Sunday, 11 July 2010

Week 10 - Santa Fe, Argentina, Mixing business with pleasure!

Hi everybody... I know what you are thinking.. "Dan, it's world cup final day... what are you doing blogging..." Well don't worry I have plenty of time until the 3:30pm kick off time here in Argentina. I am writing to day from the lovely and thriving town of Cordoba, a quite random stop on my itinerary, but a welcome rest stop where I have the chance to meet up with someone that I met only briefly 8 years ago - in Australia... it's a funny old world eh!

But today's post is all about the previous stop in Santa Fe, a small town which to be honest has nothing to shout about. It is saved by a the student population that certainly give the town some much needed energy! There are few colonial style buildings left, though to be fair the town has some nice places to chill out, as it situated along a large river. It is clearly not a tourist town in any way, shape or form, and so I need the help of the girls to find the only hostel here in town which was charging just 46 pesos (around 8 pounds a night - breakfast included), and two nights I was the only guest! Here's some pictures, so you can make up your own mind...

So, what was my reason for coming here? On the last night in Santiago (at the conference) I went out for a very late dinner (22:30) with 5 students from Argentina and two Colombian OT's, all of which I had not met prior to that day.. and now look.. that evening has shaped my journey through South America quite dramatically! So after keeping in contact with the students, we had managed to arrange some lectures and visits for me at the University and a local rehabilitation hospital, though I was fortunate enough to be able to visit a community project and the large children's hospital too!

So my first full day in Santa Fe was to be a busy one indeed... a relatively decent sleep in was followed by a walk through the centre to the apartment where Mili & Fiorella lived, and a lovely pasta lunch! Then it was onto the University, to give the first lecture (about my work in Vietnam and Romania), to the Occupational Therapy students and some staff. I had two hours, and as most of you know I can easily talk for that long given an audience! Again I had a translator, Fiorella, who did a great job at getting the point across, and the students asked some great questions at the end. I have to say thanks to the students for coming because it was the same time as the world cup semi final! Here's a couple of shots from the Uni.

The following day it was an early rise (0730) to be ready to go with Mili & Mila to their OT placement and the children's hospital. The hospital was public, and had a specific Occupational Therapy Department, where I was able to meet the OT's, to learn about their work and get a full tour around the hospital too! I even met some 'clown doctors'... I still was not sure if they were real doctors dressed as clowns or not! Mili & Mila then took me to a project where they had been working at during a university placement. The project seemed to support the mothers of children from both inside and outside the hospital, with all kinds of issues, and it was great to see that OT's were being involved in this kind of community support project!

The following day allowed no let up, as I was met at my hostel by Leonela and taken to the rehabilitation hospital where two of the girls were also working as part of their training/placement. A little room had been prepared by the students, and I again really appreciated the efforts made by the students to organise this, and the staff (who were literally leaving for the holiday weekend) for attending the presentation. I was even lucky enough to have a photographer (Diego - who also worked at the hospital)! A tour of the OT service and a general hospital tour followed my lecture and again I found the staff willing to stop their work and chat with me about the conditions, equipment and services they were dealing with every day. Here's a few more pictures from the day...

By Thursday evening we were all ready to let our hair down, so a night out had been planned! We began at Mila's house with a home cooked BBQ, full of meat, and parts of the pig that you might not really want to eat back home! After the tasty food, the Pisco Sour (Bought in Chile) began to flow and then some home karaoke was introduced. Having done a 'little' karaoke before... hmmm.... I thought I would have a go, and did a good job (I think), but they made me wear a silly hat while I sang the ' I'm a believer ' and then Copacabana!

It was now almost 2am (The time I would normally be coming home from a night out in the UK), but oh no not here in Argentina, that is the time you start to go out! So we headed into town to the 'Dublin' bar, to dance the night away, and play a little pool, with some very dubious Argentinean rules.... and finally got to bed after 0500, I had to check out of the hostel by 10:00! agh! Here's some pictures of the night!

On the Friday, I traveled with Fiorella and Mili to Fiorella's home town of Parana, for an unexpected home stay with her folks! Oh I should say with her pets too, because her very lively dog and not so lively cat were ever present too! I was treated to some gorgeous home made pizza and some beer, plus a tour around the town by night see below...
The chance to have more time in the homes of local people was just fantastic, as her dad was able to give me his perspective of the issues affecting people here in Argentia, past and present. I got a brief insight into the kind of lives people live here and the normal things that people do, which as you should now by now, is my favourite thing to see, even before the big touristy sights! Here are the dog and cat duo!

So I had quite the week, and if all goes to plan I will be seeing the famous Iguazu falls by the end of this week! It's a 21 hour couch trip from here, hmmm.. I think maybe an overnight bus to help save costs on accommodation? ha ha...
But just before I go, I want to share a couple of observations from Argentina so far! 1) The people definitely speak with a more distinctive accent which I have found difficult to understand on occasion. 2) There seems to be a common system of traffic flow.. lots of one way streets, which alternate one way, then the other as you drive past, with no 'give way' or traffic lights at street corners! 3) People drive motorbikes here with no helmet.. there is no law against it! 4) the food is very good, especially the meat! 5) A night out does not begin until around midnight!

Enjoy the world cup final.. I wonder who will win?
Regards from Argentina,

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