So I am now in my eighth week here in Nicaragua and am just posting for the first time. To be honest, Dina has done such a wonderful job keeping you all updated, that it has been easy to defer to her. Despite that, this post is overdue, and I apologize. I have been having such an amazing time here at Mama Licha´s Clinic in Estelí that I find it hard to put my life here on pause to write everything down.
Looking back on the weeks I have been here, it is hard to imagine that I have been here for so long, yet in the grand scheme of things, so little time. When I first arrived here in Nicaragua I was really unsure what my place was here, where I could see myself fitting in. How could I justify coming in for just two and a half months–a bit longer than a vacation, but by no means a life. I experienced all the questions I had been told that I would experience, yet they still felt unbearably pressing. They seemed to dominate the work I did and the interactions I had with Nicaraguans. I felt as if I had to answer them in order to make my summer productive and worthwhile.
The weeks have gone by and while I am still unsure exactly the answer to my questions (and the million others that have come since), I do know my favorite bakery here in Estelí, the woman down the street says “adios” as I walk by, and little Miguel my host sibling has stopped hitting me (which is apparently an accomplishment for him) and now draws me a new picture daily.
And I have also found a place for myself with my work. I am creating newsletters for Juntos Adelante–the umbrella organization that helps to fund Mama´s–scraping up new donors, and whenever something interesting is happening, I tag along in the clinic. Over the past weeks that has meant assisting a doc from Chicago as she performed 60+ colposcopies (cervical biopsies) in three days, writing up patient histories, and going on a Sandanista medical brigade to the outlying community of Condega. Also, on the 7th of this month a group of Yale Nursing students and their preceptors (Angie and Bethany, the founders of Juntos Adelante and Family Nurse Practitioner and Certified Nurse Midwife, respectively) arrived for their community health rotation here in Estelí. It has been great to sit in on their conversations and hear their medical stories! Furthermore, having Angie and Bethany around has helped me to focus my work and to determine what will best serve the clinic and their mission of sustainable healthcare for all Nicaraguans. (To read more about Mama´s Clinic and Juntos Adelante, check out www.mamasclinic.org and www.juntosadelante.org!)
So, I still haven´t answered my own questions about what my work “means” or even what my role is, but as I have tried to answer these questions, I have found a space for myself and am falling in love with this country, faults and all. Like every worthwhile experience, it´s hard and sometimes exasperating; sometimes I hate it, sometimes I love it; sometimes I just want some homemade macaroni and cheese. But then there´s those days where I feel productive, I have a conversation in which I feel my Spanish is intelligible, I make someone smile, or Nora, my host mom/sister, brings me arroz con leche (my Nicaraguan comfort food) and everything fits. And it´s in those moments that I realize that the questions may not be answered and that may be alright, because I am making small changes and Nicaragua has transformed my life.