Friday, September 9, 2011

The Birthplace of Sandino

Lunch today was a real treat- “Bajo”.  It’s a traditional Nica dish with pieces of meat, platano bananos, yucca and lots of other yummy vegetables and spices, all cooked together in large banana leaves inside a HUGE pot. It’s cooked for a long time over an open flame, so everything is all tender and has soaked up the juices and spices. I believe it is my favorite Nica food.
We had a medical charla in Niquinohomo. It’s a small town about 6 miles from our own training town. The four of us met up at the empalme (traffic circle?) to catch a bus.
Our transportation was basically a rusty old school bus (still had the manufacturer’s plate from the factory in Buena Vista, Virginia 1978).  It was colorfully painted on the outside, with ridiculously short seats (or maybe I'm not 8 anymore?) and bars on the side for people to hang onto when they can't fit another person inside. There’s also also bars attached to the ceiling  for people to hold on to while they stand in the skinny little aisle, when all the seats are filled. It's cramped, rickety and jarring at times, and there's no A/C.  Oh, there's also a luggage rack on top (overflow passengers can ride up there too and at least there's a breeze and view).
I now know where old schools buses go to die.
Interesting fact- Niquinohomo is the birthplace of Sandino, who grew up to lead the “Sandinista rebellion”, eventually founding the government that rules the country to this day. I think they made his family home into the library.
We got to see the other volunteers after a week of separation. We lined up for more shots, rabies this time and to receive a weekly stipend ( 35 cordobas a day, about $1.50) In contrast, when we were at orientation in DC, we got $144 per diem a day. One day of per diem from DC is going to last me all year as play money in Nicaragua. (Per family, water costs about $1 a month and electricity much more at $20 a month)
While waiting for shots, one volunteer (who has Indian heritage and is Hindu) asked me if I was an orthodox Jew. I had no idea to answer that, so I settled for the simplest one, “no.”
After all the injection fun, we had our medical session : Diarrhea, fun diseases.. and found that some volunteers are more than 12 hours from the medical office in Managua. Guess it’s a good thing us Environment volunteers aren’t getting placed on the Caribbean coast. But then we do have that handy, fully stocked PC medical kit! (Which the doctors take every opportunity to remind us about; especially the hydration packets.)
One doctor told us how she still remembers not long ago, patients dying quite frequently in front of her. Their lack of resources and basic medical supplies and even training really put the doctors and nurses in a helpless position. She told us about an infant brought in, so severely dehydrated that it was minutes from death (when she pinched the skin lightly, it stayed puckered and white instead of re-inflating). They hand dribbled salt water into its mouth and, amazingly, the baby survived. I think this was meant to show us how important the hydrationg packets are- especially if we can’t get to medical attention or they can’t get to us, sometimes for MANY hours. And apparently bugs, worms, infections, ect. can really hit you hard in service.
Afte the charla, the volunteers went across the way to have some beers. I joined in for a bit, but didn’t stay long because it was a Friday afternoon and I wanted to get home to light Shabbat candles. I took a mototaxi home, it was just easier and the buses still scare me- but man, Maria would be SO mad.
On the way home, I saw a dog poop in the street and then eat it right away. EWWW... which reminds me: next medical charla should cover dietary supplements.

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