Woke up bright and early for another day’s worth of hiking. On today’s menu, there were cantaloupe, pineapple, and beans and rice. After we refilled water bottles, donned some headgear, and strapped on some boots, we journeyed out to five homes.

The hike was the same as before: Crossing rivers, climbing rocks, and squeezing through tight wire fences. And at times we would come across some cattle and horses. Each home took at least an hour to hike to and we took water breaks frequently. Once arriving at a home, the visit went as follows: Survey, water filter exam, observations, then Zika presentation. I was assigned to do Zika education.

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Sharing Zika education with families was a fascinating experience. Not only did I practice it yesterday for today, but I also had a chance to see how informed the homeowners were. I pre-quizzed them, discussed the symptoms of Zika, then talked about treatment and prevention. My hopes after the session were that they would be au courant with Zika and share with neighbors who were unaware.

The families generally knew some things about Zika. For example, it was common knowledge that mosquitoes transmitted the virus and that removing breeding sites reduce its population. Some families asked questions regarding symptoms and how to prevent it. However, none of them knew that it could be sexually transmitted and that pregnant women were at risk. I would thus emphasize a bit more on the sexual mode of transmission each time.

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The families were just so heartwarming and caring. Here is one unforgettable family (pictured above). It was a family of four and the couple had two daughters. The girls were laughing and playing around the house while we were working.

Once completing the tasks, we stayed at the house for a bit longer to chat with the family. While everyone else was having a conversation, the mother came to me with a bag full of eggs. I didn’t want to take them all, so I grabbed a few. But she insisted that I grabbed more.

Later, I and a few others looked outside admiring their beautiful yard: They had a friendly dog and flowers bloomed here and there. Both of the girls came out the home, hugged us, took a flower, and gave it to us. These girls were without a doubt some of the sweetest and well-raised kids I have ever met. We had to leave shortly after, yet nobody wanted to!

We returned to the clinic around lunch time after the visits and talked about how the day went. Then, I saw people holding a bag of pink candy. I asked where they got it from and I was told that a woman next door was selling it. So, I headed to the front of her house and knocked on a wooden door. She opened it and invited me in. We had a casual conversation for a bit, then she offered me some candy (which turns out to be sugar coated coconut) for 10 Córdobas. After the exchange, she mentioned that there was a baseball game going on downhill. And indeed there was.

Excited to watch the game, I marched with a few others to the field, holding hands with the kids. The teams were Nicaragua versus the US.

We played maybe a few innings on this hot day. When our team went up to bat, a girl was cheering us on, “Si se puede!, Si se puede!” (Yes, you can!) The rest of us joined her.

Both teams were playing well: While players on our team attempted home runs, the players on the Nica team bunted a lot. Both teams were scoring, so both strategies seemed to work. It was a heated game both literally and figuratively.

I batted once for our team. After hitting the ball, I ran as fast as I could, but slid just short of first base and scraped my leg. Immediately, some of my colleagues came to the rescue. No band-aids were available, so they sprayed water on my leg and covered it with a rag. I sat out for the rest of the game.

By mid-game, it started pouring. Yet that didn’t stop us from playing. The Nica team was winning and it seemed we had no chance of catching up. Thankfully, nobody else slipped or had any injuries, especially in the rain.

Once the game ended (in which Nicaragua won), we headed up to the clinic. The rain stopped, yet it left us a muddy trail. The kids were all laughing at me since I fell. I didn’t experience much pain while hiking, so the walk was at least bearable. Once arriving, I got a band-aid for it.

We gathered outside the clinic that night to debrief and share our thoughts about the week. One-by-one everyone discussed what they liked, disliked, and anything unusual or strange experienced) during the week. Generally, everyone expressed content with home visits and how generous the families were. Some dislikes would be the mosquitoes and the heat. Otherwise, there was really no complaints. One funny experienced was mentioned though when a group of volunteers witnessed some tadpoles in one of the water filters. I couldn’t help but feel bad for those who rely on that water. Once we finished the debrief, we called it a night and started packing up for tomorrow.

Extra notes

DEET is not readily available in rural areas. Instead, lemon eucalyptus leaves are grown, which serve as a natural bug repellant. To repel mosquitoes, locals are advised to mash the leaves, extract the oil, and place it on their skin every 3 hours. Wearing long sleeved clothing, mosquito net, and fumigation are other preventive methods.

 

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