Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Wheels On the Bus

I continue to feel more and more at home here in this environment. I can get where I'm going by bus like the best of the Nicas. These vehicles are mostly old school buses from the US which were no longer safe for the children and have mostly been around for 10-20 years here! So....they work, you get where you're going in more or less decent condition. Yesterday, I almost lost part of my backside because the driver's idea of how long it would take me to get in and up differed from my speed in doing so!

Following directions here is another interesting experience. There are no street names or signs so directions go something like this: from the place where the Bank Procredito used to be, 2 blocks up, 1 1/2 blocks south, 400 steps toward the lake! And remember that I'm directionally challenged to begin with!!

Last Saturday I went with a Detroit Jesuit friend and his group to the Psychiatric Hospital which happens to be across the street from where I live. I won't go into descriptions but needless to say it was an experience. The setting is very different, of course, and has a lot of free space for some folks to walk around while others are confined. We sang with them, passed out bananas, chatted with those with whom we could do so. I was told that one of the women spoke very little Spanish, only English, because she was from the other coast where they speak English due to the fact that they escaped the Spanish invasion, only to be "visited" by the folks from England.

This week I've been attending a course on 'development of peoples' which our group, Cantera, sponsors. It's been good and I thoroughly enjoy the people who represent areas that are very diverse - from the rural places to people who are professionally prepared. I catch a bus early and then wait at an intersection for the truck to pick me up. My sense of time is not yet adjusted to the sense of time here and so the first day I waited for 40 minutes. I learn quickly! I arrived later from then on! Tomorrow is the last day (it's a 3 1/2 day seminar) and I will miss the daily connection with the other 24 folks.

That brings you up to date. Next week we will be preparing for the International Day of the Woman which we'll celebrate in the rural area on Friday, March 8th. I'll have plenty to tell you after that celebration and hopefully will have some pictures.

Please feel free to post your comments and questions for me. I'm sure there are curious minds that would like to know things and I'll answer as best as I can!

Love, Gratitude and Prayers,

Your sister, Jeanne

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Day in the Life

Good morning friends.  I don't have a lot new things to tell you about so I thought I would chat a bit about what comprises a "normal" day for me.  Many have inquired and I thank you for that!

I sleep under a mosquito net because if I don't, they munch on me all night!  Julie and I share the house and the only bedroom.  We have a few other "roommates" who share our home too.  I like to think of them as our mascots.  The ones I enjoy most are the chameleons that like to hang, play, chase and otherwise entertain.

I awaken early while it is still dark to the music of the barrio:  roosters crowing, women calling "pan, pan" (bread), our neighbor unchaining his gate, birds singing and sometimes cats on the roof having a spat.

After some quiet time and breakfast of fruit, bread and coffee, Julie and I go out to "sweep"(pushing the dust and sand around) the area in front of our house which includes half the street.  We then clean out the drainage trough and water the street and plants in front and in the patio area in the back.  I'm working hard to get this process down so I'm not totally muddy and wet by the end of it all!  

Depending on what is happening on a particular day, I go back to clean up (showers aren't hot here but aren't icy cold either) and head on over to the Cantera office.  I meet with other members of our team or go out to one of our rural sites in the hills.

Meals are simple yet sufficient.  Fruits are plentiful as are rice, beans, vegetables, yuca and some meat.  I live with a sister who is heavily into natural medicines so I see a lot of soy products too.

On weekends we do a variety of things, but chores always include washing and hanging clothes to dry.   And sweeping: otherwise known as moving the dust and sand around.  We have a local mass which has great participation at six o'clock in the evening.

So much for my "dailyness" south of the border.  

Take care my friends!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Boiled Bananas and Other Off Road Adventures

Yesterday I went to the remaining rural and more tropical mountainous areas that we visit (someday soon, I promise to figure out that digital camera). I thought the first two trips were an adventure but yesterday's was even more so! We even landed in a quite deep hole and had a struggle getting the 4 wheel drive pick up back on the "path" that they charmingly call a "road" here.

Our group met with the men and women in charge of promoting the forward movement of the people in their particular area. Some of these people walk for hours to participate. My "farm vocabulary" is growing. Included in the coversation which lasted for 5 hours were topics such as pozos (wells), latrines, pregnant pigs and a cow that had to be 'put down' because of a broken leg/foot. We also discussed various development opportunities that will be coming up. In the middle of all this we had a humongous "almuerzo" (dinner) of rice, boiled bananas, spaghetti, a vegetable like summer squash and salad. They're heavy on carbs! Rice and red beans (gallo pinto) is a national food and eaten OFTEN. I'm doing fine because I like all of it, except the boiled bananas that are rather like clay and are most likely an acquired taste-pehaps this 1957 song adaption by the late Peter Sellers will help me acquire that taste:

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Out of the Frying Pan

Yesterday I went to the Children's Hospital (La Mascota) and visited with the families and children in the oncology department. OH MY!! The conditions of these children is so very sad. (For an idea of medical conditions in this country, see this article from a student's perspective). The kids try really hard to respond and smile a bit. It's absolutely nothing like you'd imagine. It is pretty clean, I must say. There seemed to be only one "nurse" in each area. Families bring food daily and sheets and pillows and anything else that's needed. It's a whole different approach to hospitalization than what we are used to in the states. We seem to take so much for granted.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Getting Settled

Hello my friends:

After a false start, I arrived at the scheduled time but two days later than planned! Since then there have been many things occurring but at a much slower pace than we're used to in the U.S. I spent two days with the folks of Cantera planning the year and I have become a part of the rural team out of a place called Mateare which is fairly close to Managua where I live.

I've been to the "campo" twice now and it's a REAL TRIP getting to where you're going. It's up into the hillsides and the roads, if you wish to give them that level of honor. They are really no more than dirt and sand. During the rainy season which begins in May, the roads will form deep gullies. This will last the duration of the rainy season (6 months). The fellows that drive our pick up are talented indeed - avoiding the possibilities of flipping over! I did take some pictures yesterday but still need to practice on that piece and figure out how to link them to the blog. Internet is not high speed here and still relies on dial up. You get the picture (or maybe not).

The people here are wonderful - warm, receptive, simple and uncomplicated. The young folks are full of life and hope. We were in a place yesterday - Las Yucas - where a cooperative effort which included Cantera had been able to sink a well and make water more available. The men drive carts with yoked oxen carrying large water barrels to get water for living. Now they don't have to go as far as before. They are voluntarily helping to lay piping so as to make it even more accessible. All of this is done with great physical effort and no machinery.

I've had troubles with the computer getting hooked up, as I mentioned before. The other snag is getting my documents for residency which I have less than 90 days to submit. I came without certain papers that I need for the legal stuff in order to stay here. Someone slipped up and failed to tell me all I needed to get ahead of time from the Nicaragua Consulate in the U.S. Anyway, I'm learning lots as I struggle with this stuff. The language is improving but I'm pretty much the new kid on the block and the "gringa". With time that will get better. The weather is tolerable - between 75-95 with plenty of wind. I'm doing O.K. Just missing folks alot but that's to be expected. If you don't love folks, you don't miss them.

I do think about my many friends at the hospital and in my community family and want to know what's happening in that part of my world. I will be doing some visiting at the women's hospital, psychiatric hospital and children's hospital (tomorrow) as I have time. For sure there's no similarity to what I'm used to, but people are people no matter where they live on this planet. I'll let you know more about these visits after I've had some initial time there. Take care, my good friends. I would love it if you could all leave comments to me here.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Here With News of Jeanne

Hello Everyone!

Once again, I am guest posting for Sister Jeanne. She has not had the ability to post herself and has asked me to post an update. I received an email that she has arrived safely and is trying to acclimate although I don't believe this has much to do with the climate per se. In fact, if I know her, the weather is mighty fine by her standards. As luck would have it, she has missed our deep freezes and blizzards! Here for her pleasure, I have inserted a photo of what she is missing in an effort to help reassure her that her decisions were indeed on target:

I am going to try to get this blog spot address published in the hospital news so that all of her friends can periodically check in to see what is new. Barring that, I'll let word get out the old fashioned way: interoffice SNAIL MAIL! Also new for those who asked, this site has been reformatted to accept comments from anyone, not just bloggers or google account holders.

Feel free to leave comments here or just email her directly!! She will receive an email update each time comments are posted. I know she misses us all and sends a special hello to her friends here at the hospital.

Have a great day!