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 :)