Thursday, October 29, 2015

Social Sabbatical Comes to an End

My SAP Social Sabbatical in Bogota comes to an end in a couple days. It has been an amazing experience and the people have made it very special.  I am having a hard time to not be emotional about leaving - I will be happy to be home with my family and friends once again but it will be hard to say good bye to the people who have been my family this month. It is really interesting how twelve people who did not even know each other 30 days ago can create such a strong bond.

The Triple S - Steffen, Sheri, Sabrina

I will miss working everyday with Sabrina and Steffen - we did a lot of work but we had a lot of fun too!! They were so good to me when I was out sick for a couple days too. I think we have all learned that it's okay to go beyond our comfort zones.  We all learned that we have a lot to offer, no matter what job or adventure we embark on next.

The Genesis Foundation team has been wonderful to work with - every person has so much passion and love for what they do.  They are making a positive impact and improving the lives of thousands of Colombian children every day.  Not too many people can say that about their jobs!!  It was infectious to be around them!!

I personally have gained a lot from this experience. I have more confidence in my abilities to apply my knowledge and skills in other areas and I know that I can to do that now. I also learned that having more years of life experience is a good thing!!  Coming into the sabbatical I was afraid that I might not be "young enough" to keep up, but what I realize now is that my life experiences helps me to related to others and gives me the ability to interpret concepts or ideas to terms that make sense to others.

I hope to follow the Genesis Foundation and the wonderful work they are doing for many years to come!!

A special thank you to SAP for making the Social Sabbatical a reality for me.  And, also, a special thank you to my husband, Mike, who always supports me in whatever I venture to do.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Catedral de Sal in Zipaquira, Colombia

Today we all went to the Catedral de Sal - the Salt Cathedral - in Zipaquira, Colombia. Zipaquira is called the city of salt located 48 kms north of Bogota.
Overlooking Zipaquira, Colombia
The Salt Cathedral is an active Catholic cathedral carved out of an abandoned salt mine, 200 meters underground.  The path to the cathedral is lined with the stations of the cross, also carved out of salt. The cathedral is huge - there can be over 8000 people in the cathedral at once.

The Salt Cathedral is really amazing and beautiful.

All of the Bogota Orchids took this trip together - it was probably the last trip that we all take together. We had a lot of fun - even when trying to make it to the Laguna del Cacique Guatavita reserve before it closed for the day.  We missed it by 10 minutes!! But we made the best of it and took a picture of the sign instead!!

It was a great day and great to see some of the country side outside Bogota.  Colombia is a very beautiful country.

I will always remember my time in Colombia and the amazing month that I spent with 12 amazing people.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Good with The Not So Good

My experience in Colombia has been great and the experience with my fellow SAP Social Sabbatical team has been wonderful...but with all good things, there are sometimes bad...  I contracted the Chikungunya virus on Monday.  I woke up with a slight rash on my face and by lunchtime, my entire face and neck was covered with a very painful rash.  Chikungunya is common to the Caribbean area and is caused by mosquito bites. When I was in Cartagena over the long weekend with the team, I was bitten several times by mosquitos. I was very responsible and applied bug repellent when on the Isle de Rosario and I even went on a "jungle" cruise without one mosquito bite!! But on the day we returned to Bogota, I was shopping inside a store in Old Town Cartagena and I was bitten several times. So.... seven days later I developed the virus.  The biggest issue is the rash .... I even have bumps on my eyelids!!  The symptoms of this virus is the rash, fever and joint pain and swelling. I am "lucky" so far, because the rash is the worst part ...but my hands are very swollen today.

So...that's the not so good part.....the good part is that I have a wonderful support network here in Bogota. We have a local consultant here in Bogota who's job is multi-faceted....including taking care of us in case of emergency or illness. Liza is a very amazing person.  She took me to the ER, stayed with me the entire time and made me laugh!!

Liza feeding me "baby food" - red jello and red fruit tea to match the color of my skin!!

Liza took my mind off of this crazy rash, which is not easy to do!!  I could not have maneuvered the ER without her - she made sure that I was not forgotten and translated everything for me.  The doctors who treated me both spoke English - which was so nice!!  The primary doctor I saw was really wonderful - he had just been to Stanford for a training course and he and his wife had a chance to see a little of the Bay Area so that was nice to have someone who knew where I was from.  I have never been treated so wonderfully by a doctor - he took my entire health history and never rushed me. He explained what he thought the rash could be and explained that it could take up to 12 days for a virus like this to develop after a mosquito bite. The hospital performed multiple blood tests to confirm the virus.  I have follow-up blood tests and a follow-up doctor appointment on Thursday to monitor the virus.

My fellow teammates have been wonderful too. Sabrina and Steffen had to work without me on Tuesday as I am supposed to take 3 days off, doctors orders.  They were great and included me in the debriefing of the day so I do not feel left out.  Many people checked to see if I needed anything and to see if they could do anything for me....I definitely do not feel alone in a foreign country.  Even those who themselves are not feeling well asked if they could do anything for me. Dyvia, who will be a wonderful mother some day, came to see if I had food for dinner and encouraged me to come to her room for dinner.  It was really nice to get out of my room and see some of the team. Dyvia's Indian meal was wonderful!!  Srikanth's father had this virus last year, which caused problems with his blood count so Srikanth reviewed my blood test results. It looks like my blood tests are fine and it was really nice to have support from someone with experience with this virus.

I feel very lucky to have such wonderful people around me and really appreciate all their help and support.  I know that I will be fine....and I have something different to take home from Colombia!!

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Orchids at the Coffee Planation

The Bogota Orchids (our SAP Social Sabbatical team name) visited the Hacienda Coloma coffee plantation in Fusagasuga, Colombia today - about a 2-hour ride from Bogota.

The plantation is beautify - wild orchids and beautiful flowers everywhere.

We learned that it takes 3-4 years for a coffee tree to mature and produce the coffee fruits called berries or cherries. At the end of our tour, our tour guide ground coffee beans to make coffee for us all.  A very fun day!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Colombia Magia Salvaje (Wild Magic)

A few of us went to a movie this evening - Colombia Magia Salvaje - a documentary about Colombia and the animals that inhabit the vast amount of jungle, plains, rivers and oceans of Colombia. Colombia is a beautiful country. The wild life photography in the movie was amazing - I'm sure it took many years to compile all the footage into this 90-minute movie. The narration was in Spanish but I did understand a few points:

* There are more species of Orchids in the jungles of Colombia than anywhere else on earth;
* There are more species of hummingbirds in Colombia than in all of North America;
* The leopards in the Colombian jungles are bigger than any other in South America;
* There is a species of dolphins that live in the rivers of the Amazon that are completely white;
* There are many species of poisonous frogs and snakes in Colombia;
* The rivers and waterfalls throughout the jungles are amazing

And, of course, the movie did touch on the industrialization and deforestation that is occurring in Colombia. I know that I would have never seen this movie at home - I'm happy that I was able to see it here in Colombia.  I also will never pay $1.57 USD to see a movie anywhere else (4600 Colombian Pesos). The movie was really glad that our local Bogota consultant told us to see it  (we call her Mama Liza because she is always caring about us and taking care of all of us).

My impression of the Colombian people is that they are very proud of their country. And many are very proud of this movie, as they should be!!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Fruits of our Labors

Today we made very good progress with our client.  We conducted a design thinking/brainstorming session and were able to identify several key indicators that we can work with to measure the overall effectiveness of the organization.  I feel very relieved that we were able to identify these key points so we can begin to build concrete measurements. The programs and services that the Genesis Foundation enables are so wonderful that I feel that we absolutely need to provide a very good solution. The passion and excitement of everyone in the organization is infectious. I know that everyone in my team also feels very passionate about providing a good solution to Genesis so they can measure their success and continue providing the wonderful services and programs to children across Colombia.

Sabrina moderating brainstorming session

And, speaking of Colombia.... the fruits are very interesting....and good!!  I have tried everything given to me!!  Fresh fruit is always served at breakfast - the Mangos are really good.  I also tried Dragon Fruit - interesting but very good. This evening our local consultant, Liza, brought us all a fruit called Granadilla.  It's very different - it has a hard shell that's like an egg - to open the fruit you crack is like an egg. The fruit inside is a bit slimy with seed-like consistency.  It sounds horrible and really does not look that inviting but the flavor is really good. It's very sweet and you don't think about the consistency after you taste it!! It's best to eat this fruit with a spoon - a bit messy with your fingers :-)

Granadilla Fruit

Monday, October 12, 2015

Three Fun Days in Cartagena

The Bogota Orchids (our team name) had a wonderful time this weekend in Cartagena. It's hard to put into words everything we did and all the fun we had. We were very busy. On Saturday when we arrived, we went on a six plus hour walking tour of the city.  We visited and walked around Old Town - the part of the city within the original fort walls - and New Town - the part of the city with multi-million dollar condominiums on the beach.  Looks a bit like Miami beach.  We also visited Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas - the old fort built by the Spaniards in 1536. Very interesting.

View of Cartagena skyline from across Cartagena Bay

On Sunday we took a two-hour boat ride to Isla del Rosario were we could relax and do different activities. I opted for the jungle tour.  We walked through a village and then took canoes down a canal to a lagoon that led to the ocean. It was amazing to see part of the jungle on the ocean. The island has a rustic hotel and a small school for the children who live on the island.  Our guide was Fillipe who has 4 children and 10 grandchildren - and he's 72 years old!! He didn't look more than 50 years old!! We had a great buffet lunch of fish, arroz de coco (coconut rice), fried plantas and fried yucca.  On Monday, we had a traditional Colombian festival lunch in Old Town and found great Colombian presents to take home. (I'm glad I have an extra suitcase for souvenirs.)

Walking tour on Isla del Rosario

Cartagena is a very vibrant and busy city.  It has a population of 1 million people and tourism is important to the economy. Cartagena seems to be the place where Colombians come to holidays and special occasions. Walking around Cartegena Old Town at night was really fun. Music everywhere including Ballet Folkloria dancers and couples dancing Cumbia and Salsa in the square plus artisans selling their goods on the sidewalks. We saw four different weddings in the multiple churches in Old Town - even saw one bride arriving in a horse-drawn carriage. The gowns worn by the women were beautiful. Everyone in Cartagena dresses up - even to just walk around Old Town.

View of Cartegena from El Popa - Cathedral

The tours were great and the visit to Cartagena was really great but the most rewarding part of the trip was the chance to really get to know the other people in the team.  We don't have that chance while working in our individual projects.  I feel a bond and a friendship with all of my team members - who I only met for the first time 8 days ago!! It really is an amazing experience that I will not forget.

Divya, Sri and Sabrina of the Bogota Orchids