Taking it easy in Medellin


at UPB open air auditorium

at Universidad Nacional – Medellin  open air auditorium (The medellin campus is famed for the lush greenery)

So I am back in Medellin, Colombia for several weeks – but this trip is different from all of my previous visits.  It’s the first time I have come here without a specific purpose.  I’m not here to interview surgeons, attend surgical conferences or even ColombiaModa.

No Colombia Moda this year for me. :-(

No Colombia Moda this year for me. 😦

Medellin has become so familiar to me, that when I needed a nice tranquil space to work on a non-Colombia related project – I headed here to get away from the thousands of distractions of my stateside life.  While I am here, I am also determined to enjoy and explore more of Colombia since I have just seen the bare minimum of life and locales.  So next week, I heading off to one of Colombia’s best known natural wonders, Cano Cristales.

I’m going as part of a group (which is something I’ve never done before).  It’s sounds like it will be a great trip – flying to Meta, Colombia in a small plane – to a community with limited electricity and no cellphone or internet service.  That doesn’t sound like a big deal, but as I writer, I have gotten used to almost always having computer access – almost anywhere in the world.  So this will be a nice break from the ordinary for me.

I don’t have my trusty Nikon this time around, which is a shame since Cano Cristales is famed for its beauty but I will attempt to take some pictures with a tiny camera (that packs well).  It’s weird because I tend to lose my confidence when I don’t have my big, heavy camera.

Naked without my Nikon? Not a great visual, is it?

Naked without my Nikon? Not a great visual, is it?

La Tierra del Olvido (2015 version)

In the meantime, I will continue to work on my current projects, relax a bit and enjoy Colombia.  Carlos Vives, one of my favorite Colombian singers, along with Medellin natives Maluma and J. Balvin, have re-made one of Carlos Vives most popular songs as part of a Colombia tourism promotion. It’s lovely, lively and catching – and features several other well-known Colombian entertainers and Colombian landscapes – so I hope you enjoy.. (Thankfully, no Sofia Vergara!)

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Heading South!


It’s been a long hiatus as I’ve replenished Latin American Surgery’s coffers on a couple assignments over the last several months, but I will be back in the Southern hemisphere later this summer, and I am sure we will have a lot to talk about..

It’s an unfortunate reality that travel and travel writing costs money.  That, coupled with the long hours required in my “day job” mean that I do less writing and researching for the blogs than I’d like.  I was able to keep pace initially, but there was a point where it became a question of getting some sleep so I could work and pay my mortgage (and buy groceries) or continuing to churn pages for the blog.

on the runway at Colombia Moda 2104

on the runway at Colombia Moda 2104

After spending a lot of my resources working on a thoracic project this Spring over at the sister site, thoracics.org and working – it’s nice to be back here at Latin American Surgery.com

I’m going back to Medellin soon – and I look forward to taking all my readers with me.  (I wanted to travel to a couple other areas, but frankly, couldn’t afford it).  I won’t be attending Colombia Moda this year – but there is always someone to interview, health topics to talk about, cultural events explore or people and places to photograph.

I have a couple if ideas for some interesting articles, but we’ll have to wait to see how these ideas come together..  I hope it will be worth the wait..

Home, again..


fountain

fountain

I’ll be heading home again at the beginning of next week via a bit of a meandering journey.  (The protests haven’t been as much of a disruption as anticipated in most of the bigger cities).,

First I am headed to Bogota to cover an upcoming conference before making my way to Northern Nevada.  From there – it’s a brief trip to Baja California (Mexico) before starting the slow eastward caravan to my home in Southern Virginia.  I hope to post something along the way – but first – a thank you to Medellin, a gracious city and wonderful host.

Colombia’s second city: Medellin

Medellin as seen from Metrocable

Medellin as seen from Metrocable

I’ve had an interesting time in Medellin, even if it didn’t turn out to be as productive as I would have hoped.  I’ve come to better appreciate and enjoy a city that I had previously only known on a very superficial level.

public fountain for cooling off - parque de los pies descalzos

public fountain for cooling off – parque de los pies descalzos

Medellin holds an endearing charm despite its rough edges: From the public parks, to the bustling life of the different barrios (like Aran Juez), to the upscale glamour of Poblado, El Tesoro mall and the high fashion excitement of Colombia Moda, it’s a vibrant life – lived in real-time and Technicolor.

indoor flower garden at upscale mall in Medellin

indoor flower garden at upscale mall in Medellin

photo by Thor Gustafson kids in the park

photo by Thor Gustafson
kids in the park

But whether I am in Poblado, El Centro, on the metro, or on the street – the one thing that really brings Medellin to life are it’s people.

my models help advertise the city of Medellin for it's fashion-forwardness

my models help advertise the city of Medellin for it’s fashion-forwardness

Whether it’s Linda, offering me fresh fruit, or a cab driver watching to make sure I am safely inside before heading to the next destination – or the girl on the train who wants to practice her English, people in Medellin are genuine, down to earth and friendly.

selling fruit in the park (photo enhanced)

selling fruit in the park (photo enhanced)

People, from all walks of life – surgeons, friends, professional photographers and even my hairdresser (Carmen) have embraced me like a long-lost friend.

rides for tots

rides for tots

So while Bogotá will always be my home away from home (in Colombia), the people of Medellin have captured a piece of my heart..

What’s next in Colombia?  Sincelejo, more Barranquilla or maybe even Bucaramanga?  Who knows…

The photographers of ColombiaModa 2013


As a nurse, and a writer who mainly covers medicine and surgery – I was a bit nervous when I embarked on the Colombia Moda project.  However, with fashion and beauty playing such a large role in Medellin (and other cities in Colombia), I thought it would be a huge mistake not to cover this event.

the other end of the runway (Matt Rines)

the other end of the runway (Matt Rines)

So far – it’s been wonderful – and my fellow writers and photographers have been particularly so.  I was worried with my lack of fashion photography background/ experience that the other prensa (press) at the event would be daunting, or intimidating.

friendly Colombian photographers help the newbies

friendly Colombian photographer, Stevin Ortega helps the newby

But they haven’t been – they have been friendly, nice and amazingly helpful.  Before the first runway – there they were – scooting over so my additional photographer (Matt Rines) and I would have a good view of the runway – and giving us tips on using the best camera setting to capture images in this sort of setting.

Colombian photographer before the show

Colombian photographer, Federico Rios before the show

Watching the professional photographers is a little awe-inspiring.. Since we are sitting shoulder-to-shoulder (and even closer sometimes!), I can see their photos almost at the moment the shot is taken (on the digital display), and these guys are just amazing!  The clarity, the vision (to see that it’s going to be a good shot) is just phenomenal.  I was actually sucking in my breath –  a couple times as I glanced at some of my neighbors photos while we waited for the next model to come out..

with Juan Bouhot and Juan Estaban (Colombian press) - waiting for the runway to start

with Juan Bouhot and Juan Estaban (Colombian press) – waiting for the runway to start

International Press but little American representation

The majority of the journalists are from Colombia (InFashion, Caracol, El Colombiano and just about every Colombian magazine/ paper you can think of) but I have seen journalists from Panama, Bolivia, Argentina, Chile and even Australia.  Matt and I haven’t seen any other press from the United States yet – but somehow that doesn’t surprise me.  (When I was pitching this story to two different news outlets – both said that readers weren’t interested in stories about Colombia.)

But for my readers here – I’d like to get closer, and get some more stories about the people who shoot the photos.

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More than Colombian News

But this isn’t a story about Colombia, really.  It’s more of a story about fashion, beauty and all that goes with.   Fashion is international – and this event certainly proves that. One of the big focuses this year – is trying to “reshore” the clothing construction industry as one of this year’s lecturers from the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) explained.

It’s no longer cheaper, or easier to have clothing made in Bangladesh, India or China.. And that (previous) cheapness came with other complications – like long wait times, and a lot of bureaucratic headaches for designers and retailers.. Relocating these industries to the Americas is a boon for everyone.  Especially now that designers and retailers are changing their selling models – to embrace 7 or more lines a year “short lines” versus the traditional 2 to 4 lines.  But we’ll talk about that later – it’s almost time for the next runway to start!

Impanema runway model

Ipanema runway model (K. Eckland)

If you want to see more images by some of the photographers I have met:

LookatU – Paolo Trujillo

Julian Carvajal – (I was peeking over his shoulder at times – he’s a fantastic photographer).

Style Street –  fashion + photography

Estudio 8A – photographer, Jorge Ochoa from Argentina

Succo

John Drews  – highlights some of the work of Medellin-based John Erick Velasquez M.

What the runway looks like from behind the lens

whitedress1

 

As for me – I am working on several articles for other outlets – so I will post more information, and links when they are done. For the time being, you can follow my Colombia Moda twitter feed: K. Eckland for up-to-date photos and news.

Going home..


After a whirlwind three months that included trips to Chile, Bolivia and different cities in Colombia, I am getting ready to come home in a few days.  As always, leaving Bogotá is bittersweet.  I miss my friends, and my family but I will also miss the city and all of the nice people I’ve met here.

I am posting a map of Colombia, so even though I’ve taken several trips – you can see that I haven’t really explored the country at all. (I’ve posted little push pins on the areas I have visited.)  I excluded Facativa and some of the closer towns since they are really just suburbs of Bogotá, and it would just clutter the map.

Map of Colombia, courtesy of Google Earth

As you can see – I haven’t explored the southern part of Colombia, or the pacific coast at all.  My Atlantic adventures have been confined to Cartagena.  So, I guess this means, I still have a lot of work cut out for me on my next visit(s).

map showing central Colombia

But I hope that readers have enjoyed reading about my travels, the people I’ve met and the things I’ve seen.  Now – I know this is a medical/ surgery blog but since much of the surgery I write about is in this part of the world, I think that including some of my experiences is relevant/ interesting for people who read the blog.  Once I get back home, I’ll post some more articles on medical quality control and standards – and more of my usual dry fare.

Life in Colombia: Medellin


Adriaan Alsema, the founder of Colombia Reports (the english language paper in Colombia) originally published this blog on their site – but since it’s a nice portrait of why Americans like me find Colombia so enchanting – I wanted to mention it.

Now the author’s reasons for chosing Medellin differ from my own since I originally went to Colombia to write – but his perspectives on the friendliness of the local residents is very similar.  (Afterall – without their help – there would be no book.)  No only that – but without the various episodes of random kindnesses from complete strangers – I would probably still be wandering around the back streets of Bogotá.

Of course – whenever I come across interesting stories, blogs etc. about Bogota and Colombia in general – I like to share them with readers, so they can get their own sense of the city..  Here’s one of my latest finds – at a fellow wordpress site, Life is Real Good 😀

It’s a blog about the adventures of Eoin and Ryan, two young guys who spent six months exploring Latin America..

Free trade, Colombia and Medical Tourism


A new trade agreement between the United States and Colombia may usher in a new era of economic growth and strengthen political ties between the two nations.

As reported in Colombia Reports, Colombia’s biggest English language news source, while some experts caution that parts of this trade agreement may temporarily lower prices of some Colombian goods – other economic forecasters believe that this will bring financial growth and economic stability to both countries. In this webpage from US Government trade officials – the proposed benefits of this alliance our outlines – with job creation as a number one priority. I have contacted Ellie Shay at the Office of the United States Trade Representative for further comment on how this new agreement will impact medical tourism and travel to Colombia, and am awaiting a  response.

What will this new trade agreement mean for medical consumers and medical travel, if anything?  The Huffington Post previously predicted big wins for Colombia (2010, July) but is it too early to tell what impact this will have on the burgeoning medical tourism industry?

We’ll keep this story updated as it develops.