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A Canadian urbanite in the Nicaraguan countryside.

Written on: Friday May 22nd, 2009

A journal entry from: Guatemala, mi amor.

When a city girl goes to the country one of two things may happen.  She completely loses her mind, or she loves it.  Within our group, I saw both things happen to various classmates.  I was one of the ones who loved it.  We were one of the lucky ones who had electricity, we being Jannie, Whitney and I.  We had a light in the main sitting area so that after dark (at 6) we could finish our homework or sit and chat with our house family.  It has been fun staying out there as well because to each other we would call our house families by their informal names 'mom', 'dad', 'creepy guy', 'uncle', 'sister'?. We even nicknamed our chickens 'hottie', 'one leg'? but our human family was related to the families of the other students the only trick was figuring out the family tree.  We were staying at the house where it all began.  Our grandpa is the grandpa for several families.  He is 91.  His daughter was our mom and she had 7 kids, many of which took in students.  In theory, since our classmates did the same thing we did and called their 'moms' 'mom', they would have been our nieces and nephews.  It was fun working out the family tree and it took us a good week to work it all out. All in all, the community was so wonderful.  The majority didn't have electricity because the electricity they were receiving was from solar panels so I think those who could afford the electricity had it.  They have only had running water for 8 months because international aid came in and gave them the funding for the project.  I talked with the local manager of the project and thoroughly enjoyed hearing about its successes and hearing his role in it. 

The purpose of the whole trip was to get to know the community, see some of the local projects and begin to try to understand some of the local issues.  Of course, our preconceptions of what it would be like played a major role in how we viewed the community, but it was really interesting none the less.  The house we lived in had a dirt floor with a constant presence of hens, roosters, dogs and cats in and out doors.  There were cows in our 'backyard' but they left after day one.  Now I know where 'till the cows come home' comes from because cows are quite transient little animals and can be out travelling for great lengths of time.  The family didn't seem fazed by it.  The house was made of wooden slats and brick.  Our section of the house was made out of wooden slats so we could watch the hens walk by through the holes in our walls.  The men worked out on the farm or wherever they would work, and the women work primarily in the kitchen.  The kitchen was definitely a health hazard as they used smoky wood fires in addition to their gas stoves.  The smoky wood fires actually cause respiratory illnesses and a type of cough that is notable among many people who live in the countryside.  My house mom cooked for all of us, and it was typically the traditionally Nicaraguan gallo pinto (beans and rice) and an egg.  It was really good but I could see how people would either get tired of it, or be seriously lacking in nutrients because we did not get a lot of vegetables.  The food was all fried all the time as well.  Fried and salty.  We also ate freshly made tortillas everyday.  Us girls even woke up at 4am to help make the tortillas.  You start by crushing the corn.  Once the corn was turned into a type of flour, the mom put in water turning it into a dough then separated the dough so that there was enough to put it on the stove.  We each got to make tortillas and got to eat them after!!  Somehow, hers were still better despite all the dough being the same.  It is definitely an art. 

All in all, I loved being in the country and would do it all over again.  Going to bed at 8 and getting up with the roosters is definitely something to adjust to, but well worth it!!  Also, we were introduced to the Central American 'rainy season' while out in the country.  It may be called 'rainy season' but would be more aptly named the 'torrential rain storm season'.  As I type, the street outside my house is a river.  No word of a lie.  Yes, the west coast of Canada gets rain, but not like this.  This is cats and dogs and cows and horses.  Everyday pretty much!!!  I can't leave until it stops for fear of drowning!!! 

I'm officially finished with Spanish class and this week am starting my community health and epidemiology course.  I can't believe how quickly time has flown by.  There are only 3 weeks left with this week being a short one due to our professor giving us a long weekend.  In one month, I will be going back to Canada!  That's so hard to imagine!!!  I will have to enjoy the time while I still have it!!