The past three weeks in Nicaragua have been both challenging and rewarding in ways that I could not anticipated. I am grateful for a healthy body and mind. I spent a week recovering from a mysterious stomach bug, and I am so thankful for people who supported me Managua while I was getting better. I got a first hand experience of health care in Nicaragua, and the experience was certainly very different than my visits to Stanford hospital. I have a greater respect for the difficulties of operating a clinic with limited resources, and I have confirmed yet again that I would not be very happy being a doctor.
After a few days of day long naps and numerous shots of intravenous antibiotics of different varieties, I felt well enough to accompany some of the Asofenix staff on a trip to a couple of other communities. In the morning I went to Candelarias, a community with dry and rocky terrain to help repair a solar powered water system. I started off doing a little work with the wires and screwdrivers, but I ended up succumbing to the shy smiles of the children and playing instead. We practiced writing letters and making stories in the dirt and tracing our hands in the mud as the wasps buzzed around our faces. One of the families thought that I was the daughter of Gustavo, the hardworking, intelligent, and always smiling Asofenix engineer. We all laughed because we are too close in age, but it also reminded me of how early children grow up in the communities that we are working with. In the afternoon we went to El Bejuco, a lush and mountainous region. After spending most of my time in the dryer parts of the department, it was refreshing to see the forests and even feel a little bit cold. We were greeted with delicious corn patties, cheese, and coffee. I got to help out Dona Agueda, the education and agriculture expert in Asofenix with a workshop on the relationship between gender and energy. It turned out to be a bit of a touchy topic, but hopefully the workshop got a discussion started to empower women to have an equal say in energy decisions in the community. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to spend time through thoughtful conversations with Gustavo and Agueda and get to know different communities.
After a restful weekend, I was eager to get back to Balsamo. Getting to the community felt more like going home than a long journey. During my long layover in the Teustepe bus stop, I decided to make an uncharacteristic impulse buy. I bought a knee length pink falda. When I was waiting for the bus, I saw several familiar faces who asked me where I had been and if I was feeling better.
The week that I was sick, the kids apparently waited and waited for me to come, and they were very happy to see me get off of the bus. When the bus driver dropped me off, they were hiding in their usual places giving themselves away by giggling. I pretended to be scared before my face melted into a smile, and they enveloped me in a hug.
The next day I wore my skirt and a light sweater. With my weathered black flats and braid I looked like the other women in the village. While all that had changed was my dress, suddenly I was perceived less as the gringita and more as a member of the family. When I was not working, I made tortillas, went to church with my friend, stopped and chatted with different families, and played with the children.
The educational work as well has been coming along well, and I am enjoying the role of bringing people and ideas together and starting discussions. Times continue to be difficult without rain, and despite the challenges, people are finding ways to stay positive. I have been making so many friends, and I am growing by learning of their strength and resilience.
Last week, I brought my computer to show some pictures, and it was delightful to see their faces light up. We went on a hike in our flip-flops looking for internet signal, and although we didn't find it, I enjoyed the cool mountain air and panoramic view. It was beautiful chatting and joking in the steep descent as they all took care to make sure that I didn't fall by putting their arms around my waist and holding my hands.
There are so many special moments and people that make each day so rewarding, exciting, and peaceful. I am still sifting through the numerous beautiful memories I am making and struggling to find closure with the rapidly ending experience here. I have really fallen in love with the people and work in El Balsamo. While I am excited to return back on Monday, I am very also sad because it will be my last week and I am not ready to say goodbye. I am grateful for everything I am learning and feeling.