Sunday, July 28, 2013

Is this actually over?- Summary of the Segundo Mes

First off, I have done a completely awful job blogging this second month. Our day to day work wasn’t blog-worthy, I didn’t think. So here will be a pathetic attempt to sum it all up.

So we started off the month working in Hospital San Jose, a small hospital with an obvious lack of equipment. We found a total of around 40 pieces of medical equipment in the entire hospital, which is not much at all. So then there is obviously not much to fix, since they have so little equipment and a technician that does a good job getting things back in rotation if they break. So our first two weeks were pretty slow. We fixed a few cool things, but did a lot of sitting around and wandering around the hospital trying to find things to work on.

So one marvelous day, Kevin, one of the OTGC’s, called us and asked us if we wanted to meet with SILAS to talk to them about working in some of the smaller clinics in our state of Carazo (as mentioned in prior blog post) and we chose to work in the nearest one to our house (half an hour walk or so).

AND THAT WAS AMAZING! Get this: Day one was LOADED with nebulizers and bathroom scales and we repaired five things in four hours! WOAH! And the other days we worked there went similarly. Throughout the day, as more doctors and nurses found out we were there, they would bring more and more equipment. We ended up having the majority of our fixes here! Amazing- right? I absolutely and totally recommend SILAS to anyone coming to Diriamba or any other hospital in Nicaragua. Even if its just for an occasional change in scenery! We also developed amazing relationships with the nurses and administrators at the clinic! These ladies were some of the sweetest people I met in Nicaragua. They were so genuinely excited and thankful for our work almost to the point of tears.

One woman gave us a broken Fetal Doppler, her only one, and a box of “trashed” ones and we mixed and matched parts until we had 3 working dopplers. When we delivered them back to her she gasped and was speechless until she finally said “por mio?!”. She was thrilled and found pregnant Aura, another friend of ours in the Centro de Salud, to test them all out. Her reaction made the entire first month of simi-tedious classes and the struggles of second month completely and totally worth it. Just the look on her face when she saw those dopplers made my heart leap.

Aura, mentioned above, was a wonderful lady who worked in the office. She basically took us under her wing and helped us in any way she possibly could. She knew nothing about any of the equipment, but she diligently took us around to each room in each ward to ask what was broken there. She also sung our praises in each room and bragged on all of the fixes we had thus far. We are now facebook friends and are currently messaging back and fourth about my travels and safety as I get home.

These stories are what make the summer of hard work and being outside of my comfort zone 99% of the time, the best time of my life. I have never felt so nostalgic about leaving a place. I loved Africa and hated leaving, but I just left a huge chunk of my heart and two months of my love and work in a country that has truly shaped my life. I believe that we are formed and shaped by the experiences that we have, and I can confidently say that my experiences this summer in Liberia and Nicaragua have made me a considerably better person in a variety of ways. I have learned so much about myself and about engineering and what I want my life to look at in 5, 10, even 20 years.

Not only were the work and work relationships capturing, the friends I made on the program are some of the most interesting and fun people I've ever met. Who would of known that I would love a group of engineers as much as I love this group?! Much less engineers from Duke. Ha!

If someone told me a year ago that I would be sitting on a plane today, coming home from a trip repairing medical equipment in Nicaragua, feeling the way I do about leaving, and with such direction and clarity for my future aspirations I would think that they were insane. But geez, I'm glad that I am.

I have never imagined that my summer could actually end up playing out as perfectly and wonderfully as it did. I am so sad to leave, but can’t wait to see how my experience, here in Nicaragua, shapes my personality, attitude, goals, work ethic and ultimately future.

This has been a teary eyed blog post, and a teary eyed plane ride. But as Corey Smith once said, “If I could do it again, ya know I’d do it the same.” And that is so true for this summer. There were “Cloud 9” times and times when I could have ripped my hair out, but all came together for a beautiful experience.

Monday, July 1, 2013

First FIX!!

Written Sunday, June 30
First day of working in the hospital and first weekend in Diriamba: both a success.

So we got to work at 8 am, and the first person we met was the adorable front desk lady named Veronica. She was so helpful and went to get Sor. Sonya. Sonya is a nun who is in charge of admin stuff (did I mention that our hospital is half run by nuns?). She took us around the hospital for kind of half of a tour while Harold (Head Technician/Only Technician) cleaned the maintenance room. Then Sonya dropped us off in the supply closet with a lady who talked 99 mph about her grandchild who had just been born, and someone that she knew that lived in America, and 9/11 and lord knows what else. I understood 50% at the most. And 25% of that was hand motions. Then Harold was finally done and then actually just wanted us to work in a different room. So he lead us up to a random table near the admin offices and just brought us equipment one at a time. The first was a centrifuge. He plugged it in and turned it on and it shook and spun all over the table because it was off balance. But Charlotte and I, being the eager beavers that we are, dove in and took it apart immediately. Through much testing and running through ideas, the test tubes were different weights and that was the problem. So user error, which is the most common problem, but it took a while for us to slow down enough to realize that.

Either way, it counts as a fix! Then we were given an autoclave and OH BOY. Basically we are NOT even CLOSE to skilled enough to fix this. It’s full of water so we can’t open the door. But the reservoir is empty so we can’t run it either. Basically the water gets trapped in the chamber so when you open it water rushes out. But after Harold cleans the pipes it works a few times and then it’s back to the regular problem. So we emailed someone in America who gives autoclave advice. Yes, those apparently exist. And we are hoping to hear back from them tomorrow. We played the “I’m volunteering in a third world country” card, so hopefully that helped too.

Then we left for our lunch break, which is an hour long. We had no idea what’s in Diriamba. So we begin walking aimlessly and find “Taco El Reloj” and eat there. Then we swung by a bread store for desert. To give you an idea of our meal: I had two tacos for a total of 30 cordobas, then a cupcake and a bottle of coke for a total of 22 cordobas. So for 52 cordobas, aka $2.12, I had lunch, desert and a drink. In America, the bottle of coke alone would be that much almost.

Come to find out later, our host family actually provides us lunch daily. So we had our lunch for dinner. Which was this AMAZING potato salad served over lettuce with rolled up bologna in it. Our family loves bologna.

After lunch we went back to the hospital and took some inventory. We really only covered the maternity ward so far, but that was a job in itself. They apparently have 4+ babies born daily and only one working infant warmer, one working phototherapy light and no working incubators. The rest of the equipment in the room is broken and just taking up space. Not for long though, if Charlotte and I can do anything about it! #CharlotteAndHannahSavingBabies

Then Saturday we met up with two fellow EWHers who are stationed about a 30 min bus ride from us. So we met for pizza and then headed out to the beach. It’s going to be so great having them nearby to hang out. I love Charlotte to pieces, but I know that we will both be ready for some new faces after spending every moment together.

Sunday (today) we did nothing. Charlotte slept half the day and I read a book and a half. I finished the last half “Gone Girl” and then read all of “Lucy in the Sky”. Both were FANTASTIC and had crazy plot twists and endings. My fave. And that about sums up our entire day. Besides eating and going to the supermarket to buy toilet paper and lollipops.

And tomorrow starts our first full week! No, literally the first full week of the entire program. Even last month when we were taking classes, we had Fridays off of class to go visit hospitals. This will be a five-day streak of trying to fix as much as we can! Here goes nothing…..

Cause I'm Halfway Gone

Written Thursday, June 27
Looking Back:

Today we left Granada and are starting a new phase of our trip. We have finished Spanish classes and technical classes and are on to working in the hospital we have been assigned.

This past month has been an incredible experience. I have gotten the opportunity to live in Nicaragua and really understand their daily lives and culture. This obviously had good and bad parts to it. Anything from sitting on the porch with our family as the sun goes down or playing with their kids, to hearing of armed robberies weekly. For example, a friend of mine from our group was walking home last night with a group of five average sized guys and they all got jumped, but Lucas got caught up and was hit with multiple rocks and they took his shirt, wallet and belt and was in the hospital all night.

Disclaimer- I don’t include that to worry people, but to make light of the culture. I know of many people who have been approached by men with knives or rocks and been mugged. But that comes with living in a city and living in a foreign country. It also is part of the territory of being a foreigner. We are obviously targeted as a group for crime, begging, vendors, etc.

On top of the stressing about safety, this month has been very emotionally and mentally trying. I was thrown into a foreign place…with a language I didn’t know much of…with people I had never met before. But success stories in all areas. I really felt comfortable and welcome in Nicaragua shortly after arriving. My Spanish has improved marginally. And of course- I fell into quick and entertaining friendships with some amazing people. I love situations like this where I am forced to meet people and befriend people that I wouldn’t naturally cling to in a normal environment. None of my friends here are even closely similar to any of my close friends at home, which just goes to show what an open mind can do for someone. Not everything has been rosy and happy though. I have dabbled in homesickness, culture shock, and identity crises. Being in such a strange environment has really been shining a light on my strengths, but more importantly my weaknesses. Which is never really a pleasant time.

Overall, this past month has shaped me into a generally stronger, more capable and more flexible person. I have learned a ton and have left a large part of my heart in the city of Granada.

“An adventurous life does not necessarily mean climbing mountains, swimming with sharks or jumping off cliffs. It means risking yourself by leaving a little piece of you behind in all those you meet along the way.”

The goal is to successfully have an adventurous trip. I think I have definitely left part of me with my host family in Granada and a few other Nicaraguans that I met along the way (Spanish teachers and coffee shop workers). I am also fully confident that I will make even more connections and friendships in Diriamba as well.

So looking forward:

Today, as mentioned before, our group left Granada and spread across the east half of Nicaragua. Charlotte and I moved to Diriamba. We got here just before noon today and got to see the hospital that we will be working in for the next month. We then came to our new homestay, which is incredible! The house is stunning, our mom is a sassy Nicaraguan pediatrician who was strutting around the house in heals and tight jeans and a leopard patterned shirt today. She has a daughter who is 22 and hasn’t come home yet, so we haven’t met her. And she also has a lady named Carlita who cooks and helps around the house. There are mango trees, banana trees and other unidentified fruit trees in the yard. A huge boxer-like guard dog named Tyler. The house is so tranquil and peaceful which is a switch up from our last house with 3 young, rowdy kiddos in it. Both have their perks obviously, but this house’s environment is a relaxing change. Upon arrival, while still stunned from the immensity of this house, we were served a beautiful meal of rice with beet strips on it, chicken with some sort of gravy-like sauce cooked with onions, peppers and carrots and tostones (fried plantains). It was delicious, breathtaking really.

Then we decided to go explore the town some and get a feel for the land. It took me all of fifty seconds to fall in love with it. The climate is cool, the town is the perfect size, and people are so friendly. Today there was a constant breeze as we walked around,  we were able to pretty much walk from one side of town to the other (we think), and the people we so much nicer than in Granada. Granada is touristy and the people there have a general distaste for visitors sometimes and usually dismiss you or just stare blankly at you, both of which make you feel generally uncomfortable. But walking around today was a total difference. People smiled at us and were helpful. Plus we had a pretty lengthy conversation with the storeowner, Michael, about our reasoning for being here and our lives. He was genuinely interested and so wonderful.

-----PAUSE: Charlotte quote: “Ya know what I wish I had right now? A pregnant belly to rest my book on.” How weird is she? So weird. But I just can’t help but love it. Okay, PLAY-----

So overall, Granada was an amazing time. Spending everyday with a group of really fun people and learning all about Nicaragua and preparing for this month. But now the time is here, to show our stuff and make last month count. I am so excited to start working here and really try to make a difference in this hospital.

Cheers to adventure and leaving as much of myself behind in Diriamba as I can!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

La Isla de Ometepe

This past weekend we went to the big island in the middle of the lake called Ometepe. It is made up of two volcanos, one of which is active. 
How cool?! So first we had to get there, which meant a bus, a taxi, and a ferry. So when we got there Saturday night we just got a place to stay, went to dinner, then went out for a little while. Just a small group of us went out and we went to this super colorful and maybe slightly hippie-ish bar/hostel. Rumor is that it's owned by a cult leader who does some pretty sketchy stuff. And then when we were there the power went out and we had candlelight covos for part of the night. I had a ton of fun because I went with some people that I haven't really spent much time with, and so some serious bonding occurred. I also got to see the more human and less coordinator side of Alex which was so fun! He's great. No surprise there. So then we went back to the hostel and slept. 

The next morning Allie and I stayed behind as the others biked or hiked. We talked to Robinson, the hostel guy, and asked for suggestions of amazing things to do on the island for the morning while the others were gone. So we settled it: we would get an amazing breakfast....
And then rent an ATV to ride across the island...
So we strapped our belongings to the front and headed to the other side of the island where the best beaches are. If you check out the map up top: we rode from Moyogalpa on the northwest coast, to Santa Cruz on the eastern coast between the two volcanos. And we saw some of the most amazing sights of my life: 

And Allie driving us: 

So then we checked into a hostel at Santa Cruz and met the bikers for lunch and then headed to the beach. And obviously we played with the ATV on the beach and all the love for crazy driving came back quickly. In about half a second I was fish-tailing and spinning out and jumping and driving through the water. Classic. 
Me riding off across the beach. This doesn't even seem real. 

Then the rest of the hikers arrived to the beach and Graham lived his life per usual: 
Then eventually we decided it was time for dinner. So a group of us decided to walk to Balgüe (also on the map) and found a great restaurant that served amazing non-Nicaraguan food. So I had guacamole and a bruschetta-like salad. Then we headed home and sat around with most of the group and just talked and goofed off. People singing and Allie and I confessing our crushes on one of the guys there. Again, the usual evening.

Then Sunday, another fun packed day! First six of us impulse decided to rent horses for an hour and ride along the beach.
Then we were going to visit a natural cool spring called Ojo de Agua. It was about a 4 km walk though and after riding the horses we were all hot and tired. The rest had already left and were walking, so the six of us decided we would start walking but try to hitchhike at least part of the way. So by some incredible luck, we flagged down the first vehicle with an open cab and ended up in a truck bed with a bunch of Australians who work at a hostel near ours and they were going to Ojo de Agua as well! They were so cool and invited us to hang out with them later too! So so lucky! So our hour and a half walk turned into a 10 min car ride with some really cool people. Here is Akshay with our new bro Jack.  
 Upon arrival, Ojo de Agua was breathtaking. 

So amazing!! Then we got a ride back with our new amigos and got ready for dinner. We obviously walked to Balgüe to the same place again, which was about a 40 min walk. The guacamole alone was worth it though. Then some of us went to Little Morgan's Hostel (where our amigos worked) and hung out for a few hours. Got to hang with the other coordinator Kevin plus a few of the guys I usually kick it with. It was really nice to get to know Alex and Kevin on a personal level this weekend! Kevin is wonderful as well, surprise there. Everyone here is actually pretty great! 

Then Monday was travel home day. Two busses to get back to Moyogalpa, then a ferry to San Jose, then a bus to Rivas, then a bus to Granada, then walk from the bus stop to mi casa. Only like 6 hours of travel, but it actually went by pretty quickly. 

The weekend was clearly a success. Here are a few more photos: 
Me and Allie in the truck headed home from Ojo de Agua. 

Allie and I in front of one of the volcanos. 

Matt Malick and I looking like best friends. He is the one who Allie and I crush on daily. 

And Akshay living the life. 

And lastly- the volcano as we left the island. 

This place rocks. Nicaragua is one of the most beautiful places I've been, easily. 

Mood de Quotes

Here are some inspiring quotes for your viewing pleasure. (Some photo cred to EWinbur) 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Cue week three.

I absolutely cannot believe how time is flying! We have only 5 more days of Spanish and tech class until we move to our hospitals! I don't know that I fell 100 percent ready, but I don't think we ever will. There's only a limited amount of knowledge that we can obtain in a month. But what we have learned so far, will definitely help us to make some vital repairs in the hospital. 

For example today we went on a tour of the hospital in Granada and the tech guys let us mess around with a few pieces of broken equipment- because what do they really have to lose? So Dan, Lucas, Evan and I decided to tackle a broken ultrasound machine. So we realized right off the bat that the chord had broken and so there was just a short stub of exposed wire showing. So we got a chord from another machine and planned to strip the wires, solder them to the respective wire on the machine (which posed some problems because the wires were all different colors). So we started away and I had slaved over this tiny short stub leftover and tried to get a good connection and finally had one of the 3 wires repaired! 

Then....Ron (our teacher) came up and was like "can I give you some advice?"....first thought: oh dang!! 

I was right. He was coming to tell us that we could open the machine and take out the old wire and use the one we had and rethread it through. This was great news because that is so much easier- but it was a little heartbreaking after I had worked so hard already. 

But it's gets better. So then my group went to tour the hospital and I explained (with Ron's help) to Chas what we had done and why and what needed to be done next and him and some others took over. Then we got back and they were almost done with the wire!! So we plugged it in....AND IT WORKED! A handful of guys looked at ultrasounds of their hearts and kidneys and stuff! It was so cool!  

So that was our first fix! And I know we are all super proud of it! It definitely made all the classes and reading worth it! I can't wait to do that all next month! Obviously not all of the repairs will be that simple, or even possible at all. But just being able to help fix a few critical pieces will be so exciting. 

Here's some photos from the week. The rest of the week was just classes and the usual day to day life. 

Actually this is from last weekend at San Juan. But look how cute we are! #friends 

Lucas and Dan climbing the water towers at the hospital. 

The ultrasound working! This is Akshay's heart showing. 

Here's my friend Jack trying the ultrasound too! Take notes friends. Jack is the coolest! And Charlotte and Graham looking super interested. Love it! 

Now we are on the bus (public transit is a blast!) to Rivas. Then from there we will take a taxi to the docks where the ferries take off from to go to LA ISLA DE OMETEPE! Which is a huge island in the middle of Lake Nicaragua made up of the top of two volcanos. We are staying in the main port city of the island tonight. Then in the morning some people are hiking the volcano, some are biking the island, but Allie and I are headed to the beach! There's apparently a beautiful beach that has some white and some black sand and I can't wait! There is also a pool of really clear water, maybe a spring or something, called Ojo de Agua which we want to visit. And there are also some really cool Eco- Farms on the island that would be fun to go see. Maybe get some fresh veggies or hummus? We also have the day off Monday so we get to stay extra long on the island! Fun will be had for sure. 

And as Hillary Claire would say: 

Duces and Smooches! ✌😘

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Vamos a la playa, a mi me gusta bailar!

So this past weekend a group of 13 of us went down to a surfing/tourist beach town called San Juan Del Sur. It was absolutely beautiful and we had a crazy incredible time. We got there Friday after the hospital and checked into our hostal. We had 13 people staying in two rooms of 6. So that meant someone would be cuddling. So basically we pushed two of the twin beds together and 3 of us slept there the first night. Friday we ate and went to the beach and went out at night. Then the next day basically consisted of the same but we decided to go on a two hour, sunset boat ride as well. Then Sunday we came back home. We bonded so much as a group this weekend, which makes leaving each other in two weeks really upsetting. Its amazing how quickly you can bond with people when you are thrown into such a new, different experience. Its so wonderful!!
And here is the beach (instagramed)

And Jack and Lucas after they won Rum playing cornhole.

And looking out before we left for our boat ride.

The shore from the boat.

The water again.

And the tiny cat that lived at our hotel.