A new life in Bangalore

One of my favorite destinations in India is the city of Bangalore. It’s a bustling place, and the streets are filled with young people, many of them the company representatives on the other end of the line when we Americans call Dell or another U.S.-based corporation.

Today’s New York Times features a story about how some of those working in industries in Bangalore make their way there and some of the difficulties they face: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/world/asia/bangalore-india-women-factories.html?emc=edit_th_20160925&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=44005038&_r=0

The article tells the story of Prabhati and Shashi Das, among others, who travel from their small village in the Northeast portion of India to Bangalore, a southern city some 33 hours away by train, to work. Life in Bangalore is, unsurprisingly, quite different that life in a small Indian village, where young women are protected by their families from men so that they may remain chaste (and just as importantly, be perceived as chaste) until an arranged marriage to an eligible bachelor who agrees to the family’s dowry. In the city, village girls like the Das sisters are often vulnerable to temptations with which they have no prior experience.

I learned about women in Prabhati and Shashi’s shoes when I interviewed the publisher and editor of Woman’s Era, a women’s magazine published in New Delhi. The target audience includes women who often find themselves in temporary working environments in a city like Bangalore, women who might be exposed to modern ways, modern fashion, and modern relationships.

An underlying message conveyed to readers of Woman’s Era is to remember that their reputations must remain intact for the time when they return to their villages to marry.




Blessings from Ganesh

A festival honoring the Hindu god, Ganesh, recently filled the streets (and surrounding waters) of Mumbai: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/16/world/asia/mumbai-india-ganesh-festival.html?emc=edit_th_20160916&nl=todaysheadlines&nlid=44005038&_r=1

In India and Nepal, Ganesh’s image appears everywhere–over doorways, in large temples and small shrines along the roadside, on clothing, handbags, and jewelry. I have numerous tributes to Ganesh in my house, too. Just in case he does bring blessings!

Visiting Kielce

The past few weeks have been full. Classes at UAB have begun, and my oldest daughter is now officially a college student living on campus. It’s strange to have her so near, yet not in the house with us.

As I get back into familiar routines, I’m also beginning to sort through my research this summer in Poland. While there, I visited a cancer center in Kielce, where I interviewed several cancer survivors, healthcare providers, and even the founder of the facility. By my side were three new Polish friends/colleagues: Joanna Bogusz and Dorota Dudek-Godeau from the National Institute of Public Health in Warsaw, and Ewa Brdak, a translator. Together, we examined how cancer care is delivered in this area and the ways in which survivors’ lives are affected as a result.

One of our specific visits was with members of The Amazon Group, a national organization for breast cancer survivors with chapters in several regions, including Kielce. Following my visit, an article was written by a journalist from the facility. Here it is, in Polish!




The Alabama Project at Loyola

Gradually, I’m settling back into Alabama time and writing about the amazing experiences I had this summer in Poland and back in Illinois. One highlight was the trip to the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center at Loyola University’s Medical Center to deliver some of The Alabama Project photos and to present background on the project during a reception there. The pictures that follow taken by my friend, Tanya, provide a glimpse at the exhibit and speaking engagement.



Me pictured with the women at Loyola who brought The Alabama Project to cancer survivors in Chicago.



An announcement of the photo exhibit alongside David’s picture of Debbie Tabb and her family. Attendees were also provided with copies of Cancer Today containing stories about some of the Alabama women.


A look at the lobby where The Alabama Project photos were displayed.


My presentation about the amazing stories behind David’s images.


Pictured alongside my family, including Mom (seated), my Auntie Rose, Uncle Tom, and Dad (left to right, standing).


Smiling alongside my gal pals, Tanya (who transported us to Chicago and played photographer) and Suzanne (van co-driver who accompanied me and the pics all the way from Birmingham).



Mom, Dad, and me enjoying a happy moment at Loyola–much happier than Mom’s emergency hospital visit that took us there earlier this year.


“Material proof”

Celia and I have headed on to Warsaw, leaving the rest of our group at the airport to fly home. We were all exhausted–not surprising, since we pulled out of Krakow by bus at 2:00 a.m. this morning–but the memories of the places we visited dwell deep in our souls.

Looking back through the photos I’ve taken thus far, I was struck by two in particular: 1) a picture of the building where “material proof of crimes” was gathered to devise cases on which the innocent could be tried at Auschwitz, and 2) a black and white image of men and women, young and old, departing the train at Birkenau. Many, we were told, tried to hold onto hope that their lives and those of their families would be spared. The majority never left the place alive.

Weighing "material proof" at Auschwitz.

Weighing “material proof” at Auschwitz.

Departing the train at Birkenau.

Departing the train at Birkenau.

The horrors that awaited prisoners at Auschwitz I and II are unimaginable. Those who escaped immediate annihilation slowly suffered. They were tortured emotionally and physically, treated like animals.

Though I’ve heard the stories before, seeing Auschwitz, like Anne Frank’s house in Amsterdam last summer, makes the past both more real and more unfathomable.

Papal Prayers in Poland

The past two weeks have been a whirlwind. Following a trip to Illinois to deliver The Alabama Project to Loyola’s Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, I embarked–along with my daughter Celia and 13 others from St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church in Birmingham–on another journey to Poland for World Youth Day.

This week alone, we have experienced the horrors and hope of our world, from the bleak concentration camps of Auschwitz I and II (Auschwitz-Birkenau) to the blessings of Divine Mercy at the St. Faustina Chapel in Krakow.

The greatest moment was when Pope Francis arrived late yesterday afternoon as the rain came down to offer his welcome address amid thousands of WYD pilgrims at Blonia Park. As we stood along the streets awaiting the Popemobile (aka the Holy See’s fiat), Pope Francis flew by on public transportation. Most of us never considered that Pope Francis would opt for the tram, but that’s the kind of pope he’s proven to be time and time again.

The Pope’s message to the large group of youth from many countries, which we listened to intently through the assistance of handheld radios translating his words into multiple languages, was simple and moving: He told us that it disheartens him to see so many young people “retire” early in their lives, to give up hope and dreams before they reach their mid-20s. Apathy, drugs, desolation are among those evils affecting the world’s youth. To be merciful to others, he said, we must hold onto hope for our own lives. Only when we experience mercy and grace in our souls can we extend it to others.

In this post, I offer just a few glimpses of our journey thus far.

Inside the chapel at Niepokalonow, devoted to St. Maximilian Kolbe, who sacrificed his life for another prisoner at Auschwitz.

Inside the chapel at Niepokalonow, devoted to St. Maximilian Kolbe, who sacrificed his life for another prisoner at Auschwitz

The image of the Black Madonna at Jasna Gora-Czestochowa

The image of the Black Madonna at Jasna Gora-Czestochowa

The train tracks at Birkenau, which carried Jews, Roma and other prisoners to their fate

The train tracks at Birkenau, which carried Jews, Roma and other prisoners to their fate



Celia and I enjoying “pope cakes,” a favorite of John Paul II, in his hometown of Wadowice


The Polish tram carrying Pope Francis to the welcoming ceremony

The Polish tram carrying Pope Francis to the welcoming ceremony

Pope Francis's address on screens across Blonia Park in Krakow

Pope Francis’s address on screens across Blonia Park in Krakow

Our view from far, far away of Pope Francis on the stage at Blonia Park. We're hoping for a better view for the Papal Mass!

Our view from far, far away of Pope Francis on the stage at Blonia Park. We’re hoping for a better view for the Papal Mass!


Edwina (right) with her older sister, Wanda Fay, at our outing for Edwina's birthday.

Edwina (right) with her older sister, Wanda Fay, at our outing for Edwina’s birthday.

Today, after a long hiatus, Edwina and I agreed to meet up at the Burger King located across the street from Cooper Green Hospital in honor of her upcoming birthday on Wednesday. Many times, Edwina and I have headed to the same BK after a doctor’s appointment. She loves their famous Whoppers.

Edwina walked in with her sister Wanda Fay, who I’ve heard a lot about but never met personally. The two of them had me laughing for more than an hour, talking (mostly simultaneously) about their other sisters–the crazy ones!–the men in their lives, children, plans for the summer. As always, when I see Edwina, I remember how much I miss her. She’s funny and warm and doesn’t get overly concerned about the things she can’t control: her car that’s in the shop again, her husband Tyrone (who Edwina says is “gettin’ back into trouble, doin’ them drugs”), her son Steve who’s staying with a buddy out of town and living in a truck.

My friend had some good news to share as well. She has a new puppy named China. Her landlord dropped her rent by a few dollars recently. And her doctor thinks she might be able to take away some of Edwina’s pain with surgery in the next month or so.

Edwina promised to keep me in the loop. She’ll text or call until we can see each other again.