Getting Off the Gringo Trail

Trip Start Sep 15, 2010
Trip End Jul 23, 2011

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Flag of Colombia  ,
Sunday, July 3, 2011

Kidnapping, cocaine and guerrillas. These are things that come to mind when most Americans think about Colombia.  However, with the fourth largest economy in Latin America, Colombia has drastically changed over the past ten years.  It is also famous for salsa, Shakira and the best cup of coffee you may ever taste. 

I have wanted to visit this country since working with three Colombian doctors during a medical mission to Russia in 2000.  Therefore, for my final destination, I arranged a six week volunteer gig with the Operation Smile offices in the capital city of Bogota.  This international medical organization, based out of the U.S., performs surgeries for children born with cleft palate and cleft lip. 

Since I am not a medical professional, a lot of people asked what I would be doing prior to arrival.  I didn't have any idea or many expectations, my only goal was to be useful.  Luckily this wasn't hard to do and my first assignment was updating their five year backlog of electronic medical records.  The data entry part has been easy, however deciphering doctor's notes in Spanish has made my head spin. 

Regardless of the workload, after almost two months on the "Gringo Trail" it is great to just live and breathe ordinary life for a while.  I am living with a nice host family in the northern burbs and ride the bus to work everyday.  Aside from writing in my journal, there are many days that I don't hear or speak a word of English. 
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