Saturday, November 29, 2014

The Ebola, the Palace, and the Volunteers

            It started early in the morning. And I mean like early, early in the morning. It's 4:15 and my phone alarm wakes me with a jolt. My head lightly brushes the top of my mosquito net, which freaks me out a little. I smack my screen a couple of times until the alarm shuts off and I struggle to un-tuck my mosquito net in a half asleep stupor. Everyone else is still asleep as I collect my toothbrush and toothpaste and head to the bathroom in the pitch black of the way too early morning. I slept in my bus outfit so I was already dressed for my day (aka the best decision I made that day). We are all collectively still asleep but we stumble around the station making breakfast sandwiches and attempting to find a seat on the bus, which is FULL of mosquitoes. We all eventually make it to a seat on that bus and we were off to Nicaragua by 5 am.
Nary 2 hours later we are at the border of Costa Rica and Nicaragua. Oh border crossings, how I never wish to do it alone. I personally have experience now at the Nicaraguan border and the Panamanian border and I've learned that you should give yourself AT LEAST 3 hours to cross. Well that is exactly what happened at the border in Nicaragua. Everything seemed to be going great. It only took us about an hour to have 24 people "leave" Costa Rica. But then we had to "enter" Nicaragua. What seemed like a simple task turned into a hilarious disaster. While waiting on the bus our teacher entered the bus and asked " Is anyone here from Texas or New York?". We all jokingly said 'Oh this is probably about Ebola' hahaha. But turns out it actually was. The three people from New York in our program had to get off the bus and be interrogated at the border. It was funny in a 'is this actually happening" kind of way because none of us were in the United States when Ebola was diagnosed in the patient in New York. It started getting kind of un-funny when we all had to get off the bus so they could take our temperatures with a heat gun. That was cool and all but when I had to take my actual temperature after it said I was a little warm on the heat gun I was over this border business.
On the road again in Nicaragua now (everyone made it through, we didn't leave our New Yorkers) within just a few minutes we got to take a snapshot of this beautiful site (see picture).

And then we were in Granada, we in total probably only traveled about two hours into Nicaragua. Our hotel was just, 'wow!' and also 'what?', it felt like living in a castle and if you ever stay in Granada, Nicaragua stay in Hotel Granada, it's worth it. The next day we got a big long lecture about the volunteer work we would be doing that week.  We would be helping doctors to collect medial history, help diagnose and provide underserved communities with health services. In that moment I couldn't fully comprehend just how much of an impactful experience this program would be. I was nervous for people who had never taken vital signs before but everyone learned quickly.
The next day we started our clinical work. We saw patients at a school in the middle of the jungle from 8am until 4pm. The very first day we were able to see 104 patients. People were so thankful for our help. I would get into details on certain cases but I think I'll keep those stories to myself because that information is someone else's story. It was a truly rewarding experience and it really helped to reaffirm my love for providing health care to people. It was amazing work with such intelligent and caring doctors and interpreters. I would love to return to the program to gain more experience and personal growth. We had a very successful volunteering experience even though getting there was an adventure in itself.

- Katy 

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