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Nicaragua: Intro to Pre-Med & Public Health (Session 2) 2016

When I first arrived in the Miami International Airport I was nervous, mostly because my connecting flight was delayed. As I walked up to gate D26, I was so relieved to see the group of red Global Works shirts. When I arrived we all sat in a circle and were handed a post it note. On the note, we wrote 3 things; our name, our seat number, and what service meant to us. After finishing this activity we were informed that one of our fellow student’s flight was delayed, and our leader Michelle had to stay in Miami to wait for them. They would meet us in Nicaragua the next day. We all boarded the plane and, just as we were about to take off, the captain told us the engine light was on and the needed to fix the engine before we could leave. About an hour later, we were finally taking off. When were we landing, we could look out the window and see the lights of Managua below us. After we got out of the airport, we meet up with the people who flew in on their own. We all piled onto the bus, and took the hour drive to the Laguna we are staying at.

As we drove, everything seemed familiar but at the same time quite different. We were driving on the outskirts of a city, and it felt like it does back home, except the houses, the shops, the vegetation, were all different. In the morning we awoke to beautiful scenery – as a crater lake was surrounded Blythe lush vegetation of the jungle – and had our first encounter with gallo pinto. Gallo pinto is made of beans and rice, which is part of a typical Nicaraguan breakfast. After breakfast, we had our orientation and got to do “get to know you” activities. We all sat and talked about how we want to act, and things we want to do on this trip, to make it ideal for us. After orientation we had lunch, then we were off on a cultural tour. Our first stop was Masaya Volcano, one of the three places in the world where you can see active lava. When we arrived at the top of the volcano, we were only allowed to be up there for about 10 minutes because the volcano is releasing gasses that are dangerous if inhaled for a long time. We stood in the lip of the volcano and looked down at the lava beneath, and we were all in awe. It was truly a beautiful sight. The lava at the bottom of this huge volcano was so powerful, as the orange glow made it hard to look away. We could see the contrasting coats of the bright green parrots flying into their nest on the side of the volcano, which surprised us because of how dangerous it all seemed. After the volcano, we were off to the market. We all split off into groups of three and got to spend 30 minutes in the market to buy souvenirs and see all the amazing patterns and textiles. After the market we went to a school where they teach pottery, and we got to see a demonstration of them making a vase. After the demonstration, we explored their shop and got to see the amazing quality of the products they are making. Then we were back to the resort. After dinner we all took part in an amazing salsa class, everyone had fun and there was lots of laughs. After the class everyone was tired so it was time to go to our rooms, wash off, and get ready for another exciting day.

July 20, 2016

We meet at 7:30am for a typical Nicaraguan breakfast, filled with more Gallo pinto and fresh juice. Then we quickly meet on the bus at 8:00am for an early start for all of the day’s activities. After an hour and a half drive we picked up our first speaker, Yamileth. She spoke to us about the neighborhood she grew up in as we drove around it, and we were amazed to see the different lifestyles that the people lived there. She showed us how people had been living in the city’s dump and made money by picking up recyclable items. We learned about a Spanish program that has been put in place to lift the neighborhood out of poverty, and were even able to see photos that compared the area to how it had looked before the efforts and what had changed. After, we got off the bus to see Yamileth’s home and learn more about her efforts to improve her community. We were so inspired by her passion and determination to help her neighborhood improve. We all signed a wall of her home with short messages to her. After signing the wall, Maria Ivania came in off her moped. We were excited she came to talk with us because she wasn’t  feeling well, and we thought she wouldn’t be able to come. Maria talked to us about her clinic that she set up to provide medicine for locals. She’s also training her 16 year old daughter to help in the clinic because the work is not paid so it is difficult to find staff. After hearing her stories, we got back on the bus to eat lunch at La Trenza (a famous Nicaraguan restaurant). We had the opportunity to try tradition Nicaraguan beverages with corn, hibiscus and chocolate. We also ate plantain chips. The meal was delicious! After lunch we were off to the beach house where we will be staying for a few days. At the beach house, we discussed how the days’ experience relates to our lives back home. We had a home cooked dinner and did more team building activities. We are really coming closer together as a group!
– Written by Fionna R.

July 21, 2016
We woke up to a beautiful ocean view at the Posada de Sol with a clear blue skies and a delicious breakfast of eggs, toast, AMAZING fruit, toasted coconut and dragon fruit juice (an acquired taste). After breakfast we left our beach side residence for the clinics of Centro de Salud Villa el Carmen. Once there we had a chance to speak with one of the chief doctors of the clinic where we had a chance to hear about the kind of patients they treat, most common illness and general information about the healthcare system in Nicaragua. Fun fact: healthcare is free in Nicaragua.
After speaking with la doctora  Davila she gave us a tour of the clinic, after that we boarded the bus en route to the one of the smaller outpost clinics that some of us will be working in tomorrow. We learned that the clinics are very local, meaning that the doctors and nurses live within the community, travel to the patients (rather than the patients traveling to them). They are similar to urgent care centers, whereas the central clinic is more similar to a hospital. The main clinic also has more specialists than the outposts. When the main clinic is unable to care for a patient adequately, he or she is sent to a larger hospital in Managua, the country’s capital. After visiting the clinics, we boarded our bus and traveled back to Posada de Sol for a debriefing session and lunch of spaghetti before our afternoon at the beach.
– Rachel A.
– Photo contributions from Elizabeth W.
July 22, 2016
Continuing our stay at the beach house, we woke up at 7:1 5 to pancakes and various tropical fruits. After breakfast we took the bus to our assigned clinics where we would begin the first of several days of volunteering at and observing the clinics and outposts. At one clinical outpost, a group of four students observed Doctor as he treated several patients with differing diseases. The students observed that diabetes and teen pregnancies are extremely common here in Nicaragua, as well as a high number of cases with fevers. One such case was a baby, only one month old, with a high fever. Another teen walked in, pregnant. At the second outpost, students learned how to measure blood pressure and weight. After that, students occasionally helped out the doctors and asked questions regarding the patients. While at the central clinic we had the chance to visit the OBGYN. the ER, and the pharmacy. At each of these places the students had different but equally memorable experiences. While in the ER, Georgia and Emma had the chance to see a patient with a q-tip stuck in his ear, who was then transferred to the larger hospital in Managua. Just around the corner in the Pharmacy Osamah and Georgia helped stock the pharmacy with different medicines and remedies, and by the end of her time at the pharmacy Georgia had learned to count to 30 in Spanish! After the clinic, we returned to the beach house for lunch and later the students were given a chance to swim for the last day on the beautiful Nicaraguan beach.The day was concluded with dinner and an evening meeting, as students anticipated the next day at the clinic.
-Steven C.
July 23, 2016
6:45 AM, and most of the beach house is awake and ready for the day ahead of us. We awoke to a breakfast of Gallo Pinto (a typical Nicaraguan staple consisting of beans and rice), scrambled eggs, fried cheese, and some delicious oatmeal juice! After eating some breakfast we made some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch. We then went to the clinics with a group going to the clinic and two groups going to the rural outposts. At the clinic it was a pretty normal day filled with pap smears, children’s tummy aches, and even a man trying to get a doctors note so he wouldn’t have to go work that day (Dr. Casco shut him down and told him to work). At the end of the day things get more intense with a convulsing women arriving with a suspected stroke. She was ambulanced to the hospital in Managua for treatment. At the rural clinic Steven, Emma, Candi, and Isabelle got to experience the miracle of life by watching a local woman give birth to a healthy 7 pound 5 ounce baby boy! Candi watched the actual birth (due to Nicaraguan health regulations only one person was allowed in the room). At the second outpost Joyce, Georgia, and Rachel spent a little time working with the nurses and learning how to take vitals and such, but the doctor wasn’t in for the day. As a result they decided to go and visit a nearby elementary school where they got to play soccer with the children. At the end of the day we all got to stop by a traditional snack shack and we tried some coke in a plastic bag and some potato chips. The final thing we got to do today was call all of y’all parents and we thought we’d like to shout out y’all for reading this blog!
July 24, 2016
Our final morning at the beach house was an early one (7:15) we met downstairs with bags in hand for a nice breakfast spread of fruit (pineapple, bananas, mangos) and an assortment of classic childhood favorite American cereals. With the conclusion of breakfast and a few last minuet bathroom runs we had our sights set for La Chuewaka where we would be spending some time at Podcasts for Peace learning about their mission and helping to build some new tables for an improved learning environment for the children of La Chuewaka. Upon our arrival we where greeted by Yamileth and Mika, the co-founders of podcasts for peace. Podcasts for Peace has many objectives they hope to achieve through the their outreach, some of these include; providing a safe place for community members to come, learn and interact with each other, foster youth leadership whilst supporting and bettering the community. After a short presentation from Mika we had a chance to begin our service of the day which was constructing tables for a class room. By this point in the day we had separated into two groups, one working to help the electricians and one helping the carpenters. Group one had some time to play with the kids of the community in a rousing game of soccer ( btw these kids had great footwork!). After getting the ball rolling on our table building setting up electric wiring we took a quick lunch break. With full stomachs we returned to La Chureca to finish our project and spend some more time with the kids. Soon after our return we finished up the lasts of the tables and electrical work, and many of us found ourself quickly establishing bonds with children living in La Chureca. -Fiona bonded quickly with an 11 year old named Hazel, who loved playing, cuddling and dancing. – Alex quickly gravitated to Georgia whom both enjoyed playing keep away in soccer. This quickly evolved into piggy backing, catch and getting to know each other. After a long day of work, which left each of us with a nice coating of sawdust, we got a nice surprise… A grocery store stop!!!! Here we stocked up on snacks and got our ice cream fix. From there it was a three (ish) hour van ride to Matagalpa where we settled into our hostel and ate dinner. We wrapped up our night with a debrief of our day and some free time.
– Maria P.
July 25, 2016

Beginning our morning with an option of either oatmeal or a Nicaraguan breakfast, we soon transitioned to a new bus for a tour around the city of Matagalpa. A woman named Nohelia guided us around a few historical monuments and parks. We first went to a beautiful white Matagalpan cathedral, and observed a statue of Jesus on the cross that was green to signify hope for the Nica people. Then, we moved to a park, where we had a chance to mingle with locals going through their day working, some were shining shoes, selling goods such as ice cream, and just relaxing. A group of college students we encountered was excited to practice their English with us and stopped to try to have a conversation. We then traveled higher into the mountains and visited a graveyard. There were two different sections of the graveyard: one was for the Nica people and the other was for foreigners who did not follow the national religion (Catholic). At the graveyards, Jason sat on a grave to rest and now is cursed by  a vengeful spirit. The final step to our journey around the beautiful city was a lookout point, with a tower. Upon climbing up the stairs, we were hit with gusts of wind, as well as a birds-eye view of the sprawling city. We located the places we had visited this morning, as well as our journey through the streets. Arriving back at the hostel, we ate a lunch of either quesadillas or beef steak. After lunch, we met an expert in alternative eastern medicine, who showed us the techniques of chiropractice, of shiatsu, and of acupuncture. Isabelle volunteered first, getting two needles in her leg, as well as one in the top of her head (the conception or point of a hundred illnesses). Georgia also volunteered, experiencing a basic shiatsu massage. Osamah then decided to have a chiropractice session, and discovered that his back could make sounds he had never heard before.

Maria’s irisology experience: The exam felt like an existential experience…  he knew things that I don’t get how he could tell. I felt dumbfounded after. Monk’s irisology experience: The chiropractor asked me to stare at his forehead while he searched for black spots caused by trauma in my eyes. He found signs showing that I had a bad run in with some spicy food which was also accurate. I’m not a big believe in Eastern medicine but this experience definitely warmed me up to the idea of it.  

We then participated in a scavenger hunt in a local park, and Steven, Emma, Kelly, and Joyce won, being the group with the most accurate answers. We ended the day with dinner at an Italian restaurant.



July 26, 2016
This morning we got an early start for a long travel day. Breakfast was either pancakes or “the Nica”, both of which were delicious. After loading up the bus, our first stop was the maxi palí grocery so that we could buy snacks for the homestay. We then made our drive to La Sombra Ecolodge in the rainforest. First we had buffet lunch with a view of the rainforest. After lunch, we went to a frog garden, where there’s a protected area for endangered red-eyed tree frogs. After that we went to the butterfly area and learned about the life cycle of butterflies. We saw pupae (in the cocoon) and all kinds of butterflies in the butterfly garden. After our time at La Sombra, we got back on the bus to drive to Peñas Blancas, where we are doing our homestay! The drive through the mountains had beautiful views. When we arrived, we were introduced to the families and played a get-to-know-you game. We then went our separate ways back to the houses for dinner and the rest of the night.
– Written by Elizabeth W.
July 27, 2016
Hey families! This is Emma coming at you from wayyy up in the Nica mountains! This morning, after our first night in the homestay, many of us awoke to the sound of roosters crowing and the smell of breakfast cooking in the kitchen. In our homestays, we ate a typical Nica breakfast of eggs, gallo pinto, avocado, tortillas, and delicious coffee. Then, we met at the local school for a quick debrief and to embark on our service projects for the morning. 4 students left to go work with the dental brigade, while the rest of us hiked up a steep mountain trail to dig trenches, where we will lay pipes to bring potable water to the locals. Between shifts, we enjoyed the fresh rainforest air, and washed off in a clean, cold waterfall. The demanding climb and dirtiness paid off, as by the end of our time we had made significant progress on a trench! Meanwhile, at the dental clinic, people had the opportunity to observe the dentists pulling teeth, and were even able to help stitch up a patient’s mouth. Though some said it made them queasy, people overall thought it was a very cool experience. After a few hours working on our project, we returned to our host families for lunch and a siesta. Then, the group headed over to Ashley’s house for our afternoon activities. We had the choice to either cook a cheese soup or make decorative coasters in woodworking. The host mothers assisted with the cooking class, while representatives from a local company called ArteSana helped out the woodworkers. Feeling accomplished and worn out from our busy day, we returned to our homestay for dinner, conversation, and another night.
-Emma S.
July 28, 2016
The day started around 4:00am with a very loud wake up call from the many roosters in our front yard. For breakfast we ate homemade Gallo pinto (rice and beans) with fried egg and avocado, the drink of choice being homegrown Nica coffee. We continued on our way to the local school were we all divided up depending on where we were working. My group headed towards the coffee fields where we dug trenches to allow for a pipe that transported clean water to be set. As ‘manager’ for the day I split the group up into 2 smaller groups which then rotated from trench digging to resting every 15 minutes. Around 11:15am everyone walked back to their homestay families for lunch. Lunch for my homestay was pretty good we had of course some more Gallo pinto but with salad and mashed potatoes this time. After lunch we usually just hangout and play cards but since everyone was tired from earlier we all just took 2 hour naps. Around 2:00pm their was a very loud wake up from the boys who were waiting for us outside to come down to afternoon activities. The options being, a hike to the waterfall, or local jewelry crafting. Having just woken up from a nap I decided to go with the jewelry making where we learned how to design intricate beads from just magazines, glue, and clear nail polish. I hear that the hike to the waterfall was quite a muddy trek, but worth it in the end. I’m pretty sure some pictures of the actual fall are posted with this article. At the end of afternoon actives, around 4:00pm we all met back up for some group planning time where we decided on a performance to present for our homestay families. Around 5:00pm there a few food surprises from Ashley buying everyone ice cream to us purchasing fresh baked bread. We all hung out at the local concessions for 30 minutes before we started the long trek back to our homestay families for dinner. I don’t know about the other homestay families but mine made the best version of Nica pizza I’ve ever had. After dinner we all took bucket shower and settled in for a few games of E.R.S. (Egyptian Rat Slap) and Gin Rummy with our homestay family. A few games later we turned in early around 8:00pm and hit the hay, well except for me; I’m currently writing this blog, so I’m gonna go ahead and say bye I hope you enjoyed my blog update.
– Georgianna M.
July 29, 2016
We met up in front of the local school as usual and divided up into two groups. Steven, Georgianna, and Kelly visited the dental brigade where they met three dentists. There Georgianna learned how to set an anesthetic. Meanwhile, Steven and Kelly watched and helped the dentists pull out teeth and clean the instruments. The rest of us went in the jungle and continued digging trenches for water pipes until 11:30. We went back to our respective houses for lunch and met up in Georgianna, Rachel, and Emma’s house at 2:00 since everyone chose baking over hiking. After we finished baking, we had to rehearse Don’t Stop Believing for Despedida, which we will perform for the goodbye party. Most people got the lyrics and dance moves down in the end. We then brought breads to our host families and went home for dinner. Georgianna and Rachel came over to my house and played ERS with the children and my host mom. They kept winning so we played spoons instead; Rachel explained the rules and nine year old boy caught on quickly. It started pouring after dinner so we just stayed in our rooms for the rest of the night.
July 30, 2016
We woke up to the sound of roosters and the smell of gallo pinto cooking. The group met up at the local school and separated into the two groups. Osamah, Emma and I headed over to the dental brigade while the others walked to the jungle to lay the pipes. At the dental brigade, I got to assist the volunteer dentists, stitch gums, and even extract infected teeth! Osamah kept speaking Spanish to the dentists, not knowing that they understood every English word he said. The rest of the group carried pipes into the jungle while Henry and his crew laid the pipes down into the trenches we dug. They finished off by using shovels and hoes to cover up the pipes. We finally finished the service project; our sweat and pain paid off! I’m the afternoon, we all returned to our separate houses to enjoy a last lunch with the host families. We packed, showered, and got ready for the Despedida tonight. We then headed to Don Chico’s to make cajetas (coconut and carrot candies) while Rachel and Candi went on a medicinal plant hike. Afterwards, we headed to the Despedida! The band played some jams and Rachel took one for the team and hit the dance floor first. A Congo line formed and all the kids joined in. Then we ate some tamales for dinner and everyone shared their speeches to their host families. The families repaid us with kind words and we ended the evening by performing Don’t Stop Believing. After a walk in the dark, we all enjoyed our last night with our host families. 🙂
July 31, 2016
As we wake up on the 5th and final day of the homestay, it was an early morning departure from the small village of Peñas Blancas. We took pictures as we said our final goodbyes to our host families then we boarded the bus. We were sad to leave our host families and board the bus. The bus ride was 5 hours long but the thought of the swimming in the Laguna got us through it. We stopped along the way for a quick snack of sweet tortillas and Nica cheese. Once we finally arrived at the Laguna we got some much needed lunch. After lunch we swam in the lagoon! The beautifully clear water of the Laguna was very refreshing and we swam for hours. And the lighting was perfect for some quick pics, there was even a rainbow! For dinner we ate chicken, pork or a veggie option. It was a nice switch up from the gallo pinto. We then settled in for a nice cozy night in the Laguna.
– Isabelle
August 1, 2016
A late wake up to the Laguna view made for a great start to our last full day in Nicaragua. After breakfast we headed to the base of an inactive volcano for a zip lining adventure through the canopy. Some even flew through the trees superman style, holding onto nothing, but with a guide to break for them. When our zip lining adventure came to a close we drove into the city of Granada for a lunch of sandwiches, smoothies and some souvenir shopping in the connected gift shop where part of the proceeds go to an organization supporting at risk Nicaraguan girls. After this we drove deeper into the city square to explore the cathedrals and buy last gifts for friends and family back home. Tired from our full day of adventures we drove back to the Laguna for relaxation, swimming, and fun group games reflecting on our journey together. Before our final meal in Nicaragua, we also took the time to write a meaningful letter to ourselves to be re-opened after 6-12 months when they are returned to the author. After a delicious dinner of chicken cordon blue or steak we conducted the final evening meeting and worked out the logistics of our 3 am wake up tomorrow. Like Osamah’s journey to find horchata this trip has also come to an end, signing off on the last blog post, see you tomorrow!