They say that you’re not a real Central American traveler until you’ve been super sick. Check.

I got some sort of intestinal parasites and learned that IV’s are truly wonderful things. But that’s not the important lesson here.

I had to leave one of my homestays to go to the hospital, so I missed out on a few days in the campo. As I was making my way back, I ran into some people from a different homestay who worriedly inquired about my health.

Not an hour after arriving back in the community, an earlier host father showed up to see me and ask how I was doing. I was blown away, but also confused how people in very disparate communities (two to four kilometers away, over mountains and tiny trails) had heard the news so quickly.

Apparently, as the gringo, I’m pretty well known around here, and some Solar Center people told my current host family how I was doing, who then wandered to my other families just to appraise them of the news and let them know I would be alright.

As I made my way back to the second visit with my first family, I wondered if they had heard the news, as well. They had, and all expressed great relief that I had made a full recovery.

I don’t know how to say this without sounding trite, but these people are amazing. I truly loved my second stay there, and I’m now an (unofficial) part of their family. I’m welcome back to visit anytime I want, and they have all told me that they’ll miss me.

It looks like I’m finally making those connections with people that are so important. I know that now, if we come back with a larger scale light study, we will have the full support of this community.

Check out some pictures of the families, the solar lights and my zany adventures:

2 thoughts on “People

  1. Hi, Zac,

    I really enjoy reading your reflections, and thinking of working in Nicaragua myself in the mid 1980’s. I am a Mac grad, 1976, now a family doctor working in rural Australia. A bunch of medicos went to Nica in 1983 for a medical conference, sharing presentations and training. I worked a lot with obstetrics, and especially remember the skits that the lay midwives put on, about using sterile instruments to cut umbilical cords, and not being drunk while delivering babies! After finishing residency, I returned and worked out of Leon, testing cotton workers for pesticide poisoning, and doing education about how to protect yourself (like moving away from the bags of organophosphates while eating your lunch). There had been 6 deaths in the area from organophosphate poisoning the previous year, and only 1 the year we were there. We tested workers who were not yet symptomatic, and the ones whose cholinesterase enzyme was depleted were laid off until they got better, with full support of the ministries of health and agriculture. Given the shortages in the medical system, it was quite obvious that prevention was better than attempts at cure.

    Have you read a book called Mountains Beyond Mountains, by Tracey Kidder? It is the story of Dr Paul Farmer, who grew up in a somewhat hardscrabble part of Mississipi, and fell in love with Haiti while he was in college. He and friends have established a health care system there, which addresses housing and clean water and such, as well as medical care. It is really inspiring. Farmer has written several books on the politics of poverty as well. Your reflections on rural vs urban poverty remind me of that. If you are poor but have an intact family and social support, as well as enough to eat, you are more than half way there.

    In 2004, my husband and I wanted to move to an area of Latin America where our kids (10,12, and 14) could learn Spanish, and learn how other people live. Through a series of co-incidences, we ended up in rural Australia instead. Australia is definitely a first world country, with different ideas about what constitutes the good life. Social welfare is much more public policy (think universal health care). The majority of people in this area heat with wood, including my family. There was an article in the paper yesterday about a group of forestry workers who chopped a dead tree and gave it to a family who was cold. Our fridge died a few weeks ago, and you can’t just have Sears deliver another one around here. When we were looking, I was struck by the smaller scale, and the fact that automatic ice makers and water dispensers are considered really at the upscale end of things–not something your average doctor would have on her fridge.

    I do go on–partly remembering how grateful I was for letters when I worked in Nica! It is different, having e-mail–but you probably have limited access to that as well.

    My 19 year old daughter may end up at Mac next year. It is good to know that the spirit of adventure, service and internationalism continues.

    Carry it on!

    • Gretchen,

      Thank you for your thoughtful reply and sorry it took me so long to get back to you…first I had to navigate my way back to Minnesota from Nicaragua!

      Be sure to keep your eye on Blogalviews in the upcoming weeks; we anticipate a lot of great action here!

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