Feeling at Home

We have been in Nicaragua for about two weeks now and I cannot help but feeling like I am home, despite the fact that I have never been here before. After a baby peed on me during a Wednesday morning visit to the jewelry cooperative, I think I can safely say that I feel genuinely comfortable here in Managua.  The first week was all about getting the hang of things: who lives where, which children can you expect to see every Tuesday and Thursday at Camp JAM, the importance of having a spare couple of cords when going into Cedro to ensure that you can purchase a bag of ice cream. After the dust had settled from the whirlwind week of introductions, it was much easier for me to see (and probably for all of us bright-eyed and naive interns) how Manna worked and what we could do to contribute to this amazing organization and the communities with which it works.

Because we felt more comfortable walking through the community and navigating on our own, last week provided us with greater opportunities to get to know the amazing people that live in Cedro. Best exemplifying this was the trek through the community we made on Thursday morning. Three of the interns are med students at the University of South Florida, and part of the reason for their time here in Managua is the completion of a health-related project. One project is dedicated to an investigation of the respiratory health of the women in the communities. Three of us wandered off bright and early Thursday morning with the intention of talking to women in the community and measuring their peak respiratory flow. Considering that none of us are fluent in Spanish and two of us have absolutely no background in medical Spanish, the data collection process was challenging and a bit comical. We could not quite figure out the best way to explain how to blow into a peak flow meter and the women, through no fault of their own, did not really understand our poor explanations. Taking the measurements took patience but it was also the primary vehicle through which we got to know some of the women. We all laughed, and maybe one tear of exasperation was shed, but what impacted me the most was the fact that all of these women were willing and some even eager to take part in a poorly-explained survey for three girls whom they have never met. After working on political campaigns in the United States that have required me to go door-to-door, a warm welcome from a stranger was more than I could have expected.

The work we did for the health project also opened my eyes to the reality of those who do not have the good fortune of readily accessible medical care. Though we are measuring the respiratory health of the women in the community, we are not providing them with any medical diagnosis or care. That did not stop them from asking myriad questions regarding their health status, all of which we had neither license nor expertise to answer. Because I have asthma, I have a great relationship with my doctor and an even greater relationship with my albuterol inhaler, my constant companion throughout my life. However, these women have not been so fortunate. The importance of the clinic run by Manna could not have been more obvious.
On a lighter note, we spent the last weekend rolling through Nicaragua in micros and taxis and spent an awesome couple of days in San Juan del Sur, which must have the highest concentration of American surfer bros in all of Central America. Spending a weekend away with the fellow interns was a necessary bonding experience, as we are all undoubtedly much closer now than we were upon leaving Managua on Friday. I have never had a better burrito in my life than the one I inhaled while lying on the beach on Saturday afternoon, and I think I speak for all of us when I say I would return to San Juan del Sur if only to have a quick meal at the Taco Stop.

I refuse to believe that I am already halfway through my month in Managua, but I cannot wait to see the exciting opportunities that will come in the next two weeks. Adios from the Manna house!