PLEASE BE AWARE THAT THIS BLOG IS NOT A REPRESENTATION OF MY HOST COUNTRY OR OF THE PEACE CORPS.
So I realized that my last post did not tell you anything about the work I have been doing aka this is going to be a long one! I got too excited last time... Apologies. So my counterparts have continued to be incredible. I am very very lucky to be working alongside a group of people who are just as excited about getting me involved in their work as I am about doing it. Over the past month I have been doing a mural project in Becerro, one of rural communities that I have posted about before. Yesterday I completed my first big mural on lactancia materna exclusiva (exclusive breast feeding). We put a protective layer over the posters so that they'd last, but they aren't super photogenic now.. I'll let you get the idea anyways though.
And speaking of the project, it reminds me of a story that I never shared from one of the first times I was working on this project. Okay, backtracking (kind of like when Harry gets sucked into Tom Riddle's diary).. My friends who I'd gone to the finca with are both nurses at my pueblo's Casa Materna. Every 2 weeks, I believe, all the doctors and nurses have to do night shift, el turno. So after a long talk where I found myself as usual getting so excited about birth and women's health, they invited me to come and join them for their turno that week. They told me that there has been a lot of births recently during turnos because of our steady numbers of women who are staying at the Casa Materna (which is the greatest!). I agreed, was gifted some scrubs, and was all set to go. The night was full of fevers, people needing injections for pain (they're all about injections for EVERYTHING here), and keeping check in some pregnant women who had high blood pressure in the final weeks of their pregnancies. A poor little guy came in with his face all ripped up because he'd fallen off his bike. He was so nervous, but the doctors got him all stitched up like Frankenstein. There weren't any births that night... Of course and the next day I went back to Becerro to start the mural. We were cleaning up when we first arrived and the nurse, suuuuuper chill, was like "oh, look, there's a spider.." Continuing to go about her sweeping. I look down and this MASSIVE HAIRY SPIDER THE SIZE OF MY HANDS (okay I know they're not that big) WAS JUST HANGING OUT AT MY FEET. The doctor came in, kicked it, and it was swept out the door. I was pumped because I didn't have enough time to do something embarrassing like pee my pants, puke, or pass out as a fear reaction. I felt brave for being so suave about it. Then later, the doctor called me in to watch a "mini surgery" aka relieving this lady's ingrown toenails. Let me remind you, I watched all the vomiting, saw a boy who looked like he got massacred via face, almost got eaten by one of the spiders from the forbidden forest in the last 36 hours, but until I saw that lady's toe being cut open I was doing fine. Nope. Let me watch a birth, I don't want to see any more in grown toenails,ew ew ew. And speaking of births, I get back to the health center later that afternoon and some other doctors come running up to greet me saying, "Justine! There were 2 births in the centro today! We looked for you!".... Of course... All I wanted. It's great now though because I get kept up to date on all the births and everyone is awaiting my lucky moment to get to witness one. To be continued, obvi.
I've also had some cool opportunities to go on salidas to rural health posts in the outskirts of my municipality. From a site called La Pimienta, I could see the mountains of Honduras and we literally were off-roading in the MINSA truck to get up there, carrying pregnant women in the tail bed who were not even phased by the boulders we had to drive over and river crossings. That post was really quaint and I was just followed around all afternoon by some kids from the area who could not fathom the fact that my blue eyes were real and that even though I spoke English, I could also speak Spanish. Last week I went to La Consulta and that trip was the best yet. I got to hang out with my counterpart Antonia all day and run the gynecology clinic! The number of nervous hands I got to hold during the checkups was awesome. In a matter of 2.5 hours, we gave 11 PAPs and hold consultations with women of all ages about ways to control their pregnancies! That is HUGE! Down here there is an absurdly high number of women with HPV and cervical cancer, due to women's lack of access to gynecology services and STI testing. Long story short, I was pumped up that day and I am looking forward to more opportunities during future salidas to work with the beautiful women in the rest of the municipality.
Oh my days, I've also started to attend an Evangelical church in my town with one of my nurse friends. I. Love. It. It's super fun because a lot of the worship songs they sing are songs I've sung in English so I am able to actually join the congregation in praise! During every service, the church's youth dance group performs a routine after the worship set. Every time I've gone, my eyes have welled up with tears... It's just so beautiful to watch the Lord be worshipped with so many different talents and these kids do a beautiful job. I feel such a sense of community at this church which is something I've really missed about home. My first week, an older woman a couple rows ahead of me, walked back and gave me her bible when we were going over the scripture passages so that I'd be able to follow along with the beginning of the sermon. This past Sunday, I was asked for prayer requests! Shoot. Can I get an amen?!
My same friend who brought me to church started running with me this morning as well! It's pretty funny how accountable I am kept for my exercising routine. When I first moved here, I started running nearly every morning and now if I ever skip a day or decide to sleep in, the whole community knows about it. And people aren't afraid to be like "didn't see you running this morning... Sleeping or something?" I've even been introduced to people and the first thing they say to me is, "yeah I know you. You run every morning around 6. But come to think of it... You didn't run this past weekend." Haha I guess it only helps me stay motivated. And speaking of exercise, I've started doing yoga with the woman at the Casa Materna. We're still working on the element of relaxation and fluidity because they get too embarrassed by some moves and just sit up and laugh. They also think we should listen to reggae tone while we do it.. We'll get there.
Oh and the cutest thing I ever did experience, my counterparts threw a little birthday party for me and a brigadista after work last Friday. We did a little activity where everyone had to draw a picture symbolizing me and the brigadista and each needed to be presented after we ate. So it was the most precious thing ever and each little simple picture had such a beautiful meaning behind it. Also, everyone just all of a sudden had presents for me... It was the sweetest.
And other than that... I'm thinking my next investment will be a machete so that I can start cleaning up the garden at the Casa Materna so we can actually start planting! Super excited to get dirty.
First things first, I need to let you all know that I think Nicaragua is really trying to keep me around... within the past 2 weeks I have been peed on twice. TWICE! (once by a dog on the finca I visited and the other by the baby who lives next door to me) I'm honestly flattered because the beings of Nicaragua are trying to mark their territory on me, only reinforcing that I belong here. OH AND LISTEN, I survived horse back riding! I actually loved it! Look at me corralling these goats!
Within minutes of arriving to the finca, my friend's abuela called all the chickens over (super impressively) and said ¨alright, which one do we want¨, snatched it up, tied it to a tree, and from there I'll just say.. I've reconsidered my taste for meat haha. (not a veggie though...yet)
The weekend following was little rough to say the least... the stretch of fevers, terrible stomach pains, the toilet getting to know me too well was just the start. But no worries! I have now finished, not only, anti-parasite medication but also anti-biotics so I'm hoping my system is thoroughly flushed out of anything that was going on. It was such a bummer because my host mom's birthday was that weekend... I managed to pull myself out to dinner with everyone (CRUCIAL SIDE NOT: we went to a "Cantonese" restaurant aka the only restaurant in my town and before we arrived everyone was raving about their food and how they loved cantonese. We sat down and everyone ordered grilled chicken, rice and plantains... palm.to.the.face.) but the rest of the weekend was a HARRY POTTER MARATHON in my room. I got through all of the movies AND 2 books haha. Luckily I started to feel a lot better just in time for my 23rd birthday! The actual day of my birth was pretty relaxed. I hung around the health center and then was able to go and get lunch with a volunteer in the site next to me. BUT LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT THE WEEKEND. I have to admit, this past weekend goes down in the books as my favorite birthday of all time. Saturday morning at 5:00 we left to start hiking Volcano Cosigüina. Our guide was well versed and was able to show us a whole lot of wildlife on our trek through the jungle, up the beautiful volcano. We made it up in exactly 3 hours and let me just try and share with you how incredible it was through pictures... Oh and don't mind all the sweat!
Straight off the hike, we headed down to Jiquillo, another of Chinandega's treasures. We all passed out on the bus ride down and hopped out to hitch a ride with a shrimp-truck bringing some fresh caught shrimp into town. We had bought a watermelon at the entrance before getting into the truck and were cutting it up with a machete in the back of the truck, sharing it with our super amable new shrimp friends who decided to give us a ride. We had a short was from the truck's stop and walked along the ocean until we reached our hostel. First impressions of the hostel were perfect. It was a big open field with a bunch of palm-roofed cabanas, painted murals, walls made with recycled glass bottles, and a dreaded man waxing his surf board near the main hang-out hut. I almost fainted with excitement haha. The rest of the weekend, we hung out at the hostel, napped in hammocks, got to know some pretty sweet travelers from ALL over the place, and played around on the beach. The hostel had everything from chocobananos to japanese curry dishes and all I'm saying is that I will be returning ASAP so warning to whoever is going to stick it out and come visit, we are going to staying at Rancho Esperanza and we will be sleeping on the beach in my hammock :)
Happy 239th Birthday America, shoot!
This picture is from the HIPICA in Chinandega last week. I needed to document the fact that they were selling candy apples and I was freaking out about it. It´s not super fourth of July but I enjoy eating these while I am in America so.. USA USA USA!
Today marks 4 months in Nicaragua and this week will be 1 month in site! It feels like forever since I was trekking through the mountains of snow in Boston but looking ahead, there sure is a heck of a lot of time left! Some members from my host family in Carazo called me last week to check in and ask when I was planning to come back and visit. I think the most encouraging part of the calls was being able to actually understand everything they were saying. I gave myself a little pat on the back because I was convinced that my Spanish hadn’t gotten any better since I got up here. It was so nice to hear from them and hopefully I’ll be able to go back and visit soon! Until then, I´ll still be trying to regualte my body heat here in Chin! Oh, I wanted to do a quick MTV cribs, Nicaragua style to show you my sweet little Harry Potter room. The fish eye lense definitely makes it look a little more spacious. Maybe you can find yourself on the wall :)
Work has been going great, and I’ve still been kept busy! This past week I got to go to another health post in one of our rural communities called Becerro. Shoot, I think I’ve fallen in love with that community. It is so green, there are tons of butterflies and the land just rolls with hills of trees (and cows). I’m going to do a little project for them and remake all of their murals. In the post, there’s posters that cover the walls, full of great information but it’s all words! Many people in the rural communities are illiterate and they deserve to understand all the super important information that is posted in our posts. So, I have a lot of drawing to do. Please be sending down all the creative vibes for me!
Oh and I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think I am actually starting to make friends down here! Like real Nica friends who think the strange white girl makes the cut to hang out. It’s an incredible feeling. Tomorrow I was invited to go horseback riding out in a finca (plot of land/farm/field thing). For those of you who know me well, big animals and I are still trying to become situated with one another but hopefully this experience will get us acquainted better. We’ll do an update on that next time.
OH AND HEY EVERYONE, I FINALLY GOT A MAILBOX! If you would like to send anything, please use the US Postal Service or the country postal service in your country! Fed Ex/DHL/UPS and the other fancy stuff is super expensive for you and me and I have to travel to the capital office to pick it up. Also, things will take about a month or so to get here... I’ve learned a lot about patience down here ;)