Sunday, August 5, 2012

So Much to Tell


I made it to Cali safe and sound on Wednesday and I feel as though I’ve had a month’s time worth of experiences in the last 3 days! Most of my time has been spent at Chiquitines or in the home of Angelica, the psychologist from Chiquitines with whom I’m staying, but it has been so full of learning that it’s hard to describe in one post! I’ve spoken almost no English since arriving here as well, so pardon the lack of flow that you may note in my writing as a result.

After starting my day at 6:00am on Wednesday, I arrived at Angelica’s apartment around 9:00 on that night. With the exception of some confusion regarding my lack of a visa and the time Angelica was to meet me at the airport, everything went smoothly. Angelica, her parents and sister came to pick me up and were so incredibly hospitable and warm-hearted. One of the first things Angelica’s mother said to me was “Bienvenida a Colombia, bienvenida a Cali y bienvenida a nuestra familia” (welcome to Colombia, welcome to Cali and welcome to our family). They are seriously some of the nicest people I’ve ever met. I’m staying with Angelica and her husband Gabriel in their apartment and they are constantly helping me get accustomed to Cali, Chiquitines and Colombian Spanish. Conversation is never lacking and thus far they have welcomed me into their lives with open arms. They’ve also welcomed me into their home with bug spray and Caladryl… The windows in the apartment are kept open most of the days and the number of mosquito bites I have is seriously ridiculous.

That brings me to the fruit… (yes, I’ll get to the babies soon). The variety of fresh produce available in Cali is amazing! While I could survive on avocados, lime juice and cilantro alone (which there is a plethora of here), that doesn’t even begin the list of fresh fruits and veggies I’ve tried. At least twice a day, either at home or in Chiquitines, we have fresh squeezed juice. Delicioso! However, I’ve never even heard of most of the fruits, so today I had a fruit lesson in the supermarket. Twice. I seriously must have seen 20 types of fruits that I’ve never seen in the U.S. I can now name five of them.
On to the babies! I spent all of Thursday and Friday conducting informal evaluations of nearly 30 babies age two and under. Oh my goodness was I in heaven! I started Thursday by sitting down with the doctor at Chiquitines, a woman not much older than myself who is incredibly energetic while working with kids and incredibly patient when working with occupational therapists with little medical Spanish experience. Did I mention I also completed nearly 30 Spanish chart reviews? Ufta. The doctor went through her list of babies with me to discuss their histories and tell me which ones she would like evaluated for therapy services. Out of the 39 babies there, 30 made the list with developmental delays resulting from health problems (many mild) and/or more need of stimulation. They ranged from six weeks old to 22 months. I spent about 30 minutes with each over the last two days observing their play, motor and social/cognitive skills before comparing them with skills typical of their ages. I’ll review my findings next week before sitting down with the doctor again to prioritize who will receive therapy and with what frequency therapy will occur. My interventions will focus on meeting each child’s needs, be they oral motor, core stability, fine motor, play, self help, etc. There is so much work to do but I can’t wait to get started!

I should also mention that yesterday I got to meet a little girl who is being adopted by an American family in a few weeks. She is three years old and has cerebral palsy. I finished evaluating the babies on Friday afternoon and decided to find her so I could get to know her. She was in the open courtyard with other children her age dancing to music played by her teacher on the guitar. It may have been the most adorable thing I have ever seen! Imagine 15 brown-eyed three-year-olds dancing around with each other in the sunshine as they act out the words to a silly Spanish song. The smile on this little girl’s face as she crawled around playing the part of a lizard to the song’s lyrics like the rest of her peers made my heart melt. I can’t wait to work with her more!
That’s all I have for now. If I tried to pack in all my experiences from the last three days, I’d be up all night. I hope to blog again next week with some pictures of Chiquitines and the adorable little ones there.

Hasta luego!
-Abby