So as some of you know, this semester I will be moving off campus. It wasn’t until yesterday that I actually saw the house. When we first arrived after 6+ hours of driving from east tennessee, my first reaction was… oh god please let it not be this house. Too bad for me it was. The outside was way worse than the inside and after a brief tour, my optimism started kicking in. The place is nice with 2 bedrooms, a bath, kitchen, living room, dining room, and breakfast area. It just needs so much work. You can barely see the front of the house through the yard and you can’t see the back yard at all. After about 4 straight daays of heavy lawn work it will look ok, but those are 4 days that I am not lookign forward to giving up, especially when school is about to kick in and I am not really wanting to set aside time for this extra project when I am so damn busy with all the other things I have to do. The inside, as I said earlier is also nice. Unfortunatly it still needs about 1/2 its rooms to be painted, air conditioning, electricity, internet, and cable all need to be installed and a lot of trim and sprucing up in general also needs to be done. Just thinking about it gives me a head ache, but I am sure it will all work out. As long as I get my actual room livable then I can just expand my work from there.
So today I am getting the furniture I will need to live out of my room, until the rest of the house is good. It will be fun working on it, it’s just I did not plan on spending my extra time on this thing. It will all work out. Anyway, the house will be good and I’ll post pictures later today.
The next place we traveled to was the community of La Pimienta in the municipality of Chinandega. The area is located on the Honduran border and is affected very negatively by HIV and drugs, partly because of its location. In Chinandega we drove on a dirt road for a while before getting stuck in the mud near a health promoters house. After a while spent trying to figure out how to get the vehicle out, community members began to gather to help us get out of the mud. We all worked together and eventually we were unstuck and on our way again.
It wasn’t long before we got stuck again in a hole and then another time after crossing a river. At the third time we decided to walk the rest of the way, since we weren’t to far.
La Pimienta was a far different community than El Roblar. Chinandega has gotten a lot of attention from big NGO’s and aid organizations so there were many small development projects all over the area. It also had access to a road that lead to the city of Chinandega. There was a very large school there, a few other public buildings, and an AMOS clinic, which is where we ended up staying. When we got there it was pretty much time to get ready for bed.
The next day we spent the whole day split up into groups to visit houses for survey questions to see how they liked the Bio-filters that they were using. Going from house to house was a lot easier because La Pimienta was so flat. Doing the surveys took most of the day and when we got back we just ate and played cards in the clinic.
The next day we decided to spend most of the day traveling back so we could cross the river before the rains made it too high. We ended up only getting stuck in one area but unfortunately that was for two hours.
When we finally got back to AMOS we were exhausted. We spent the last few days in Managua wrapping up projects, saying our goodbyes, and scrounging for souvenirs. We headed back to the states.
Well that wraps up the trip to Nicaragua. Near the end of all this blogging I’ve kind of gotten burnt out on it. I don’t know if you could tell or not, but I’m just not used to actually posting things that are actually informative and substantive. Well hopefully my next few posts wont be useful at all so I can have a little break.
The beach was so nice that it inspired our next weekend excursion, where we went to San Juan del Sur the next day! San Juan is located near the Costa Rican boarder on the Pacific and surrounds a giant bay with a beach that looks out on the ocean. The seafood was amazing and we spent the first part of the day just relaxing on the beach. In the afternoon, whilst looking for a ball to play with on the beach, we ran across a surf shop and began talking about lessons. It wasn’t too long before we were on the boards in the water and learning how to surf. I’ve wanted to do it since I was very young and I couldn’t get enough of it. I really want this to be a hobby of mine when I am older. We all did pretty well and it wasn’t long before we could just surf without instruction. After a while we got tired and began to head back to the hotel. Around this time I realized the hotel key which was tied to my swimming trunks was no longer there. When we got to the front desk, I paid for a new one and we headed out to eat. After eating and exploring the coast some more night swimming seemed to sound like a good idea and it was. Before swimming, we made a pile of out things like our clothes, towel, key, etc. things we didn’t want to swim with, and we hid them in a dark area near a rock, so we could find them when we got back. After swimming for quite a while we returned and quickly realized our clothes were stolen. This lapse of judgement wouldn’t have been that bad, except for the fact that the stolen items included a credit card and the only remaining room key the hotel could provide.
When we got back to the hotel, we decided to just worry about the key and everything the following morning. The next morning we spent the day looking for our things and getting reoriented. I called my parents to cancel the card and we ended up buying a whole new lock for our hotel room. We hit the beach for a little more and then checked out of our room. We thought that the buses left back for Managua 24/7 so we decided to get dinner before heading out. After dinner we realized that buses do not in fact leave 24/7 and the last one had left at 5. Not wanting to annoy the staff of the hotel delfin any more than we already had, we checked into a hostel down the road. Probably one of the best decisions the entire trip.
When we arrived at the hostel, we were greeted by a rowdy group of people immediately demanding a speech from us, telling about our travels and what brought us to the hostel. After a brief introductions we went inside to check in. After moving to our room, we made friends with our fellow travelers. There were 2 German girls and fairly old one who had just moved there from panama and who was also in the field of international politics, then 3 Irishmen (the reason for our extravagant welcome), and 2 Americans, one from California and one from Colorado. After sharing a few stories we began playing games and talking until late night when we decided to see how this one club was doing down the street. To make a long story short, I ended up going to bed around 2, even though we were waking up for a bus at 4 AM to get in Managua before work starts.
I had surprisingly no trouble waking up 2 hours later for the bus ride back to Managua, which was a pleasant bus ride with a direct route and air conditioning. When we got back we got right to work doing some finishing work on some of the end stuff from the promoter training from last week and began planning some of the stuff we would be using in La Pimienta. That tuesday we set off for La Pimienta, which would be another very different look at life in the campesinos.
I will type more about that adventure later though, time to do other things.
I know this is getting annoying with long distances between updates and then extremely lengthy posts that are way too long for anyone to actually read. I am going to try and be as concise and interesting as possible so here it goes. (Also to make this easier for my readers, I am breaking these up into short entries).
So when we last left off, I had just gotten back from a week in El Roblar and had spent a few nights on the town in Managua. The week after that we spent working on a health promoter training conference. The conference trained the health promoters in caring for newborns and expecting mothers as well as how to coordinate a lot of the information they work with with MINSA (the Nicaraguan Health Ministry). The first day we basically just gathered information from the different tests that the promoters were taking and tallied them up onto a spreadsheet in order to see what subjects should be focused on more. Throughout the week we got to get more involved in the different teaching stations and on Friday we actually each ran our own station. My station involved seeing if they new how to use MINSA census data to create a chart of vulnerable persons who might need their care: people expecting, people with diseases, or children under 5. After the busy week was over, as a goodbye we took all the health promoters to the beach! It was amazing to see the ocean again. We swam and played soccer until pretty late and then headed back to AMOS headquarters to say our goodbyes. It was tough saying goodbye to a lot of them but hopefully I will get to see them again sometime in the future.
Anyways I am going to take a break, but I plan on updating you all about the following weekend in San Juan del Sur very soon.
This last week, I have had the chance to see a side of Nicaragua that very few people have. After a 2 and a half hour drive out of Managua up steep hills you are in the mountain city of San Jose de los Remantes. To be more specific, it is actually a municipality with 10 urban zones and 18 rural zones. After the drive you arrive at the 10 urban zones which look mostly like a city, very flat with a population of around 8,000. From there at the AMOS headquarters you can take a van to the edge of town and then hike an hour up a steep trail, around barbed wire fences, and then down a muddy road to the rural zone/village of El Roblar.
The village is in a zona húmeda of the mountain, so as you can imagine since it is the rainy season and we did a lot of hiking up and down hills etc and I do perspire above the average amount, this was a very humid and damp experience.
When we arrived, the church, one of only two public buildings (non-houses) that I had the chance to see on the trip, had prepared a welcoming ceremony. After they sang songs and thanked us for coming there to help, we made our way down into a valley where our home stay was located. The walk down there took about 20 minutes which wasn’t bad since the walk to some of the further away houses would have taken possibly around 45 minutes maybe. The declines were the worst. Before settling in to our home stay we walked around the community for a bit to give a few people some water filters that we had brought with us so they could test them out for the week and we could later find out how useful they where, whether the villagers liked them or not, etc.
The other public buildings that I knew of were a church and a water powered electrical plant which I will describe later. Everything else was farm land, wilderness, or some form of property of the 380-ish families that made up the village.
Our host family was pretty awesome they had a few kids and a lot of chickens and pigs that ran in and out of their house at their leisure. The house consisting of a wooden walls and a dirt floor, with 3 rooms was fairly average among the ones I got to view in El Roblar. It had a good sized kitchen with a wood stove and washing station, a living room with a spare bed some tables a radio and a sowing machine, and then the bedroom where all the family slept. Our dad was probably one of the coolest people in the village. He was a farmer like everyone else there who grew their own food but also grew coffee to sell in San Jose. The mom stayed at home and the kids either helped where they could or occasionally went to school.
On the outside of the house was fenced in area for the hog and horse as well as a chicken coup to the left. We had to walk through the chicken coup to get to a fenced in area on the side of the house where there was a latrine and a place to bathe. As you have figured out, there was no running water in this remote area so to bathe we used a bucket of sub-zero water to wash ourselves.
The usual day usually began around 6-ish and we did work until about 5 then went to bed around 8. The first day we hiked back up to the church and then set up different stations to work at where parents in the community could take their children. We had a weighing station, coloring station, a station where we tested for anemia, and a station where we gave them vitamins depending on how anemic they were. This took most of the day.
In the afternoon we began training the health promoters and volunteers to do the CAP study. The CAP study was basically just a list of survey questions that we were going to use to see what their general opinion and practice about water sanitation and hygiene was throughout the community. They would ask things like “do you have a latrine?” “Where do you get your water from?” and “do you filter it in any way?”. The next day we split up into groups to actually do the CAP study and spent most of the time walking from house to house. That night we would tally the results so that we could present the information to the community to promote awareness as well as so AMOS could use the data for other projects.
The next day we worked on the photo voice project. For this, we gave volunteers cameras so they could go about the community and take pictures of people with sanitary practices in their homes. By giving real life examples from the photos, it gave more meaning to the practices we were trying to teach. Also because the pictures and presentations were done by members of the community, it will hopefully empower them to take more action. The week culminated with us presenting all the data in a community meeting on friday. We presented the anemia results, CAP study results, and the photovoices.
I hope I gave everyone a good idea of what my last week was like. Sorry if it is unorganized, a little long, or not too descriptive, a lot went on haha.
Anyway, updates from this weekend are coming soon,