Back to School Week!
As much as I loved my nice long summer and slow introduction to Cali, it feels dang good to have my To Do list back up and running. You guys know how I am- always with a plan, always organizing life. I managed to make it work these past couple weeks by creating activities for myself and allowing them to take all day. Do a load of bucket laundry. Walk to buy groceries. Try to make it all he way across town on the bus without getting lost. Or of course, ogle everyone at the gym. But yesterday I had my first meeting with my advisor at the University, Luzmila. We have been in touch by email since last summer, but it was so exciting to actually give her a hug and the mandatory air-kiss-by-the-right-cheek. We spent the whole morning together, with a tour, introductions all around the nursing school (everyone knew who I was and was so excited to meet me! I can’t tell you how many people offered their services!) and then we sat down to start to work on my project.
After months of emails and flip flopping about whether or not I need local ethic’s committee approval for my project, it was finally decided that yes, I do. Luckily I got to charm the head of the committee yesterday and she assured me that if I can get my application put together by the time they meet in 15 days (lucky timing!) it shouldn’t be a problem. And luckily Luzmila has done this many times before. A few of her past projects have included beliefs and perceptions of indigenous populations who are given a perinatal diagnosis of malformation and perceptions of breastfeeding among teen mothers in Cali. Super interesting. She was also very interested to hear about my work at UW with perinatal loss. When a perinatal loss occurs here, the baby is whisked away without ceremony and she was eager to hear about some of the rituals we do as routine care (memory boxes, footprints, photos, encouraging time to say goodbye). I think I sense a future grant proposal idea… a training program for Colombian nurses caring for families experiencing perinatal loss. I would LOVE to do that!
Anyway, I am waist deep in my ethic’s committee application. Luzmila gave me a copy of a qualitative research application she used in the past along with a copy of a chapter on Colombian prenatal care from the nursing curriculum so I can copy her format, borrow some language, and do my best to throw together a 15 page document. Luckily the prep work is already done (thank the lord I wrote my Master’s thesis on almost the same topic!) so I am able to cut and paste entire sections (we’re talking theoretical framework, literature review, etc.) into freetranslation.com and then “doctor” it up as needed. It’s quite the process and of course poor Luzmila will have to edit the entire thing in order to keep it from looking like a 6th grader wrote it, but hopefully I will soon be the very proud author of an actual IRB application in Spanish.
In other news, I continue to fall in love with Cali. Even while I sweat from every single pore and struggle to keep up with the conversations around me and long to have a community again, I feel so happy here. Every day a million little things happen that I want to share with you all. So many of them are insignificant but together they make up my new life.
For example, today I was on the Mio. The Mio is Cali’s new bus system, big blue buses that travel in their own lanes and stop at designated bus stops (“El Mio Es Tuyo!”). That may sounds like a “normal” bus but it’s quite different from most public transport in Latin America. Pre-Mio, the city relied on the busetas to get around. Busetas are little 20 seat buses that have a general route and stop wherever someone waves them over (which means they can end up stopping every block). Busetas still exist, although not as many, and a lot of locals prefer them. The complaints about Mio are frequent. It’s too slow, it’s too crowded, it’s too expensive. The other Mio phenomenon that constantly strikes me as funny is the use of the “preferential seats.” Most the seats are grey, but every bus has a row or two of blue seats, which are reserved for the old, the pregnant, the alterabled, or those with babes in arm. What shocks me is the juxtaposition of the absolute respect for this rule (even if the bus is packed like sardines people leave these seats open) with the utter chaos that ensures when the bus pulls up. The crowd of people waiting pushes forward, not waiting for anyone to disembark, so that the people trying to get off the bus have to elbow their way off while the people trying to get on the bus shove forward to take the space. Ayayay! The simple concept of letting people off the bus to make space before getting on is totally unheard of. How do people decide which rules to hold as sacred and which to toss out the window?
Anyway, I was on a packed Mio bus, standing squashed between people when an old woman with a walking cane who was sitting in the blue seat, started looking over her shoulder in an attempt to locate her travel companion who was somewhere in the back of the bus. She turns right to me (remember, we are packed in- there are plenty of locals standing around) and asks me to call out for Patricia. “Me?” I ask, in disbelief. Why on earth would she pick the one person who looks the least likely to even understand what she is saying? At this point everyone around us is looking at me- they think it’s funny too, but the woman is totally clueless. Maybe she is colorblind. So I shrug and call out as loud as I can “PATRICIA!!!” Patricia appears and everyone giggles at me. I blush. A totally insignificant moment of my day that I wanted to share with you. =) In fact, I have been stopped in the street by folks needing directions nearly daily. I must looks extra confident (part of my travelers facade) or something because I am usually shocked that people even assume I speak Spanish, let alone that I would be able to give them directions! Nevertheless, I have been able to answer their questions at least 75% of the time.
Today is my first day of class at the University! It’s not required, since I already have my Masters, but it’s free so why not!. And there is something about the university campus that absolutely draws me in. It is like the center life force for young people in the city. Constant soccer games, gossip circles, protests (don’t worry, I steer clear as directed). So many young people, so much energy! I just love it. In fact since classes started on Tuesday I have been on campus every day (the health sciences campus is in a totally separate location so there really isn’t a reason for me to be on main campus, but I’m good at inventing excuses.) and yesterday I finally signed up for a class. I’m still deciding but it’s between Contemporary Colombian Stories, Diversity Ethnicity and Culture in Colombia, or Literature and Erotism. Plus a Hatha Yoga class (since it’s free!) I’m really excited. I am sure I will be older than everyone in the undergrad class and equally sure I will only be able to follow 75% of it at best (the poor professor is going to have a laugh when he tries to read my essays, which will written at a 6th grade level I’m sure!) but since I don’t really care about the grades and I adore being in school so much, I figured it was worth a shot. I don’t know folks…it may be harder than previously anticipated to keep me out of school!