A Fulbright Teacher in Bogota, Colombia, A Special Series – Health Deliveries – by Laura Blasena. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
In terms of health, my term in Colombia has been horribly unsuccessful.
In the first few months after I arrived, I thought that my awful allergic reactions to the pollution in Bogota (that my body was not accustomed to) was me somehow developing asthma. In the Amazon, I caught a less severe form of dengue fever. After returning to Bogota for the second semester of classes in late January, one of my mosquito bites got horribly infected and my throat was once again infected by polluted air in Bogota.
(The medical supply stores in Bogota often features manikins wearing surgical clothing or scrubs.)
I´d like to say that this means I´ve become a pro at navigating the health systems in Bogota, but the truth is that I have very little idea how they operate. When I first started suffering from allergies, I went to the emergency room at a massive hospital a few blocks away from my first apartment. I had no idea how to call a doctor or locate a smaller clinic, so I decided a hospital was my best course of action. After waiting six hours in the waiting room, I changed my mind.
We in Bogota are very lucky because the insurance that we are given through the Fulbright program allows us to take advantage of a very nice opportunities: domicilios.
Domicilios are deliveries. In Bogota, you can have almost anything delivered to your house. The amount of restaurants that will make a “house delivery” is overwhelming, and they stretch well beyond the normal pizza and Chinese takeout options to include places that serve stereotypical Colombian lunches, sandwiches, fried chicken, beer, and just about anything you can think of. When you order something online in Bogota, you´re often actually ordering a domicilio of the item and a man on a motorcycle will show up at your front door the next morning with the item in a ridiculously large box.
Domicilios include medical care.
(I used to leave in a neighborhood full of medical supply stores. I walked past “for sale” dentist chairs every morning.)
After calling, giving your insurance and ID information, describing your symptoms, and providing an address, a doctor or nurse practitioner will show up at your house between fifteen minutes and an hour and a half later. The exam is usually minimal, but will always be followed by the same things:
First, the doctor will offer you an injection of something to help with pain or swelling, but usually pain. Second, the doctor will write out a very, very long list of medications for you to take.
The few times that I´ve gotten a medical domicillio, I´ve received a list of at least four different medication to take. When I had an infected mosquito bite, I was told to ask the pharmacist for a topical antibiotic, an oral antibiotic, some sort of foot-soaking salts, and a pain medication–and all of these medications were supposed to be taken for two whole weeks. When I was suffering from allergies, I was prescribed a pain medication, a medication for my throat, drops for my ears, drops for my eyes, and a secondary pain medication.
(Another fashionable mannequin modeling the latest in medical wear.)
The medications are a little bit more intense than what I´m accustomed to receiving in the United States.
Regardless of how different medical services may seem to me, those of us that are placed in Bogota are fortunate enough to have easy access to medical care. In some of the other, more rural cities in Colombia, the assistants do not have access to a properly equipped hospital that is less than a three to four hour bus ride away.
About our special correspondent and senior editor Laura Blasena: Ever since I was a little Kindergartner I’ve always wanted to be a teacher.
I graduated from St. Scholastica in the summer of 2015 with a double major in Elementary Education and Spanish Education after student teaching as a 5th grade teacher and also as a Spanish teacher at NorthStar in Duluth, Minnesota.
While my future plans before graduation were initially to become a classroom teacher, I decided to wait a year to begin teaching in the United States and have chosen to work as a Fulbright English Teaching Assistant in Bogota, Colombia. In Colombia, I will be working with a university as an assistant in the language department, attending classes, running conversation clubs, and offering the perspective of a native speaker.
I’ve always loved to travel. In college, I participated in several study abroad trips, visiting England, Guatemala, and Mexico. (I loved visiting Mexico so much that I even went back a second time!). I’m looking forward to the travel opportunities that I will have while working and living in Colombia.
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