Two weeks in and I can’t seem to find where they went! I must say, what an amazing start it has been here in Thailand! Minus the adjustment to the humidity (still in progress), a lot of good things have happened; however, before I get into detail about Thailand, I want to share with you all my second quarterly report. I submitted this to Watson HQ on January 8, 2018 – which also officially marked my half-way point in my year away. That is a crazy thought! As I hoped before, I hope that you enjoy this, once again, rather raw account of my time in Chile: for all the good and bad, ups and downs it carried. From my long-winded and picture-filled blog posts, this one serves as a hopefully more brief (at least trying to be) synthesis of my second quarter. I hope you enjoy the read:
Hey Watson! First off, I can’t believe I am already writing to you again. How has six month come and gone this quickly?! As you know (from the many emails and phone calls – and many thanks for your patience with my stress) I have now arrived in Bangkok, Thailand. The day this report is due marks my third day here. So far they’ve looked like this – 1) accidental (but needed) sleep starting at 4:00 pm 2) wrapping up a blog post and park exploring 3) food experimentation, Tuk-Tuk (minor) rip-offs, and a Thai Massage! I must say, amidst the humidity and sweat that I was not prepared for, things have started off well. I realized that this has been my first arrival where I have not had someone meet me at the airport – and thank goodness I had the first two times! I still struggle knowing where to start, feeling pressure to make this letter, “perfect,” while knowing that whatever I write to you is just what I am supposed to write. Such is life with me, and emails from you in response to my previous report and near the holidays offer continued reassurance and confidence, that just by doing, I continue to do things, “right.”
So how about another three month update? Three months in Chile went by in a flash. As I was in Denmark, most of my time was spent in Santiago, the capital. I spent my first week adjusting, familiarizing, and planning. In my 2nd week, I faced far too many unsuccessful moves into AirBnB’s that just didn’t feel quite right. Ultimately finding a comfortable spot, I started trying to get in touch with various ambulance agencies. I walked around to hospital ER entrances, took note of the dozens of different agencies and looked into their locations. Trying my “knock on the door” technique after waiting on unanswered emails, I was met with marginal success and a day riding with one private agency. It was during my 3rd/4th Week in Chile that I found myself asking, “is this really what you want to be doing…you know, knocking on doors over and over to see what works?” I was discouraged at how often I was turned away, and I really started question what I was doing. It was during this time I emailed you about biking. I was searching, for something, anything that may change the pace of things and bring new energy into my time in Chile. Reflecting now, I more clearly see this moment as a period of avoidance – a running away of sorts. I think it took a pretty low, anxiety-filled moment, for me to realize that I was hiding and that I needed to revamp. So I did. I pushed hard with new agencies and booked a trip to the south in Patagonia – to let myself see a new place. In my 5th Week I had confirmed work opportunities with the local public ambulance service and headed south on a trek through Torres Del Paine National Park. I ended up hiking the trek with a Venezuelan, who really became a powerful and motivational voice for me (Thanks, Juan). The break continued to give me renewed motivation. Finishing, I got to observe in the ER at the local hospital in the South of Chile, followed by a return to Santiago for my first ride in the public ambulance service, SAMU. I had an incredible time, and was reminded that, yes, this IS what I want to be doing. Through my first day with the service I worked out some additional days to work with them. It soon came time to head back south (what I had planned to do by bike, I switched to bus). I headed to Concepción and checked out the hospital there. Speaking to a few physicians I found out how lucky I had been in Santiago. I was warned about lack of access because of being a foreigner without a professional degree. Again, plans changed. I turned my south-trek into a quick sight-seeing tour with a few stops only to return to Santiago for more opportunities with SAMU. I am so thankful I did. My opportunities working with them only continued to improve as people became more familiar with who I was. People began trusting me to work along side them and help out where help was needed. It was really special to feel that sense of welcome, especially after I had spent much time searching for it.
December and Christmas fast approached: I took one last trip up north to see the Atacama Desert and welcomed family for the holidays. I didn’t think this year would hold the same feeling of a winter break as I have always had with school, but I definitely ended up taking one, and know that it was good for me and my energy. Being back alone, I spent my least week in Chile focusing hard on my final reflections and preparations for Thailand. Watson, I really enjoyed what you said to us in our email about the holidays. Having had family, I most definitely felt the difficulty of parting ways, but mostly felt the strong sense of gratitude for having had the opportunity. In that final week, as you know, I was also met with the challenge of changing some major flight plans in a rather short time period. Though a difficult change, I know it was a strong moment of learning. This moment continued to teach me that no plans are certain, and that you must be okay with that. It taught me that you all at Watson HQ are there for me (us) when needed, and aren’t going to be disappointed in an honest mistake. Most importantly, it reminded me of the resiliency of friendship. I was met with grace after sharing with my friend that I would not be able to see her. Those few days both left me in a heightened sense of my solitude, yet at the same time, a strong sense of the connections I share with those I care about even though I may be distant from them. There’s always a positive, right? I think so.
Am I learning? Yes, I know I am. Have I answered that main question of mine – how do ambulances provide senses of security and well-being for the communities they support? Well, that I am still searching for. I now know this is not an answer so easily found. It takes time and is subjective. I think I originally thought I would get in the back of an ambulance and the answers would be lying right there as plainly as the patient on the stretcher. Let me just say, that is not the case. I am finding now that it takes a more attuned sense of awareness, both in my periods of work with the ambulances, and as I am out and engaging with others around me. Slowly, answers come and a more clear understanding comes into light. I now better understand that this too takes time.
But really, what have I learned? I mean, about me – the personal? Last time I told you I felt way too detail oriented and not enough people oriented. I am happy to have seen a a shift in that. Looking back at my blog posts and the way I have written about my project in comparison to how I did in Denmark, I can tell I focused much more on the conversation and experiences I had, rather than the structure of the system. Perhaps part of this comes in that I was able to speak the language of Chile…well not perfectly, but enough to maintain a conversation. It was so cool to see how my ability to communicate improved over time. From evening “intercambios” (Spanish – English exchanges) at nearby bars to navigating and communicating around the city, I found how much I wished I had focuses more in Spanish, but also how excited I am to pursue it further and improve upon my return home. That realization may be one of the most profound yet. Language used to minimally fascinate me, or catch my eye (ear); however, having engaged with so many people from so many different places, I am astounded by the way we communicate – or don’t because of a language barrier, and yet still, do in the midst of one. So, language and my desire to improve it was a major outcome from Chile. A second major outcome, came from my low moment where I found myself in that period of avoidance. I had a pretty hard moment during Week 4 that I now can more clearly attune to the likings of anxiety, self-induced stress. I have felt this before – in school and other activities. It’s a result of me trying to succeed by the means I think I am supposed to. Again, this year is eye-opening in ways I could have never imagined. These ideas of success I hold are not so easily attuned in this wild and amazing year. Watson, you are causing me to come to terms with the stress and anxiety I can cause myself, and you are teaching me to let some of that go. Writing postcards home I found myself sharing two questions from my time in Chile that I have more clearly found the answer to. They are as follows: “Have I missed something – I mean, are there things about this year and this project that I have not reached, tapped into, discovered?” And “Again, am I doing this right?” Well, Watson, what I found in Chile is that the answer to both of these things is a resounding, yes. Over and over, yes. Of course I’ve missed things. There’s simply no way catch it all, but in no way does that mean I am doing it wrong. That’s life; we miss things. Simply the fact that I am doing, reminds me that I am learning.
Where my greatest battle in Denmark was engaging with people, as noted above, my greatest battle in Chile was clearly with myself. Each place carries a new battle, right? In a sense, it excites me to discover what that will be in the next places and how I will choose to overcome. I continued to have new moments like the sunset in the Faroe Islands. Trips to Torres del Paine and the Atacama exposed me to new landscapes I didn’t know exist. Again, I continue to be affirmed in the importance in seeking out what enthralls you. Of course, for me, medicine does, and I have continued to be affirmed that this is the career I want to go into. Along this year I have thought much about what a future in medicine may hold. I know it takes time, and sacrifices are made, but I am being reminded now – it is important to seek out what else enthralls you. For me, that’s running and the landscapes of the wild. It’s fun to feel the same sense of excitement and wonder in an ambulance when I am finally getting involved as I do when I am out in the Atacama Desert looking at an extraterrestrial landscape and the clearest stars I’ve ever seen. And again, there is that intricate design you created in this year – the opportunity to explore the things you love, and discover new ones as well. My gratitude continues, Watson, thank you.
Alright, so whats up ahead? I have a few days here in Bangkok to get settled, familiarized and begin my networking. In Week 2 of Thailand, I head south to see some of the landscapes in the southern part of the country (and perhaps engage with some local health services). I will return for Weeks 3 & 4 to Bangkok on my own. I have made a good lead with one of the volunteer ambulance agencies and hope to solidify some time with this group while I am there. This third leg of my year, I have switched it up a bit. I chose to sign up for an internship in Bangkok and Chiang Mai. As I continue to ask, “what does it mean to be cared for?” And, “how do different systems of care provide that sense of security?” I am excited to explore the context of these questions in new departments and see where they overlap with what I have previously seen in an ambulance, as well as where they don’t. I’ll have three weeks in Bangkok, a week off and then three more weeks in Chiang Mai. I’m excited about the opportunity and the change of pace. I think it will be really good to have a set schedule and it sets my time in Thailand as a balanced mix between independent and organizational partnership. I will be working with the Friends for Asia Foundation, who have facilities in both Bangkok and Chiang Mai. I guess I will leave it there, Watson. I think that accurately sums up all the excitement that was the last 90 days. I said it before and I will say it again – Thank you for this opportunity and for your unwavering support as I continue to discern my project and myself in each new place I go.
And there you have it, 6 months down, two reports in, and onwards I go to the next adventure (there have already been some good ones!). New blog coming soon detailing my first few weeks here. Enjoy the end of January, and all the continued good things to come in 2018!