Santiago Chile for the World Federation Congress

Santiago Chile May 2-12 2010

The World Federation of Occupational Therapists (WFOT) 15th international congress was held in Santiago Chile in May 2010.  After the devastating earthquake struck we wondered if the congress would go ahead, then when our pre-congress workshop was cancelled due to low numbers enrolling we started to wonder if all our work was a waste of time and in fact OT was still not ready to embrace online technology.

Fortunately the WFOT organizing committee were determined to go ahead with the congress and after some carefully worded emails I managed to convince the congress organizers to include us in the main program in a cancelled workshop spot on the Friday morning (the final day of the congress).  We were given a 2-hour timeslot but no access to online computers.  Suddenly our “hands on” workshop had to be changed to “show and tell” and we had to create mini-clips for all the Web 2.0 tools we wanted to demonstrate.  All the resources were also put into a wiki and the participants were given the link to that as a future resource.  Here is the link to the wiki

Day 1:  May 2, Arrival
I arrived at Santiago airport at 6am.  The bus organized by our tour operators was nowhere to be found and I foolishly decided to take a cab to my apartment.  Unfortunately by the time I headed outside I realized I was being directed to a private taxi.  These are private vehicles with a driver and a person who “lures” people from the airport.
I didn’t say “oh I will take a registered taxi” as the man had my bag and I was concerned that he might take it.  By this stage I was tired and disoriented and a little bit worried.  I didn’t think to ask about the price, so when they finally found my apartment (which I had forgotten to bring the address of, as I was going to be on an organized bus), they tried to charge me the equivalent of US$80.  I had fortunately had the presence of mind to ask the receptionist at the hotel what the usual price would be and he had said about US$40.  So I gave them that and would not be hassled into more (although they tried).  I had my bag, I had my apartment, I felt a little safer to stand firm.

After a while settling in to my not-so-luxurious apartment I took myself to bed for a nap before my “roomy” Merrolee Penman arrived.  I went to bed and was woken by an earthquake!  It was 5.9, which is small by Chilean standards, and it was interesting to see that my experience of living with earthquakes in Japan in 1983 and 1987 meant I did not panic.

Merrolee arrived around 2pm and after she settled in we went and had a late lunch/early tea.  We went to a gorgeous little restaurant and when they realised that we didn’t speak Spanish they brought out one of the staff from the kitchen to translate for us :-).  We had a great meal and then went and did our first shop at a supermarket close by.
Day 2: Tour to Laguna del Inca at Portillo and then vineyards at Viña Errázuriz
On the way to the Andes we were treated to authentic Chilean empinadas, baked in an adobe oven.  We were also treated to Chilean wine at 10:30am!  From there we drove to Portillo, a ski field in the Andes and we went up this road with 27 turns! 
Adobe oven
The switchback road to Portillo and Argentina

Anita and Merrolee at Laguna del Inca
After the wonderful trip up the road, we turned around and headed back down the road as the only other way out was via Argentina!

View at lunch at Vina Errazuriz
After our big adventure to Portillo we drove for several hours more hours and finally arrived for lunch at about 2:30pm at Vina Errazuriz.  Our guide for this part of the tour was Pedro, he had the most wonderful Australian accent!  It turned out that he had lived in Melbourne from about age 5 to age 15.  Although he enjoyed growing up in Australia, he is very happy to be back in Chile with his extended family.  Pedro works for Vina Errazuriz and took us to their new hilltop restaurant and then to the vineyard and cellar door.  During the lunch I kept having to remind myself to stop talking to my wonderful travel buddies and sit back and enjoy the view. 
After a wonderful lunch (view from table is what you see above), we drove back to Santiago for dinner. Most of us were dead on our feet at this stage, but a quick drink of Pisco sour (after a day of winery tours) meant that we had enough energy to watch others dance!  The group we did the tour with were students from McMaster University in Ontario Canada, so they had energy to burn.  We enjoyed the dancing from Rapa Nui most.

Day 3: WFOT congress begins.
Karen, Merrolee, Anita, Angela, Sarah
Today the OT4OT group finally met face to face for the first time :-D.  Sarah Bodell and Angela Hook from Salfor University, Manchester, Karen Jacobs from Boston, Merrolee Penman from Otago Polytechnic and me, from Uof A, were there in person.  Our other members Will, Claire, Susan, Rashid were all back at their respective workplaces, beaming in through Twitter. 

Day 4: Conference.  Other than attending papers, viewing posters and catching up with LOTS and LOTS of OT colleagues from around the world the day had a particular focus on getting ready for Friday’s workshop and also a focus on making sure we had an idea of “where to next” after this event.  As a result, the OT4OT group spent most of the afternoon huddled around a table wheeling and dealing with WFOT around what type of assistance we could offer them and what sorts of things we wanted to do from here.

The key resolutions from this event was that we would run World OT day (similar to International Day of the midwife) and this would happen on October 27, 2010.  The wikiflash previously run by The UK crew would become international and be blended into the OT month activities.  These two events would be enough to get us going.  One other item we discussed and need to act on is the idea that we should document our “story so far”.  The Facebook group that we started before the congress commenced started to attract members during the WFOT congress and we got very excited when over 50 people had joined.  Now as I write this entry the membership of this group is 597 members!

Day 5: Another day of conference, networking and farewells as our UK colleagues Sarah and Angela head back to Manchester. After conference, we had dinner with Lynne Adamson and Evelyne deLeeuw friends from Deakin University
Anita Hamilton, Lynne Adamson, Evelyne de Leeuw, Merrolee Penman
Day 6: Friday… the day of our workshop presentation.  Up early and ready to shine our nerves were jangling as we prepared to face the music… will anybody attend our workshop after the congress dinner was held the night before?  Will anyone bother to attend the final day of congress… at 9:30am?  We were so relieved to see that more than enough people were ready and willing to front up for another day of networking and learning.  Over 100 people came to our room and participated in our activities, answered our questions and made some really great contributions to the workshop.  We were so pleased and relieved that our hard work paid off.
Workshop participants line up for the “warm-up”
Karen Jacobs, Merrolee Penman, Anita Hamilton
After the conference Merrolee headed back to NZ, Karen back to Boston and I stayed a few days waiting for my flight home.  I did a tour to Valparaiso and Vina del Mar, a tour of Santiago (one by car and another walking tour) and spent a little bit of time simply being alone after the big week.


About hamigos4

A family of four adventure-seekers from Australia... currently living in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.
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