Celebrating life or mourning death?

If you happen to be unlucky enough to attend a Colombian funeral there are a few things to be aware of before assuming its a celebration of the life of the person that’s died.

Quite the opposite, its a time to feel sorry for yourself and everyone else, a time to cancel any plans that you had over the next 2-3 days and suddenly re-unite with thousands of family and people who you haven’t seen in many many years or possible not at all.

I’m my experience, when someone has passed away, there’s always a week or so, sometimes longer before the body is either buried or cremated (whether this is to organise all the legal side of things or to give people notice of the funeral date so they are free I don’t know), But here in Bogota when the person has passed they have the Wake the next day.

Yesterday I attended a wake expecting it to be in a house or similar of the family member, but it was in fact in a ‘chapel of faith’, a building equipped with function rooms that they hire out to the family’s, there’s many rooms so quite often there are 3 or 4 wakes all going on in the same building but in different rooms – which gets confusing to know who belongs to which wake and who your expected to speak to when people are wandering around the building and hanging around outside smoking.

In the room, the body is there in the coffin, not open, but on the top of the coffin is made of part glass, so those who want to see the body can.

As you can imagine there are hundreds of family members and friends attending, all who have made it a priority to go even at half a days notice which I think is lovely. in fact there were more people at the wake I went to yesterday than I’ve seen at most British weddings! I just love how everyone comes together here in times of need.

Theres no food, drink or music at the wake, its not like back home where you expect an hour or so’s silence and sadness followed by a “lets get drunk its what he/she would have wanted!”, no here there is no celebration at all its purely a time to mourn.

Once you’ve been around and said hello to all the family you’ve not seen since you were a kid, and caught up- all the while trying not to sound too happy about how good life is for you right now, you make your excuses and leave.

The Funeral, as in the actual burial or cremation, is then usually the very next day – Unfortunately I will not be going to that today so am unable to comment, but I am aware that its typically not somewhere you will take a child unless you absolutely have to, Its not seen as something children should be around or learn about. I think its important for children to go and see what happens and be a part of it, there’s no shame or superstition in death, its a natural part of life after all. I wonder if I was able to go how people would react to me taking Niko?

Marina (my mother-in-law) has a tradition which I’m not sure is a family tradition or a national tradition, but after she has been to the funeral she will not come near Niko or any other children or touch them until she has either washed thoroughly or showered if possible, as she feels she is carrying some sort of negative vibes that she doesn’t want to pass on.

Its the same here in the graveyards, it actually makes me chuckle a little, that graveyards are supposed to be horrible, depressing, and not to be enjoyed places, you go there only to see the person you want to visit, say your prayers, water the flowers then leave again. Pigeons which hang around the graveyards here are seen as a scary bird as they are the bird of death! With this in mind can you imagine how the family reacted to me taking pictures, feeding Niko and admiring the graves! Its not that I was trying to make the family feel uncomfortable, its just its hard not to find the cemetery here amazing and colourful places, So big and wide, made of white marble and each little grave place (a slot in the wall) decorated so nicely with the brightest flowers ever and priests and monks sat at small shady tables offering personal prayers of luck and hope for the family.

If only they could see a grisly graveyard back home, usually dismal and rainy, with old cracked gravestones, dead flowers and big dark trees overhanging the grounds behind old and creepy churches, and that never scared me, why should this big bright and fancy places they have full of sunshine and colour?

I think with time, people wont fear death here so much and hopeful in the future people here can take a leaf out of the British book and start celebrating the life’s of those who have passed instead of dwelling on it.

But for now, just to save them the culture shock, I think ill wait a few years before I tell the family here that when I die, I don’t want a single person wearing black and I want everyone to have a huge party in my honour!

I’m not saying that my idea of celebrating the life of the dead is the best way but to me it just seems like the right way of doing things, but I’m sure there are people who think my ideas are really insensitive, There will never be a right or wrong way……….

But what do you think?

SDC11040                   SDC11047 SDC11051                   SDC11056 SDC11059


What I think Bogota is missing……

I live in one of the largest capital cities in South America containing 7,363,782 inhabitants, this is why the streets are always full of people and the transport is a nightmare.

For 2 years I’ve put it down to normality – its a huge city, therefore that’s why its so so busy………But London has an estimated 8,308,369 residents, and its never seemed half as crazy or over populated as here, even at the busiest times

So it got me thinking, what does London have that Bogota doesn’t that could help this situation?


And the answer that I’ve come up with is a POSTAL SERVICE!

Imagine just for a minute, that every letter that is posted each day in London, is delivered by hand here in Bogota. That means that people here have to literally get in their car or on a bus to take their post to its destination.  Therefore if there was a postal service here in Bogota, think how much calmer the transport would be each day.

But then again would it work??

Would Colombians actually trust to post their personal letters, documents etc  in the hands of another?……..

Would the postmen be trusted to carry and actually deliver the post safely?………..

Would anyone take responsibility if anything went missing or was lost, destroyed or stolen?………………


The answer to all three is probably not, which is sad, really sad because if the process was set up with the right laws and with enforcement and it was respected then it could make a huge difference to Bogota’s chaos.

If you want to send something here via post, your stuck with private companies like Fed-ex or DHL etc which charge a fortune, however if the government was to introduce a “royal mail” type of service prices could be lowered making it so much easier.

This is my idea, maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t, maybe we will never know, but for now, when I’m sat on a crowded bus looking at people travelling clutching their papers ill always wonder.




The Worlds Greatest! But Why!

Muhammad Ali had no idea he would eventually be the world’s greatest. So just how did he do it?

Born in 1942, Louisville Kentucky, Cassius Clay grew up to be a dedicated boxer, philanthropist and social activist, When he set out to do something – he got results!

After catching a thief red handed trying to steal his bike and threatening to “whoop his ass” a policeman advised that Cassius first learn how to box. So that’s exactly what he did.

He soon built up an amateur record of 100 wins and only 5 loses. Cassius made a name for himself, and soon after won the light heavyweight title in the 1960 summer Olympics in Rome.

He changed his name after joining the Nation of Islam faith in 1964 and became ‘Muhammad Ali.

Whilst at the top of his game Ali was the biggest trash talker in boxing.

He has a professional boxing career boasting 56 Wins (37 knockouts), 5 Losses and 0 Draws.

Ring Magazine named Ali the number 1 boxer in a 1998 list of the greatest heavyweights from all eras. And the Assosiated Press voted Ali the No. 1 heavyweight of the 20th century in 1999.

He has stood by his beliefs to the point where in by in Houston 1967 he refused three times to step forward at the call of his name for his scheduled induction into the U.S. Armed Forces.

For refusing he was threatened with a 5 year jail sentence and a $100,000 fine. He still did not move forward saying:

“No, I am not going 10,000 miles to help murder, kill, and burn other people to simply help continue the domination of white slave-masters over dark people. This is the day and age when such evil injustice must come to an end


“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go ten thousand miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?”

This decision cost him his boxing licence and he was stripped of his world heavyweight boxing title.

Unable to box in ANY state again for 3 years Ali spoke publicly in schools and universities about war and its effects becoming a social activist.

In his trial on June 28, 1971, the supreme court reversed his conviction for refusing induction by unanimous decision.

The decision was not based on, nor did it address, the merits of Ali’s claims per se; rather, the government’s failure to specify which claims were rejected and which were sustained.

In 1974 his fight against Joe Frazier commonly known as “The Rumble in the Jungle”, all odds were against Ali. However in the 8th round, Ali finished the fight with a knockout!

So just what is it that makes Muhammad Ali such a likeable person and why is he considered such an Alpha Male? What can we learn from him to apply to ourselves……

Well let’s start with the fact that he’s humble and funny. Charisma goes a long way and here in this interview with Michael Parkinson he shows just how he wins the respect and love of the world.


He’s the ultimate male, he believes he is the best and therefore nothing but the best is good enough from him.

He’s able to psych out his opponents to the point where they “fight too hard” giving him the upper hand once their anxiety and fatigue take over. This gets him the results he wants.

He fears nothing, even having come from a family history of slavery and poverty he has risen above it and has never looked back.

He follows his faith – it may not be to everyone’s logic, but for him it has worked and we only need to follow his life journey to see that he has accomplished more than he himself ever thought possible.

In the interview link he is told that the fans fear for his safety as a boxer and that he may succumb to a horrible fate as so many others do.

But he simply answers that he has risen above the fears of what most people see. They look up and see danger, he looks down from where his mentality has risen to and says he fears nothing, that each day is to be lived, not spent pondering over negativities.

Sadly Ali only had one more fight after the rumble in the jungle.

The former champion boxer Muhammad Ali was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 1984 at the age of 42

Ali began showing symptoms of the disease soon after retiring from the ring in 1981. But his condition was not diagnosed until three years later.

By that stage he had developed tremors, his speech was slurred, and his body movements had become slow.

Ali once calculated he took 29,000 punches to the head in a career that spanned more than two decades. He fought without headgear as an amateur, and never backed down while trading punches with brutal sluggers such as Frazier, Earnie Shavers and George Foreman.

By the final stages of his career, Ali was slurring words. Not long afterward, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s.

Drs don’t believe Ali got Parkinson’s because of repeated blows to the head because he doesn’t have classic Dementia symptoms.

Ali is coherent and his thought process is still intact, though the Parkinson’s forces him to communicate more with gestures and actions instead of words.

When asked how he stays so positive. Ali will say, ‘I’ve got the best-known face on the planet. I’m the three-time heavyweight champion of the world. I’ve got no reason to be down.”

Even now aged 70 his daughter explains that Ali still watches videos of old his fights. His hands will move, his eyes will twitch, as he remembers the magnificent fighter he once was.

John Ramsey, a Louisville radio and television personality who has been a close friend of Ali’s for more than 30 years says: “His memory is better than mine and he’s very sharp. His sense of humor is still there, too. Ali remains a proud man. There are no complaints. No time spent bemoaning his fate. He never played the victim”

Ali explains to his family, ‘these are the cards I was dealt, so don’t be sad,’

This just goes to show how strong he is. Not only was he strong physically, but he remains stronger than most of us mentally.

What this should teach us is that with self belief, determination, bravery, an ability to give to others and the desire to succeed, we are all capable.

I was amazed by Ali before writing this, now though, after researching, watching video interviews id never seen before and understanding him more as a person than a celebrity, ive developed a respect and love for him that I think ill carry with me always.

Just hearing some of the things he has said over the years, is an inspiration for me to live life with more self belief and confidence, and words that should make all of us strive to be the best that we can be every day.

The man who has no imagination has no wings.
-Muhammad Ali

To be able to give away riches is mandatory if you wish to possess them. This is the only way that you will be truly rich.
-Muhammad Ali

Friendship… is not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.
-Muhammad Ali

He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.
-Muhammad Ali

I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.
-Muhammad Ali

I hated every minute of training, but I said, “Don’t quit. Suffer now and live the rest of your life as a champion.”
-Muhammad Ali

It isn’t the mountains ahead to climb that wear you out; it’s the pebble in your shoe.
-Muhammad Ali

It’s lack of faith that makes people afraid of meeting challenges, and I believed in myself.
-Muhammad Ali

It’s the repetition of affirmations that leads to belief. And once that belief becomes a deep conviction, things begin to happen.
-Muhammad Ali

Only a man who knows what it is like to be defeated can reach down to the bottom of his soul and come up with the extra ounce of power it takes to win when the match is even.
-Muhammad Ali

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.
-Muhammad Ali

I know where I’m going and I know the truth, and I don’t have to be what you want me to be. I’m free to be what I want.
-Muhammad Ali

“The Bogotá Bus”

Here are my 17 pieces of advice

That Every Non-Colombian Should Know When Taking

 “The Bogotá Bus”


1.       Always try to have the right amount of money ready to hand over. The driver will spot you are a foreigner as soon as you are on and desperately looking for a free chair. If you get a shady driver he will take your note and refuse to give you change, claiming he can’t understand why your still standing there or will try to make you believe you just paid the right amount and will pocket the extra!


2.       Ok so your on. All the seats are taken. Don’t bother hovering by anyone who is asleep or pretending to be – they have no intention of moving any time soon.


3.       Don’t stand and wait by anyone who has a window seat and its open – chances are they will get up, you will sit down and be frozen for the rest of your journey because mostly the windows are a shit to close!


4.       Do wait by people who take out their ear phones and put away all their belongings – they are planning to leave shortly.


5.       Do wait by people sat in couples because when they leave there will be 2 seats free doubling your chances of getting one.


6.       If you are a woman, do hold your tummy and make out like your a little uncomfortable – nice sympathetic people will assume your pregnant and give up their seat (their assumption, not your lie – you could have had wind!!) but this should not be used on the elderly, ill or disabled they need the seat more.


7.       Listen to people on the phone, often they will say something that will give away when they are going to get off like “I’ll be home in 15 minutes” or “I’m nearly there, see you soon”. You’ll know how much longer you have to wait for before you can make your move towards that seat.


8.       Try to avoid sitting next to anyone obese, it will be uncomfortable, they won’t care that they are sitting ON you and you will get annoyed!


9.       Avoid the seats at the very back right hand side. Most the time the driver gets distracted and will forget to close the doors – you’ll be wind-swept the whole way home leaving you with streaming eyes and dry mouth when you arrive.


10.   Avoid the front seats, you’ll think you’ve got the seat and will get comfy, music on, food out, and then an old, disabled, or baby carrier will get on and you’ll be asked to give up your seat, forcing you to say “no problem” when your really thinking “what a bitch”


11.   Avoid Drunk people – they will try to talk to you. No further explanation needed.


12.   Get up and ready to ring the bell a block or two before you have to get off. It may take you that time to actually fight your way to the door, or when you push the bell the driver may still drive for a few blocks taking you too far – be an eager beaver and get ready before you pass your stop.


13.   Avoid standing by or sitting next to young, in love couples. They are not bothered that you are within sight and hearing distance and will not be shy to express their love for each other physically with you right there.


14.   Avoid jumping onto the back of a bus that is so full up you are literally hanging out the door, because although you think you made it, you’ll wish you had waited for the next bus when the driver shuts the door and traps a part of you in it. IT HURTS!


15.   If you have a seat, lucky you, and there is someone standing next to you with a huge bag or more than 1, offer to put it on your lap. Its only fair, after all you know how uncomfortable it is when your in their position.


16.   Brace yourself for a bumpy ride. If you know your route that helps, but prepare for those pot, holed roads or humps and hold on for dear life, I swear most bus drivers think of them as a challenge and will go at full speed leaving you with whiplash, a fallen stranger on your lap, or a bump to the head if you were leaning on the window.


17.   If your like me and want to help every unfortunate person, i suggest putting on your music really loud and only looking out the window. Looking at the oncoming passengers can be fatal when you lock eye contact with a homeless person getting on to beg for money – you’ll instantly feel either guilty and give them the money you need, or guilty that you didn’t help having seen them.


Finally, despite all the craziness, potential dangers, and hiccups, just try to enjoy the ride and concentrate on looking like none of the above bothers you.

Blend in. Camouflage and look natural.

No one has to know your not Colombian and that everything around you is FREAKING YOU OUT!

ASD – understanding Autism

Autism, We have all heard of it. We all think we know what it is, but do we really?

As outsiders, most of the time we can watch someone in the way they talk, walk, act or behave and label them as Autistic. We consider ourselves able to detect it because we have seen “rain man” or “mercury rising” for example.  

I want to acknowledge that there’s so much more to Autism than meets the eye. Autism affects every individual in a different way. Depending on the individuals own personality and other factors involved like other disabilities, allergies, behaviours, medications, and environments.

You may not realise just how life restricting Autism can be to some people and how others manage perfectly well with it, this is because there is a term called Autistic Spectrum Disorders, meaning there are varying levels of Autism.

The Autistic spectrum hosts a range of conditions listed as pervasive developmental disorders , these include AutismAsperger syndrome, pervasive developmental disorder, childhood disintegrative disorder, and Rett syndrome. These disorders are typically characterized by social deficits, communication difficulties, stereotyped or repetitive behaviours and interests, and in some cases, cognitive delays.

Autism is characterized by delays or abnormal functioning before the age of three years in one or more of the following domains: social interaction, communication and restricted, repetitive, and stereotyped patterns of behaviour, interests, and activities.

Asperger syndrome can be distinguished from autism by the lack of delay or deviance in early language development.Additionally, individuals with Asperger syndrome do not have significant cognitive delays. Other symptoms include repetitive routines or rituals, peculiarities in speech and language, inappropriate affect or social behaviour, problems with non-verbal communication, and clumsy or uncoordinated motor movements.

As you can tell there is more to knowing about Autism than meets the eye. And i’m sure those that have suffered with it or cared for someone with ASD will agree that it is a most complex and detailed disability.

While a specific cause or specific causes of autism spectrum disorders has yet to be found, many risk factors have been identified in research that may contribute to the development of an ASD. These risk factors include genetics, prenatal factors, neuroanatomical abnormalities, and environmental factors. Probably the most damaging claim regarding autism is the “vaccine controversy” It has been suggested that autism results from brain damage caused by the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine. Although there are still no scientific results to prove this theory yet, I know some families who will insist their children were developing perfectly normally before the vaccine and went downhill afterwards- loosing the ability to maintain eye contact and loosing speech.

As if Autism spectrum disorders weren’t hard enough to cope with, they also tend to be highly linked with other disorders, the most common medical condition occurring in individuals with autism spectrum disorders is epilepsy, which occurs in 11-39% of individuals with ASD.  Learning disabilities are also highly linked with individuals with an ASD. Approximately 25-75% of individuals with an ASD also have some degree of learning disability.

The main treatment is to lessen associated deficits and family distress, and to increase quality of life and functional independence to the individual. No single treatment is best and treatment is typically tailored to the individuals needs. Intensive, sustained special education programs and behaviour therapy early in life can help children acquire self-care, social skills, and job skills. Available approaches include applied behaviour analysis (ABA), structured teachingspeech and language therapysocial skills therapy, and occupational therapy.

Controversies have surrounded various claims regarding autism spectrum disorders. In the 1950s, the “refrigerator mother theory” emerged as an explanation for autism. The hypothesis was based on the idea that autistic behaviours stem from the emotional frigidity, lack of warmth, and cold, distant, rejecting demeanour of a child’s mother.Naturally, parents of children with an autism spectrum disorder suffered from blame, guilt, and self-doubt, especially as the theory was embraced by the medical establishment and went largely unchallenged into the mid-1960s. While the “refrigerator mother theory” has been rejected in the research literature, its effects have lingered into the 21st century. I’ve had the experience of working with a lot of individuals and families of individuals who have ASD. I am no scientist however firstly I would like to state that how can ASD behaviours stem from the way in which a mother nurses and raises her children? Firstly any mother who has a child with ASD will tell you how hard it is and how guilty you feel without the judgement from the rest of the world, and secondly, if this was the reason why have some parents had 3 or 4 children, raised them all equally and yet only one is diagnosed with a type of ASD?

One in 88 American children is diagnosed with autism-spectrum disorder, according to the Disease Control and Prevention centre, so don’t you think we all should know a little more about it?

Naughty, challenging, dis-respectful, anti-social – these are the terms most commonly issued to people who suffer from ASD. But why? Because most people still don’t assume that individuals with ASD should be out of the house attempting to live a normal life whilst being forgiven or overlooked for their mistakes in behaviour, social skills or language.

We are still such an ignorant race assuming that everyone we come across will always be fully in control of their feelings, behaviours and languages etc. but the truth is quite opposite.

To someone with autism simple tasks like going to a café to eat, can become most challenging. They have not only to focus on the task in hand but put up with distress factors as well – for example bright industrial lighting, noise, smells, colours, patterns or layouts of an area and other sensory factors.

I taught one girl who had Autism when she was between the ages of 3-6, and for her, sensory overload was one of the things that upset her the most, at times when she was affected she had no control over how she reacted to this distress. Methods of coping for her included screaming in a really high pitch, covering her ears and rocking, biting or attacking the person closest to her or running away. She as many suffered with an inability to express herself verbally, so these behaviours were the only way she could let others know that something was wrong.

When this happened in public it used to frustrate me and also upset me at the same time that other people could be so ignorant. I used to have to listen to comments like “we are trying to enjoy a quiet lunch here, do you think you could stop her ruining it for us”, or “for god sake if you can’t control a child why can’t you leave it at home”!!! …….IT, how could someone refer to another human being, and a child as an IT! And why should she have to miss out on the experience of learning and adjusting to this world just because it may have taken her longer than others. The conclusion I came to, is that the not knowing about ASD behaviours and the ignorance others have towards people with ASD, mean that those individuals are the ones distressed by the experience, they are the ones getting upset or angry about people with ASD expressing themselves, and it’s because they make an assumption about an individual without a second thought.

Is it really a wonder therefore why people with ASD who are able to express themselves, don’t do it for fear of embarrassment or being labelled as “stupid”, “weird”, “naughty” or “uneducated” for example?

We live in a society today which has most confused me while I was working with people with ASD. The people I thought would be most supportive of these individuals were the elderly, being able to recognise that if people are less able they should have help, and the once to show the most ignorance or play the “bully” for example would be the kids, but I found it to be quite the opposite. Generally the elderly were the ones showing discomfort and an unwillingness to accept difference in others believing still that individuals with differences should be kept at home out of the public eye where they can be an embarrassment to themselves or others, while the children and teenagers showed a willing to assist where they could, interest in the individuals and seemed generally understanding.

 Before I finish, as I could discuss the ins and outs of autistic behaviours all day as it’s so in-depth and fascinating, let me just take the time to congratulate everyone who lives with autism on a daily basis, this includes the individuals themselves as they are the ones who suffer either emotionally, physically or mentally every day, but also the mothers, fathers, siblings who have to compete for attention from birth, learn to accept their brothers or sisters, become full time carers as well, and the care staff. Because what you do every day is full on, upsetting, frustrating and tiring. No one unless in the same situation could ever know or understand how strong you have to be every day.

Let me leave youwith this ever so insightful video about a girl and her families journey through Autism…………… enjoy! 


Having an awareness of LD

Having an awareness of LD

Please lets all be aware that not all children who miss-behave at school or at home are “naughty” lets open our eyes to the fact that they may have a Learning Disability. Lets help recognise that while the individuals are young and need our help, support and knowledge. Lets not have a generation growing up being labled as “different” “weird” or “naughty”. Lets activly support. 

The addiction that is called caring.

Most people don’t consider care work difficult or even really a profession, it’s simply thought of as something that people who fail school do because it’s easy to access….
Let me present you with the truth.

Having worked in care since the age of 16, I have covered many aspects of it, nursery, child care, children with special needs including behavioural, dietary and emotional needs and adult health and social care involving caring for the physically and mentally disabled as well as the elderly. Yes I finished school without many qualifications however the studying I have done within my work places have been full on and intense!

3 NVQs levels 2,3 and 4 as well as yearly mandatory training. Let me tell you some of these mandatory ones – you may have never considered this training necessary:

First aid, Fire safety, Epilepsy, Autism, Downs Syndrome, Mental Health, Manual Handling (objects and people), Hoist, Personal Care, Challenging Behaviour, Administering Medication and Record Keeping.

I was recently touched by a kind and amazing gesture by one of my former service users who has downs syndrome. But I’ll come back to that later.

When people think health care, straight away they think of hospitals and wiping people’s bottoms. But it’s so much more. Yes there are aspects of it that are not pleasant but when you really love what you do it doesn’t seem that bad – trust me!
I always think that anyone who has the ability to work within the care system is an amazing person and I’m including myself in that as for once, I’m confident that it’s something I love and can do so well with never ending passion!

The best feeling for me is just to improve the lives of others who have been dealt a bad card. I don’t feel sorry for them at all as one may think we should- quite the opposite, I am actually proud of them and respect the way they continue with their lives and often achieve more than us.

For example I’ve had a lady with learning difficulties play table tennis for England, a man with downs want to become a carer himself to help the world, several who are so independent they refuse to believe they have any problems at all, one who taught me the really meaning of bravery and who I have now the up most respect for after surviving a life of all forms of abuse from her family, and the list goes on.
The most endearing thing is their ability to make us care givers feel vulnerable, and without even realising it they teach us about respect, ambition, patience, kindness and our own strengths.

It’s not the same as a desk job or one where you are not working for or on behalf of others. It’s emotional, upsetting, tiring, stressful, hard going and sometimes seemingly impossible.
But beyond all that it’s worth it every day!

I used to love being a support worker- being with my service users every day, assisting them with anything that they may need help with in order to maintain a “normal” life (whatever normal is) this could include anything from:

Personal care, Laundry, House duties, Cooking, Medication, Correspondence, Shopping, Social interactions like outings, Group support meetings, Exercise  Emotional Support, School or college, Family mediation, Meetings with Social services or other professionals, Finances and medical appointments.

It gave me a real sense of satisfaction that just by spending an hour, 3 hours or a whole day with that person I have made a difference to their lives.

Anyone who has worked or works in care knows that every day isn’t brilliant, people unlearn what we have taught them, they regress, they move on or pass away or they can be extremely rude and or violent.
But on days like this it’s so important to stop for a second and just put yourself in their position, why do they scream and shout? Why do they hit out or ignore us? Why do they refuse our help?
Imagine having your whole life and routine planned out by someone else? Imagine loosing your independence, Imagine having your pride and dignity exposed everyday and shared with the world. The fear for most service users is that they will be abused somehow (financially, emotionally, sexually or physically) as so many in the past have been. Every time they meet a new carer they are exposed to this fear. Therefore they react as you or I would if a strange person came to your house demanding to bath you for example.
This is the reason we as carers strive to put the client needs first, let them tell us what they want or need, who they wish to work with etc.  we need to remember that they should always be the ones in control and that we are there to make them happy.

When I was promoted to management and based in an office, at first I felt betrayed. I thought I had been doing my job to the best of my abilities so wondered why I was being taken away from it. I was worried for who would care for my clients instead, as I had great relationships with them I didn’t want them to feel I was letting them down.
But surprisingly I was able to make a bigger impact than before, mainly by passing on my wisdom of care work and the individual clients needs to other amazing staff.
The reason I’m writing this is because I want everyone, in care work or not, to know and appreciate what we do but also why we do it. It’s not something everyone could do and I believe it takes a special person.

I was inspired to write this for several reasons-

1) realising how much I miss my work now that I’m living abroad, And

2) My mum came to visit me last week, and with her she bought a present. When I had been back in Chelmsford at work last June a service user who I had cared for for 3 years told me how happy she was that I was pregnant and what a lovely mum I would be, that was enough of a thank you for me, but she has since then worked on making my son a knitted teddy bear which she has thought about so much that it has actually reached me in Bogotá  Colombia and touched my heart more than she will ever know. How grateful am I that with all the issues and struggles she deals with on a daily basis she was still finding time to do this for me!?

There is a real reason why we do this job and it’s not the paperwork, the moaning relatives, the pressure from social services or the thrill of improving the business, its because we care, and the people we care for can show us just how much they appreciate us everyday in return.
Sometimes it’s just a small thank you, sometimes it’s a smile but for me my thank you came in the form of a bear!
I actually have tears writing this now (maybe its because I miss home and the people I love – including work clients and colleagues) but I think more so because I feel so touched that the people we care for day in day out remember us for who we are and what we do for them even long after we have seen them.

We as care workers touch people’s hearts everyday and that’s all the inspiration we need to carry on doing what we do.
So when times are difficult remember the simple things and let it put a smile on your face, because everyday you are giving someone hope, love, care, and inspiration too!

post parental psychology

Why do people never warn you about the psychological changes of becoming a mum???

I thought the hardest bits would be the actual birth, the stretch marks, the breast feeding, the nights kept awake, the screaming distressed baby and many many more things that everyone always talks about, but noone told me I would change psychologically!!

None of the above issues have affected me at all, maybe because I have a great child who sleeps through the whole night and doesnt ever cry unless hungry or dirty, maybe its because I have a HUGE family on hand, or maybe its because I was prepared for those things?? But its been such a struggle, that until recently I hadnt even noticed how (almost) depressed id become within myself.

The thing is, nobody will admit it because being a mum is suposed to be the best feeling in the world, and it is in a way, but also you loose a sence of yourself and when you loose your identity, you loose your confidence.

Since having the baby, ive felt like nothing but a machine for the baby to use and survive by. I love being the person that he needs, but at the same time I cant help thinking- What about CLAIRE?? where did she go? Since when did I not want to go out and party anymore? when did I become the party pooper moaning because everyone else is drunk and having fun? when did I loose the ability to believe that I am amazing just the way I am? Its so much harder than people think to change your whole lifestyle.

I dont know weather its the physical changes my body has gone through, the emotional struggle ive had with being away from my family at this time, or the concern that now I am responsible for another person, but Ive realised that in the last 3 months ive lost the ability to love myself – as everyone should do.

Having to deal with that horrible feeling inside everyday that tells me that now im no good, im not sexy, or independent or brave or fun, im just a MUM, is the worst thing ever. Im sure this is all hormonal as at times its worse than others, but overall I cant help not feeling good enough, and my cesarian scar is there to remind me of all this each time I see it.

But now im starting to come out the other side of these depressing  feelings, I realise how lucky I am to have the most amazing husband-to-be, who has had to listen to my constant moaning about my weight, my constant sulking about other people being better or more attractive than me, and all my tears for wanting to feel like myself again. Hes a one in a million guy and without his support id still be thinking that way.

Its so important not to loose yourself, as the ability to live up to your “no good” ideologies is the easiest thing to do to prove yourself right, but its the most damaging thing you can do to yourself and the people who love you.

Ive spent alot of time thinking and talking to people who know me the best and have re-evaluated my thoughts, and ive been able to aknowledge that:

  • Im never going to be as good looking as the models or girls on TV (they are all airbrushed)
  • Im never going to look like I did before Niko came along- (a baby changes your body and I should embrace the beauty of that)
  • Im never going to get rid of my scar (but its only me and Juan who see it, and if it doesnt bother him, why should I let it get me down)

The best realisation of all is that I know im loved by the people who love me. and the do so because im NOT perfect, im NOT drop dead gorgeous, im NOT overly intelligent, im NOT everything my demons tell me I need to be to be loved. But im Claire, the average looking girl who is kind, supportive of people, loving, soft, goofy, crazy, over analytical, slightly insecure, panicy, but Claire all the same. And on top of that, im now a mum, loved by an amazing man, and unconditionally loved by my son. If thats not reason to hold my head up high and fight my demons I dont know what is.

I know im not the only frootloop to have gone through these feelings after pregnancy, but I feel I need to express them as I wish I had been prepared forthese feelings before, or at least expected them. So if my writing this can warn anyone else about these changes and over hormaonal feelings to ensure when they have them they dont feel isolated then ill be happy.

But mums and future mums, just because you dont feel youself anymore, and you dont want to be just classed as just “mum” – its ok. its ok to admit that, it doesnt make you a horrible person, it doesnt make you a bad parent.


I dont want anyone else to go through this alone as I have. And maybe if I was with my family and support I wouldnt have had them, who knows, but I did, and im not going to let them beat me anymore, they are going to give me determination to better myself for my family and for the “Inner Claire” every day.


Thank you to Juan,

ill love you forever, and hopefully youll not have to put up with this ridiculousness anymore! x


Niko’s Arrival…….

Im sorry to those of you that actually bother reading this- that ive not posted anything in a while, but ive been busy becoming a mummy!!!

And heres my story of how…………………………………

On the 29th Oct I went to the clinic to be induced at 8am which meant leaving the house at a ridiculous 5am or something! Because allthough the hospital isnt that far away we all know from other blogs the traffic is a NIGHTMARE!

I wasnt as terrified as I thought I would be as we arrived,  I was nervous-  but then who wouldnt be right?-  knowing you are about to give birth??? the scary thing I think, and that has freaked me out during the 9 months of pregnancy is the not knowing how it will all plan out and how painful it will be.

Anyway I was in comfort knowing that Juan would me with me the whole day, because not only had every doctor we had seen said he would have to be there to translate, but just incase those doctors changed their minds on the day, we had even made a special 2 hour journey to the clinic one day previously to get the head of the hospital to put it on the system. so I knew it would be ok……………….

Or did I???  This is Colombia afterall, and things never quite go as planned and people here dont seem to understand what it is to “fear pain” here! (why is that??)

So I wasnt too suprised when they told me to go through to the other room ON MY OWN, to put on my hospital gown and have my drip attached for the medicine to be filtered into ALONE! from there I was put in a wheelchair and pushed to another side of the hospital / without Juan or my phone! I think I knew in my heart at this point that I was going to be doing this solo and that having Juan there was always wishfull thinking! But still I wasnt that nervous suprisingly, and its not because I was at the “so fed up of being pregnant point”  because I wasnt (I had actually had a very good pregnancy in reality so I cant complain. I was feeling ok, sleeping kind of properly and was still wearing my clothes – not maternity ones). I can only imagain that I wasnt as nervous as I had assumed I would be because now I was on my own my brain was pre-occupied with having to be self sufficiant in spanish, and get through this without breaking down!

I was placed in a room with 4 other women all of us at different stages of labour (HORRIBLE) – I mean come on,  its hard enough trying to think of something other than the contractions and dialating and waters breaking without watching other people go through it first and watching them experience no pain at all to women who scream as if they are dying! its really un-nerving! However, I began to have my contractions and within 2 hours they had gone from being every 20 minutes, to every 5 minutes! The nurse came round to do a routine check for me and the lady next to me (who I later found out later was at the same stage as me) The reason I thought she was further along than me, was because while I was suffering mild discomfort (like period pains every 5 minutes that lasted 30 seconds ish) she was spending every 5 minutes screaming and crying and asking for painkillers!

Anyway the nurse came round at about 12pm to break my waters, she did this manually as they hadnt broken naturally. It hurt I wont lie to you, but it only lasted 5 minutes ish and this was the first time I doubted my ability to be able to go through with the birth. But even during this I didnt cry!! Yay me! Somewhere deep down inside me there was a voice saying “Claire stay strong and think how proud Juan will be of you if you do this all alone with out needing him or being a wimp!” (I kept thinking that a true colombian would be fine with this whole scary procedure and its only because im british and therefore a wimp when it comes to any type of pain) so I held my fears ack and coped!

The contractions continued every 5 minutes and I had begun to bleed a little, but when I was checked again at 1pm by the doctor I still hadnt dialated at all. when the doctor came back to check me at that point the lady next to me was asking for her epidural already and was screaming and crying ALOT  – it was funny becuase the Doctor obviously knew she was at the same part of labour as me and was cross that she was making such a fuss and actually told the lady off telling her “come on dont be so stupid, its not that bad you are over-reacting and your going to scare this poor english girl who has no idea whats going to happen next. She is having to do all this alone and in a foreign language and already shes braver than you are!” and with that the doctor turned back to me and said in her best english “shes annoyed me but you are good –  if at 3pm your not dialated more than 3cm we will have surgery ok?” I nodded very overwhelmed and with that she left.

The thoughts going through my head at that point were very mixed. On one hand I was pleased that a cesarian was an option because I have to admit the thought of pushing the baby out didnt appeal much and quite honestly I was still convinced I would be one of the people to die doing it, but on the other hand I couldnt help but think that by having a cesarian I would be letting Juan down, as he was hoping it would all be natural. I felt that Id be cheating him and that it wouldnt make my brave journey so far as rewarding at the end as it should have been. However I trusted that the doctors would do what was best for me and the baby.

At 3pm the doctor returned. I had a look at the machine behind me before she came over to my bed. This machine displayed numbers which I were told was my heart rate and it was at 200! no idea what that means but the doctor saw it and straight away said surgury was needed as my numbers were too high and I still was only 1cm dialated! (not suprised it was high after all the nerves and 7 hours of contractions).

“bueno, gracias. A que hora?” was my response hoping that surgery would be put off until later or tomorrow, because now I knew for sure I would be opperated, on I had come over feeling a little scared!

“5 minutos mi amor” was the Doctors response!

– COME ON, really!!!!! This is colombia…………….. I was counting on the fact that everything takes ages to organise in this situation, but goes to prove me wrong, when something is needed Ahora means AHORA! and with that I was taken off my drugs, put onto a different bed and was prepared for surgery! I had to sign forms to say I understood the details of the epidural and surgery involved- and I hate to say it, but I signed them only understading half of what I had been told by the anaesthesist! (probaly should have asked for Juan or someone to translate at this point as I did hear the word “muerte” (DEATH), but I was too pre-occupied with panicking to try to ask questions about it.

Once I was strapped onto the bed and they had started wheeling me into another room I think all my fears and panick caught up with me and I burst into uncontrollable tears. All of the eyes looking at me (as thats all I could see through their scrubs) were male eyes, and all of them did their best to comfort me. I lost the ability to talk in either language and simply shouted “JUAN???” I could see them shaking their heads at me and again I knew I would be alone. One lovely surgeon however understood my pain /hurt /fears /confusion /anxiety and he came to me and said in very loud english…….”hello, You are English no?,  I am peter the surgeon. you are ok, and in 5 minutes you have your baby, listo?” (to those who dont know “listo” means “ready”)

I couldnt help but laugh at his funny english attempt to make me feel better and although it hadnt worked (I was still terrified), I wanted him to feel good so I smiled and said thank you and ok.

At this point I had to face my prudish fears as I was stripped naked and asked to sit on the edge of the bed with my hands on my knees and my chin on my chest while they gave me the epidural. I was shivering like mad from nerves and being cold as well now that I was naked, and so it took them a while to stop me moving so they could inject my spinal cord! Once the completly painless epidural had been given it was only 20 seconds or so before i felt the effects – and I didnt like it!!!!!! before I went completly numb and lifeless as expected, I went through 5- 10 minutes of severe pins and needles over my whole body and I felt all hot/cold and clammy. not sure if this was normal or not, and wanting to check, I panicked as I realised I was so nervous I had lost the ability to talk at all – so I closed my eyes and trusted that they would know if something was wrong from the 100’s of machines I was linked up to. (but with my eyes closed and the security of the machines I still couldnt help thinking about surgerys that go wrong where the people are put to sleep but they still feel everything!! – yes Im a pesamist!)

Here began the most surreal and amazing experience of my life EVER! strapped to the table naked with my arms and legs spread like something out of CSI, and with a slightly seethrough bed sheet infront of my face, the light was switched on and after a DEEP breath, I witnessed Niko being cut from my belly and pulled out! I always imagained what it would feel like to hear his first cry, or see him for the first time, and I dont know wheather it was the letting go of built up adrenaline or the sudden realisation of it all being over, but I still dont know what it felt like as I wasnt thinking about it/him or anything at all really. I was able to ask if he was ok, but that was it, after knowing he was ok, I simply closed my eyes, blinked back a few tears and stared at a spot on the celing! I just wanted some comfort. Maybe thats selfish of me, but as far as I was concerned I felt lonely, tired, emotional and I just wanted someone to hold my hand and be there to tell me everything was ok and it was all over. Everyones voices and noises got further away and even when they held Niko next to me for me to see, I didnt know what to do or say. I think it was weird because how can you fully appreciate a new born baby when all you can move is your head??

I was stitched back up and dressed again- also put in the hugest adult nappy ive ever seen!!! lol, then I was transfered onto another bed. Another weird situation knowing I was being moved and held and transfered but not being able to feel anything at all!

After a while – and ive no idea how much time had passed, I was able to feel most my body again and had started to re-gain normal emotions (therfore feeling frantic to meet and hold my baby! am I a bad mum for not wanting to hold him the second he came out of me – or is that normal under the circumstances?? I dont know), but as they bought my little bundle of love to me all wrapped up in the clothes and blankets we had bought him, I knew I would have unconditional love for him for the remainder of my life so that made up for my doubts of mummyness! (yes ive made that word up)

I would tell you all about the aftercare, the nearly passing out just after the cesarian and needing morphine, the lessons on breastfeeding , the sharing a recovery room with the same lady I shared a room with before the birth (the screamer) who had given birth naturally at the same time as me, the excruciating pain everytime I tired to move, cough, sneeze or go to the loo etc, and all the other things,  but to be honest none of it matters, and its all such a dizzy memory because at theis point Juan was with me and we had our baby and life had become all I ever wanted it to be.

Happiness doesnt come much better than this whole experience, and even now, 1 month later, I still cant believe I did it –  this scared of everything, not able to cope alone, not able to talk spanish girl coped giving birth ALONE, in a FORIEGN country!!

Goes to show that humans are able to achieve anything if needed! and I’m living evidence of this – If this story doesnt give anybody else strength, at least it has given me confidence to know that I can push myself out of my comfort zone and survive when I have to. – Parents-to-be, DONT listen to other peoples horrible birth stories, dont be afraid of it, just enjoy the moments and know that it will all be over soon!

(I have to admit, maybe Im only being brave about it because I had the easy option of surgery because honestly I still am not keen on the idea of a natural birth) – However the recovery with a natural birth is so much better/quicker, almost instant. Whereas it took me 3 days to be able to walk normally again and 1 month to recover and heal completly.

So what have I learned throughout this experience?

1)  Im Braver than I thought and Im proud of that!

2)  If my spanish is adequate enough to get me through giving birth alone, I should have the confidence to use it everyday.

3) Juan is the best support and husband-to-be ever – waiting in the hospital waiting room for me for 2 days.

4) As disorganised and late for everything Colombians usually are – When they have to do something as an urgency they can bloody do it!!!

5) And lastly, now im back to my size 8 and flat tummy, ive learned I never want to be fat again – So I, the gymphobic, am going to excersize and actually appreciate being able to do it and move normally!!!!! so good to feel like ME again!

Thanks for reading guys and hopefully this will give some of you parents-to-be hope that its not all that bad!



Pregnancy / medical treatments

One of the things I have been most impressed with in Colombia is the level of care I have received with regards to general health and dentistry.

But let me start you off from the very “daunting” beginning!!

When I first suspected I was pregnant I was told “well lets go to a clinic and get a blood test to confirm for sure” I thought nothing of it (although I was hoping it was a nice clinic with nice nurses because I have always been a wimp when it comes to injections and blood tests!)

So imagine my horror when my first experience of having a blood test (the first of what I suspected would be many) was in a house in -Fontibon (our local town) Walking down the high street full of little shops I couldn’t see anything that resembled a clinic or hospital and my hopes began to fall – then I was ushered into a small door way and sat on a chair. I looked around and saw a framed certificate on the wall saying that the lady was trained in being able to take bloods (or something along those lines), and other than the small desk I was sat at there was nothing but another doorway leading through to the families living room. I could clearly see the man of the house sat on the sofa eating his dinner and watching a soap opera, and as the wife came out, put on her rubber gloves and pulled out the needle I couldn’t contain my fear any more and burst into tears! after a 10 minute wait while she went back to her soap opera, and then printed something from the home computer – she presented me with the paper that said I was “pregnant”! – As we left the clinic I felt silly but had to ask Juan “I will be having the baby in a real hospital wont I and not somewhere like that?” and although he said yes – I was unsure as to what I should expect from the next 9 months!!! so the journey began………….

From there on I have been really surprised – after registering me as a beneficiary on Juan`s medical insurance, I was given regular appointments at the local DRs surgery, almost every two weeks, and I was given prescriptions for supplements and vitamins that I needed that we haven’t had to pay for. I have been referred to the dentist, nutritionist and for ultrasounds to the point that they have been so thorough with me I was annoyed at what a fuss they are making over me.

Every appointment consisted of a blood pressure check, weighing, being given advice and more vitamins and more follow up appointments. really thorough!

The first ultrasound was the scariest /funniest – I went with a friend of ours Arturo, and Juan`s mum (as Juan couldn’t get time off work) and after being told over and over again by Juan and his family that I had nothing to worry about  – it would just be some gel on my tummy and no more I felt ok & comfortable with this idea- so imagine my horror when once in the room with Arturo and Juan`s mum I was asked to take off my clothes so they could do an internal examination!!! I had no idea if I was expected to strip right then and there in front of everyone, or if I could do it in private, or if I would even be given a gown to wear – The scariest part was not understanding how things worked here and what was expected of me. I know the English are typically prudish and private, but here that doesn’t seem to be an issue. (this worried me) so after a lot of questions to Arturo, who then translated to the doctor and translated back to me about what I could expect – I had the exam (lets just say it bought me closer to Arturo and to Juan`s mum who must have seen everything!)

The next challenge I was faced with was being told I needed to go to the dentist. After freaking out, crying in front of everyone at the surgery, storming out and then waiting in the car in tears while Juan booked the appointment I realised I would have to face it and go. I was terrified – I hate the dentist in England, let alone in Colombia – I was dreading to think how bad the experience would be. The day of the appointment I made them promise not to touch me – just to look and tell me what was wrong if anything, This they agreed to. but I was told I would have to go back for fillings, but because I was pregnant they would not be able to use any type of anaesthetic or painkillers!!!!!! ummmmmm SCARED!

The day of my fillings I cant remember ever being that nervous – I laid down, the dentist told me she would first just do a bit of a clean up – and after about 10 minutes and no pain, she told me she had finished! she had done 2 fillings and I was good to go! I was so happy, I actually felt that I would go back again without even questioning what needed to be done – never have I experienced such a straight forward and gentle dentist.

I have been cared for so well by all the doctors, nurses, dentists etc – its something that I never expected, but that has surprised me the most about being here.

Health care = Colombia 1, England 0!!!