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Nicaragua Pre-Med & Public Health (Session 2)

July 20-21, 2017

We drove an hour from the airport to the hotel. It was pretty late so we all went to bed. In the morning, we had a choice of either a traditional Nicaraguan breakfast (gallo pinto, eggs, and plantains) or pancakes. Afterwards, our group held orientation which included name games, and we learned the rules and safety procedures of the trip. Afterwards we had a chance to go swimming in the crater lake. The water was very warm and we had a ton of fun. Next, we headed to the Volcan Masaya, the first national park in Nicaragua and an active volcano that last erupted in January 2016. The views were spectacular and we took many photos. Later, we traveled to a pottery studio where we had a chance of putting clay on the wheel and designing finished pottery. Then we went to a Nicaraguan restaurant where we had a barbecue meat dinner. Back at the hotel we chilled until bedtime. We’re all getting along.

By Audrey D. and Max M.

July 22, 2017

We started out our day by eating a breakfast that contained rice and beans (big shocker!) and then we set forth to Managua. When we reached Managua, we met up with Yamileth, a local woman,  who had grown up around a landfill in the area. This landfill, as she had explained; saw extensive change after the Spanish vice president made a 35 million dollar donation to clean up the area and relocate people who were living within the land fills about ten years ago. We took a break and ate at a vegetarian restaurant that served good juice. Then we went to another local’s house to hear her talk about public health in the area and her experience in starting her own health outpost. After, we went to the fair trade cooperative in which Yamileth works and she explained the quality over quantity philosophy of pottery making and other artisan goods in the region. We then got ice cream before we continued our journey to the next hotel. After a 2 hour bus ride, we finally reached the hotel by the ocean and watched the sunset before eating dinner and going to bed. We are still getting along and it’s very hot and humid.

By McKenna T. and TJ N.

July 23, 2017

After we started the day with the traditional Nicaraguan breakfast of rice, beans,  and eggs, we set out to the main clinic, Centrol de Salud Villa el Carmen. This clinic helps hundreds of Nicaraguans in need of health care. When we arrived we were split into groups tasked with weeding the gardens, scrubbing the walls, and sweeping the excess water on the floor to prep for tomorrow afternoon’s service adventure. Once we completed cleaning we headed back to our hotel to enjoyed a lovely home cooked beef and rice lunch provided by the lovely Nicaraguan women who have helped us to broaden our Spanish vocabulary. After a very long morning we drove a few more kilometers to enjoy a relaxing day spent at the beach. At the beach we were able to unwind while swimming in the ocean, participate in a challenging game of  frisbee, or just relax on the sand. Once it was time for dinner we headed back to our houses, washed up and enjoyed another wonderful night bonding together while playing cards before heading off to bed.

Ava G. & Kellyann R.

July 24, 2017

Today was the first day of clinical rotations, so we had to wake up early. After a Nicaraguan breakfast, we headed to the clinic for our first day. We all had varied experiences, as we were spread out among 3 different clinics. Some of our experiences included watching babies getting vaccinated, teeth being pulled out, seriously injured fingers getting fixed, and wounds being cleaned. After the clinic rotations, we painted the walls of the main clinic for 3 hours and were thoroughly exhausted through scrubbing the floors. We came home to a nice swim in the pool and a delicious dinner. After our daily meeting, we went straight to bed. We are so excited for tomorrow!

– Bruno and Sarah

July 25, 2017

We woke up early for another day of clinical rotations and painting. It was a slower day at the clinic today but we still were able to take blood pressure, height/weight, and got to see IVs being put in. After assisting the doctors and nurses we went to lunch at a place nearby for some delicious Nicaraguan food. After lunch we went back to the large clinic to finish painting. We had a lot of work to finish but we worked together and got it all done very nicely. After painting we came back home and walked down to the nearby beach to watch the sunset and hang out. The sunset was gorgeous so we took pictures and some people got shells. Then we got back home and ate a amazing dinner and dessert for our last night at the eco-lodge. After our meeting some went to bed and some socialized.  Tomorrow is our last clinic rotation and then we head to Matagalpa.

– Keely

July 26, 2017

Today was our last day at Gran Pacifica. We headed out for the day to our respective clinics for our final rotations. We witnessed at the orthodontist multiple teeth getting pulled out because they were damaged beyond repair, or because they didn’t have the resources to fix them. We also saw the ultrasound of a young girl who was about 8 months pregnant. The doctor showed us the baby’s heart, mouth, nose, and eyes. They did not know the gender because the ultrasound machine was not very advanced. After the closing of clinical rotations, we had a lunch of typical rice and beans, chip plantains, and half a chicken (vegetarians got a block of cheese and veggies). Then we were hit by a sudden storm and had to run through the rain into our bus. The rain only had died down a little bit when we entered the supermarket. Everyone stocked up on all the snacks and munchies for our 3 hour trip to Matagalpa. During the bathroom break, we stopped by a Pepsi shack, where the workers sold soda in tiny plastic bags, something we have never encountered before, in our country. Then we arrived at the hostel we would be staying in for the next three nights. We joined together in the dining area where we ate steak with rice, pesto pasta, and tomato pasta. We hung out in the common area before lights out at 10 p.m. We all knocked out and slept like a rock.

– Leilanny and Xinyu

July 27, 2017

Today we woke up from our first official night in Matagalpa. We had the traditional Nicaraguan breakfast or pancakes, depending on which one you chose. We then boarded the bus and headed out into the city to get our official tour of the city. Before the tour began, we had the option to buy a variety of traditional Nicaraguan pieces at the tour center. They had small ceramic birds and pots that were designed with beautiful colors and intricate patterns. We then went out and walked into the city with the help of our tour guide who informed us of the history of Nicaragua and showed us a variety of important monuments including statues of some of the prominent leaders of the area and the local cathedral. We went to the local cemetery were we learned more about Nicaragua’s history in regards to its international relations with the US and European countries. After we boarded the bus again and proceeded to stop by a delicious buffet for lunch. The buffet had a wide range of foods so it easily accommodated everyone within the group. We then walked over to a local clinic where we learned about the practices of wholistic medicine within Nicaragua. We got to learn about topics such as acupuncture and using herbs to help deal with common diseases and symptoms. Some of us got to even experience some of the acupuncture techniques and we also got the chance to buy some of the local herbs that they utilize for their local remedies. After the clinic we went to the town square where we broke into teams and proceeded to partake in a scavenger hunt around the town square. The majority of the hunt required us to gather information about the history of Nicaragua so we went and socialized with some of the locals so that they could help us in the hunt. The winners were lucky enough to receive chocolate doughnuts as their prize, but the rest of us simply snacked on candy that we had purchased as part of the hunt. After this activity, we walked to an Italian restaurant where we had the choice to either choose from a pizza or spaghetti. One of the doctors from the clinic joined us for dinner. After dinner we proceeded to board the bus back to our hotel where we hung out and played card games until it was bedtime.

– Myles

July 29, 2017

After the long bus ride, we arrived at the mountainside community of Penas Blancas. Once we got off the bus, we could feel the refreshingly cool air surrounding us. Around us, there are mountain ranges covered with masses of trees. Above us, there are towering cliffs slightly covered by the clouds. After admiring the scenery, we proceeded into the community center where we received a warm welcome from our homestay families. We all introduced ourselves, and we could see the smiles on each other’s faces. Surprisingly, the young girls showed us a dance to welcome us. Following the welcome ceremony, we hiked to our homestay houses, which are surrounded by an enormous farms. Our house seemed old with only a few amenities.  There we would begin our unforgettable experience in Nicaragua.


July 30, 2017

We woke up to a completely new surrounding. Though many of us didn’t have a full night of sleep due to the relentless clucking of the roosters, we were fully woken up by the delicious coffee served by our host families. After bonding over breakfast with our families we got ready for a hard day of work. The length of our walks to our various worksites varied through the treacherous terrain was inevitable for all. After slipping and falling in the mud we finally made it to our respective worksites which were the dental brigade or one of two construction sites. Along with others, we both worked digging out the trench system for a eco-composting toilet in one of the local houses.
The work was divided in three parts, with some of us using pick-axes to loosen the ground while others shoveled out the remaining dirt and finally others drained out water from ditches in the ground that will be used for the waste. This work continued until noon at which point we were all exhausted and eager to join our host families for another delicious meal. After lunch we had some time to recuperate from the strenuous work of the morning. At 2:00 we had the option of two afternoon activities. These were either taking a hike to study the medicinal plants in the area or a lesson from two local women on how to make cornbread in the local, traditional style. Though we both attended the breadmaking lesson, our sources tell us that the hike was challenging but interesting and rewarding. After going through the various steps involved in the breadmaking, we were able to produce several different variations of the recipe ranging from sweet desserts to savory sides. Finally, we returned home to the final meal of the day. We had a chance to talk about the day’s activities with our host families over dinner after which we shared in different bonding activities with the kids. For instance playing tag, soccer, cards or simply sharing stories with our new friends. When the night came to a close, we went to sleep with new unforgettable experiences and memories.

-Ines & Summera

July 31, 2017

After waking up to roosters and the gentle sound of rain against tin roofs, we made our way to work.  We continued to break ground in order to install a composting toilet, and while the work was difficult, we could see our progress.  Furthermore, the walk to and from the work plase was peppered with trees dusted with clouds, and corn plants in neat rows.  After lunch with our host families, we had the option of learning about the art of woodworking or enjoying a scenic hike to a waterfall.  many of us chose to hike in the lush forest, filled with the melodies of rushing water and the rustling of leaves against skin.  At the top, we spent time observing the waterfall and took the time to reflect as we were sprayed by water.  It was nearly impossible to hear each other because of the water crashing against the rocks.  we ended the evening with dinner with our respective host families.


August 1, 2017

As we were awoken by the shrieking of roosters and the crying of a one month old baby, we were ready to commence our third day in Penas Blancas. Unlike the past two days of tough manual labour, today it was our turn to participate with the dental brigade. After a tiring 45 minute walk, we arrived at the city center where two dentists from Managua were hard at work as they provided free dental care to the community of Penas Blancas. Due to the limited available resources, the most popular treatement option was to pull out infected teeth. We assisted the dentists by handing them their desired instruments and anesthesia, and if we were lucky, we could hold a cup that the patients would spit their often bloody saliva into. At first glance, the agressive and forceful manner in which the dentists prawed the teeth out of their patient was shocking. However, unlike the thoughtful and meticulous dentist appointements that we dread in our lives, this “quick and messy” approach was required to treat as many citizens as possible in their brief annual visit. This was an eye-opening experience that truely portrayed the drastic differences between medical services in the developped world and the developing world.

After walking 45 minutes back to our house for lunch, we were ready to return back to the city centre for afternoon activities. The two choices for activites were bracelet making with kids in the community and cooking nacatamales with two local mothers. I chose cooking where we formed a somewhate effecient assembly line in order to make enough nacatameles for the entire group. To my dissapointment, the nacatamales required 3 hours to cook after preperation, which meant we were not able to eat them until the following day. Nevertheless, it was a great opportunity to work in the kitchen with a local mother and embrace their culture through food and laughter. I was exhausted from the three hours of walking to and from the dental brigade and afternoon activities; and I was hopeful for a full night sleep that was not interrupted by roosters or crying babies.


August 2 ,2017

Today was our final day in Penas Blancas, those of us who hadn’t had the opportunity to participate in the dental brigade had our chance today. During the dental brigade, the dentists allowed us to view and assist in multiple tooth extractions and cleanings. They explained why they had to extract the teeth and helped us demonstrate good dental hygiene to the locals. After the dental brigade and the service projects others participated in we went back to our homestays, ate lunch, and hung out until the despedida or farewell ceremony. At the ceremony we got to express our thanks to our families and they shared meaningful words as well. We got to dance and have fun together one last night. We also celebrated Jessica’s birthday with a pinata and allowed the local kids to celebrate with us. It showed the compassion and loving spirit of the community. Overall it was a great day and we had many reasons to be grateful.


August 3, 2017

Today,  we ventured south to Laguna de Apoyo. This journey took six hours. We slept, snacked and sipped our agua. We got guirilas with cheese, cream and pork. Once we arrived at the cabanas, we ate lunch. Then we swam and played cards. At 6:30, we made awards for each other and reflected on our time here in Nicaragua. We really appreciate the opportunity that we had to serve and support the local people. We ate dinner and enjoyed our second-to-last night with each other. Then we watched Game of Thrones and prepared for a day of ziplining.

-Gabby and Katie