Hospital opens, trip to the Juan and Boaco

Trip Start Jan 09, 2005
Trip End ??? ??, 2007

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casa cultura

Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Saturday, July 22, 2006


Hey guys, hope all is well!! ;)

So let's see... it's been raining, a lot! Though the rain has taken its time to get here, it's now here, and in full force. The buses haven't been able to make it into Murra because they can't make it up the slippery, muddy hills... so they just come as far as they can (usually around Casas Viejas) and then turn around. This has been a little problematic for me because I've had a few meetings that I've either missed or just barely made since hitchhiking is so unreliable. I do love the rain and it's made everything so beautiful and green that despite all the problems it's created, I am lovin' it 

Some things that are going on in Murra are my women's group is trying to create a bakery since Murra doesn't have anything like that. I proposed the idea since the bread we get is bussed in from other cities and I thought it would be a good idea to sell fresh bread and pastry's a set day every week... I was also thinking if we get a lot of business maybe people could make orders for special occasions like birthdays and such... The only snag is in order to cook the quantity we want to sell we need a normal sized oven which no one in this group has; they only have the adobe ovens which doesn't work so well with all this rain....We did manage to plant a ton of Morongo trees which have these magical leaves that are full of vitamins and minerals and are great to use dried and sprinkled over food (there is a huge problem with malnourishment). Yeah!!!

A PC volunteer ended up having to cut his service short but not before his school frat donated a ton of super dooper nice soccer balls... It was first come first serve and I just happened to be in the office and was able to get two. The idea was I wanted to give them to my adolescent group and have them raffle off one of them for the money to put toward the club... the other would be to use for anyone in the group... Well, the group keeps fluctuating with its attendance so I ended up giving a ball to the high school guy's soccer team to raffle. We went to every single business in town including the Flor de Café and the Mayor to ask for money for uniforms and transportation money. I was very impressed with the amount of money we got from all the pulperias... something like a little over $500 cords ($30) - our goal was $2000 cords. I them helped the team write up two letters for Flor de Café and the Mayor's office asking for a lager donation. The deal was if the team could get the $2000 cords then they could keep the ball; which they did. So now I'm just waiting for the games to begin so I can go out and cheer on my team!

A Baptist missionary team from Georgia came out to Murra for a week to do their thang and to put a roof on the Baptist church. It was a very interesting experience, I think for both me and them. They of course brought all kinds of things to give away to the community, like baseball hats, a few soccer balls, some baseball mitts, tote bags filled with goodies for new mothers, and all kinds of stuff. I saw the community transformed as all of a sudden everyone was Baptist and had no problem asking for things. I had people I didn't even know coming up to my home asking me for things... which NEVER happened before. There were only a few in this group that spoke Spanish so many of my Murrain friends wanted me to ask for things for them... which of course made me feel very awkward. I realized all my hard work to try and teach everyone to do things themselves instead of asking for handouts was obliterated in just one week. 

I have realized that Murra is always going to have groups coming in and giving things out and that probably won't change since they are in such need. What I tried to do was talk with the Baptist's about other nearby communities like San Gregorio or Mina de Plata that have a much higher need than most Murrains (most of whom have fincas that bring in a lot of money from the coffee). Many from this group themselves noted that the Murrains didn't seem to understand that the things they were giving out had been saved up for over a year and people worked very hard to bring these things here. And of course, this group was all light colored in skin so the "gringo" giving things away was all the more reinforced. The sad part is they had a few things stolen and I think that jaded them a bit...

Though I tried to keep to my work schedule and not seem too integrated with this group for fear the Murrains might confuse me as a missionary (against PC protocol) and that I had tons of stuff to give away, it was really nice to be around English speakers. More than that, they were very nice and really made me feel like family. They invited me to eat dinner with them every night, though I only took them up a few times. I did spend most nights talking with them which was really nice; I forget sometimes how much I miss talking about things that only Americans get no matter how much English my Nica friends here speak.

I took a few of the women to the waterfall here in Murra with my friend Marrely one day and we had a really great time. The waterfall is kind of a trek to get to, though not far, you do have to cross over many algae covered rocks to get there. I was very impressed with these 60 + women who had no fear and just jumped right into the cold, clear water. Other than their great company, they also offered up some yummy treats from back home like tootsie roll pops and sweet tarts. When they left on a Friday morning they donated a huge sack of granola bars, some candy, the parmesan cheese in a green tube, and, my favorite of donations, NEW shoes!!!! I befriended a woman named Ann and she had bought a new pair of tennis shoes specifically for this trip and knew she wouldn't wear them back home... ahhh it's so great to have the universal woman's size in feet! Hehe
Needless to say, when they all left I felt like I was saying goodbye to good friends.

For the 4th of July I trekked down to the Rio San Juan to join up with all my fellow nica 37rs to celebrate. This is the furthest south tip of Nicaragua and it took me about 3 days to get there. I spent the first night in Mozonte with my girl Carly, an awesome volunteer from the next health group (nica 40). The next day I trekked down to Juigalpa and arrived there in around 7 hours and met up with most of my group to spend the night there. Friday morning we all left for San Carlos, the Ocotal version of the Rio San Juan. This was a very long bumpy bus ride that seemed to never end, I think it was 7 hours. From Rio San Juan we took a 4 hour boat ride to stay at Alexis's site for the night. Her site is the one everyone feels is the way we had imagined our PC experience, surrounded by water, homes built on stilts out of bamboo... It was all very tropical and the boat ride was littered with tons of wild birds of all shapes and sizes... Grandma would have been impressed!

Finally Saturday morning after a short 20 minute boat ride we made it to our final destination, the resort Monte Cristo. This place was perfect for us because we were the only ones there so we could get rowdy and not worry about annoying other guests. It's right on the water so you can water ski for a small fee, but everything else is included. For $30 a night you get all your meals and drinks of juice included, as well as horseback ridding (we carted in crates of beer and brought our own liquor). I think the only frustration was they never cleaned the restrooms that 6 people to a room were sharing and some people never had water... but other than that, I think everyone really enjoyed themselves.

My highlight was the horseback ridding. I went with Christina and her now fiancé (yeah Chris, can't wait for the wedding this Dec.!!!) and a few other volunteers on what is quite possibly my favorite ride EVER!!! It was completely unattended to and we were constantly dodging hanging vines, trudging through mud, getting poked with spiny plants and all other kinds of fun stuff that happens when you are out in the wild. I had a horse named "Arbolito" and he was very competitive, not unlike someone I know, ahem! Hehe and he constantly raced with the leader so I was cantering around non-stop cackling the day away. When we finally came back, hours later, we were covered in mud and couldn't wipe off the smiles plastered on our faces.

The weekend was very relaxing, we didn't have to worry about anything... the food was always very good, usually with some friend fish as the main dish... I can't remember if I've told you but the entire fish is served, including the head, eyes, and all... and you can bet the nicas eat every bit up, eyes and all... It's a little startling at first but I think by now we're all accustomed to it. Some volunteers took a boat ride off to El Castillo, another volunteers site where there is an old fortress and a few shops for souvenirs (these typically consist of the wooden fish shaped pieces colored in elaborate, bright shades). I didn't make it out there but I hear it's the worth the trip... other than hanging out, playing some bored games and listening to ipods, it was a very chill weekend; just what the doctor ordered.

The trip back up was a little different because I decided to travel back up with a volunteer to her site in Boaco... this was quite a long day but I'm so glad I did it... I really love the way Boaco looks; it reminds me of Matagalpa but on a much larger version. Since it's been raining so much it's just like a city back home (ok, with less technology and on a smaller scale) but blanketed in green everywhere you look! The first night we just ate out at a restaurant and came back home to relax... Alicia drew a tattoo on Ben so that was fun for us to watch (I mean with markers, not a real tat!). The next day we headed out to Muy Muy to visit another volunteer and have some yummy Indian food for lunch, mmmmm. I didn't see too much of Muy Muy but it reminds me of Jinotepe with a park in the middle of town and the community surrounding it. Betsy and I headed back to her site in Boaco and Ryan from my group met up and we spent the night hanging out laughing and having a lot of fun. It was really great to see Ry in his element because I saw a totally different side of him and it was great having fun... even if they banditos ate all my guacamole while I was slaving away making it!!! Hehe

I've had a few VAC (volunteer action committee) meetings down in Managua; that last of which I met our new country director which seems very nice. We are supposed to move into a new PC office since the neighborhood we are in currently is not the best but, like with most things involving construction, the move in date has been pushed back several times- we hear it's definite at the end of this month... Other than that... not too much is going on with the PC.

We have had a huge hospital built with aid from the Japanese embassy and after months and months of having it sit there empty, we finally had the inauguration. I had been working for over a month or so with the adolescents to perform a cultural dance routine. They were all very excited about performing and the outfits that MINSA bought them (finally, MINSA recognized the adolescents). My only frustration was I tried very hard to include the San Gregorio kids since they are like the ugly step child and no matter what I did to include them, in the end, they didn't participate which is a bummer.

I think the celebration went well, despite the rain that cut things short. I was so busy helping the kids get ready and working with the DJ to coordinate the songs with the dances, I didn't really see any much and to be honest, that's fine. Hehe Those things tend to be super boring. Ben from Ocotal made it up with his Silias crew as well as several other MINSA crew from other communities so we were a full house. Overall the ceremony was a huge success and the after party that night in the Casa Cultura was a blast! I danced all night long and when they finally closed it down, stayed up well past my bed time chatting with friends. I think I was just so excited that Murra finally had dancing! Hehe

I think some of the staff was frustrated that I didn't participate more in the drawing of the murals and setting up of the stage though when I had offered to help them days earlier they didn't assist me in any way... I think they prefer the wait till the last minute method ;) hehe Actually, this is a pretty common complaint among many health volunteers; that many MINSA staff think we are here to just draw murals of breast feeding or do menial office tasks that they themselves don't want to do. I don't know if it's my 3 years working experience before I came here, or I just refuse to spend my time drawing (though I understand that for some people murals are a very important part of their service...), but one of the reasons I have spent so much of my service working out in the communities is so I don't get stuck doing things I'll just resent doing.... This of course brings gossip about me "not working" since they can't see what it is I'm doing and it's been a constant battle trying to work with both MINSA and the communities in a harmonic way.

This weekend I'm heading up a VAC meeting for my Nueva Segovia volunteers (this includes volunteers of all sectors, though for us that means just health and agriculture). We are going to meet up at a health volunteer's site, Jalapa, which should only be about a 1 hour drive away but because it's on a bus, it'll take 4, oh joy! Hehe One of the things we will accomplish in this meeting is every volunteer will talk about projects s/he is working on and the rest of us will give feedback and suggestions on ways to improve the projects. I'm looking forward to getting advice and it will be interesting to hear what people will say about the plethora of projects I'm working on... Of course it will be nice to see everyone and a visit a new place. I have a friend that drives a bus from Jalapa to Murra, Eddy, which I've been trying to visit with there so I'm excited to finally meet his family and visit with him.

My friend Tree is coming down in just a few weeks to meet up with me in Costa Rica and I'm VERY excited (and ready!) for this vacation. At this point in our service, all of my fellow Nica 37rs have gone home at least one time if not more... and some have had vacations outside of nica as well... While I have gone to Panama, I hardly consider that a vacation since I had to all those appointments, the surgery and had to check in with the PC office all the time. My family also came down for about a week and a half and that was def. a vacation, but not from Nicaragua. This will be my first vacation from here with no responsibilities, just having fun with a good friend. I can't wait!!!!!

On that note, I hope all is going well back home!! I really can't believe how fast the time is flying down here... just 8 months left, it seems like nothing.

I miss you all and welcome any packages of cheese!!! mmmmm
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