Due to recent extremely busy days and random power outages here in Pearl Lagoon, I have not had the chance to update my blog as frequently as I'd like, so here it is! Last week I left Esteli to travel out to Pearl Lagoon which consisted of waking up after 2 hours of sleep at 3am to drive two hours to Managua, take a 6am 6 hour bus ride to Rama, have a layover in Rama for 3 hours and then hop into the back of a pickup truck where I sat on a wooden bench through bumpy dirt roads in the jungle for another 6 hours... 19 hours later I arrived in Pearl Lagoon for the opening night of the 15 day baseball championship series for East Coast teams. Being the biggest party night of the year, myself and my new friends stayed out until 2am and danced the night away. I don't think I've ever been so incredibly tired and warn down in my life.
Since then, things have gone a lot smoother. My job out here has been incredibly eye opening. Jim purchases his coconut oil directly from families in and around Pearl Lagoon communities. We spent our first day of work interviewing and filming families in the Haulover community. I'll do another post on the process of how it's made and eventually a video.
One day we had the chance to go out to a community just about an hour and a half into the jungle called Manhattan, Nicaragua (ironic). The family consisted of two grandparents, two parents, and 5 children all living under one roof. As we walked up to the house, the children's heads were poking out the window yelling, “Who that white man?” “What they doin here?”
We spent the rest of the day wandering through the jungle backyard, bonding with family over corn cake and star fruit juice, and listening to the radio while picking out dried corn from the stalks. They cooked us a meal for dinner of rice, beans and pasta which we brought as a gift. Curious of what they eat at meals, the grandma told me, “every single thing is from the garden girl!” At night, we huddled around the radio listening to the Pearl Lagoon Vs. Bluefields game in the dark with one light bulb from the camper lantern casting shadows around the room. A giant spider clung to the wooden board above my head which made getting into bed a little early sound incredibly comforting. We camped out in their front yard under a mango tree
The next morning, we probably spent 2 hours playing baseball with the kids. Creative baseball. More like here's a stick (bat), some dried up corn (ball) and a broken flip flop (the only base). We played until the sun got unbearably hot and ran back through the jungle to a distant single standing house in a big green field that they called “the store” which consisted of a spanish speaking family that sold apple juice, rice, beans and corn. The closest road to this “store” is about a 45 minute walk away. On our way back we all jumped in the creek to cool off.
The rest of the day was spent at the house grating, washing, boiling and frying coconut.
I'll never forget my first hand experience being invited and living with a family deep in the woods of Manhattan in the Nicaraguan jungle.
Tomorrow I will be waking up at 3am to take a bus to Managua, a chicken bus to Ramas and another chicken bus to Pearl Lagoon... 14 hours later I'll be hanging in the Caribbean Coast working for the Pearl Lagoon Coconut Oil Company. I will be filming, doing photography and help build up the website for a friend of mine, Jim. Can't wait to start a new adventure. More posts are to come, as soon as I have a chance to get them all up!
More information on the Eastern Coast of Nicaragua HERE
Here's the link to Pearl lagoon Coconut Oil Company HERE
Saturday started the first day of Brigades for Penn State University and Vanderbilt in Nicaragua. They will be staying through my last week with GB. Some incredible work has already been accomplished and I've had the chance to help as well as film and photograph the whole thing.
Saturday morning, we had the chance to go visit a community about an hour away called La Garnacha. They have built their community upon the system of cooperatives. With this, they have developed a community based way of sharing skills in artisan work, farming, tourism and architecture. We were brought on a tour of what they have accomplished including a system of fertilizing with worms, a community garden, a local pottery shop, renowned goat cheese, coffee, and wood work.
I believe that one of the most successful ways to empower, develop and improve the health of a community is through economic development. What I have seen so far going out into these rural Nica communities is a lack of organization and involvement from families to help one another. This individualism isn't always the best route because they don't have anywhere else to go. What I love about La Garnacha is that it has incorporated organization with willing individuals to create a healthy, happy lifestyle for all that are involved.
Throughout my time with Global Brigades, I have been doing some investigative work about an article that a friends sent me a while back, “Mystery Kidney Disease in Central America” written in BBC News Magazine Online by Kate Sheeh.
The article states the recent epidemic within Central America over kidney disease. Most commonly, they have found that sugarcane farmers within areas of Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador and Costa Rica have been impacted the most. Other occupations where it is commonly found are in mining and port work. It is a very dangerous situation for these people who say that they can find out they have it one day, and die a month later. Within La Isla, locals call their Island, La Isla de Los Diudas (The Island of the Widows.) It is recognized as a “major epidemic with a tremendous population impact” by Victor Penchaszadeh, a clinical epidemiologist and consultant to the Pan-American Health Oragnization on Chronic Diseases.
Researchers believe that causes for this disease might be from chemicals in the field, overworking farmers, alcohol abuse, or unhealthy eating habits.
After having the chance to read through community surveys, see clinical work in medical brigades and listening to patients, I sat down with a student from Penn State and my friend/boss Lauryn Linsell. The student from Penn State shadowed one of the Nicarguan doctors and had the chance to listen to the medical problems from 35 patients. He told me that the many of the patients complained of darker colored urine (which they believed to be a urinary tract infection but is ruled out when they have no other symptoms). Darker colored urine is a common symptom of dehydration.
After reading through over 100 surveys from a community not too far from the one I visited today, I noticed a repeated pattern of community members complaining of kidney disease. Many people don't understand what is happening or why, but they know that the kidney is the cause for illness.
When asked if they drank fluids regularly, many responded saying that they don't have access to clean water and instead drink coffee (a diuretic), fruit juice and coca cola. All of these alternatives are very acidic. Without the consumption of water, the over consumption of sugar and caffeine, combined with manual labor in extreme heat, it is no wonder why the kidney is straining to survive. Without a clean kidney, a build up of acid and bacteria form which can cause extreme harm.
Thankfully, efforts are being made by sugarcane plantations in San Antonio, Nicaragua to prevent kidney disease by providing hour long lunch breaks and water for employees in the field ...this should at least be normal for plantations expecting a 8+ hour workday in the brutal sun chopping sugarcane stalks with machetes... For their own health, this plantation also lets go of workers who are diagnosed with the disease.
This combination of dehydration, poor nutrition and unethical working conditions have caused this “mystery disease.”Link to article HERE
Next week starts the first week of Brigades for March which means I will be working in the communities with the college students who will start arriving this Friday! Time sure is flying.
The Nica team is hard at work today putting together the final itinerary for the medical and public health brigades for next week. We will be hosting medical clinics in small communities, living on a compound which is made for big groups of students to live in while they volunteer, visiting local farms and communities and having a good ole time.
This Sunday I had the chance to participate with the Global Brigades Nicaragua team in a six hour first aid training. You never know when you'll need to use it on brigades!
It was really really cool to compare to different first aid trainings I've been a part of in the U.S. Instead of learning how to use braces and different types of techniques for wraps and bandages, we experiments with wooden slabs and cloth. The ambulance system isn't reliable here. It can often take 30 minutes and more for one to arrive at the scene of an accident and they don't always have the necessary items to help the injured person. Nicaraguans will do what they can to help with the items that they have on hand.
Should also mention that the entire 6 hours was entirely spanish speaking. My head felt like smoosh when 3pm rolled around. It wasn't until the very end when the First Aid teacher came up to me and said (IN ENGLISH), "Thank you for coming to Nicaragua and this presentation. We welcome foreigners and we're happy you're here." I was very thankful, appreciative and mentally exhausted.
For Global Brigades week, all of the employees talked about what it means to be a part of the organization and posted them on sticky notes for everyone to remember! We will also be posting stickies whenever we think someone is doing a great job.
I just really like this song and I think it does a great job showing exactly how I feel hanging around Central America (literally too since I saw fires on the mountains of Honduras, many many sick children and plenty of "soldiermen" the last few days), listen while you read yo
What are your personal views on education? We've grown up reading textbooks, taking exams, writing essays, taking the SAT or MCAT, and receiving grades that people look at as a reflection of their own intelligence or stupidity. Without this expensive piece of paper, there is no way in hell that we would be "successful." How could we make MONEY without one? It'll only take 25 years to pay off these student loans compared to 30 if I go to this school instead. SOCIETY will think less of me if I don't go to a successful ivy league, how embarrassing
WAKE UP CALL. I have strong opinions against the traditional education system. Please read this blog post by a friend of mine who studied in Thailand last semester and gained an entirely new perspective on the education system she's known for years.
We both realized in our experience abroad that the only way to really learn anything is to be self motivated and find inspiration in a topic that you find interesting.. no matter what it may be. Of course, reading, researching and understanding the core basic information is INCREDIBLY important, but why does our society revolve around basing our intelligence and success on diplomas, school names, and grades.
Understanding perspectives and seeing these topics first hand are what make education real. Problem solving, feeling, and relating should all be the most important aspects.Read Marissa's blog post HERE
Here is another article relating to the never ending, no-pay or minimum wage internship cycle that students are often trapped in between college graduation and the real-world...... HERE