Bogota · Colombia · CRI · Paralympics · South America · Teaching English · Travel

The Paralympics CRI style!

This year they started the 1st annual CRI Paralympics.  It was an amazing experience that I am so lucky and honored to be a part of!

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There was a big opening of the games with the lighting of the torch and speeches.  The participating soldiers came out and lined up in front of the stage.  The rest of us sat in our areas and then stood for the national anthem.  Then there was the speech, and then the whole games were begun by the lighting of the torch.  It was very moving.

The next four days were full of events such as Futsal, Sitting Volleyball, Weight-lifting, Brain Games and Fencing.  There were the customary playoffs with one team or person winning each category.  It was amazing to watch the soldiers participate with their whole heart in the games.  Many times I see them have way more courage to participate in life than I do and am awed.

At the end of the events were the presentation of medals and closing ceremonies where a former soldier who re-habilitated at the CRI and is currently in training for the Paralympic games in Seoul presented his jersey to the center!  The event was very moving.

The Paralympics ended with bands playing and dancing and merriment true to Colombian custom!  The celebration was now complete and I am blessed to have been a part of it.

closing band

 

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Bogota · Centro de Rehabilitación Inclusiva · Colombia · CRI · South America · Teaching English

DCRI – Direccion Centro de Rehabilitacion Inclusiva

So one of the places that I work at is called CRI – Centro de Rehabilitacion Inclusiva.

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It is part of the military here. I didn’t know this, but during the Korean War, Colombia helped out Korea and the center was built with the Koreans for the Colombian Army as a thank you for that service. Although the Colombian government paid a lot of the costs, at least 1/2 was paid by Korea.

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Korea stated, “We have never forgotten the help that Colombia gave us in this war and will always have Colombia as a special friend.”

This center helps to rehabilitate wounded soldiers and works with the physical, mental and emotional needs of the soldiers. Most of the soldiers that I work with were wounded in the war against the Farc rebels and the ELN. President Santos inaugurated the center in August of 2016 joined by the Korean ambassador.

The center can take care of 1,200 soldiers at a time.

The center has housing for the soldiers and a cafeteria that they get their meals from. The center has beautiful grounds that are gardens and a pool with flowers, benches and grass. It is very well tended and the staff are caring and friendly. There is even a resident dog named Candela!

There is a building dedicated to helping the soldiers adjust to life outside the center. It has a model bus where the soldiers learn how to get on and off the city buses in their wheelchairs. There is a model apartment with all the basic appliances that the soldiers learn how to navigate in their wheelchairs. This center is the first stop for the soldiers following their surgeries.

Many of the accidents are landmine related. A lot of the soldiers are missing parts of legs and arms. Some are blind, others have had repeated surgeries to try to save their limbs. Most of the soldiers are suffering from PTSD and thus have a hard time taking in the information they are receiving and remembering it.

There is a full scale gym, a climbing wall and a large indoor swimming pool for the soldier’s physical rehabilitation. There is a library, a tech center and classes for the student’s mental recovery. There are many different subjects that the soldiers can learn about as well as play on sitting volleyball or Futsal teams, or take photography and art classes.

I work with the soldiers mental rehabilitation. I am teaching English here at the center in the afternoon. I teach a Basic English class and then an Intermediate English class.   A colleague teaches the same classes in the mornings.  My students are eager to learn and practice their new language skills. They are not always regular attenders as they have various appointments with doctors and therapists that they have to fit into their schedules, so at times the progress can be rather slow, but the keep coming and are always thankful for the opportunity and never give up.

Another thing that inhibits my teaching is that a lot of the soldiers haven’t had an education past the 5th to 8th grade and then were enlisted in this war against countrymen. They don´t have a good grasp of the Spanish language much less are ready mentally to learn the English language.

I really admire their tenacity and their determination to come to class and put forth their full effort and really give it a go. I have been able to witness a soldier from first admittance full of shock and fear to a confident soldier navigating well in his wheelchair and feeling much more confident in his ability to manage life without his legs.

I am so proud to be a part of this recovery.

Bogota · Colombia · CRI · Pharmacy · South America · Teaching English · Travel

Going to the Pharmacy

Today I again followed Shanelle around. They are supposed to find something for me to do – but have not given me anything yet. I feel very useless. Semana Santa is coming up – so a lot of the students have leave to go early to their families. Semana Santa is a very big holiday here and many people spend it with family. They go back to the cities they and their families are from and hang out. It is kind of on par with Thanksgiving in the U.S.  We were informed that there would be no classes tomorrow as most students would be gone.

Only one person showed up for her first class.  As Shanelle had hives all over her arms, we decided to cancel that class and go to a pharmacy. We talked to Maria Fernanda and another worker here called Ana Maria. It turns out that Ana Maria’s father is a doctor. She took a picture of Shanelle’s arms and sent it to her father. Her father looked at it and gave us the names of some medications that would help. We then looked up what the medications were and went to the pharmacy to get them. One of the medications was a cortisone shot. We got the medicine at one pharmacy, but it turns out that the pharmacist did not give injections.  She told us of another pharmacy that did that was only about 5 minutes away.  We walked to that pharmacy and for only about three dollars, they gave her the injection.   It is so nice that one can get these medications over the counter and not have to wait to see a doctor!

We walked back to the CRI for the next class. By the time we got there she was feeling better.  He hives were starting to go away.  The students had gone together to get a gift for Shanelle for her birthday. They are so very sweet!! They were worried about her as well because of her hives, so they told her not to worry about class, but to go home and sleep and feel better.  I think I’m going to love working here!

I went home and got my computer and went to eat dinner around the corner from my flat. There is a little hamburger place and it is delicious!! My hamburger was amazing – it had grilled onions!!

I went back to the flat and tried to rest and get some sleep before I went to the airport to get Norbert. He had managed to get on another flight – but it too was delayed and finally left Atlanta about 8:30pm. The poor guy. Thank goodness that he is a member of the Delta lounge – he was able to work at the airport all day in comfort. We finally made it back to the flat about 2:30am. My baby is here!!!

Bogota · Centro de Rehabilitación Inclusiva · Colombia · CRI · South America · Teaching English

Getting to know CRI

Today I went to the CRI center after going to get my Cedula. In Colombia, your Cedula is your identification card. You are to carry it wherever you go. After applying for the Cedula, you pick it up five business days later. After picking it up, we are to go to a papeleria to have it scanned at 150% and sent to our RC to have them send it in to EPS, the public healthcare system. It is amazing that we are provided with healthcare here. The healthcare is very extensive as well. With it we are able to see a doctor for a co-pay of the equivalent of $.75!  The only drawback is that it can take a week or two to get in to see a doctor.  If you need one right away, there can be quite a wait in the office.

We can see an eye doctor, psychologist, dentist and many other specialists for that co-pay! Needless to say, we Americans are very excited. Many of us have not been to a dentist in years due to the outrageous costs we incur in our backwards country.  During our orientation, it was the thing that most of us talked about with excitement.

Well, the traffic was horrible on the way to the migration office. I ended up getting off the bus to walk to the office and on my way back, I passed the bus! Because of the traffic I was running late to make it to the CRI center. I got an uber, but was still late. When I texted the gentleman I was to meet with to observe, he texted back, ‘tranquila’. I’m going to have to learn to be tranquila here! I need to get that tattooed on my wrist!!! Americans are NOT tranquila.  The first time someone said to tranquila to me, I got very upset – my first thought was, “Don’t you tell me to calm down!”.  Tranquila literally means – calm down.  The way that people use it here, though is- ‘no worries’.

I observed Mark’s second class of the day and  then went to lunch with him and Simon before coming back to observe Shanelle’s class  in the afternoon.  The four of us are the only four fellows in the Military part of the Ministry of Education’s program.  I like them and think I’ll like working with them!

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The afternoon classes went well and the soldiers were really receptive of me and open with us as fellows.  I left the building with Shanelle so that I could see how to get home on public transport.  The transmilineo is only about 2,200 to ride and the uber is 5,000 to 6,000 – so one saves a lot of money using the transmilineo.  Getting to and from the CRI center is harder that getting to the Canton Norte location.  One needs to take two buses instead on one.  The transmilineo is also a lot more crowded.

That night, I ended up having a panic attack at the station after Shanelle went to the mall.  I just couldn’t stay there anymore – I thought that I would fall over and faint.  It was too much.  I left the platform and called Norbert on the way to the street to find a taxi to take me home.  The uber looked like it would take to long to get there and I felt that I had to get home as soon as possible.  I haven’t had a panic attack in a long time – I hope that they don’t start up again.