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A Kidnapping???

A Strange But True Tale

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Laura and I have returned from a fabulous beach weekend in Goa, and I'll write a full update on that soon just to make you all jealous. But until then, here is a quick story from one of our colleagues. Please note, the names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the guilty).

Sanjeev is an Indian-American volunteer for the Clinton Foundation, working in a state in South India. A few weeks ago, he went to the airport along with another American volunteer, Chris, to pickup a shipment of 200 HIV testing kits. The shipment was so large that they had to rent a small truck in addition to the Jeep that they came in, so Sanjeev rode back in the Jeep and Chris in the truck. A few miles down the road, the police pulled over the truck and began arguing with the driver. This is not entirely uncommon, as the police are generally on the corrupt side and merely seeking a bribe. Give them a few dollars and you can be on your way. Unfortunately, neither Chris nor Sanjeev spoke the local dialect, so they had no idea what was happening. After exchanging words for a few minutes with the driver, one of the police officers hopping in the truck and directed the driver down a side road with Chris riding shotgun.

Sanjeev, riding in the Jeep, began to get a bit nervous. He decided the best course of action would be to call his mother at home in America, just to inform her of the situation. He promised to call her back as soon as the situation was resolved, and followed the truck in his Jeep. Soon the policeman stopped them at a police station, took a small bribe, and sent them on their way - no harm done. The problem was that Sanjeev forgot to call back his mother.

His mother conferred with his sister, who, in a panic, called the Harlem office of the Clinton Foundation to apprise them of the situation. The Harlem office, which is unaffiliated with the HIV/AIDS Initiative, called the Quincy office, who promptly called Rajesh, one of the global heads of the HIV/AIDS Initiative and based in India. To make matters worse, somewhere in this little game of telephone the message got changed and Rajesh was informed by the Quincy office that one of his volunteers had been kidnapped by the police along with 200 HIV-positive KIDS.

Rajesh frantically called the country director, Ameeth, who immediately telephoned the state coordinator to ask what in world was going on. The puzzled state coordinator began updating him on the status of his meeting with several pediatricians. Ameeth stopped him and demanded to know the status of the kidnapped volunteers and the HIV-positive kids. This, of course, was met with even greater puzzlement, since Sanjeev and Chris were sitting on the other side of the room, perfectly safe, and decidedly not kidnapped.

Word was sent back up the chain that everything was fine, and a valuable lesson was learned by all - when you are in trouble with the police in a foreign country, don't call your mother until everything is resolved.

Posted by djreidy 16:07 Archived in India Tagged business_travel Comments (2)

The Beginning

An Orientation to CHAI

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CHAI, unfortunately, does not, in this case, refer to the delicious form of Indian tea. Rather it stands for the Clinton Foundation HIV/AIDS Initiative; the organization with which Laura and I will be affiliated for at least the next six months. As for what exactly we will be doing as a part of CHAI, we are still somewhat unsure.

We have been in Delhi, the capital of India, for a full week now. Since our unexpectedly adventurous arrival we have been logging 10 hour days at the office while trying to see the city, meet our co-workers, and get over jet lag in our spare time. We have volunteered to become a part of the pediatric (or paediatric, as they spell it here in this formerly British colony) division of CHAI; a rapidly growing department since children are difficult to diagnose and treat for HIV/AIDS and are thus disproportionately under-treated. Much of our exhaustive work week has been spent meeting with various staff members throughout the pediatric program in an attempt to understand the structure of the organization and what we will be doing. So far it seems as though we will be working extensively in a program to identify more children who are infected with HIV and help them get to the treatment which the Clinton Foundation and the Government of India provide, free of charge. I'll write about how this is done when I actually understand how it is done.

At the end of this upcoming week, Laura and I will depart Delhi for Mumbai (formerly Bombay), where we will be stationed during out tenure. Mumbai is a nice, relaxing, calm town of about 20 million people. That's right 20 million people, which makes it the largest urban area in the entire world. Needless to say, I don't actually expect it to be relaxing or calm. Mumbai is the capital city of the state of Maharashtra, which as a whole clocks in at an astounding 96 million people. If it were its own country it would rank 12th in terms of population, and in terms of landmass it is slightly bigger than Norway and just a hair smaller than Poland. In other words, it's a bit bigger than Rhode Island. Once we arrive there we will be working in the CHAI field office, responsible for the entire state, with a goal of getting several thousand sick children on treatment. The work promises to be challenging and exhausting, and I can only hope it also proves to be rewarding.

Next installment: An Introduction to India

Posted by djreidy 17:46 Archived in India Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

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