Well hello everybody! It´s Saturday afternoon, and I´m in a Santiago shopping centre Internet cafe with my OT (Occupational Therapist) friend Kylee. We moved from our conference hotel back into a backpacker hostel this morning, under warm sunny skies. There is so much to say about the last few days, that one post just won´t be enough, but lets see how we get on!
So we last left the blog after day one of the conference, and a very productive day it had been too... having filled almost the entire day attending workshops and presentations. I decided on day 2 to concentrate a little more on making useful connections and chatting with people about possible future working opportunities. I was quick to head to the little cafe at the rear of the conference centre, where some of the best networking was actually happening. I became engaged in discussions about use of social networking sites and media for therapists, OT in Israel, Taiwan, and Chile. These more informal meetings have led to some interesting possible further meetings in Rio (Brazil), Conception (badly hit earthquake town, Chile), and even as far as Colombia. Further collaboration with the students from Chile may even result in some guest lecturing at up to 3 Chilean Universities.
More to follow on this... Just the opportunity to sit and discuss what kinds of work, research and education was happening all over the world was really quite something. I must mention the lunch.... I should say lunch time, because whilst the lunch ´box´ that was provided was far from a culinary delight, (soggy sandwiches, and a muffin...)some of the lunch time entertainment was really quite special. See pictures below of some of the lunch entertainment. I must also mention the two very friendly ´tea ladies´ who I have also put a picture of... they were always full of smiles and helped to keep me awake as the long afternoon sessions required extra concentration!
Now onto day 3, (the big one). Actually lets back track just a few hours, because at the end of day 2, there was an official student party.. and having met so many enthusiastic, open minded and kind students, (special mention again for Pepe, Vanesa and Pamela- OT students from Chile)- I felt obliged to take up the invitation to tag along! My salsa dancing past has certainly allowed me to hold my own on the dance floor here, so far.. the fact that there was even some late 1980´s hit´s towards the end of the night meant I was in my element, (and alone on the dance floor!). The end of the night was really the early morning, with me finally getting back to the hotel after 0400! Pictures below are from the student party, with students and OT´s from Australia, Argentina, and Chile.
So Day 3 finally arrived, and I had the honour of having a poster on display all day in the lower floor concourse, and an afternoon presentation to fret over! More so as I was presenting alongside some very distinguished OT´s doing some very hard hitting thinking. Now I´d really thought about not doing the poster when I first was informed about it, but OMG! What brilliant way to meet people, I got rid of over half my business cards (thanks Mike!) in this one day, and met so many interesting and like minded people. I was also fortunate enough to have some great ´poster neighbours´- including a Brazilian lady (see picture below), who had me chuckling all day long!
My main presentation was in Don Albert 3 - and as I headed into the room for that afternoon session, I was seriously petrified... I always get very nervous in the build-up until I actually start talking. As my turn came, and I wondered just how was I going to follow on from the excellent previous presenters I looked up to see a sea of smiling familiar faces, beaming encouragement. I can´t really stress just how amazing a sight it was to see some of the people that I had only met two days prior to the event. Seeing familiar faces ranging from an OT I met in Vietnam 2 years ago, therapists who I had ate breakfast with at the hotel, a large number of Latin American and other students, or simply people I had briefly spoken with for 20 minutes over coffee, allowed me to relax instantly and get on with the presentation.
I had worried that by talking about experiences, emotions, feelings in a passionate style whilst I was being simultaneously translated into Spanish. But the translators (who I later spoke to) did an incredible job... I couldn't see the little clock that was supposed to guide my timing, but things just seemed to flow and people appeared to respond well to the images I was showing. I Had four questions/statements to answer afterwords, (which is always a reassuring sign that people were actively listening, even if they disagreed with any aspect of my presentation). Two questions/statements particularly stood out, as they brought a whole different perspective on the experience I had. This led to some really interesting discussions afterwards, which is what I really wanted to achieve as an outcome of the presentation. Many presentations were interesting, though many focused on research procedures, methodology and results. Retrospectively, I felt I had delivered my presentation in a style that did not sit well with a few members of my audience, but it did provoke thought and offered something a little different, which seemed to sit well with the majority, and the feedback received from people I spoke to said they has enjoyed the session. I loved the experience and could have talked for hours! (As most of you who have heard me talk about Vietnam know)!
Day 4 had me struggling to pay attention, as the preceding night had been the Gala Dinner, which had let to another very late night! I had been joined by Kylee and a couple from Brazil at our table, and I´ll let the pictures do the talking.. as I´ve typed enough!
Below are some ´goodbye´ shots from day 4 of the conference!
I was flagging in the early morning presentations, despite some really interesting discussions, so returned to the poster area to begin to say goodbyes to new friends, as many people were leaving straight from the conference, or going early. I discussed with some local Universities to hang around for another week, and at least participate in a little Q&A session with their students this coming week, if not a full lecture. I was lucky enough to catch up with most people I wanted to, and just as I managed to board the bus, I was informed of a possible night out (again), with a group from Colombia and Argentina. This night out started at 22:00 and finished around 0500! More Latino dancing and a nice few beers later had me ready for some serious sleep! I must say though, that the personal and professional links made at these kinds of events have been incredible! The top three possibilities, are to visit OT practices in Brazil, Colombia and visit educational establishments across Chile and possibly in Argentina,Peru and Brazil. Here are a final few pictures from the last night´s fun!
Thanks for reading if you still are!!! That was a long one!
Regards from Chile,