Tuesday, October 1, 2013


Let’s have a little recap of the past couple of months that I’ve missed blogging about.
August: I turned 26! I celebrated the day by having a gaggle of the neighborhood kids come over to my house and throw flowers and leaves at me while yelling happy birthday. You may be thinking huh? But trust me, I was happy it was flowers and leaves, they have a tradition here of throwing flour and eggs at the birthday person.  I’ve seen it happen a few times to high school students, doesn’t look that fun at least not for the victim. We had a little party and I made s’mores for them. They loved them and keep asking me when we can make some more, but unfortunately graham crackers are non-existent here. So thank you Stone family for the package, and muchas gracias from my neighborhood friends.
I attended my close of service conference and got really stressed out about my service ending and real life beginning again. It was a bombardment of the truth. What I need to do before leaving and what I need to do when I get home, most importantly get a job.
I missed the big gala event that the business volunteers throw every year, due to a terrible stomach issue. I’ve recovered, I think. In October, before I’m cleared to go home I have to have 3 days filled with medical appointments and tests. We’ll have to see what exactly is living inside my intestinal tract.
September: Just normal classes and life in Muy Muy. Just when I’m forgetting about my quickly approaching departure date, someone brings up the fact that I’m leaving soon. And it’s normally followed by them saying that I probably will never return to visit them, which I try to reassure them that I’ll come back to visit but I can’t set a date right now. It all goes back to that issue of getting a job and earning money.
Apparently September is the season for pig slaughtering because I’ve witnessed two within a week of each other. I’ve never eaten so much pork in my life. It’s delicious but another issue I’ll have resolved in my medical appointments. My blood pressure and cholesterol are probably extremely high due to the heightened consumption of salt and oil/fat. As my medical appointments approach I become more and more of a hypochondriac. I’ve started making a list of the all the tests I want run and concerns I want answered.

Basically, the only thing that I’ve missed blogging about is my stressing out. And it just keeps getting worse with each day that I cross off my calendar. 


Surgery / Traumatizing experience √

I’m hoping I won’t have to check that box again during my remaining 4 months here. Two weeks after the surgery I finally got my stitches removed. My surgeon told me to come back for him to take them out, but the PC doctor told me I could just do it at the health center in my site. At the time I was relieved to hear that I didn’t have to take a 3 hour bus ride just for a 10 minute appointment of removing stitches that was before I actually removed my stitches.
I went to the health center and interrupted the on-duty nurse from watching the news, so that started the visit off to a lovely start. She asked me what I needed and I explained that I needed my stitches removed; she asked how long I’ve had them and I replied about two weeks and she looked at me like I was crazy. Luckily, I had a letter from my surgeon that clearly explained that July 11 was the day to remove the stitches, so I wasn’t the crazy one. Technically the surgeon wrote I should have an appointment with him, which the nurse pointed out to me, but I told her if she was capable of removing them that would be just fine. Begrudgingly she obliged and began looking for a pair of scissors and tweezers.
She dug right in and began tugging and snipping, as I sat gripping the bed and biting my lip in order to prevent myself from screaming. I had four stitches and she was able to remove two. She didn’t try very hard to remove the other two stitches and simply dismissed me by saying that they’ll come out on there own. And that was it, she returned to the other room to resume watching the news.
It wasn’t exactly the bedside manner that I received from the doctors in Managua, and from my few visits that I’ve had to the health center previously it didn’t really surprise me all that much. But I was not about to just let the stitches come out on there own, with my luck I would have another infection, etc. So I walked home and took out my own tweezers to get rid of those last two stitches. It took a little bit of time and patience but I was able to get a hold of the stitch. It looped through my foot so I had quite a bit to remove. I gently pulled it through, but then it stuck…I stopped took a deep breath and tugged it free. (I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about this) I screamed and let out a sailor’s rant of swear words. It was free. It’s amazing how a little piece of thread about 2 centimeters long could hurt so much.

I was a bit hesitant to remove the final stitch, but did it without any hitches, screams or swearing. That’s it. Now I’ll have a scar on the bottom of my foot to remind me of the whole experience.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Surgery in Nicaragua

So this issue with my foot has been a long and drawn out process. I cut my foot open in April and since then it's been infected, x-rayed, ultra sounded and finally operated on. Yesterday was my first surgery in my life and I did it alone in Nicaragua....if you can even picture that.
I went to the hospital and checked in. A little nervous, but still had a bit of confidence, which quickly disappeared. The receptionist called a man to "assist" me to the surgery room. While waiting he asked if I had a family member with me. "No" I replied and was looked at with pure bewilderment. He was probably thinking here's a crazy gringa going into surgery alone. He told me I couldn't take anything with me to the surgery, so I had to leave my phone and wallet with him. This is a reputable hospital, most upper class Nicaraguans, Peace Corps volunteers and Embassy employees are attended here, so I was hoping that I wouldn't be robbed while in surgery. My assistant and wheelchair arrived and again was looked at like I was crazy when he found out that I wasn't accompanied by anyone. This is where my little confidence disappeared and I could feel my tear ducts kicking in.
I was pushed in a wheelchair to surgery. Really?!? I had been walking around on this foot for two months, but for some reason couldn't walk a few meter and take an elevator independently. I was covering my face and avoiding any type of eye contact.
I reached the surgical room and again confronted with bewilderment that I was alone. This is where I lost it. They had me change into my gown and I started crying. When I came out, the nurse looked at me with little sympathy and asked what happened. I couldn't really stop crying, but replied that I was nervous. I self-consciously walk in my breezy gown to get prepped for surgery. I had surgery on my foot, so I'm thinking wearing a bra and underwear under my gown is acceptable. Wrong! The nurse who put in my IV and electrodes made me take off my bra and underwear. Just lovely. I started crying again and tried explaining that I was nervous and this was my first surgery ever, and the fact that I was alone and pretty much humiliated by everything leading up to this. The nice anesthesiologist reassured me that everything would be okay and to think happy thoughts, she drew something on my foot and that's the last thing I remember.
I groggily wake up in recovery with the surgeon and my Peace Corps doctor telling me that everything went fine and that I should rest for the next couple of hours. I dozed in and out of sleep until the drugs wore off. A nurse noticed I was semi-alert, so asked me a few questions: name? age? sexually active?..Wait! What? I have a difficult time jumping into full on Spanish mode most mornings without my coffee, so while still sedated on drugs, I need some time to process. I ask the nurse to repeat herself a couple of times, still with no luck. She then turns to another nurse and says, "She doesn't speak Spanish very well." I was about to flip out on her, saying that I understood that so I can't be too stupid, but I thought since I'm still in their care I'd better not. I finally understood the question when the other nurse asked about a husband or boyfriend. Then the first nurse asked if I had kids? abortions? age I first had sex? age of first period? I answered, but am still confused exactly why those questions are pertinent to my foot operation and especially after the procedure.
Finally I was discharged. This time the wheelchair was appreciated, but still a bit embarrassing. My Peace Corps doctor gave me a ride back to my hotel. And there I sat enjoying a Top Chef marathon in English and chatting with some other volunteers.
My foot is all bandaged up. I get to shower with a plastic bag wrapped around it for the next couple of days and take in all that Managua has to offer while walking on my foot minimally, like cable TV, wireless, fast food, air conditioning. I just hope that on Monday I will receive good news and will have no problems with my foot and no other needs for surgery here in Nicaragua. One was enough.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

You still reading....

Wow! It’s been a really long time since my last entry. It’s just that after my trip with Melissa, my life has been pretty mundane. I’ve been back and forth to Managua to fix the problem with my foot. And finally after two months I’m happy to report that I’m having a minor surgery to remove the foreign object that has been lodged in my foot and the root of the infection and lump that’s been on my foot.
            That’s pretty much been the most exciting news in my life. Otherwise, I’m just trying to finish up these last five months with as much energy and excitement as I started this journey with. Sometimes it’s a bit difficult to motivate myself to get up and go to class especially when it’s still dark and chilly with rain most mornings, the rainy season is in full force now and surprisingly I almost forgot how much I hate the rainy season – more on that later; but once I get to class I’m always glad that I did get up because the students are always happy to see me. Then after class I’m faced with the challenge of house chores.
            There are a lot of things that I miss from the States, but right now I would give just about anything for a clothes dryer. Just imagine, it rains almost everyday, some days more than others but it’s pretty much damp everyday. How do you get clothes to dry in these conditions? I wash clothes just to have them sit around for 2 or 3 days attempting to dry. I put them outside and then the rain comes and I bring them inside, drape them over chairs, doors, I’ve even resorted to putting my damp/clean socks on my boiling pot of beans or when I boil water for coffee/tea to dry them. It always reminds me of Uncle Buck when he does laundry in the kitchen because he can’t open the washing machine. Anyways, you all know what clothes smell like if you leave them in the washing machine over night; so you can imagine what some of my clothes smell like after a day or two of dampness. Luckily I have plenty of perfume to hopefully mask the musty smell I can’t seem to escape.
            I really wish I had more to report, but I don’t. 

Being a tourist for a week

Sorry all, no guest blogger this time. I made the decision to not even ask her because she’s super busy with work and judging by the feedback I got from Steve (the last guest blogger) apparently writing guest blogs is more stressful than it seems. So here’s my interpretation of the trip. Quick side note: I acted more like a tourist on this trip versus the poor Peace Corps volunteer that I am. We didn’t stay in hostels, we didn’t take buses everywhere we went and we didn’t eat in cheap comedors. I was spending money like a drunken sailor and have to thank my family for giving me money so that I was able to do that. THANK YOU! On to the trip…..
We didn’t really have an itinerary to follow or reservations, but had our trusty guide book to Nicaragua and let fate/luck lead the way. Due to a late arrival, we stayed in Managua for a night and made a “plan.” The plan was go to Ometepe and San Juan del Sur. The next morning we were off. We took a bus from Managua to Rivas. It was a normal Nica bus. Three people to a seat, hot and stuffy, the aisles crammed full of people without seats, and people trying to sell whatever they could, soda, juice, bracelets, pens, candy. I was just happy to get a seat, that’s really my only worry when I ride buses; but, I don’t think Melissa enjoyed the ambiance that much. That was the only bus we took the whole trip.
We arrived in Rivas, took a taxi and then ferry to the island of Ometepe. So far so good, we arrive in the port of Moyagalpa and look for a place to eat. We spot a pizza place while avoiding all the taxi drivers yelling “Taxi! Taxi! Taxi!” I don’t know the name of the place but I definitely recommend it to anyone going to Ometepe. I know I might not be the most reliable person to recommend food joints, considering that I’ve been eating rice and beans for practically two years and my standards have lowered in terms of good food – hell, I got excited about a bag of Cheetos that my mom brought. But, Melissa even agreed that it was good pizza, and you can trust her. While chowing down, we look through the guide book for things to do on Ometepe and a place where we can stay. Our “plan” stay at Villa de Paraiso (Paradise Hotel), climb Volcano Maderas, possibly visit a waterfall, and natural spring. We take a taxi to the hotel and settle in. We make reservations for a volcano hike the next morning and then wander on the beach, eat, and relax before the hike in the morning.
The hotel’s guide book for attractions describes the volcano hike as a 6-8 hour hike. I’m thinking that should be fine, we’ll probably take a couple breaks at lookout points, eat lunch, etc. No problem. We meet our guide at the hotel at 7:30 in the morning. He gives each of us our provisions, a bag lunch (two cheese and bologna sandwiches and a pack of club crackers), a 1.5 liter bottle of water and a Tupperware of pineapple chunks. We drive to the park entrance and start the hike. Our guide hands each of us a stick. Melissa and I immediately look at each other and start laughing, “Is this really necessary?” Side note: I’ve climbed two volcanoes previously and those volcanoes were visibly inclined hikes; this time we started hiking through fields and it was relatively flat. Hence, the laughing off the walking sticks.
We walk and walk and walk. Along the way the guide points out various animals and insects (howler monkeys, capuchin monkeys, wild turkey, termites, leaf cutter ants, etc). We get up to a lookout point and this is where the incline starts. The hike is getting more and more difficult, more inclined and I’m getting sweatier and sweatier. It’s getting to a point where I don’t think we’ll ever reach the top. Finally the guide tells us it is 2 hours until the top. At this point we are walking in mud, because it’s a tropical rainforest at the top and it rains every day. This is where the walking stick comes in handy. Finally, the guide starts counting down…10 minutes to the top…..5 minutes….2…1….and we’re there. WHAT??!?! THIS IS THE TOP?!? It was literally a small clearing and if we pushed some branches out of the way we could get a pretty decent look out/picture. Our triumph of reaching the top quickly turned to disappointment. The guide says, “C’mon we’re going to go down the crater.” We climb down to the crater, which is not easy and I keep thinking how are we going to climb back up this? The crater is a lagoon and a grassy area. It was a nice spot to rest, eat lunch and drink the rest of our water supply, OOPS! We drank all the water and we’re technically only half way done because now we have to climb back down. Luckily, our guide gave us another bottle of water, which saved us.
I really would have preferred for a helicopter to come pick us up, or really any other possible way that didn’t require me to walk/climb anymore. We begrudgingly started hiking again. It wasn’t too bad, at first. But after a couple of hours, my knees, feet and hips hurt so bad I couldn’t think of anything else but reaching the bottom. I didn’t want to stop and rest anymore, just wanted to finish. We got to the bottom and climbed back into the truck to take us to the hotel at 5:30….it was a 10 hour hike and felt every minute like a 10 hour hike. We were covered in mud, dehydrated and hungry. We showered, ate dinner, drank lots of water and went to bed.
Originally we were thinking we were going to do something the next day, before we left; but neither of us had the energy. We relaxed on the beach for a little while before checking out and heading back to Moyagalpa to take the ferry and make our way to San Juan del Sur. We ate at the pizza place again before saying “adios” to Ometepe and “hello” to San Juan del Sur.
We take a taxi from the ferry to San Juan del Sur (another avoidance of the bus). We don’t have any idea where we’re going to say. We found some places we would like to stay in the guide book, but the book is a bit outdated and phone numbers change or people don’t like answering phones. So we go to some hotels, hoping that there’s space for us. Two strikes, so far and our hopes are dwindling. We arrive at Empalme de las Playas with fingers crossed. We’re approached by the owner, Karen, and she’s telling us we can’t stay for just one night and was about to turn us away, but in stepped our guardian angel, Roy, her husband and he wasn’t about to let us leave. THANK GOD! We sign in, settled in and then ventured to the beach.
It only takes a moment of chatting with Karen and Roy to immediately think that if my mom and Steve were to retire in Nicaragua (like they’ve mentioned, hopefully jokingly) this is couple is their long lost married couple twins. They’ve been in Nicaragua for 8 years and have this hotel with four cabanas, that’s only about 10 minutes from two beaches. They lend out their 4 wheeler to the guests to go down to the beach or take their little SUV for more people. It’s a hotel where beach meets tailgating. The refrigerator is always fully stocked with Tonas and Roy is ready to challenge anyone willing to play kornhole, dice, darts, cards, you name it they’ve got it.
We spent three days there and fully enjoyed the sun and the sand each day, until our last. We decided to take surf lessons. The lessons were fun and exhausting; it’s no wonder how all the surfers have nice bods. After the hour lesson we had the boards for the rest of the day. After a short lunch break, we attempted to surf again. It was fun until I stomped on something sharp in the water. I immediately think jellyfish….and as I hobble of the water I begin to see the blood on my foot. It appeared that I punctured my foot on some foreign object. (I’m still getting treated by the Peace Corps doctors for the infection I acquired and can’t get rid of. My fingers are crossed that I come home with both feet.)
Unfortunately, that ended my time surfing. But, then we were off to our booze/sunset cruise. They boasted dolphin sightings, but we weren’t lucky enough for that. We just cruised around the beaches, while drinking. It’s a three hour cruise and my glass was never empty. I stuck with beer, but they were pouring rum with a splash of coke. Are you surprised if I tell you there was an incident of “sea sickness”? Not on my part, nor Melissa; it was another fellow who claimed sea sickness, but I put my money on the Flor de Cana (rum).
There wraps our vacation. The next day we headed back to Managua, in a taxi; we spent the night before Melissa’s early flight the next morning. And I headed back to Muy Muy.
I had a great time escaping my volunteer life and seeing more of Nicaragua. I hope Melissa had a fun time. I know Nicaragua doesn’t normally ring in at the top of the list for vacation spots for most people; it does have some pretty amazing things to see and I always appreciate the visit. Hint hint: If you’re thinking about coming to Nicaragua, you can have a free tour guide and translator. I’m taking reservations until November.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Another guest blogger, hopefully

My friend, Melissa, is coming this week to visit and I'm hoping she'll write some blogs for me. Hopefully she'll write them and I may have to give her some deadlines, since my last guest blogger.....ahem, Steve, was quite leisurely with his blog posts; hence the month delay after their visit.
Hope you enjoy the guest blog posts! I apologize for the disorganized posts. I was just copying them from my email and they weren't ordered correctly.

Very Very (muy muy) busy

> I can usually tell how much fun I had the night before by how much fun I'm not having in the morning and Sunday was no exception. As Saturdays fog lifted from my head ,our plans for the day became more clear. We were going to Hebers baseball game in the morning. After that Tonio was going to butcher a pig so he invited us up to his ranch for lunch followed by horseback riding. And later we were to drive up to Matiguas for the rodeo.
> We picked up Lindsey and Heber in the morning and went just down the street to a little restaurant for breakfast. It didnt really look like a restaurant just a house with a few more tables than usual and a woman cooking at her stove.
> After eating we drove out to Hebers game. Baseball here can be compare to our home talent leagues. Each town gets a team together and they schedule games against other towns. Tonio is the financial backer or owner of the team from Muy Muy. Unfortunately this was playoff time and Muy Muy had already been eliminated. Heber also played on the Muy Muy team but was recruited to play for another team through the playoff. Heber is one of the local super jocks. Besides playing shortstop he is also a very good bull rider.
> We could see the other player respected his athletic abilities.
> His teammates were suprised to see an infield ground get by him. The other team however was very quick to throw back in their face that one of their best players had made an error.
> The baseball diamond wasn't much more than a field behind someone's house in the country. Six foot Branches with some chicken wire attached made up the backstop.
> On each team there was about 15 players ranging in age from early 20s to late 30s. In the parking lot there were 10 motorcycles,4 horses and 1 Toyota truck. We joked that maybe the other team all rode there in the back of that truck.
> The quality of play was very good. As good as our home talent or minor leagues in Wisconsin. I enjoyed watching but shade was at a minimum. There were no benches to sit on so we ended up on a dirt mound on the right field side with a branch hanging over for a little cover. We also found out today was going to be a double header. We stayed for most of the first game but since Tonio was already slaughtering a pig for us, we thought we better not be to late for lunch. Heber attempted to leave with us. But his uncle, who also played on the team , convinced him he was to valuable to the team and had to stay.
> We went back into muy Muy Where we met Tonios helper Jackson and followed him up to the ranch. He turn off the road just outside of town onto a dirt path up a hill through a pasture. The path was full of rocks and big ruts. We could feel our rented SUV bottom out on some of the boulders. It must have been close to two miles through the fields to Tonios ranch house. The house was very rustic almost barn or stable like. Dirt floor kitchen, worn ,weathered wood and paint. Like everywhere in Nicaragua there was debris. Plastic stuck hanging on the fences and weeds. Pieces laying in the grass yard around the house. Maybe an old shirt or shoe or bottle. We walk up the four steps to the huge front porch. Sorry three steps. The top step had broke and was laying on the third step. "Careful that last step's a doozy. "The view from the porch was awesome. It overlooked the entire town and we could see mountains all around for miles. The weather was perfect. It may have been 90 F but we were shaded on the porch a the breeze was just right. We enjoyed a few beers before lunch was ready and wrestled our way through some language impeded conversation. It was very nice and as I sat there relaxing I understood why no one had bothered to fix the step yet. Lunch consisted of grilled pork with a salad on the side. I don't know what they season their meat with but it was delicious.
> There had been four horses tied to the porch since we arrived. Tonio said ,once our lunch settled ,we would go for a horse ride around some of his property. As we saddled up,Rachel's horse got alittle out of control. Nothing to worry about, Tonio jumped up on the back of her horse with her and led the way. He seemed to have alittle crush on Rachel and I had a feeling this was all part of his plan. We rode down the hill to a fenced in stable area. Inside has was a foal Tonio said was only three days old. Once we opened the gate it was obvious Lindsey was riding the mother. They were happy to be reunited and the foul began nursing immediately. We started back up a different side of the hill with baby following. This time we rode through the pasture where the bulls for the rodeo were grazing. Theses animals were big and beautiful. And so was the landscape around us. Green hillsides surround by mountainous scenery. When we got back to the house it was time to start planning our trip to the rodeo. Heber had texted Lindsey that he had finished his double header and was going home to change. We drove down the rutty path back to Muy Muy to pick up Heber. Tonio , Jackson and another hired hand met us at Cafe Angel and we followed them to Matiguas. Most of the time people in Nicaragua are perfectly happy doing nothing.  When they do , there is no hurry.  That is until they get in an automobile.  The roads to the rodeo in Matiguas were rough and there was no keeping up with Tonio.  I dont really know how they can go so fast because there were times when we bounced so hard our heads hit the roof of the car. Arriving at the rodeo was like arriving at a county fair . We parked in a grass lot. There were tents and food stands and grand stands around the arena. There were a lot of people standing around, mingling ,eating and drinking along the gravel road to the arena entrance . We purchased our tickets and walked under the stands onto the walk path around the bull pen fence. 
Above the stands was a  stage like platform with a mariachi band playing very loud and lively the entire time we were there. The atmosphere inside was a little rowdier . It felt like a cross between a cock fight and a gladiator event. The  wood that the  bleacher were made of was well worn. The tier heights were random. Some were 18 inches ,some were 2 feet, some were 3 boards wide, some were 4 or 5. We found an open spot and climbed up to our seats. Inside the ring there were cowboys on horses ready to lasso any loose bull.
   Then the shoot opened.  Out came the bull twisting and kicking and bucking and riding him was a completely drunk rider. Im talking about wet noodle ,rubber neck ,crash dummy, gumby drunk. All the riders were wearing helmets with face guards so that was good but some of them couldn't even stand up after they fell off. It was interesting watching the cowboys rope the  bulls back into there pens.
Some of the bulls would only buck a couple seconds and quit. It was one of the cowboys job to entice the bull to start kicking again. He might wave a red flag in the bulls face or run circles around him. The hole time with the drunk rider  wavering on top ready to fall off. It was a blast to watch and a total party. Kids were walking around vending food and picking up empty beer can and there was a lot of drinking and laughing going on. Tonio assured me that the rodeo in Muy Muy was much better than here. After all the Muy Muy rodeo had Tonios bulls and Heber riding them. We watched for a couple hours and mingled with a few curious locals. Rachel spend some time taking pictures of some of the kids and other fans in the stands and Lindsey took some videos with Tonios new camera.
   We stopped in one of the beer  tents on our way out to the car but it was very loud and crowded.  CafĂ© Angel seemed like a much better idea , so we headed back to Muy Muy  and finished the night there. We danced and teased and drank and tried to teach Jackson English . We all laughed our heads of, funny beyond the language barrier.
   When it was time to leave ,we said our goodbyes and thanked our new amigos for the wonderful day. We would be leaving for the airport in the morning and I told Tonio he had made my last day in Nicaragua my best.