Our lecture this morning was rescheduled for tomorrow so the time was spent enjoying a sleep in and having breakfast in a cafe in the nearby bohemian distinct of la Condesa, which bustles with life of a morning. As we passed through the tangled streets, we were met by vendors selling freshly cut flowers, morning joggers making their way through the cobblestone running track called Amsterdam, and settled ourselves in a spot where we could enjoy the green canopy of nearby parque mexico, and for a second, escape the honks and grind of the infamous city traffic.
In the afternoon we regathered at the library steps to visit the children's hospital, hospital infantil de Mexico. The hospital was both a heart-warming and saddening experience. Charming as the vast new section of the hospital was brightly painted in every colour of the rainbow, with more beds, what seemed like 7 or more levels of facilities, and a sophisticated new oncology ward. And it was rewarding as we were able to bring smiles to little faces and add a bit of cheer by giving out treats of chocolates, drawing kits and clothing. But all this was in stark contrast to the pain and suffering witnessed in the ER and emergency wards, were babies, barely one month old, struggled to maintain the life they had only just received, while other children lay with disfigured pelvises, their legs bent out horizontally in casts.
But I think the visit helped us as health professionals to gain a glimpse of clinical practice in another country and achieve insights into where we see ourselves working in the future, be it in a hospital, community, public or private sphere.Tuesday
Today I woke up with a bit of an upset stomach, most likely from some local street food, so I missed the morning lecture and trip to the local traditional market. However those who attended said that the highlight of the markets were the flower gardens, where they came home carrying stunning floral bouquets in deigns of all species and colours.
I regained the group in the afternoon for a lecture on organ donations, were the speaker was so passionate that she was in tears midway through the lecture, a moving experience.
After this we transgressed into kid mode and enjoyed the local carnival across the road at the adjacent la Salle campus, with free rides and games including a Ferris wheel, rock climbing, bucking bull and paint ball. A nice way to let off steam in this final week of assignments.
The evening was spent sipping tea and working on our assignments. I must say finding information for an assignment in another country can be a difficult and challenging experience, especially as although the information in Mexico is there, up to date documentation is lacking and often contradictory, let alone with language barriers. Nevertheless information and insight was gained, with an interesting look the health sphere of Mexico.Wednesday
Today we took the bus to the outskirts of Mexico City to Nezahuacoyotl, otherwise known as coyote town, to the site of La Salle's sister campus.
The visit was probably one of my favourites. The school was built on an old rubbish tip and now offers a beautiful campus of green grass, flowers, and numerous sporting facilities where students and locals alike can enjoy free tennis, martial arts, gyms, basketball, attend mass at the onsite church, or participate in cooking classes, to name just a few assets on offer here, it truly has transformed the town from slums into a functioning community, on its way to success.
After an introduction to the establishment of the university, the group was divided in two, where half visited the local hospital, and the other half, myself included, visited the community health centre.
The health centre was incredible, with so many free services on offer including dentistry, Nutrition, GP's and family planning, all free under social security. The level of patient-carer interaction was again incredible, and the staff were delighted to have us at the clinic. The greeted us with a welcome banner, a selection of cakes and sweets, and the local elderly choir group even sang us a repertoire of songs prepared especially for our visit. We also visited the attached day care centre were children under five are offered free early childhood education, and disabled children and encouraged to take part and intersect without prejudice, they kids were truly adorable and the made the visit extremely special.
After this we returned for a tour of the facilities, following by a lunch prepared by the gastronomy student, were we were treated with the greatest of care, and dined on freshly squeezed juice, and let another gut busting delicious five course lunch.
Preceding this, some of the nursing students came to practice their English and engage in a funny conversation of 'Spanglish' (my new favourite language) were we compared the education and health care system in Australia and Mexico, and gained some new outlook amidst language barriers and laughter. It was a nice end to the day.
And in the evening I gathered with my group to make the final touches on our presentations and essays. And upon reflection, feel accomplished at what I have learnt and lessons I have gained to take into my future career. One thing I have taken is the importance of physical contact, practiced in Mexico more than I have ever seen, and with incredible benefits. A simple embrace or hold of the hand lets the patient know they are loved, they are important, and with this brings a positive mindset which can often overcome pain and disease more than medicine and drugs alone.Thursday
Having the morning free, my housemate and I ventured downtown for a spot of shopping at Forever 21. Think of 5 levels of Mexico's own version of Zara but even cheaper, I dare say I walked away with a few bags of clothing.
From there the day was spent with the first half of the presentations, and really I must say the bar was set high. Groups were engaging and offered a broad spectrum of topics covered in an interesting and eye opening manner. I really was impressed with the groups.
As one girl was leaving Friday and many others having an early departure Saturday, we decided to make Thursday the evening to finish the course with a bang. At 8:30pm we gathered for celebratory drinks in la Condesa, at a bar called Linneo, with a rooftop patio, and tasty cocktails. Here we danced, chatted and laughed the night away with amazing drinks and even more amazing company. We downed dreaded Mezcal shots (seriously they taste gross and pack a punch), shared hilarious stories, and finally drunkenly made our way home, with amusing antics never to be forgotten but best left in Mexico ;)Friday
Today was the final day, and I must say there was a touch of sadness in the air, combined with excitement for those that had a bit of extra adventuring to do after the course.
In the morning, nerves were set to extreme as we prepared for our group presentation on maternal health in Mexico, and encountered technical difficulties which saw our group pushed last, the place where nobody wants to be. Nevertheless everyone seemed attentive and supportive and in the blink of an eye it was over...that was the end of our course!
We finished up with a celebratory lunch at the university, the last of the many 5 or 6 course meals we'd received while at La Salle, gobbled up with aching, contented bellies. This was followed by rowdy speeches, congratulations and thanks to Margo and Anna our course coordinators. And we were then presented of our certificates of diplomas, a pretty fancy title for a four week course. Photos and snapshots were taken by both cameras and hearts, as I feel this month will last in the memories of all of us for years to come. And then the moment were we departed our own ways, to bid hearty farewells to host families, get packed and ready for flights and departures, and indulge one last time in a favourite food or beverage, my personal favourite being a drink called 'Horchata' a kind of milkshake like drink made from rice milk, sweet and refreshing.
The atmosphere was made all the more intense by the ritual of Valentines Day or Día de San Valentino, which in Mexico, a country of sensual salsa, and Latin loving, is taken more seriously than birthdays, Christmas and Easter combined. Every vendor was bursting with 'te amo' balloons, cupcakes, oversized novelty pillows, cards, flowers, anything with a big red heart, each more cheesy than the next and clad with every version of 'I love you' known to man. Every hombre battling it out to impress his honey or woo his secret crush. It's a funny sight, but nevertheless charming, and really cements the warmth and care that the Mexican people have.
It's been an amazing month, and I would do it all again in second, and I dare say you have not seen the last of me Mexico.
For now I prepare for adventures in the South in Yucatan, and to dips my toes in the warm Caribbean waters. But this is made all the more sweeter by the accomplishments and educational inspirations of the past month, where I lived and studied as a Mexican; made Mexican friends, gained a Mexican family, and even dabbled in some Mexican love.Public Health in Mexico, Week 3 and Public Health in Mexico, Week 1