Ian reported one security guard who was following me around a little bit and then looks at me and my wheelchair looks around at the stairs, the palace around us and just shakes his head, he was 100% dumbfounded at how I had made it up to that level and just could not wrap his mind around it. Interestingly, as we reached the top, one of the last rulers in the palace in 1955 was “a invalid” and he used a wheelchair, which was on display there, along with an explanation of how because of him ruling, an elevator was installed in the palace, also there on display. Too bad it was on display only. This concept is so interesting that an area that is so anti-disability was able to accept a ruler who was disabled, made accommodations no question, and yet people with disabilities may never know that if they can’t get in the door. Ironic or something.

Again, just a taste of the challenges. I must say I am duly impressed with Ian’s ability to negotiate that one. And I am so grateful that he did, because the Palace truly was breathtaking.

After City Palace, we came back to Love Nest to nap and rest before dinner at Santosh’s house with her children and Raj’s children. On the drive back we stopped for some amazing corn that is cooked over a fire right there on the street and seasoned with lemon and salt. I also saw something out of the corner of my eye, a handcycle! It was relieving to see that some people with disabilities are able to be out and about. We have rented a bus for tomorrow’s excursion. We are going to one of the most beautiful places in the world, a Jain Temple with over 1000 UNIQUE marble columns. I am so excited. We are also taking some of Santosh’s children, and Raj’s children with us, as they would never have the opportunity to do this otherwise. It will be a full day adventure, as it is about 3 hours away by bus. And then on Monday, my Udaipur adventures will be over as I head to Kolkata for the next chapter of the trip.

Until tomorrow…

Day 1

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No rest for the weary! When you are only in Udaipur for a few days, and Ian is your brother, you better believe it that you are going to have lots to do and people to meet and things to see starting immediately upon leaving the airport. So exciting! We got a tour of Udaipur, learned about the history of the city. The city has ~ 600,000 people. Marble is in abundance. It is desert-like but there are also beautiful mountains, perhaps the oldest in the world. The car ride back, I’m relatively emotionless, just taking it all in. Letting it sink in that I have actually arrived in India. The traveling part is now in my past, now it’s taking in the invasion of the senses, the smells of spices, of street life, the radiant colors, the honking, the sounds of the city. Udaipur is different from Kolkata, it is beautiful, more landscapes than in Kolkata, more touristy of an area in parts.

We went to Ian’s apartment, affectionately called, the Love Nest. It really is too, the sign on the building is “Love Nest”. We had some breakfast, and got ready for our exciting day of adventure. We went with Panma on a rickshaw drive of Udaipur. We stopped at the kings tombs. Huuuuge marble tombs with ornate marble artistry. Many many many years of history that you are there around. It is being in places like that where you have to just remind yourself of all the history you are standing on, it’s pretty cool when you take a moment to take it all in. Ian carried me to the top of one of the tombs and we could look out over part of Udaipur.

We then drove through the old city, saw the water palaces. Udaipur is a blend of old and new, modern and ancient. The old city has narrow streets, the ancient walls, you just know you are in the old part of the city. The streets are filled with people, rickshaws, camels, elephants, cows, goats, fruit, vegetables, kids, bikes; the city is alive.

After the tour of the old city, we stopped at Ian’s work, Seva Mandir. Wow, is all I can say. The volunteers who are there are incredible. Everybody has a story. Everybody is from somewhere. Some people, like ourselves, are just stopping by on a short stay, others are here for a few months at a time or a few years. Others are getting ready to leave for other adventures in other parts of the world—Malaysia, China etc., others are arriving for their very first time. This NGO is one of the most well respected ones. The people are so passionate. They are doing great things every day. Working in the slums, counseling families and women who have had rough lives. A rough life for a woman in India is something that is beyond many people’s wildest thoughts elsewhere in the world you ask yourself, how does that still happen today? It does.

We went to lunch with some of the volunteers from Seva Mandir and some locals. I absolutely love having Indian food for breakfast lunch and dinner. It never gets old. Everything is so fresh, so potent and so yummy.

Seva Mandir has a relationship with the local residential school for the Deaf and school for the Blind. School just started for the kids again, and so this was their first trip there to begin to figure out what they will be doing with them for the next few months. The program coordinator was thrilled to hear my passion for this population and was estatic to have me come for this site visit and to share any ideas I may have for future programming and activities. They recently provided the school with basketball hoops so that the kids could play. The hope is to come up with ways to expose the kids to technology, and to find ways to improve safety and health and wellness for the boys. Ian, being the brother that he is, had found an Indian Sign Language book for me to brush up on before going to the school. I was excited that I still remembered how to introduce myself in Indian Sign, and remembered the last time I was here that many of the schools are a hodgepodge of languages, because many foreigners and ministry groups come in, oftentimes these kids are learning more American sign than they are Indian sign. Regardless, they get so excited when a visitor comes in who can sign even a little bit. You better believe it. I had the whole school surrounding me introducing themselves, asking questions, wanting to know more about me. Was I Deaf? Where did I learn sign? How did I know sign? Were my parents Deaf? What are schools for the Deaf like in America? Did I live at a school for the Deaf?

When communicating was a challenge, no problem, just write it in the dirt on the ground or on your arm and then teach each other the different signs, both in American and Indian. In school they learn both American sign and Indian sign. Among themselves, Indian Sign of some sort. We brought the book, the Indian Sign Language book. I believe it was the first time these kids had ever seen a book with signs represented as pictures with the Hindi and English word written.

To some of you, that may not sound like a big deal. But, if you could have seen the scene that it caused. Everybody wanted in on this book. The older students immediately took charge, they were the ones who could read the Hindi and the English, so they should be the ones to handle the book. They were so proud that they knew the signs that were in it! They flipped open to the address of the publisher and asked me if I could go there and get more books to bring back to them? They asked how much it cost, on the front page it said, Rs 100. That’s about $2. Let me reiterate this scene, the first time ever seeing a book in their language. It was better than kids picking up candy at a party after a piñata is broken, they were equally as enthusiastic about learning.

We told them we would try to find more books like it to bring back. We have a meeting today with the volunteers at Seva Mandir to talk about ideas for future programs. One idea I had, is video pen pal of sorts with a school for the Deaf in the states. They have a computer, and I was told they could bring in an internet connection sometimes when they come, they could record a video and send it, or use a webcam to live chat with penpals overseas or a school overseas. This would be huge. And 100% do-able.

I saw the dormitories, the dining hall, the cricket area. The kids showed me their school books. We took lots of pictures. The excitement was overwhelming. The ILYs were everywhere. And of course the sadness when it was time to leave…

Every kid in the school rushed to the rooftops and windows to wave goodbye and to share a last ILY or a story as we were leaving. It truly was an incredible afternoon. We went from there across the street to the school for the Blind. We toured the school and met the kids. We played some cricket. And then it was sadly time to leave as well.

We went to Panma’s family’s house for dinner. While the meal was being prepared, we enjoyed family time. Playing hand games with the kids, entertaining questions about marriage, life in America, learning Hindi and teaching English, taking pictures, being silly, having fun. Amazing people and food. We all piled into the one room and sat on the floor and had dinner.

On the rickshaw drive back, it was just so peaceful to take in all the sounds and just to know that I was here in India with Ian, finally meeting everybody who he has been talking about for so long, seeing the life he has built for himself here, and being a part of it.

Ian lives here. He is at home here. You can see it in his face. I have never seen him so happy, so at peace, so much like himself. I am so proud of him and all the wonderful things he is doing in the world. He has done some amazing things literally changing people’s lives for the better. He continues to do incredible things. Secretly, or perhaps not so secretly, I am jealous of him and all that he has done and will continue to do here. This is always a constant struggle of mine coming here and being a part of India. As an adoptee, many always feel a little bit on the outside in America, and a little on the outside in their home country too. Though Ian may feel some of that here in India, he is very much an integral part of this community. That is something I am envious of; as a person with a disability and as a woman, it is not as practical for me to just come and live here for a few months. Though, I am beginning to think it is not impossible, just certainly not easy. It is hard to explain to others why I would even want to come and live here for a year. I want to find a way to embrace India as a part of my life as well. I just don’t know how yet. It is a constant work in progress. But it is invigorating to meet all these people from all over who all share the same passion for living each moment and doing good. There are always possibilities.

After a whirlwind of 48 hours of traveling and visiting and meeting people, I crawled into bed last night just taking in the sounds of the dogs barking, the horns in the background and fell fast asleep. I’m not sure whether it was the long traveling or just being here, but I slept sounder than I have ever slept and cannot wait for what more is to come. You know the song, Feels Like Today by Rascal Flatts? Listen to the first minute of the song. I have that feeling, and something exciting IS coming, and I don’t know what it is yet, but it is exactly what has been missing in my life.

The Journey

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I journal a lot, I always have. It helps to work things out, to make sense of the struggles and challenges you are facing. But, I have never been much for making these public or blogging. But, I guess there is a first for everything, so here goes. Some thoughts so far…

The Journey

How do you begin to describe something that is so indescribable? The journey alone to India would be enough for some people. Don’t F With the System was our motto in Beijing, but this holds true in many other places in the world. How do you prepare yourself for having to check your dignity and independence at the door? I knew getting on the airplane by myself was a feat in and of itself. You can never have too much patience when traveling to a foreign country, being a woman in a very male dominant culture, and having a visible disability. The examples of this were numerous, some would have been enough for many to cancel the trip, to run back home to a lawyer, or to just break down. Facing oppression and discrimination square on is something I will never see the end of, ever. Nothing can ever fully prepare you for these things. But, knowing that you will need every ounce of patience you have and then some, and knowing in your heart of hearts that this is the right thing for you to be doing, sometimes that’s enough. Sometimes you just have to keep your perspective in check and make the most of the situation.

I don’t know where this courage comes from, I asked myself every day before leading up to this trip why I was going and whether I had it in me to do it or not. I doubted myself every single day, and yet, there was this gut wrenching thing keeping me up at night for the past 7 months that I had to do it, even though I have no clue why. This is something that is so hard to explain about with others, very few people can relate, and that’s okay. It’s not a Bahamas vacation, it’s a real trip—a transformational experience, one that gets at your core whether you want it to or not. One that forces questions of identity, of existence, of purpose in life, one that just has to happen. Just before coming, I had a conversation with an old friend, one who I have known for my entire life, literally. I was born a day after her in Calcutta, we started our lives together as babies in the orphanage and came to the states and grew up having joint birthday parties and the like. We lost touch after she and her family moved away from Boston, but in recent years have reconnected. She recognizes the courage it takes to make a trip like this, and having her admire that was pretty powerful. I cannot wait for our overdue rendezvous in the fall.

I travel a lot, there are certain procedures having a disability that we are all used to. You convince the ticket agent that you should take your own wheelchair to the gate, not an airport wheelchair that you cannot even push yourself. You arrive at the gate and get a gate delivery ticket for your wheelchair, say a little prayer that the country you are traveling to is not going to have a labor strike, that your independence and life as you know it actually makes it to your connection, and ultimately to your destination in one piece. If all goes as planned, I can travel independently around the world. But, when does anything ever go as planned?

The little things, forgetting the fact that an aisle chair works better if the plane is not full of people. Asking to use the aisle chair to use the bathroom, but told that there is a line. Having to explain that unless I get up and into the aislechair and in the same line as everybody else, there will always be a line and I may never get to pee. Educating the world. That’s what I’m talking about. Getting on board the plane in the US for India: check. Better than last year’s trip where that didn’t even happen. I was happy to fly a different airline and things went very smoothly.

Arriving in Mumbai: check. 100% foreign airport to me. Actually landing in Mumbai, it was the scene in Slumdog Millionare where you see the tent city up close, pan out, see more of it, pan out again, more. For as long as you can see, the slums, with the planes traveling right overhead. I was there, living that moment.

The disembarkment of the plane goes relatively smoothly until I am in the aislechair on the jetbridge and my wheelchair is not there. I inquire. I am told, it is raining. That is the reason for not having my own wheelchair, is because it is raining a bit. It is times like this when you make the decision to rely on all those ounces of patience, and to just go with the flow. I inquire as to when I will see my wheelchair, will it be at baggage claim? Will I get it before customs? When will I have my independence back? I get an answer in Hindi that I don’t fully understand, but I think it means that maybe it will be at luggage, to not worry and that this chair is fine…this chair that I cannot push myself. So I get lined up with the other elders and pregnant women who are also using wheelchairs and am just left to wait for an appropriate person to come to push me through this foreign airport.

After some time goes by, I notice I am the only one left in the terminal building, sitting in a chair that I cannot propel myself. This is about the time when you start to wonder, have I been forgotten about? What now? All the other passengers are off the plane and on their way, it is now about midnight in Mumbai international airport and I’m sitting in a wheelchair I cannot propel myself with my carry on luggage decoratively placed like a Christmas tree. Great! Wow, what an opportunity! I just sit patiently, what else is there to do?
After some time goes by, a man comes over speaking in Hindi I presume, and wants to know why nobody has come for me. I wish I knew the answer. He gets a bit irritated, then keeps rapid fire asking me questions I don’t understand. I show him my boarding pass and tell him samaan? Meaning, luggage/baggage claim? Figuring if I got that far I could figure it out. We start on a long journey through the halls of the deserted airport, go through customs. One of my favorite signs, “unaccompanied women, pregnant women, handicapped”.

Go through customs, even though I’m not even the one to hand my passport over, to interact with the customs agent at all, I am parked in a corner while this man handles this. We then go to collect luggage. I see my two checked luggage bags circling on the carosel, no sign of a wheelchair yet. I keep asking, will it be here or somewhere different? Nobody really knows, but I keep trusting it will appear eventually. Sure enough, the last thing to the belt, wheelchair just thrown on the conveyor belt, rear wheels spinning, at least I can relax a little now.

We then go through the process of checking in our bags again. I am stopped because the domestic terminal is not connected to the international terminal. The security guard tells me, no wheelchairs allowed. Too many stairs on bus. I volunteer that I can crawl up the stairs, hand bags to someone and bring chair with me. Nahine Nahine. Meaning, “no no”. Of course not, that would be too easy. My options are to go to the street at 1am in Mumbai and find a taxi to the international terminal or to have man help. Ian’s friend, Ben sporadically decided to come to India too, I saw him when I arrived in my monster wheelchair at customs, but I was wisked away to a different line, after some negotiating, I explained have man help would be a good option and that my friend Ben would help, that going to the street was probably not a good option. Ben had some travel woes, so it took another hour before we connected up, but all was good. Boarded the bus and drove to the other terminal.

They forgot to give my wheelchair security clearance at Mumabai with a special tag with a stamp on it. This will become important later. We went through security, and I asked if my chair needed a tag since every carry on item was getting a purple tag with a stamp. I was told no. We waited overnight in the Mumbai airport sleeping in airport chairs. The hustle and bustle of the airport was beginning to pick up around 5am.

Side story: I spotted a man dressed head to toe in Beijing 2008 official Olympic gear. Those of you who know what I’m talking about, the gray pants with the emblem, the white/blue/grey official shirt, the fanny pack, the hat. He was in a line looking like he was boarding a plane, so I was bummed I wouldn’t get a chance to approach him, but then he turned and left that line. I went up to him to ask if he was in Beijing for the games. I told him I was a Paralympian in wheelchair track. He was so excited. He was in fact there for the games with Weightlifting and Powerlifting. In his home country he does things with body builders. He loved the Birds Nest too.

Fastfoward to the getting on the bus to go find our plane. Ben was told to go through a different line, I needed to wait for man to help. We go to leave and my wheelchair doesn’t have the security tag, big problem. The lady runs back to security to get clearance for my wheelchair, she is mad they didn’t give it to me before. We board this bus, with assistance of course, packed in like sardines and commence on the ride to the plane. We get to the plane, there is an aisle chair, and of course men to carry it on board. In America, we balk at the overprotection of people with disabilities when getting on and off airplanes. Having you be strapped in at least 5 ways, across your lap, criss cross over your shoulders, around your legs and feet. It is an ordeal every time, and 9/10 you don’t win that battle, you just suck it up and get strapped in, or crawl on board the plane monkey style. In India, there are no straps on these aisle chairs, and someimtes the people lifting you are not the same height, meaning it’s a little off balance. Another experience.

Getting on board the final aircraft to Udaipur: check. Getting off the plane was far easier, although I was told that the aisle chair was waiting for me outside, I had to explain that I could not walk when they came and tried to assist me down the aisle and down the stairs. Minor issues.

Came through security and picked up my bags (which both arrived just fine, YAY). And I saw Ian for the first time since May, standing there with his friend, waiting anxiously for our arrival. The journey is ready to begin, as if getting there wasn’t a journey enough!

Deaf and hearing-impaired boys at a boarding school for the deaf in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India surround Anjali and sign their excitement.

At the School for the Deaf

Pictures from Beijing

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I am now able to post pictures... the link to my abbreviated album is: here.

Post-Beijing Thoughts

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It has been about 2 weeks since returning from the games. It's pretty hard to believe. And what a busy two weeks it has been. I came back to IL briefly to drop off equipment and check the mail and then got on a plane again to head home to Massachusetts. I figured going home to rest was in order.

Home was relaxing and it was exciting to talk to folks about my Beijing experiences. To me, the highlights were being out in the Bird's Nest the night of the relay in front of a sold out stadium. To feel the energy and the enthusiasm and to recognize that they were all there for us. That was pretty cool, and so hard to describe to other people.

I was able to spend some time with the 5th graders at Fred Miller elementary school in Holliston where my mother teaches. This is probably my favorite part so far of returning from the Paralympics. To be able to talk to kids and watch them get wide-eyed in amazement and for me to help them to realize that they too can achieve their dreams.

The last night I was home, there was a reception for myself and Andy Wise co-sponsored by Eliot Healthcare Center and the Metrowest Center for Independent Living. It was a wonderful event. I was grateful to reconnect with many old friends, friends of friends and to meet new supporters. A special thanks to Ann Lynch for organizing everything. Another special thing that evening was our state representative, David Linsky came to the event and presented both Andy and I with official certificates from the Commonwealth congratulating us on our athletic success in Beijing and for representing the Commonwealth of Massachusetts so well overseas. It was quite the honor!

Last night, I also went to an event in support of Chicago 2016. At the event I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people who are devoted to the Olympic and Paralympic movement. On Monday I am headed to the White House to meet the President. Following the Olympic and Paralympic Games, members of the US Team are invited to Washington D.C. to be congratulated in our successes. More to follow soon, stay tuned!

Bronze Medal in the 4x100m Relay

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I'm coming home with a second bronze medal in the 4x100m relay!

The women’s 4x100m relay team (T53/54) also found success in its relay, winning bronze with a final time of 1:02.1. As a team, we had little practice time together prior to the event, but managed to shave off three seconds between training and race day.

All in all, a very successful Games experience! I could not be happier.

100m final, 200m prelim...

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Greetings from Beijing!

I did not fare as well as I had hoped in the 100m final, but that's okay. It's part of sports. You win some, you lose some. Friday just wasn't my day. But, it was an exciting race. Our classification has a new world record now. It is very exciting for the sport that there are so many strong sprinters now in my classification.

Yesterday I spent the day recovering and relaxing with my family. We went out for a Peking Duck dinner. I hit the sack early and got up this morning to tackle the track once again for the 200m prelim. It went very well, I was happy with the result. I finished second in my heat and ended up 4th overall. Tomorrow morning at 10:30 am Beijing time I will race in the 200m final. I'm looking forward to the race and am in great spirits. Will write again soon.

Bronze Medal in the 400m!!!!!!!

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I wish I had more time to write a complete entry here, but I have to get to bed to rest up for tomorrow. Last night I ran the best 400m of my life so far... I ran a personal best by more than 2 seconds and captured the bronze medal! Tomorrow is my final for the 100m. I'll write more soon.

Racing Tomorrow!

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The time is here! Tomorrow is officially race day! I'm so excited. My equipment is all ready to go, I am ready to go. The only thing left between now and when the starting gun goes off is a good nights sleep, and a couple meals! Thank you for all the good luck wishes! Tomorrow night is the 400m prelim. Check it out online!

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