Wednesday, June 30, 2010

a day in the life

my day yesterday:

2 hr express bus to Managua from Matagalpa at 6:00am

Sat in AMC office for 2 hours waiting for a ride to the dentist

Root canal at the "rich people's" oral surgeon who charged me $300...less than my copay in the US

Back to AMC office, ran into my padre de Nica, who offered me a ride back to Matagalpa in the back of his truck

Waited 2 hours for him to return from a mysterious meeting

Loaded 6 cases of latex condoms in the back of the truck.. 43200 in total, boxes marked keep in a dry, cool environment...that my padre says are for the hombres del campo who don't like using them. Public health in the field...picked up 3 family members, and headed to the mall where they bought new clothes. +1 hour.

Then to the Nica version of a Sam's club that I'm pretty sure is owned by Walmart +40 mins

Then to Matagalpa.. 3 - 3.5 hr ride that should've taken 1.5 hours, luckily I was comfy enough to sleep.

I slept on the mini seat with cushioning and felt like I was being smuggled into another country. I'm getting better and better at sleeping anywhere when the need arises.

Arrived home at 8pm, could've been home by 4 if I would've taken the bus, but by far an exciting cultural experience.

Things I'm learning: I have no patience, though I thought I did. Probably in part because I'm used to Philadelphia, but I'm gaining more every day, which is good for me, and character building.

Public health in the field means giving up the best case practice for the overall goal sometimes...i.e. transporting condoms in an open pick up truck ...boxes which are marked "keep in a cool, dry place" ...whilst driving in 90 degree heat in the day and rain after dark.

Is Paul Farmer right that we should not settle for giving poor people just "appropriate" technology that sacrifices quality for quantity....or is that just not realistic in a place where its difficult to accomplish even the quantity part?

Things I love today: the fact that I learned how to talk in future tense. And that Nicaraguans are so patient, and understanding of my poor Spanish grammar. And that they all live together, and love each other regardless, with more patience and sacrifice than I can imagine.

I'm also grateful for the Scottish and Canadian girls down the street who gave me lasagna tonight. Thank God for Italian food when beans and rice just aren't cutting it.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

estoy viviendo donde mucho es diferente, pero sigue siendo lo mismo

Hola amigos.

Its been a while, and there's much to tell. So far, so good considering. I've had a series of health frustrations...but, I'm still in one piece. As my AMC supervisor puts it, my body is adjusting to a whole new world of bacteria and its information overload.

Besides that, I've made so much progress with my Spanish studies, and I'm very excited to continue my studies.

What I've noticed the most so far are the cultural similarities and differences. Similarities first. The shopping culture here is very much like that in the states. People have a lot less money, but everything costs a lot less, so in some odd way, it works least in the city...except for those who purchase brand name clothes for the same price as they would in the states. LOCO. In the campo (country) where people are much poorer, my opinion is that it doesn't work out, because people do not prioritize the important things, such as diversifying their diets, buying medicine and soap..etc. Instead, they spend money on cell phone minutes, bags of chips and sodas. Often I see television sets and cell phones in houses with dirt floors where people eat beans and rice for every meal. Its so similar to what I felt when I worked with a poor population in North Philly -- very poor conditions, but satellite dishes on their rooftops.

Things I've noticed that are different are interesting, because I'm learning that not everything is what it seems -- I assume certain actions to be inherently natural, as if they are instinctual part of human nature. What I'm learning here is that assumption is far from true. For example, to point at something, people here use their lips, not their hands. To wave for someone to come over, they point their hand down and wave, not up. One thing I am most grateful for is the whole emphasis on word problems in the States -- we learn logic through paragraphs of words where we have to sort out what is important for solving the problem, what is just extra detail, and how to logically work through that. Here, they do not have such education..and its obvious. And it makes me feel really impatient. But, I'm learning more patience and how to be a much more empathetic and understanding individual.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Mi primero semana en Nicaragua

Week one has been a good introduction to my summer. After my arrival, I hung out with the peace corps group for a training...Michele and other volunteers spent the day training new trainees (aspirantes) on food security. It was fun to meet people and spend a day seeing what Michele has been working on.

On Saturday night after the training, we went to Michele´s training town in Fatima and met his host family from his first three months here. They were quite hospitable, and his host sister was excited to take us dancing at a festival in the town nearby. It was just like a carnival in the states...cheesy rides, and fried food, and a concert with a boy band...a bunch of teenagers dancing. Good times.

We returned to Managua the next day, and arrived in Matagalpa, where I am studying Spanish for the month of June on Monday evening...just in time for the foreign bacteria in my stomach to settle in. Within a few hours I was violently ill, the onset of which conveniently happened on my way to the bathroom at a cafe...luckily it was out the top end! And, lucky for me, Michele stayed and took care of me, got me cipro, and made sure I got better before he left for his site. No pasa nada.

I´m doing great now, no health problems (knock on wood) and I´m settled in quite nicely with my host family. I´m learning Spanish quickly, though its tricky with native speakers, because they talk soooo fast! My host family is quite hospitable, and fairly wealthy I imagine...I have a toilet and shower, and they have nice tile floors. Its normal in the city, but outside of the city it is much more poor. So, this is good for me now to get aquainted with the culture and the language, and then in July, I will probably have to adjust to poorer conditions.

Today´s cultural Nicaragua, the taxis pick up as many people as can fit in the cabs, even on different trips, as long as they are all going the same direction. Logical for them, better money for them, but a strange adjustment for me. They also charge more to give you a ride home at night than during the day...perhaps its more of a risk for them to be driving at night?

More to come later...for now, I must go to the park and see the girls from my family dance in a festival!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Safe arrival

I'm safe and enjoying my morning here in Managua, on my first day of this summer adventure. Thanks to all for the encouragement and support.

I'll be heading up to my language school in Matagalpa on Monday, and then La Dalia in July for my internship.

Here's the NGO I'll be doing the internship with, in case you want to know what they are up to:

Exciting things to come!!