Hike in The Cascades with Fulbright Western Washington Chapter.

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May 5th 2018 

The Western Washington Chapter of the Fulbright Association organized an all Fulbright Alumni, visiting students, scholars, friends and families hike to the grandeur of the Cascade Mountains on May 5th to kick off the hiking season of 2018.

Our trip for the day began with assembly at the Greenlake Park & Ride, at 9 am. Following the registration and we then board on a reserved Starline bus all excited for the day ahead. 36 of us including families and children had showed up for the day. It was a good turnout.

After about a 45 minutes bus ride along the I 90 highway we came to the first halt of the day: The Cedar River Watershed Habitat Conservation Educational center. There we were met by two of our alumni, who then briefed us about our plans for the day.

Cedar River Watershed Education Center

Rain drum courtyard

Stepping out of the bus, I could hear the sound of drums being played in the distance. A music similar to traditional Native American music, was being played. It reminded me of the original owners of this land, I am standing on. Their lives and culture, so rich and magnificent, yet remains unexplored, unheard and rarely spoken about.

Lush green forest, miles away from the city and pristine water of Rattlesnake Lake on your right. Truly a nature lover’s paradise.

 

We were later guided towards the educational center, on the porch were the drums, and masterpiece of a musical art giant. The drums were placed in meticulous positions with water fountains sprouting at an orchestrated pattern- resonating of a proficient orchestra playing their favorite tunes.

 

In the Cedar River Watershed Education Center, we were welcomed by Anna Constance, an expert and guide for 8 years, she gave us a detailed, intricate briefing of the history, importance and overview of the watershed program.

 

Cedar River Watershed Education Center was built in the year 2001, with an architecture to reflect the history of the land while standing as a model of sustainability. Sweeping views of Rattlesnake ledge is visible right outside the deck.

 

Rattle Snake Recreation area includes Rattlesnake ledge, a distinct rock formation chiseled by ice and time and Rattlesnake Lake- a sparkling turquoise oasis. It is a great place to escape from the hustle and noise of the city, ad to enjoy hiking, swimming, and picnicking.

 

Watershed

Seattle Public Utilities’ Watershed Management Division manages the overall watershed area of over 100,000 acres of land covered by forests, Cedar river, South Fork Tolt River Municipal Watersheds and hills in the Central Cascades.
The water collected here serves as the source of clean, clear, reliable drinking water for over 1.4 million people of greater Seattle area, supplying over 100 million gallons over water every day.

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Ollalie State Park

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After the orientation we had a small time window to observe the exhibits of the center and a time for a group picture with Rattlesnake ledge on the background. Then we hopped on our buses towards the Ollalie State Park.

We stopped for a quick lunch from our breakfasts at the foot of the park. The benches were in middle of grasses with early blooms of spring and Southfork Snoqualmie river flowing nearby. I almost forgot that I was even hungry, and spent most of times on the bank of river, taking pictures of the nature, trying to catch the sound of each waves.

 

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Housing issues for Incoming Students in the States- 15 tips to actually crack this nut open (or almost)!

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Planning to move to United States for further education?
Got accepted at the University that you wanted so badly?
All your bags are (almost) packed, but don’t know where to head from the airport?
I had similar wary about a year ago. Where to go, what to do and how to do it?
I had been accepted at the University of Washington, Seattle, and Seattle, as some of you might have noted, is on a verge of housing crisis. The boom of Amazon and Microsoft has been more than the city can actually handle. The city is seeing highest rates of immigrants, new settlers both domestic and international. Market prices of housing complexes, apartment have surpassed all previous records.
And of course, the internet can be intimidating, if we don’t know where to look and what too look for. I had a trouble struggling for the first few months until I finally was able to set a firm ground myself.
I have hence come up with some suggestions/tips that could come handy:
1. It is highly contextual. Depends on the city and university you are planning to attend.
2. Some universities have dormitories specially designated for international students. This for some might be the best and cheapest option.
3. Housing options within some campuses also contrarily be very expensive, as compared to off campus, again depending upon the city and university.
4. Here, for University of Washington, Seattle. housing costs are almost similar, in and off campus.
5. There is however a long lag time behind university housing application and actually getting one.
6. Issues for people with families, children or disabilities can be different. It also depends upon their plans to bring in dependents, how soon and for how long.
7. Best foolproof trick is to discover resources, seek for connections. Find people studying or those who went to the same university even decades back. Remember any information is good information.
8. Online Resources
  • Start your search with the university website for housing, then move onto blogs of students on condition of housing and Cragslist also helps.
  • Craigslist is an app as well as website which shows all apartments or places available for lease around your preference area.
  • I also tried looking at students Youtube videos. Students actually have videos of their room, neighborhood and talk about the rates and their opinions. It is definitely worth your time!
  • There are also special Facebook groups regarding student housing and items on sale by and for the students. You might have to get permission to sign up for those, or might have to present your proof of enrollment to the admins.
  • On these Facebook groups students who are leaving the campus for breaks, internships or research somewhere else put their places on sublease. That can vary from weeks to months. These sub-leases are something to look out before you transit to your own place.
9. DO NOT commit on any long term lease unless you are physically here and see the place, neighborhood by yourself. Generally the lease are year long, which means you might have to pay extra to get-off the hook. It is not a pleasant situation for sure.
10. Neighborhood, distance from the campus and availability of public commute to and from the campus and their timings should also be considered. Most of the cities in States are bike friendly, or are trying to be. Look for biking routes, distance and terrain. I always bike, rain or shine, if you know Seattle, you will know what I mean here. Biking not only keeps you healthy but saves a lot of money!
11. Try to find friends, friends of friends or relatives at the place you intend to go. Ask for suggestions, ideas or may even provide a temporary shelter until you settle in by yourself.
12.Also notice for the apartments condition: unfurnished, semi or fully furnished. You might have to buy your own mattress, furniture and linens. They are not only a constraint on your limited budget but also a hassle to transport plus you will be amazed by the amount you will gather by the end of your stay. Can’t carry them back home, leave them- remember you spent your precious bucks on them!
13. Be careful when choosing a shared apartment. Undergrads: They can be loud, noisy and party a lot! Discrimination against peoples preference can be a huge issue here. Be careful to talk to your flat/room mates and clear your heads before hand. The best practical way to do so is ask for their Name and Pronouns they prefer using.
Oh boy, if you have issues with these, better seek for solo housings!
14. Besides actual rent, in most of the cases you will also have to pay for internet, water, electricity and sewage too! Be careful with your budget and do your maths right!
15. I understand, it will be very challenging with (limited) stipend to match the skyrocket high housing rents. I suggest not to hurry and be patient with your search.
Hope these tips can be useful. Please feel free to add in more that I might have missed.

Third year mark of Nepal Earthquake.

People of Nepal, Beacon of Resilience.
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Yesterday, we crossed the three year mark of the earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25th, 2015. It has been a remarkable journey since then, many changes have occurred, personally for me and our nation as a whole.
Despite the immense national and international support, it is sad to witness that we haven’t been able to cover 5% of the rebuilding programs. Once the city of temples, Kathmandu and its historical monuments, our heritage, lofty pagodas are still in rubble- the priceless idols either stolen or buried for good!
 
However, today my thoughts are towards the Nepali citizens. You would have to know them to understand them.
 
I recall the days after the shake. Once the acute panic phase had past, leaving hundreds of people injured, thousands displaced. Every one were on the street, trying to find an open ground, living in the make shift tents, the ground underneath still shaking with 20-30 after shakes per day.  Astonishingly, the people were remarkably calm, so resilient!
Small communities were built in any open space accessible- not that easy feat in Kathmandu. No stories of robbery, crime or theft occurred. People opened the fences of their properties for others, for complete strangers. Schools gave away their play grounds, the affluent offered their lawns. Every one behaved, they were still cheerful.
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We at the hospital also hosted almost the entire town, approximately 50 households through out the entire period. I noticed when they were establishing the settlement, none of them concerned with the cast divisions, races, nor any one was discriminated based on political affiliations, neither between rich or poor. Anyone could be the next door neighbor in their plastic shelter. They helped each other build their roofs. During the day they would work together to clear the debris, recover what ever is left of their properties and during night they would feast, play loud music and dance. Every one was just happy to be alive, together they just embraced their life.
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It is astounding, how people have different mechanisms to cope with stress. And I can now understand why our culture is our strength. We have one of the best social support system. Our people did not wait for the government or international NGOs to come to help, they started helping each other right away and they somehow discovered joy in it. Together they sang, hooted, cheered. Collaboratively, they encouraged each other to surpass the grief.
If it were only for us, I  have many strong reasons to believe we would have completed the rebuilding phase by today. The conflicting geopolitical interests, national and international cynicism that prevent us to be “us”, always prefers instability- surprisingly always wins!
However, again I want to share my appraisal to the resilient people of Nepal. They have endured decades of political turmoil, 12 years long civil war, hunger, oppression, poor health, natural disasters on top and yet bear one of the sweetest smile on the planet.
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Thank you again everyone for being my friend, our friend. You give us hope.
You make us believe together we can.

Visit to CDC and EBOLA display: A twenty-first century Global Health Marvel. Tribute to the health workers and the true citizens.

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The Story of CDC

  • First established in 1946 under the name of Communicable Disease Center by the Public Health Service, USA.
  • Was stationed in Atlanta in the first place because of its limitation to communicable diseases then and higher concentration of malaria in the South.
  • Now expanded to include all infectious diseases, occupational health, toxic chemicals, injury, chronic diseases, health statistics and birth defects.
  • Reports to the Department of Health and Human Services and works in collaboration with other public health partners.
  • Though the initials CDC has remained constant over time, the meaning has expanded over time to:

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  1. Communicable Disease Center

  2. Center for Disease Control

  3. Centers for Disease Control

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( at present)

 

 

CDC today leads the Global fight against known, new and emerging diseases around the globe with expanding preventive efforts to reduce the global burden of preventable and chronic diseases. As frequent as the expansion of their name has evolved, CDC has come a long way creating their legacy all on the way. Anywhere around the globe, when the issue of health and safety is of concern, CDC has been a center for hope, a beam of trust, an architect of research break-through and novel treatment modalities.

Through the relentless effort of our organizers from Georgia State University in Fulbright seminar we were able to schedule a tour inside one of the heavily guarded office buildings I have ever been to. The level of sophistication of their work, subtlety, numerous bio safety level 4 (BSL4) labs and with volume of pathogenic specimens dealt every day, I firmly believe those security requirements was a just.

 

David J. Sencer CDC Museum

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First step of our tour was through the David Sencer museum. After a round of security authorization we were greeted at the main lobby by chairs of the museum. The lobby on the left, opened into a simulative third generation auditorium with large billboard sized screens hanging on from the ceiling flashing up their graphic retina display of health messages and information on CDC.

If I am not mistaken, the messages and people showing up on those televisions appeared to be communicating with you personally. At least for me they appeared to have their gazes fixed at me, upheld full eye contact throughout the time. While I pretended to be attentive to the debriefing, I kept on peeking through the corner of my eyes, it was surprising for a few seconds and then started to grow creepy later on- People on the screens, follow you directly and try to talk to you on washing hands!

 

EBOLA display

Upon entering the museum, on the second floor right next to the lobby, to welcome us was the recently setup temporary Ebola gallery. For a budding public health scholar, which I like to refer myself, it was the highlight of the whole tour.

Back in the year 2014, the Ebola outbreak in Western African nations of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone took the whole world by a major surprise. Until then Ebola was a disease only known for its academic interest. Speculated to have originated by consumption of infected bat easy spread, rapid disease progression, potential fatal outcome, and remoteness of the outbreak setting made it an overnight global threat.

 

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“The citizens of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone- with so much to gain and so much to lose- were the true first responders to the epidemic. Time and time again, they took responsibility for their destinies.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citizen- Driven Response

The propensity of EBOLA to grow into a global pandemic became very clear in a matter of days which demanded vigorous measures not only in terms of clinical care but public health efforts, which could not have been anywhere near successful without dedicated community participation.

From Cellphones to Megaphones to Motorcycles: Tools to Engage Citizens

Often at times of emergency, communication is the first line of defense. Communities need to understand the situation and communication is the only means of bridging the gap between science and public.

Social mobilizers used every tool at their disposal in spreading awareness about Ebola. The communication toolbox compromised of all forms of written and audio/visual media, Short Message Service (SMS), traditional use of mikes and megaphones at the town centers, even town criers, arts and drawings on walls at public places, spreading message through school children, volunteers, health workers.

The unprecedented use of awareness spread campaigns and social mobilization was the key for EBOLA control. Community engagement was recognized as the detrimental tool very early and hence all NGO staffs, community members, volunteers, students were encouraging members of the community for their active participation. Their involvement resulted in developing strategic dialogues, large coordinated campaigns and above all the much-needed community ownership and participation.

Some communication strategies

U-Report

  • A novel form of text-based communication platform that allowed individual subscribers to ask questions, get real time answers and share information.
  • Developed and funded by UNICEF and used in Liberia.

Social Mobilization Action Consortium (SMAC)

  • Implemented in Sierra Leone to intensify village-level effort by sending out community mobilizers in villages with critical life-saving and behavioral change messages.
  • A joint action committee between GOAL, Focus 1000, BBC Media Action, Restless Development and CDC serving as a technical consultant.
  • More than 2000 community members mobilized and 70 % of Sierra-Leone community reached.

Sacrifices in the line of duty

Health care workers directly involved in patient handling and care are always susceptible to the infectious diseases. Even before the disease diagnosis, establishment of preventive protocols many health care workers were already infected with the disease. Out of documented total 881 doctors, nurses and midwives infected 513 lost their lives to EBOLA.

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The fragile public health system of these nations weakened by years of war, political unrest and poverty suffered the greatest setback from this outbreak. Liberia and Sierra Leone lost 8 and 7 percent of their total health care workers, including doctors and nurses to EBOLA respectively, with an attributable 23% of decrease in health care service in Sierra Leone alone.

A global health marvel

The gallery housed display of boots, gears, masks, safety robes including the white boards used for tracking cases. Maintaining counts of sick, dead and contact tracing is essential for out-break control. There I saw back of folders with actual hand drawn diagrams and calculations used for record keeping.

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The EBOLA display was a real-life demonstration of how different nations and agencies can come to a common ground of understanding. It also displayed on how epidemiological tools can be meticulously formatted to prevent an inevitable catastrophe to the mankind. It left me with the deeper understanding of my chosen field of interest and above all, an honor to the real soldiers, citizens of West Africa- with so much to gain and so much to lose- the true first responders!

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“Japanese wife and American Life” Taking them with a pinch of a salt!

I landed in Seattle to begin my Fulbright Journey, in September 2017.  I was accepted for Global Health program at the UoW, pronounced as U-dub, for some reasons I am yet to comprehend.

 

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This country has never failed to amaze me every day. Now and then I have had my own versions of travel outside Nepal. I was and am an avid fan of Hollywood, FRIENDS used to be my favorite show on the TV, we tried to hum Guns n Roses in the neighborhood alley. But still, I was prepared for an unprecedented shock here. This is a post I have started to enlist my observations/ experiences that go beyond my “open mind”.

  1. United States is as heterogeneous as it can get.  On top of that I have started to believe Seattle is the most versatile city in the world (not necessarily proved by facts).  My first week in Seattle I had started to think I have never seen so many people of Indian and Chinese decent even during my stay in India and China.

2. Confusion with- “How are you?”

How are you for me is a polite question, the person asking me is concerned with how I am. Folks, this is strange, but here it is not a question, they might not be concerned with how you are, how your classes were progressing, nor how your family whereabouts. They are trying to be polite, get it!

And the reply- smile, nod and “How are you? “. Yes it is.

3. During classes: Take out your laptop, take notes on them – it is a difficult to digest normal.

Take out you lunches, start nibbling them it is not.

And wait, one class today crossed all the boundaries- Wine in the class! As a part of the potluck party, one of my fellow classmate decided to show up with wine. I took a glass,  just to blend (wink).

I so much remembered my Nepali teacher back in school. I was caught  “red handed ” for eating my favorite pastry in his class. I knew he was strict, would never dream of challenging his authority then, may be even today am equally scared with him, but my temptation for a bite, of the whipped cream on the top had over powered me.

Despite my highest level of discreteness, Bam! boy most of my worst childhood memories revolve around him, but this tops all!

4. So America is “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” So,  It has the best practice of democracy.  So, it has the best human rights. It teaches the world to respect to rights of women and rights of minority- So what is with the cheer leaders???

Have never got a chance to to visit one of the girls team playing in the field but I am wondering are there boy cheerleaders dancing, jumping and doing the crazy acrobatic skills in between the games?

It can be chilly and Seattle can be cold.  So if you make the beautiful girls, wear scanty clothes jump and dance around in the fields, may be you need to have the boys do the same. Just to be even! a simple democratic thought on equity. At least during the women games!

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5. Covering the cameras on the laptop

6. Latino paradox: recent Latino immigrants have better health outcomes than other US populations despite being in average poorer. However, the longer they live here, the worse they fare. This phenomenon is called the “Latino Paradox.:

2018 Fulbright Orientation Day 2 Around the word in 48 hours and Fight Inside you: A Cherokee story

 

Day 2 of the Fulbright 2018 program started with a talk on “Sustainable Development- Progress and Challenges”, goals by Dr. Jeffrey  P. Koplan, vice president for the Global Health program at the Emory University.

 

One take away, “ In today’s world, TRAVEL- is also a risk factor for diseases. “Your presence, (84 of us, from 54 different countries) is a testimony of shrinking world.” Mutually everyone is a risk factor to the other. “Time taken to go around the world in 1873, when the French writer Jules Verne, published his action adventure “Around the world in 80 days“ was actually 200 days and the population of the world was 1.5 billion.  Now it is definitely less than 48 hours and population is more than 7 billion.”

 

  • Fight Inside you: A Cherokee story

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life:

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

”It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil–he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.”

He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you–and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”