In the Land of Mayans

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DR GEER MOHAMMAD ISHAQ

As they say, journeys help you discover your true inner self. My third visit abroad to Mexico to attend 12th annual conference of the International Society of Pharmacovigilance at Cancun was not as smooth and hassle-free as my earlier two trips to Turkey and Australia. But it helped me have a glimpse of the resolute self inside me. This time I was going to present a couple of my accepted research papers at the conference that was scheduled to be held between Oct 30 – Nov 2, 2012 at Hotel J W Marriott.

Dr Geer Mohammad Ishaq

Dr Geer Mohammad Ishaq

TAKING OFF

I commenced my journey from Srinagar and my first stop-over was at Delhi followed by Mumbai. Upon reaching Mumbai, while I was marching ahead to go through immigration clearance and catch my next flight to New York, I got a shocker that all flights to New York have been cancelled owing to the threat of hurricane Sandy looming large over the East Coast of USA. The queue of affected passengers was horribly long and after a wait of over three hours, I could make up to the airlines counter where I was offered a refund in case I opted to abandon my trip. But, in spite of the apprehensions of getting stranded somewhere in Europe or America, I chose to go by some alternative route. I was reminded of an anonymous quote, “If you don’t get lost, there’s a chance you may never be found.”

They offered me a route in which I had to change four planes from Mumbai and my original journey of 21 hours was getting stretched to more than 48 hours. I accepted their offer and boarded my flight with words of Alex Noble reverberating in my mind, “Success is not a place at which one arrives but rather the spirit with which one undertakes and continues the journey.” Upon reaching Cancun, I received another blow when I was told that my baggage had not arrived and will be delivered later at my hotel. Consequently, I had to spend the first day of the conference uneasily in my travel attire. However, my roommate, Raul Rodriguez Ramos, a Mexican Pharmacovigilance student from Guadalajara, was kind and sweet enough to lend me his razor so that I could shave off my beard.

WELCOME RECEPTION AND THE MARIACHI:

First day of the conference was dedicated to pre-conference workshop on Basics in Pharmacovigilance. It was a great learning experience. In the evening, reception was hosted in the moonlit open air lawns of the conference venue. Highlight of the evening was musical performance by the Mexican folk singers called Mariachi. The word mariachi was thought to have been derived from the French word “mariage” (marriage) dating from the French intervention in Mexico in the 1860s, related to the music’s appearance at weddings. Mariachis wear the charro or traje de charro, which is a Mexican cowboy suit consisting of a waist-length jacket, bow tie, fitted pants, short boots and a wide-brimmed sombrero hat. The suits are elaborately decorated with silver or gold buttons and embroidered designs. Mariachi was recognized by UNESCO as part of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2011. We thoroughly enjoyed the Mariachi performance and they filled the moonlit evening with warmth and ecstasy.

SALSA LESSONS FOR PHARMACOVIGILANTS:

On second day of the conference at Cancun (literally meaning nest of snakes), several reputed experts in Pharmacovigilance from various parts of the world spoke at length about diverse contemporary topics and latest advancements in the field. It was an intellectually enriched and content day for the participants. Social program arranged by the organizers for the second day evening was Salsa dancing lessons from a Cuban instructor. It was full of fun since many seniors with absolutely no dancing prowess were seen dancing like jumping-jacks on the Mexican tunes while trying to learn the salsa steps. It was a dance-with-no-barriers occasion, a good entertainment for all.

 

VISIT TO CHICHEN ITZA – ANCIENT CITY OF MAYAN CIVILIZATION:

On third day of the conference, we stole some moments to visit Chichen Itza, a UNESCO world heritage site that figures among the new Seven Wonders of the World. Number seven has a lasting spiritual association with this site. Chichen Itza is a Spanish word meaning —

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