Friday, August 3, 2012

Home Again, Home Again.

Friday, August 3, 2012

That’s right! I’m home.  I landed in Charlotte at midnight on Monday.  It is sure nice to be back.  Back to warm showers and AC and real vegetables and the English language and my family and THE INTERNET, just to name a few things.  I’m happy to be home.

Now the moment you all have been waiting for: pictures!  Those of you who in some way connected to me on Facebook may have seen some pictures posted.  Now ALL of you get my photos!  I’ll be uploading them every day.  I’ll first post mine; those from my iPod are already up.  I’ll also put what few I have from my camera (*sniff**tear*).  It’ll take me a bit longer to get ahold of everyone’s from the program, so I’ll upload those as I get them.  I’ve chosen to host them on, which I think will make for easiest viewing.  Click here to view the first image.  I’ll be making albums for perusal, but for now you can just view “My Images.”

As it is my intention to make this blog a resource for participants in the years to come, I will be doing quite a bit more follow-up writing before I lay this blog to rest.  I’ll see if I can get my sister to interview me on my experiences, and I’ll try to think up all the things I wish I would have known about the program, or other generally important things to know.  And for my general audience, I’ll finally get around to making my list of all things Tico/Nica, and anything else I think up to write about.

Again, thank you all so much for your support over the past few months.  It has made a world of a difference to me.  I’ve learned and experienced more than I thought possible on my journey.  I owe you all a debt of gratitude.  So peruse the pictures and see your contribution first hand!  You’ll be hearing from me soon.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Party Time!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Surprise! Another entry! So soon? My blog-writing history doesn’t support the evidence your eyes present you with.  But it’s true nonetheless.

Today was an especially enjoyable day.  John accompanied us to the hospital this morning and stuck around until about 10 while we reassembled and tested our incubator.  He speaks so much more Spanish than Kate and I that everyone was immediately impressed with him.  He must have been such a breath of fresh air. 

Simon came in with a broken rotating saw of some type today, and an urgent request for it to be fixed (that is unusual).  We opened it up and it was covered in some type of white dust powder that proved nearly impossible to clean out, and an even larger DC motor, brushed this time.  Except, as we discovered, there were no brushes (en español: carbones).  Simon ran off to the store to buy some, and came back with the only two varieties available, and neither of them fit the slots.  His idea was to grind one of them until it was the right shape and size, but we were entirely at a loss.  It was only thanks to Ron that we even knew what brushes were, but only talking about them can’t really prepare you for your first repair task.  We consulted the internet, but no one seems to have given much thought to the problem of what to do when you have the wrong type of brushes.  We don’t really have much of a choice, though, so when we return on Thursday, I suppose we’ll give it a shot. 

Things were so busy today we didn’t get a chance to get our needs assessment interview!  That’ll have to be Thursday, as well.  And Marvin mentioned something about a visit to quirófano to look at a faulty anesthesia machine, as well as a tour.  Our last few days are going to be packed.  We’ll have to work hard to get everything done. 

We have solidified plans to make banana pudding for our boys in maintenance and for the family.  We can’t find vanilla wafers, of course, but we’re betting that some variety of local crackers will suffice, especially if we crumble them up really well.  There is an abundance of bananas and vanilla pudding down here, so it should be easy enough to assemble.  We scoped out the ingredients we’d need at the store today, but we realized we didn’t know the Spanish name for the type of cream we need; more research is needed. 

And Julia and Maria were very open to us using their kitchen facilities.  They were also completely candid that they really had no idea how to make Tres Leches cake; they just buy it when they need it.  “Whatever you want to cook, you go cook it.” That’s what they said.  That’s the second best answer we could have wished for, the first being wanting to cook with us. 

Tonight we decided to go to the evening daily mass at the catholic church down the street from the house.  It was a short twenty minutes, all in Spanish, a lot of singing, a lot of back and forth between the speaker and small audience, none of which I recognized at all, except the Lord’s Prayer, and many references to la madre de díos, la virgin, y el espíritu santo.  Also lots of transitions between sitting, standing, and kneeling.  And a big to do about some goblet.  Kate said it was basically the exact same service as hers back home, just truncated and all in Spanish.  Interesante.

Julia has a devious plan.  She feeds us nothing but carbs (and not very much at all) to force us to go out into town during the festivities to buy food to keep us from dying, but in the process we are out and about and experiencing the culture of the city.  Pure evil.  Tonight we watched a horde of shirtless teenage boys attempt to climb a greased telephone pole, the designated activity of the night.  The idea was to create a human pyramid of tree-huggers and have smaller boys crawl up and over the others to clutch at the pole and rub the grease off with a cloth.  After walking around a bit, we came to talk to a 15-year-old local student (also named Cristian) for almost an hour and a half.  He even ditched his friends to talk to us!  I was happy he found us so interesting, and impressed with Kate’s and my Spanish conversation skills that we were able to keep talking (on and off) for that length of time while we watched the performers in the amphitheater. 

Well, we didn’t get anything done on the presentation tonight.  That’s what tomorrow is for.  We actually have to finish it tomorrow, though.  Crunch time!  And 11:00 is time to sleep, or at least my heavy eyelids tell me this.  Caroline’s exhausted brain signing off.  Hasta luego…

Monday, July 23, 2012

La Semana Ultima

Monday, July 23, 2012

It’s the home stretch! This time next week I will be back home again.  It’s hard to believe nearly two months have passed, but looking back on some of my first blog entries, it does seem like ages ago that I was as inexperienced at being in a foreign country.  It certainly feels like I’ve gained something.  Sure, language and experience traveling are obvious, but there’s more I can’t quite put my finger on.

It being the last week, it’s crunch time for all the EWH paperwork.  To be reimbursed for our expenses (which is rather a big deal for me; I am VERY broke right now) we must complete a set of forms and other requirements, including submitting photos and a presentation for this weekend’s conference.  Our evening hours are no longer primarily relaxation hours.  And, accordingly, I won’t be getting into as nitty-gritty detail about my week as is usual for my last few blog posts. 

We went to work Wednesday intending to leave for León in the afternoon.  Our trip through Managua would give us opportunity to look for a replacement motor for our latest incubator’s fan, but after a quick conversation with Marvin, we realized we’d need to do our shopping on the way there, and before the Revolution traffic started getting ridiculous.  We left Boaco at 11:00, and spent $20 on a taxi to get to Marvin’s suggested medical replacement store.  They didn’t have what we needed, and didn’t seem quite on top of everything, so we left empty-handed. 

We headed to León, and then to Poneloya, the beach town, and stayed at the Surfing Turtle Lodge.  A beach/horseback riding day ensued, and both the Managua and Chinandega groups stayed unexpectedly.  The bonfire that night was quite special ;) The next day we spent as tourists in León; the Cathedral was absolutely gorgeous, and the town was quite nice.  We found a supermarket with peanutbutter, but they didn’t have my brand, so I decided we could wait another week for the good stuff.  We saw The Amazing Spiderman (El Sorprendente Hombre-Araña) in the theater, and there was only one word for it: sorprendente :D  I like that we Americans and Nicaraguans can get together for an activity like that. And it cost only $3. 

The next day we did the legendary volcano-boarding.  I wouldn’t have missed it for the world.  It was an hour’s bumpy truck ride out to the volcano Cerro Negro, the most active of a specific type of volcano in all of history.  It’s basically a conical heap of black rocks.  We hiked up the rocky side with our wooden boards and slid on our butts down the smooth, sandy side.  The view from the top was spectacular; no pictures or words to describe how vast everything was, from the peak of a giant black hill within sight of 3 other active volcanos (some still smoking).  Boarding down at first seemed downright terrifying; the slope looked far too steep.  But on the way down too much concentration was required to be afraid, and quite a bit of exhilaration was present, too.  I didn’t realize that your feet were supposed to be in the air on either side of the board on the entire way down, and the only reason to drop them was to break.  I lost my groove halfway down and just ended up flailing most of the way down, kicking volcano pebbles up into my face, hair, and generally every crevice on my body.  I came in with an acceptable speed of 39kph, though I was sure I was going faster in the beginning.  Other people were hilarious.  Hilda, Tracy and Bam’s host cousin, lost her board half-way down and rolled/butt-scooted the remaining distance. Nathan fell off his board at least 3 times, each time involving some kind of tumble.  Brian looked to be doing okay until he lost his board completely; it continued down the volcano without him, and he went running/falling/flipping after it (trying to run downhill on volcano pebbles is difficult, you know), and finally managed to catch up to his board in the last 50 yards, skidding in at about 10kph.  Friz was our winner at 62kph, but paid with a very skint-up back.  Think road rash the size of your palm. Blood everywhere.  But he still says it was worth it…

While in León I bought, on a whim, a small 6” personal fan with the thought of adapting it for the infant incubator.  Good thing I thought to do that, since a doctor came in and wondered where his incubator was, and it would have been terrible to tell him that we broke it and hadn’t a solution in mind…  Today Kate and I took the new fan apart, extracted the necessary pieces, and put them in the incubator.  The only problem is that it cannot be powered the same way the DC motor was, so we left the original plug outside the incubator. Now the thing needs two power cords to function.  It was either that or have a broken incubator until the correct replacement can be found.  We’d have liked to ask someone’s opinion, but most of our staff seems to be on vacation for the patron saint’s festivals that are rather ongoing for the next few days…

Last night Kate and I went out and experienced these festivities by buying food and chatting with random locals.  I enjoyed a pastel con queso, French fries with mayonnaise, ketchup, and parmesan, and a rice & bean empanada with repollo (cabbage) on top.  There was a music group playing pop songs that both Kate and I knew, food and beer vendors, clowns in funky clothes, painted faces, and with balloons for kids, and game/gambling tents.  There’s a parade that runs around the town all day with a kind of marching mariachi band and a likeness of San Francisco. Our little town has so much character :)

This week we’ll be conducting a needs-assessment survey/interview.  John, the other on-the-ground coordinator, who came in for a surprise visit today, reckons we should have done this in our second week, but understands that we really didn’t have any instruction to do so.  We didn’t even know we had to do it until last Tuesday, and with the holidays it became rather tight in the schedule to get done at all.  Maybe in future years of the program they’ll get it done.  As I see it, the form is good for assessing needs that can best be addressed from back in the US.  The only downside I see is that it might not give people a chance to get back to us with things they think of later relating to the interview.  They should actually train us on what to do in our hospitals during our first month for optimized effectiveness.  As it is, I’m sure we’ve been plenty helpful; we just might not be providing EWH with as much information as it wants.  I know they’re trying to help many people, but I find it just as important to help those who are right in front of me who are asking for it. 

In all likelihood the next time I will be writing will be once I’m back at home.  I’ll do major wrap-up stuff, big overall impressions and advice for future participants and the like.  Maybe my sister will be nice enough to interview me.  If I can, I’ll write during the week this week, but likely I’ll be busy with last-minute forms or trying to say goodbye to my friends of two months, half of whom I’m not likely to see again.  This weekend is bound to be bittersweet. 

Well, Central America, it’s been fun.  I’ve learned more Spanish.  I’ve learned what it is to live with less of my customary American comfort.  I’ve been a tourist.  I’ve been a backpacker.  I’ve been a worker in a hospital.  I’ve been a student.  I’ve been an adoptive daughter.  I’ve seen the world through different eyes.  In many ways I’ve done more than I’d expected I’d ever do here.  And now I’m ready to come home and be at ease again.  You can only live on the run for so long.  And I’m done now.  Just in time :)

Monday, July 16, 2012

If you thought the last one was long...

Monday, July 16, 2012

¡Buenos días!  Time for an update!  I’m currently in the middle of reading The Ender’s Game series, and these books are ridiculously captivating.  It’s with a great resistance effort that I take a break and write my weekly report.

On the Job

Cathy, one of the two On-The-Ground coordinators, made her prescribed visit to Boaco this past week, just to see how things were going at our hospital and make sure we’ve settled in and didn’t have any obvious issues.  Another incubator, an older mobile unit, was brought in late last Monday, and we took a look at it when she was there.  We determined the problem was with the circulating fan’s stepper motor.  The unit didn’t actually overheat, but it sounded like a freight train inside; not acceptable for a little neonate.

I can’t hear a word Kate says as she takes this picture.

The rest of this week we’ve been making steady progress in disassembling and testing the motor.  It sounds ridiculous, but one day our progress was removing the motor from the incubator and testing it separately.  We attempted to clean it from the outside, and made our first attempts to open the little stubborn little box.  The next day we made more progress by taking the fan part off and removing the motor from its mounting, but were brought up short by tiny little recessed nuts that we had no tools to remove.  The following day I brought in my eyebrow tweezers and, with a little bit of modification, they were an adequate implement.  Don’t laugh at my man eyebrows.  They’re a sacrifice for engineering.  In any case, we ended up damaging our already damaged motor in the opening process, so it looks like we’ll need to buy another, or else rig up a solution with the damaged one (not looking feasible; it’s just too tiny to work with). 

Social Scene – We are so popular

I am happy to say that we’ve been quite a bit more social than we were in the first few weeks.  Later in the week after the blog complaining about what shut-ins we were, I made the decision to just go out into the sitting room after dinner, and Lupe and I ended up talking about Facebook, and we were online for about an hour.  Then about 15 teenage boys wandered in.  Naturally I congratulated her for having obtained so many boyfriends.  But it turns out that her older brother has a connection with this group of young aspiring priests, and it was our house’s turn to cook dinner for them all.  They took an equal interest in Kate and me as we took in them, and we spent the 20 waiting minutes in mixed English and Spanish conversation.  I’m pleased to say that we knew more Spanish than they did English (which makes sense given our four plus years of training, but I’ll be proud of it all the same!) 

The wife of one of the uncles is trying to obtain a visa to the U.S., and received a letter (most conveniently in English).  Kate and I were useful as translators!  The letter instructed her to obtain an agent, or someone to receive her paperwork, someone with a U.S. mailing address.  Lucky for her, she has a friend who’s a lawyer in Florida and will know much more about the whole visa process than I could ever learn from a letter and a bunch of forms.  Host Dad knows English pretty well, but I think he just liked us to be there to ensure that he understood properly. 

We also had a pretty strange encounter with a guy this afternoon.  He spoke very, very broken English, and we didn’t really know what he was on about at all.  I think it would have been better if he tried to explain himself in Spanish and leave it to Kate and me to try to decipher.  In any case, he knew we were with an organization and wanted us to help him out with something, and that it would make his whole family very happy.  He wanted the email address of our organization, so we fetched it.  Then he stuck us on the phone with a woman with a New Jersey accent who had no more idea of what was going on than we did, and considerably less patience.  He’ll be back in the next couple of days to call her again, and we’ll get this straightened out.  I’m so confused…


A whirlwind of a weekend. 

We left Friday at 2 from work, caught a 3:00 bus from Boaco to Tipitapa, then Tipitapa to Masaya, Masaya to Rivas.  The snag occurred at Tipitapa: there was no large obvious Masaya bus waiting on us this time.  We asked where to stand and stood there, and then a microbus showed up and piled us in a van to Masaya.  At one point that little van held 21 people!  I’m glad I had a seat.  But we made the mistake of assuming the bus would end at the station, like real buses do, but this one blew past it altogether, and we followed a passenger’s advice on where to get off and stand and wait for a Rivas bus.  We stood on a street corner in front of a Palí (a Walmart subsidiary supermarket specific to Nicaragua – there’s one in Boaco) for 30 MINUTES and attempted to wave down 3 different Rivas buses, but they all blew past us, I now figure because we weren’t standing in the right spot.  It was getting pretty dark by that time.  We eventually got a cab to take us to the right stop, and I just about fainted from relief when a microbus came and picked us up.  10 minutes later it was pitch dark.  When we arrived in Rivas we were promptly ripped off by the taxi driver, who charged $5 per person for a 7 minute ride down the road (in Nicaragua worth $2 p/p max).  Damn him to hell for taking advantage of two terrified and exhausted white girls.  Our pre-booked hotel was adequate if expensive for what we got.  Best thing was that it included a good breakfast, and we got to watch BBC world news during our dinner of peanut butter sandwiches at 9:00 PM and listen to British people be excited about hosting the Olympics.  Someone had better tape those opening ceremonies for me *hint hint nudge nudge*

Saturday seemed also a primarily travel day.  We took the 9:30 AM ferry, though had intended to take an earlier boat.  The lake was pretty choppy and smaller boats weren’t running.  We had ample time to take our seats on the ferry (a German donation by the looks of it – very nice) and work out meeting up with Luke, Brian, and Cathy, who had continued her journey down south to San Carlos and accompanied them on their 14 hour ferry ride to Altagracia on Ometepe.  After a pleasant ferry ride that reminded me how much I miss cruises, the gang met us at the pier and we took a taxi to Playa Santo Domingo. 

It was on this journey that my camera disappeared.  I can’t say if I just left it in the taxi or whether one of the other taxi occupants had some very VERY light fingers, but later in the day I chanced across the cab driver again and checked to see if it had fallen on the ground, but it was gone, and with it all of the pictures I’ve taken since July 1.  Honestly, my first reaction was relief that at least they didn’t get anything that I couldn’t live without, or couldn’t replace.  (Had it been my laptop, I would have died right there)  But even so, it was like a physical ache whenever I thought about how it’s gone, still is a little bit.  I should have been more careful, checked my stuff before I left the taxi, not left the zipper undone on the bag, I don’t know.  I had to pull some major distraction techniques to keep myself from dwelling on it, namely Bananagrams at the lunch table!

By the time we settled into a hostel and got food in us, it was too late to do any large activity, so we walked to Ojo de Agua, a water spring for swimming.  Entrance was cheap and the water was refreshingly cool after 90 degree weather and intense sunlight.  They had a Tarzan swing :3 Afterward we walked the entire length of the beach down from Santo Domingo through San Fernando almost all the way to Santa Cruz, then back.  We watched the sun set behind the larger of the two volcanos, Conception.  Fun fact about these volcanos that you never glean from pictures: they are covered in clouds 95% of the time.  You can almost never see the entire thing all at once.  But Maderas, the one with a lake in the crater, had a good period of cloud-free time.

Brian didn’t join us on our walk and instead played fútbol with some locals.  When we returned we joined, but soon it was too dark to see.  They recommended we eat dinner at their restaurant/house, and it was delicious local food and accordingly priced well.  I made friends with a local cat; it settled on my lap of its own accord and kept me immobile for half an hour, plenty of time for the mosquitoes to get in 15 good bites up and down my legs, despite the bug spray.  Meanwhile, the dogs of the area were all passed out on the floor of the pulpería next door; the males had been chasing the sole female around the beach all day, Brian told us.  They have GOT to start fixing these dogs down here; the number of strays here is just ridiculous.  I guess they have bigger problems.

Yesterday was dedicated solely to climbing Volcán Maderas.  Whoever tells you it’s a 4 hour hike, don’t believe them.  After the third hour we started thinking that maybe it was supposed to be 3 hours up, 1 hour down.  Nope.  Don’t buy that either.  We began at 8:45 and reached the lake at 1:00.  Four hours one way. That’s more accurate. 

It was truly a challenge for me.  It started out at just a slight slope, a well maintained path with stair steps of tree trunks or terraced wood blocks.  Then it was just a stair stepper that never ended.  Our style was to go at moderate speed for a while, then break for a while. 

There were more monkeys!  We saw a white-faced capuchin on the way up and what looked like spider monkeys on the way down.  Many times we heard what sounded like howler monkeys, but they kept their distance and we never saw them.  Appropriately, the first time I heard one I was alone and using a latrine.  I was not excited for an encounter with a territorial monkey while I had my pants down, so I was accordingly alarmed. 

The path got much more difficult.  The slope became greater and we started using our hands.  Well, I started using my hands.  The forest ninjas among us simply danced up the hill.  There were conveniently-placed trees.  Every step I took I thought of high school physics and how I was gaining potential energy and thus taxing myself of that energy.  I could hear my heart rate the entire time, a function of my blocked up right ear (I think Cathy gave me her cold – my nose is stuffy right now), and it seemed on the order of 150bpm.  Before long the path got pretty muddy (we’d passed the cloud line) and our pace slowed a bit, and I started forgetting how tired I was as I played the “how can I best get past this muddy patch without dirtying my cloth shoes” game.  It was a noble attempt, I think.  My butt never hit the ground, and I think only Luke could say the same.  But more than once my foot ended up in some puddle.  If only I could have fit rain boots in my bookbag… 

Most people had gotten a much earlier start on the volcano than we had.  We crossed paths with Americans and Germans, mostly, all of whom had paid a guide (beforehand every local had tried to force one on us, but we were strong) and started at 5 in the morning.  At least those on the way down could give us an idea of how much further we had to go.  We saw some local boys in jeans; they passed us of course.

Most of the hike we were in the cloud layer, so it was far too foggy to see anything at all.  We weren’t even sure we were headed to the crater.  Luckily, the path was a bit too obvious to miss.  One moment we were descending into the crater, and the next we’d come to the shore of a lake.  Visibility couldn’t have been more than a couple hundred feet.  We came to a reedy shore of a rippling lake and we had literally no idea how big it was; it could have been enormous.  A gust of wind and a bit of sun removed the cloud from the crater for just a moment, long enough to snap a few pictures and ample time to get a sense of our surroundings: the lake was pretty small.  It would have taken me less than ten minutes to swim to the other side, and I’m no speedy swimmer.  As it was, I didn’t want to get lost in the fog as it rolled back over. 

The coolest thing about this lake, besides the fact that it’s in a dormant volcano crater, of course, is that it’s inside another lake.  Lake Nicaragua (aka Cocibolca) contains Island Ometepe, on Ometepe is Volcano Maderas, and inside its crater is the tiny lake.  So despite the chill (maybe 60F?) of course I went swimming.  To say I swam in a lake inside a lake!  Or a lake inside a volcano! Whichever sounds cooler.  It probably would be more accurate to call it a pond, based on its characteristics: small, reedy, and extremely mucky on the bottom.  Once it was deep enough to float in I didn’t touch the bottom at all, but Luke said that a few yards out he was up to his knees in muck, and heaven knows what lives there.  The water was frigid.  I guess it doesn’t get much sun, as does its containing lake Cocibolca.  My skin went numb pretty quickly, so stayed in just long enough for pictures.  And I can say I’ve done it, now.

Lunch was granola bars, raisins, and peanuts.  It’s funny how when you exercise you don’t need as much food (until dinner time).  The descent was much easier, as it wasn’t cardio and I wasn’t fighting gravity, and it’s like acrobatics.  I’m actually good at it. We played music and talked instead of panting and complaining. 

The return today was simple: early ferry from Ometepe, a bus from Rivas to Managua, where we took a cab and bought the supplies we needed.  The store was very nice: large, USD prices on everything.  I even bought an HDMI cable, finally.  Now we can watch my laptop’s movies on the big screen at home.  We couldn’t find optical cleaner or silicon grease (I think the maintenance crew forgot to tell us where to get those), but we can find them this coming weekend, as I believe we’ll be headed through Managua again.  Maybe we’ll be able to find a place to buy a replacement stepper motor, too. 

¡Somos Orgullosos!

So this Thursday is the anniversary of the revolution that put the current governmental system in power back in ‘79.  There is no work, and the entire hospital staff is being bused down to Managua to take part in the festivities, namely eating, drinking, and being merry, but also participating in rallies supporting FSLN (Federacion Sandinista Liberacion Nacional).  Maria informed us that we have both Thursday and Friday off of work.  Having already taken Monday off, we have a two-day work week.  I feel we’re cheating, or being cheated, one of the two.  I can’t decide.  She didn’t seem to expect us to want to accompany the workers to Managua, which I found a bit surprising.  I guess it is their holiday, but part of me thinks it’d be a very unique and rare experience.  Another part reminds me that being a white US resident amongst their celebrations probably isn’t particularly dangerous, but it just might not be the best idea.  We get enough eyeballs just for existing on any given day, let alone their Nicaraguan national holiday.  And the tourist in me sees the opportunity to have an extended weekend on the pacific coast…

But this holiday bothers me.  I compare it, of course, to US’s July 4th Independence Day, the closest point of reference I have.  But it’s a bad comparison, because the occasions are fundamentally different.  Their revolution heralded a change in style of government, supposedly from dictatorship to democracy.  Power to the people.  Ours was the birth of a new country, where the people of the country would be given a say in how their lives were run.  Power to the people.  So where’s the difference?  It’s most easily seen, I think, in how the common person views the holiday.  July 4th to an American? God Bless America! God Bless our Troops!  Proud to be and American!  July 19th down here?  FSNL.  Daniel Ortega.  Red and black flags, pink and blue and yellow leaflets.  Sandinista music.  I don’t see national pride, I see Party pride.  Like if all the Republicans in the country got together and had a party, but Democrats didn’t exist, or were afraid to admit their allegiance.  It just doesn’t seem as united, I suppose.  It seems kind of forced or strained. 

But what do I know?  I’m not particularly informed.  And who am I to judge?  Just a foreigner with the slightest window into the way things work here.  I do what I can.  These are just my thoughts.

What’s Up Next

This weekend will involve a trip to León and the Pacific Northwest.  Kate is dead-set on going volcano-boarding, which was listed #2 on an important person’s bucketlist of adventurous things to do, right after skydiving.  That’s because if you know what you’re doing you can stand up on your board and reach speeds upwards of 80km/h.  My untrained butt will remain “safely” on the board!  Hope to get you all some stellar photos.

P.S. Putting accents on letters is super-easy, I just learned.  Tap Ctrl then ’ and let go, then hit your vowel of choice.  You can do the same with an ñ, but remember you have to hit Shift to get a ~.  (Ctrl Shift ~ n è ñ)  And you can do exclamation points/question marks similarly: Alt Ctrl Shift ! or ?. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Workin' hard?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Despite my mobile access to internet, I have been falling a bit behind on my blog-writing.  Sorry about that!  I’ll hit the highlights.

Work this week has been rewarding.  We put that infant incubator we’ve been working on back into service.  There’s still something wrong with it, but we’ve figured out a way to keep it functioning normally.  Victor, our boss, agrees that it’s a better alternative than shipping it off to Managua, where they’ll probably not find a solution for a few months, if ever.  I call it a success.  After poking around a few fetal dopplers with hopelessly broken probes ($100 replacement not likely when a stethoscope and wristwatch function just fine) and an ECG with severed leads, the maintenance staff showed us a problem they’d been having for about a year with their waste water handling system.  They wondered if we could fix it, and we were very up front that we’d only ever been trained on medical equipment, so don’t expect too much.  Instead, we translated the manual for the automated water level sensing switches, which were only in English and Japanese.  It’s good to know we can be of many different kinds of help, even when there aren’t machines for us to fix.  If we ever run out of things to do, I’m sure there’s a pile of work waiting for us in that department.

Today we spent a while talking with our maintenance guys (rather than working in solitude), and we learned quite a bit.  We knew that the majority of the medical equipment in the hospital was donated from Japan when the hospital was built, and that with the donated equipment were manuals in Spanish.  But it’s just the medical equipment that’s Japanese.  Other machines that maintenance is responsible for (i.e. the water pumps, washers, dryers) are from the US or elsewhere.  When they break, they often don’t even have the manual.  In the case of one of the dryers, they were able to rig up a solution without it. For a faulty washer, they weren’t so lucky.  Its faulty board is sitting in Managua now, and a replacement would cost thousands of dollars.  For the US machines, they say parts are sometimes available.  Victor said that replacement parts for the donated Japanese equipment are almost impossible to get ahold of. 

I have been under the impression that there is a seeming lack of broken equipment in the hospital, perhaps because it’s just such a new hospital and things haven’t had an opportunity to break yet, but today we got a hint of the real situation.  Things break all the time.  Maintenance gets them back to as good of condition as they can, or if they’re just broken they might just stay where they are (a thousand pound washer would be tough to move to the maintenance workshop).  We haven’t had to venture out much yet, as they’ve been keeping us reasonably busy.  It’s kind of cool we’ll get to discover new things about the hospital, probably right up until the time we leave!  Though hopefully not too late to help, if we can.

I really enjoyed visiting Granada this weekend.  It was so great to see everyone again!  Talking to everyone about what we were doing in our hospitals was a great way to get ideas about things to do in ours.  Among other things, we viewed cool colonial architecture, sampled the local cuisine (dirt cheap, by the way), and took a boat tour to the islets of millionaires.

To anyone who may travel abroad in the future, I advise you check the expiration date of not only your passport, but your other lifeline, your debit card, before leaving.  Mine expired at the end of June and forced me to impose upon my fellow travelers.  Lesson learned.

Next weekend we go to Ometepe! We’re taking a 3-day weekend.  We convinced our boss by promising to pick up a few things in Managua while we’re there.  Helping the hospital and helping us enjoy our weekend vacations, I call it a success. 

So much for hitting the highlights.  Until the next novel!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

One Week Down

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

One week today in Boaco! I suppose it’s home now.  We’ve settled.  Things are nice.

The birthday party this weekend was nice.  It was a lot of Kate and me sitting at a table, occasionally joined by family members who spoke a bit of English and wanted to try it out on us.  There were quite a few people there who were from Miami originally.  And there was indeed dancing… I think every male there must have asked either Kate or me.  We got our white girl groove on out there.  I just didn’t look at the onlookers very much; I know they were blown away by my moves, no doubt about it :)

We decided that we’d get Maria something.  We just meant to go to the grocery store and pick up some flowers like we would at home, but apparently supermarkets here don’t do that.  We ended up spending $20 at a florist, but it was a very nice arrangement.  Thank god for Lupe. First, we never would have found the florist without her. Second, we wouldn’t have had any idea what Maria would have wanted. And third, we would have run straight into her on the way back in the door, carrying the arrangement, if it weren’t for her taking her by the arm and leading her onto the back patio…  Too bad I didn’t get to present her with it :( I was ensnared by a person I call The Captain (he showed me his ID that said he was the captain of something).  He was dancing and wouldn’t let me go. I hope she knows they were from me, too, haha.

Maintenance at work is a nice department to work in. Today a guy in the department (can’t remember his name, darn) came up and started talking to us about where he lives, and invited us to come visit with him someday! Kate and I were both so excited (first that we could understand him well enough to know what he was offering) at the prospect!  We didn’t nail down a day or anything, but we told him we’d be here for a month, so we’ll probably get to that later.  He said he lives in a place called “La Launa,” and I could totally be spelling that wrong; I only heard him say it.  It’s about 8km away from the hospital, and there isn’t a public bus that goes out that way like there is in Boaco.  I want to talk to our host about it just to make sure it’s safe and all before we go setting things in stone.

We were walking home from where the bus dropped us off today and we passed a mom with a little boy, about 4 years old.  He stared us down from the moment he saw us to the moment we passed, and even then turned right around and gawked at us until we turned the corner.  I had a very hard time not cracking up laughing: he’s the young, undisciplined extreme example of everyone in Boaco. Wherever we go we draw eyes.  I don’t even notice it anymore; I’m too busy admiring the fine weather, or thinking about hospital things, or whatever else occupies my mind.  Kate is a different story, and quite a bit more annoyed by it.  She stares right back at them, challenging them.  But we are the foreigners!  We are the minority!  Some of these people have lived here their entire lives, possibly traveled only as far as the next city over.  It’s possible they can count the number of white people they’ve ever seen on one hand.  I know what I’d be doing if a novel race waltzed past my house as casually as if they were part of the scenery.  Stare it up!  Tolerance tolerance tolerance tolerance tolerance.  It’s long been my way of existence and so it takes no effort to employ here, but I’m worried for Kate.  I want the two of us to be seen as friendly and open, and unfortunately that conduct is counterproductive.  I commented today that the best way we can deal with it is to be as nice as possible in return.  We’ll see how it goes in the days to come.

I don’t think I ever got around to explaining the housing situation.  We live in the center house of a strip of three houses that all belong to the same family.  There are two other bedrooms in addition to ours down a long outdoor hallway.  On the street end there is a sitting room and dining area, and at the other is the patio area that’s shared with one of the other houses.  I am not sure where precisely everyone lives, but I know that our host Maria (not the birthday party 77-year-old Maria, her daughter Maria.  That’s not confusing or anything, lol) lives in the house to our right.  The hired help Julia and her daughter Lupe cook our meals and look after getting us water and things like that.  During this first week we’ve been trying to acclimate, and so we’ve been spending what I think is too much time in our room in front of the computers.  I think we’re good and settled now, so I think we ought to venture out and try to hang out with the family.

But we have big weekend plans! Granada! We’re leaving Friday at noon after work and meeting up with Luke and Friz and Derek and Tracy and Bam and Tim and probably loads more that I’m forgetting at the moment but I miss ALL of you people and can’t wait to see you!  As the biggest tourist city in Nicaragua I am sure we will find some exciting things to do.  This past exciting weekend was spent reading Speaker for the Dead <--AMAZING (and for Kate finishing the Hunger Games trilogy).  We definitely needed the down-time, first time in a month (even if it did make me a bit lazy with the blog writing ;] ), but I’m ready for more adventures! NOSOTROS SOMOS TURISTAS :D