Ometepe is gorgeous

Trip Start Jun 16, 2005
Trip End Aug 2006

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Flag of Nicaragua  ,
Friday, January 13, 2006

Hello, everyone!!

Well, after a week back in Costa Rica, running a very successful vacation Bible school with the Susquehanna group, we headed to Nicaragua for a few days to work at the orphanage on the island of Ometepe in the middle of Lake Nicaragua. The orphanage, Centro Infantil Cristiano Nicaraguense, is called CICRIN for short.

On the way, we got to do some of the touristy things I never get to do -- we played in a waterfall in northern Costa Rica (so much fun!) and stopped by the side of the road to look at the beauty that is Guanacaste. We arrived in Ometepe on Saturday afternoon -- it was an hour in the ferry, and the sky was clear, so we got to see the tops of both of the volcanoes on Ometepe, La Concepcion and Maderas. It's really beautiful.

Lake Nicaragua, incidentally, is home to freshwater bull sharks. Apparently they're vicious. We went swimming anyway, and no one was eaten for lunch. Nice, huh?

I had visions of Oliver Twist going through my head, but once we arrived, I was amazed at how wonderful a place CICRIN is. The director, Helen, has been there for 16 years, and most of the tias ("aunts") who work there as caretakers have been there for a long time as well. In other words, little to no turnover = stability for these kids, and they are more well-adjusted than many of the children I work with in Pavas. In fact, if you're looking for another place to donate, they have been hard-hit by redirected U.S. funds following the hurricanes and have, as a result, faced being shut down a couple of times in the last year.

Anyway. I did VBS in the morning on Monday, and then Heidi informed us that she needed another translator for the med team, so since the vbs students had it under control with 2 spanish speakers, I went and did that. I really enjoy doing clinics. The one on Monday was in a church, and there was a heartbreaking rush of people at the end wanting cough medicine and painkillers. Arthritis is so huge among Nicaraguans because of all the work they do with machetes -- so many people in their mid-thirties looked at least 55.

After that, we went to visit the hospital, which serves 15,000 people. I didn't take a picture of the pharmacy, but it was tiny, the size of a broom closet, with one wall with shelves with meds on them, and not full. As in, they can diagnose stuff, but they usually can't treat it. I did get to take a picture of the room where they dry out the latex gloves they wash and reuse and the birthing room, where they have impressive-looking lights that haven't worked in eight years. They did have some new equipment that does work that was donated by some company in Luxembourg, though.

Tuesday and Wednesday we ran a clinic in a house, and we saw about 100 patients overall -- three groups doing the primary questions and a roving doctor doing the diagnosis. I saw so many women who'd been diagnosed with kidney infections but hadn't been treated because the antibiotics simply weren't available. It was so cool to see that they could finally get treated. We also saw lots of adults and children with parasites, which follows when there's no clean water, and some scabies cases as well. I found it interesting to note that although scabies is quite contagious, you really can't get it unless you've been sleeping in the same bed with someone (which happens alot here -- siblings often share sleeping spaces). I had previously been kind of on edge about it, and then when I found out that the med team had found cases of scabies in a lot of the kids I routinely work with in Pavas (the med team was doing a clinic in Pavas while we were doing VBS), I realized I didn't really have anything to worry about -- it just really can't be transmitted via casual contact. So, that's a bonus, i guess!

We had a fiesta complete with a pinata for the kids at the orphanage last night. We got to dance, the kids sang for us and we sang for them. It was very cool.

So, now I'm back in San Jose and the program will be starting up again on Monday. I'm taking tomorrow to clean, clean, and organize the classroom again! It's never-ending.

Hope you are all well!

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