Thursday, 10 June 2010

Week 6 - From Peru to Colombia - Partying in Peru & University lectures in Colombia

Hello everyone, I'd love to get straight into talking about Colombia, as the four days I have been here have been more than eventful, but there are a few things I'd like to share about the remaining time in Peru before I get onto Colombia, and the intriguing city that is Bogota.

So after the spectacular scenery at Machu Picchu, I returned to Cusco for two nights, to do some laundry, blog, email and just relax for a day or two. Ha, no chance to relax in Cusco as a seriously huge festival was taking place the exact two days that I happened to be there for! What Luck! The town was swollen with both national and international tourists, there was music, food and colourful parades all over town, all day and night! I was woken up one morning about 0900 by a passing parade complete with band!!! Enjoy the photos below, but before the photos, I have to share one sight which I didn't catch on camera. One evening as I just enjoyed walking through the crowded street, I could hear a rather out of tune, (possibly quite drunk) small band in the street. There was a small group of people (30 or so) surrounding the band, I'd like to say that they were showing their Latin American dancing style. However, as the music sadly lacked any kind of rhythm, the same could be said for the dancing.. and the scene looked like one huge giant seizure, as people's arms and legs seemed to move in no correlation to the music or the other parts of their body.... it was quite a sight to see this group of people having a great old time in the street, entertaining me to no end!

So after a fond festive farewell to Cusco, I decided that I would learn my lesson and pay the extra couple of pounds for a nice comfortable seat on the bus ride to Lima, now the distance isn't that far (by South American standards), but at 22hours... comfort was going to be required! And this is what I got.... oh a picture from the journey (Cusco to Lima)...

We arrived in Lima mid-late afternoon, and another random meeting with a fellow bus passenger (Alana), had us sharing a cab to a hostel in the more upmarket area called Miraflores. The hostel was cheap, had warmish showers, an extraordinarily large TV in the living space, right next to our room! We took a dorm room, which we shared with a really lovely French couple, who had literally only arrived in south America that day! After sorting out my flight check in for Colombia, I gave in to a craving for unhealthy food and found KFC!
My time in this busy city was short, and to be honest consisted of only one major event - meeting up with Lizardo. Lizardo was the young guy who saved me from the very rude and scary old woman in the hot spa... (read the previous blog entry). Lizardo met me the following day and not only took me to a fantastic student party, but got me on the guest list avoiding a reasonably expensive 'cover charge'. He also introduced me to some of his student friends, who partied the day away with me. Yes you might have noticed I said, 'day' and not 'night', as the party started at 3pm!!! Normally here it's 11pm at the earliest! I wasn't about to complain and so me, Lizardo and his friends, enjoyed some beers, and some excellent live Latin music! More salsa practice for me, and by 9pm, I was ready to drop! Here's some pictures!

Now, Colombia was not place I had ever imagined coming to, on this trip, or any other, but after meeting two Occupational Therapists at the conference in Santiago, Chile, and after listening to many backpackers rave about Colombia, I could not refuse the invitation to visit. My host for this stay is Vibiana, and her friend and colleague Alejandra, and here they at the viewing point overlooking the city of Bogota.

The fight was 3 hours from Lima (Peru) to Bogota (Colombia), to give you some idea of how far the distances are here, and some of the views from the plane were once again spectacular, here's my favourite...

The time here in Bogota has been pretty eventful, as I have had two meetings at the 'Universidad Nacional De Colombia', one meeting with staff, and one lecture (yesterday) with the OT students. I have also had the pleasure of visiting my host's work place and seeing a very entertaining children's end of year graduation 'show',

related to the work of Vibiana. Vibi and Alejandra have also taken me around the city and I'm getting a feel for the place. Bogota is an interesting place, that seems to have multiple identities. You can find, all kinds of architecture from one building to the next, there appears to be a friendly atmosphere to the place, but some real hussle and bussle when using the seriously crowded, but excellent trans-milenio bus service. There is obvious poverty (as in any big city) contrasting with areas of wealth. Visual security forces are not as evident as I thought there might be, but there remains evidence of the past political and violent struggles. I have to say that the city feels safe enough, the people friendly, and I think I have worked out why people here are quite comfortable in each other's personal space. When you use any of the crowded buses, and have at best an armpit in your face for 20 mins, or at worst, someone's crotch just 2 inches from your head for the duration of the journey, a hand shake to introduce yourself must seem almost rude and distant! Here's a couple of shots of Bogota.

and a quick sign I saw on the bus...

Oh a quick funny story about how the smallest things can cause confusion in a new place... I wanted a cup of tea (nothing new there), and I got some matches to light the gas on the stove. The matches were quite small, and when I put enough pressure on the match to get a spark, it would instantly break... the matches are much thicker that I have seen in the UK. After using 5 mathces (breaking them all) I thought about asking for help, but didn't want to seem stupid. After another ten failed attempts I had to ask Vibi to show me how to light the bloody match! Vibi and her little boy, found this very amusing! This is the exact expression I had at the time...

So much for an intelligent therapist eh?
Ok almost there, just keep reading a little longer. The main part of this week has been visiting the 'National' University here in Bogota. I have again learned so much about the OT education and health system here in Colombia, and how the focus of OT in education seems far more widespread than I am aware of in the UK. The OT education process if 5 years, as in Chile, compared to just 3 years in the UK, and 4 years in Australia. The time spent on fieldwork education is far greater, as it would appear is the teaching of practical 'therapeutic' activity skills. The complex issue here (and in Chile), is the number of private Universities, which run alongside the government Universities. Yes there are jobs for therapists in hospital, but just like Chile, there seems to be a much larger emphasis on private practices, and with difficult health reforms, the incentive to work in a hospital seems to be variable. Are the students here actually receiving a far more rounded experience than their UK counterparts? People pay for University here, most students spend 5 years studying! I am starting to understand how the social and economic demands of a society, definately reflect the kind of work environments that are proving the therapy jobs. Also I feel the concept of 'community working' can be very different here. Elements of community/social projects here seem to focus on less direct one on one health care, and more community liaison work. But it is early days and I have lots more to learn!
Here are some pictures of me at the University and visiting some OT related work places! Oh and I must say a huge thank you to Vibi for arranging the meetings with the University, the staff for taking the time, and the students for coming in, during a 'holiday period'. A special thanks goes to a student called Raul, who acted as my translator, you were brilliant, good luck with your studies!

I could write so much more but think the blog is not really the best place to go into much further detail, so I'll say goodbye for now!
Regards from Colombia... oh and come on England in the world cup!


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  3. hello, great blog! I am interning at a rehab clinic in colombia and I am wondering if you know the starting salary or wage here as an OT?