I have a very unfortunate situation. I live in a beautiful neighborhood- full of giant shady trees, cute restaurants and boutiques, yet a few neighborhoods away from the gringo hustle and bustle of the tourist barrio. In fact my house in a mere half a block from a well known park which means that all I ever have to do to get home is mention the park name to my taxi driver and I am off the hook from giving directions. Which brings me to the unfortunate park. The park is called Parque del Perro (Dog’s Park) and although I have practiced and even mastered some of the words requiring the beautiful rolling R, the word ‘Perro’ remains one of the banes of my existence. My technique is that if I first name my neighborhood and then name the park it sometimes gives enough context to my bad pronunciation that the taxi driver can figure out what I am trying to say. But more often than not the conversation is filled with misunderstanding and multiple failed attempts at pronouncing this one godforsaken word, until finally the taxi driver understands me and exclaims, “Ohhhhhh! Parque de P-E-RRRRR-O” exaggerating the sound for my benefit as if hearing it pronounced correctly will suddenly make everything clear for me. Ugh. I know it’s my own fault, but I can’t help feeling indignant every time. “Yes! Just like I have been saying for the last 5 minutes…parque de perro.” I think I need to move.
Today is April 24th and in 6 days I will no longer be a current Fulbrighter, but an alumni. About a month ago I finally got it together to hold my ever-promised focus groups. I let recruitment and enrollment run on for 7 weeks and I still only had about a third of the participant goal. But time was running short so we moved forward. I held two groups in two marginalized neighborhoods around Cali. I had an awesome team of assistants, who have been by my side for months now. Three lovely nursing students who are getting some undergraduate credit for their participation and an inspiring woman named Ayda Luz. Ayda Luz is many things. She is a doula with a passion for childbirth, a graduate student in nursing, and a clinical instructor at the University. And she volunteered to work with me because she likes the project. The first time I met her I knew I had been blessed to find her. She is Caleña, an expert in maternal health, and so gentle and kind- exactly what I needed for a focus group moderator. I preferred to avoid moderating myself because of the subtle communication skills required for the delicate task of probing information, keeping the group on task, ensuring participation, and not biasing people’s responses…I didn’t have faith in my Spanish level. But Ayda Luz came to me and absolutely saved the day.
Although I made my poor assistants call the women multiple times to remind them, and I made sure to lure the participants with supermarket gift cards and free food, I was pretty convinced that no one was going to show up. As soon as women started wandering into the room, I felt my heart lift. All the motivation and passion for my project that had slowly leaked out of me over the months of waiting to get started was back. I had forgotten how much I miss that interaction with beautiful young women and their round baby bellies. I was excited. And the energy the women brought to the group only added to my own feelings. They were grateful that I was there- they were excited to see attention being given to their neighborhoods. When I showed them the video about the Centering Pregnancy Model ) (created by the lovely midwives at San Francisco General Hospital) (video here in Spanish) the energy in the room was palpable. They were totally pumped about the concept of a) a long term relationship with a midwife (community midwives used to exist in Colombia but were made illegal in the last decade. There is still an underground practice in the rural communities but the cities have lost that option. The women seem to miss it) and b) a support group of other pregnant women. In both my focus groups the women unanimously and enthusiastically said they would love to take part in a group prenatal care model. I left work that Saturday feeling newly dedicated to my work. Unfortunately, all this excitement and dedication occurred in the last 2 months of my grant. Fortunately that doesn’t mean it’s all over. This weekend Fulbright is flying me to Bogota for final presentations. Then I have exactly 1 month left before Jet Blue carries me away from Colombia…for a little while.
My mind has been going a million miles an hour. About a lot of topics. I am Skype interviewing for Labor and Delivery RN jobs. I am keeping my fingers crossed that Sergio gets his visa approved so he can come to Portland with me this summer. I am planning how to come back here and what to do with myself for the next year. Right now I am mostly focused on two project ideas for the next year, though really I am trying to set that aside and just enjoy my last month.
So that’s the professional update! I have been so flaky these last few months- and so much has happened. Sergio and I took an amazing trip to the North Coast. I met up with some fellow Fulbrighters for a week of Carnival Chaos in Barranquilla. My mom and her partner came to Cali and got a sneak peak into my life. My dad and Daviel came for their Spring Break and we explored Medellin and the beaches. Sergio and I spent Semana Santa exploring the Pacific Coast. And in between all of that I continue to dance, host lots of Girls Nights, and occasionally work on my Spanish. Below are some photos of the rest of my life, all social. In general I have truly become a Lady Who Lunches. And between dance classes, yoga classes, and lunch dates, my daily calendar is pretty full. I have no idea how I will adjust to the shock of working my first few 12 hour night shifts this summer….but let’s try not to think about that yet. 😉