jueves, 5 de agosto de 2010

Tired of being Sick and Sick of being Tired

The last month or so haven't exactly been the best for me healthwise. It started at the end of June when I got diarrhea again, only this time I had a parasite in my digestive system (last time it was an amoeba). It was awful, I'm not going to go into details or anything, but lets just say I had it shooting out of both ends. This happened on a weekend when I had plans to go see friends, instead I had to remain within a five block radius of my house so I could run back and use the toilet. I got better once I took some antiparastic medication, which apparently isn't approved by the FDA, but hey, it got the job done. Afterwards I was fine, but weary of what I ate and drank since I still don't know where I caught a parasite from. It's funny though because the next week after recovering I actually got hit with constapation, which while not as bad as diarrhea, its not very fun either.
The next week I came down with a cold. The first few days I had a wicked cough and a scratchy throat. Once that was gone I was left for a week and a half shooting out bright yellow green snot and phelgm out of my nose and throat. It was pretty disgusting. Also a good thing that I spent a lot of my class time working outside, because I was spitting out a lot of it. Trust me when say you would not want to see my handkerchief.
Upon recovering I felt the amount of energy they had to be very low, and suspectful that I was losing weight. By now most of my pants fit real big on me, and though I've punched in a new hole in my belt before, a new one needs to be made. So I decided to call the PC medical office to try and set up an appointment. Unfortuanetly, my phone decided it didn't want to function for me that afternoon, I mean it's not like I had any important calls to make! Later that night, however, my situation got a little bit more dire. I had a fever of about 100F and some other symptoms I'm not entirely comfortable sharing. By morning I had also seemed to have come down with, yes that's right, diarrhea. I made my way down to Managua to see the doctor where I was sent to the hospital in order to get some blood work and stool samples taken. Turns out I had yet another bacterial infection and was put on antibiotics for the week.

Now skip forward to the following weekend, three days after I had finished my antibiotics. Don't worry, no diarrhea, but I did get another fever. Except this one was different. It started Friday night that I was feeling tired. By Saturday afternoon I had a full blown fever that never dropped below 100F, and going up to 103 degrees for a while. I had a few other accompanying symptoms though that spelled out trouble for me. Aches throughout my legs and thighs, swollen lymph nodes, headaches, and once my fever broke on Monday, a itchy rash on my chest, upper arms, and upper back.
So what could all of this be? Dengue fever, a tropical fever transmitted by mosquitos that are most active during the day (making my mosquito net useless against them). And in addittion to all of these symptoms I also have no energy and feel constantly tired, and due to how much blood work I've had to get done I feel a little like a pincushion. So far I've gotten blood taken three times in four days. The first time I went to the lab to get my blood taken was especially awful and the woman kept poking me trying to find my vein, first with her finger then with a needle. Eventually she decided that rather than take it from my arm near the elbow she would draw the blood from my hand where my veins were visible. It was horrible. It hurts, and after making the mistake of looking I saw that instead of being pumped into a closed test tube, I saw that my blood squirting out of a needle and dripping into an open tube, the gremlin looking nurse with heavy eye makeup asking me the whole time "sos nervioso?". Add to this the fact that it was late and that I had barely eaten that day and you can well imagine just how light headed I got. In responce to this, my wonderful nurse decided to use an alcohol swab as smelling salts and kept shoving it in my face to the point where I felt I couldn't even breathe out (since usually only one of my nostrils will work at a time).
Anyways, its been four days since I've been here in Managua waiting for my white blood cell count to go back up so that I can be dismissed and go back to my site.

lunes, 26 de abril de 2010

sábado, 27 de marzo de 2010

Critters, buses, and class

I’ll start with the critters. Due to the fact that none of the schools that I work at have electricity, the windows are always kept open. This allows sunlight (the only light source in the schools) and some air to filter into the classrooms. This also lets in other things such as an incredible amount of dust. But the most exciting thing to fly in so far has been a bat, a serious blood sucking bat. As I was in the middle of dictating a spelling test to the kids, some bats flew in, one of which hung itself up on the wall near me. One of the students got up in a flash, threw an empty plastic bottle at it, make it crash down to the floor, where it wriggled for a bit before my student stomped his foot on it. All this right in front of me (the classrooms aren’t very big). It was heart wrenching watching that poor thing killed right in front of me when it wasn’t doing a thing to anyone, and could have easily just been chased out of the school.
So most of my encounters with reptiles deal with finding a few geckos on my bathroom walls. No big, don’t bother me none. Last week was a little different for me. One of the kids from my neighborhood came over to tell me how his family had gone to the river and wanted me to check out what they had found, but to wait a bit, he’d come and call me over. So eventually I make my way over and there in front of there house, right on the sidewalk, is lying this huge snake, about four and a half feet long! I watch as they hack its head off and start throwing it at each other. And can you guess what they did with it? If you’re thinking snake skin belt, then I’m sorry, but no. They fried it and had it for dinner. The next night I had gone over (no worries, the snake was all gone by then) they were having soup for dinner. Iguana soup, with these little iguana eggs floating at the top of it. They invited me to have some, which of course I responded that I had already had dinner. I don’t eat poultry, beef, pork, and I most certainly won’t be trying reptile anytime soon.
I think I may have mentioned traveling in Nicaragua before, whereby it involves getting on a very crowded old school bus from the states. Let me now emphasis just how crowded. This past weekend I was traveling to my friend’s small mountain town for her birthday party and to get away from the excruciating heat of Leon. The ride to the department capital of Matagalpa was glorious. There was a crisp, cool wind and we made good time since it was an express bus that makes less stops. The ride from Matagalpa to the campo where the birthday girl is located, not so great. This road weaves up and down and all around all these mountains, and it’s not even paved. So whereas 18 kilometers on Leon’s flat, paved roads take 20 minutes to travel, it takes an hour in Matagalpa. To make matters even better, the bus to this town leaves only every couple of hours, so when it arrives at the terminal everyone rushes the bus to get a seat (standing for 3 hours on a bus down a dirt road can’t be fun, thankfully I don’t know from experience). Luckily one of my friends that I was traveling with is friends with the driver who saw us walking towards the bus, so he saved us a seat, onto which we squeezed three people and a dog. Most of the trip there my friend sitting closest to the aisle had some woman keep resting her entire bosom on her shoulder, and my other friend three seats down from me had a fupa in her face. Things got better two hours into the trip when many of the passengers got off at another town along the way. However, 20 minutes after that the bus broke down, at a distance from our destination where there was no way we were walking there with all our crap. So everyone gets down from the bus and we stand around on this deserted road up some damn mountain, and at some point I look behind me and see the bus just rolling downhill! Thankfully there was someone on board who hit the breaks on that thing. Needless to say, once it seemed safe everyone unloaded their possessions from the bus, and waited around for a half hour or so for another bus to pick us up and take us the rest of the way (which was still a half hour trip left).
Despite the rocky start, the weekend was great; I barely sweat, whereas in Leon I consider it a good day when I’m merely perspiring a little as opposed to being drenched in sweat. Getting back home is a different story. This time I decided to go the opposite direction towards Managua instead. Apparently a town down the road (which of course takes hours to get to) was having some sort of festival, so the bus was packed. I’m going to go ahead and throw a cliché in here, because it fits rather perfectly. We were packed like sardines. The bus was so full they couldn’t shut the doors; people were literally hanging out of the bus. One woman decided to squeeze herself onto the two person seat my friend and I were sharing, by nudging us and plastering me to the wall. She then asked where I was headed, and upon finding out that I was going further than her, decided to seat her child on my lap. So there I was on this extremely crowded bus, pressed against the wall, with some random woman’s five year old kid sitting on my lap, for about an hour or so. Other than that, the trip went smoothly, or as smoothly as it can on an unpaved mountain road. The next bus I took, however, did break down. The good thing was that this happened just outside my town, and right in front of the best quesillo place, which is just what I wanted for dinner.
My last topic in this entry will actually be about my project. I’ve finally started to teach. My work consists of four stages; the first is observation where I just observe classes. I have now gotten into the demonstration stage, where I teach classes on my own. I can’t believe that I’m going to be an elementary school teacher for two years! When I signed up for Peace Corps, I wanted to be an environment volunteer doing environmental work, now I’m an environmental volunteer teaching. It’s not so bad since all of my schools are in the very rural parts of town, and the rural kids are so much easier to deal with than the urban kids, but still… I’ll survive, and maybe even impart some good knowledge.

martes, 16 de marzo de 2010

A familial visit

Last week was amazing. Why? Because I had a visitor. Andrew, my favorite brother. It was terrific having him here in Nicaragua, land of lakes and volcanoes. The first few days he hung out with me in my town, going to school with me and everything. Seeing what a normal day is for me, from riding 3 miles to get to school, to hitch hiking to get to my other school, seeing how my hammock time on the porch can easily turn you into a zoo creature as all the neighborhood kids press there faces to the bars and gawk at you, to washing clothes by hand, and trying your hardest to sleep when you feel you´re going to melt. Aww yes, the wonders of Nicaragua.
We also did quite a bit of traveling too. I´m not sure if I´ve mentioned this before, but traveling usually means you hop onto what used to be a school bus back in the states but is now meant to cover a distance of several kilometers and filled to brim with people (some of which travel with chickens), and where at every stop vendors get on and try to sell you everything from food, beverages, pills, dvds. Although most of the trip Andrew was lucky and we traveled mostly in micros (pronounced me-crows), which is a van that will seat 16 people, but usually jammed with about 20. Its much faster and more comfterable, and if you´re trully lucky they´ll even turn on the a/c.
So where did we go? All over. First we went to León, where I usually go about once a week for lunch and some shopping. But we were there to party and savor Nicaragua´s specialty, Flor de Caña! After that we headed to the beautiful city of Granada, followed by my favorite place to swim and relax by the water, the gorgeous Laguna de Apoyo. Finally we went to my training town to say hey to the family and spent our last night chilling in Managua.
I mention the sites in order to entice some of you to come and visit me, because I assure you, we will have a wonderful time. But really, the best part of the trip wasn´t so much the traveling, but getting to hang out with my brother for a whole week after not seeing him for six months. It´s funny, last night as I sat outside chatting with my neighbors (part of my normal routine), they said that as I talked about his time here and of how I get to see the rest of my family in December that I got a glassy eyed. Well, I´m not afraid to admit it, its been six months and I have to wait nine more until I get to see all my friends and family again. I miss them all so much, and do get homesick. But no worries, I´m doing fine, having a blast, and looking forward until our next encounter.

sábado, 6 de febrero de 2010

The week before last I got the worst news since I´ve left home. While I was away I lost my grandfather, and I found my heart broken. It was a complete shock to hear, having spoken to him and heard him laughing over the phone just four days earlier. The rest of that day I was only glad to be living on my own, as having to experience this pain in my host family's home would have felt terrible. If I could not be with my own family where I could comfort them, and they me, I wanted to be no where else at the time but locked in the cave that is my house and let my grief wash over me.
Though the heart retching pang I felt had not gone away by the next day, I tried my best to stay strong as my grandfather always did and try to go about my day as normally as possible. I went to my school where I had a meeting with all my teachers where I had to give them a short presentation. It was hard to be in that classroom, but it would have been hard to be anywhere else in the world. I knew I could not handle another night like the one before and decided to go into the capital city to be with friends when I needed the support, but still understand my need for space. It went as well as one could hope and since then I´ve been feeling a little better trying to keep busy.
And so I try to live on. My grandfather was strong and would want me to maintain so. So from here I´ll tell you all the things that have happened that would have made him laugh.
Classes started recently and traveling to my rural schools is an adventure all on its own. Walking to the bus stop with my teachers on the first day of school we got chased by a mad cow down a dirt road. Even this is nothing compared to going to my farthest school the next week. More than five miles into the trip I fell off my bicycle, and into a river. And as I lay there in the water scrambling to get back up I look behind me and there are my teachers just cackling! By the time I finally made it to the school I was still soaking wet, and my shoes were so water logged I had to spend the rest of the school day observing classes barefoot. The best part is, this was my first day at this school, and that´s how the students met me.
Te quiero mucho Abuelo. Y te extrañare.

viernes, 29 de enero de 2010

A long time coming

The first thing I´d like to do in this entry is to apologize to all my followers for the lack of any entries in over a month now, especially since my last entry was a bit depressing. December was a rough month for me here, between being bored and homesick during the holidays it was hard to get through. Happily, my first Christmas away from home wasn´t too bad. Christmas eve was spent with my host family just enjoying the day and culminating in a big dinner for which I made a tasty vegetable pot pie (you know you´re in Nicaragua when you have to use a ketchup bottle as a rolling pin!). Christmas day itself doesn´t seem to be a huge deal here as the streets were deserted. Since my host family headed out for the day, I decided to do the same and visited another volunteer in a nearby town. Her town was also deserted, but it was nice just hanging out and talking how Christmas wasn´t as bad as we thought it´d be.
The next thing that I have to do in this entry is give a great big thank you to my friends back home in Miami. I recieved your package yesterday, yes a full month later. But I have to say, it felt so good to get mail here. I felt opulent with my new treasure as I walked around the city with that box in my arms. Upon opening it, however, I was seized with emotion as I got to the singing card with all of your voices ringing out to me. Afterwards though, I have to see that I greedily tore through it reading each card thoroughly and finding my gifts. In the end, I have to say that I am glad that I got the package when I did, as rifling through it made me happy and only a little nostalgic, for I have to say if it came on Christmas I think it would have made me very homesick. So again special thanks to: Danielle, Daliz, Jeanette, Christina, Sandra, Silvia, Carolina, Melanie, Vivian, Flor, and Diego (in no particular order).
The point when things changed from a great deal of monotany to excitement can be pinpointed to New Years. Having stayed in my site for Christmas I was allowed to venture out for the celebration of the New Year. And venture out I did, going all the way to the beautiful San Juan del Sur, where they have great beaches, and some nice establishments. It was also good to spend it with some of my friends from training, a trully wonderful bunch of people. The traditions here for the New Year are a little different from the ones back home. There are still fire works, but most of them are shot off at an effigy of the Old Year as an old man. Also there was no countdown. It wasn´t until one amongst my group looked down at their watch and noted it was 12:01 did we yell and hug and celebrate on the sand surrounded by stars, it was the grand start to what I hope to be a great year in Nicaragua.
About a week and a half after that I was able to move into my own house, the first time I´ve ever lived entirely by myself. It was a great move. I love my new house, a little, unpainted house with a flushing toilet (a real luxury among Peace Corps volunteers), no windows, and a beautiful view of the nearby volcanoe. My new neighboorhood is great too, after two days everyone has gotten to know me, and now after two weeks I´ve learned the names of almost all the neighboorhood kids. So far most of my neighboors have asked me the same if I am afraid to live alone (I´m not, so don´t worry) and isn´t it boring not having a tv? I still keep in contact with my host family, as I haven´t moved very far from them, just a few blocks away. Also for those of you who were worried before I´ve kept a tally of my battle with the local arachnids, Scorpions: 1, Chris: 4! Although scorpions are not the only visitors to my house as I can´t keep the neighboors´dogs and chickens out of my yard, and last week I had to chase an iguana out of my bedroom. One kid told me that I should have let him catch it so that he could eat it.
The new school year here starts next week. In preparation for that I´ve been accompaning my counterparts to their respective schools for enrollment of the students these past two weeks. During that time I finally got to see my last school (I didn´t make it before because I got stung by the scorpion on the appointed date). It is definetly my farthest school at 10km (6.2 miles!) away. The only was to get there is by riding my bike down the dirt road and crossing the river. By which I don´t mean, going over a bridge, but rather, riding through an actual stream. When I asked what they do during the rainy season (as it is now the dry season here, and hott!!) my counterpart replied that they usually take off their shows, roll up their pants, and walk their bikes across. In effect I have to ford a river as if this was the Oregon trail!

domingo, 20 de diciembre de 2009

Tis the Season

Merry Christmas everyone! This week has been on the duller side and I haven´t done much beyond reading. However, I did start a small vegetable garden at a local elementary school. Nothing major, just a few tomatoe and pepper plants, and 3 pepians (a type of squash).
I have to say though, that I´m not exactly looking forward to Thursday or Friday. While it will be nice to have some active days full of festivities, it will also be super weird being away from all the people I love when they´ll be all gathered together. A few weeks ago I watched my host family put together a plastic tree with some plastic ornaments, and while thinking that its just not as good as a real douglas fir smellng of pine and decked with tinsel and shiny glass globes I suddenly became very nostalgic. Thanksgiving was a little sad not fulfilling all the traditions I have with all my friends and family, but I ended up having a good time with my new Peace Corps friends. But Christmas has always been my favorite holiday, because then I was with all my family and togehter we would sit outside and spend the day playing dominoes and having a few beers, enjoy a huge feast at night, and the next day there would be presents and more family bonding time. I think this is going to be one of the hardest parts about being a Peace Corps Volunteer, being away from my family that I love so much. But I will get along, and who knows, I might even have a spectacular time with my new host family.
I miss all of you so much, and wish you the merriest of Christmases and the cheerrist New Year. May you take pride and fulfilment with your families, because trust me its not always easy being apart from them, no matter how you spend your time.