Hello everyone! Lots to write about it seems. The 4th of July came and went in the U.S., and for me the day saw lots of celebration here in Nicaragua, but in the name of a different cause. On that day, a major celebration took place known as the Repliegue Táctico. This is an event which commemorates the anniversary of the guerilla fighters battling Somoza´s National Guard during the revolution in 1979. The Repliegue commemorates a specific instance where the guerilla fighters retreated from the city of Managua to Masaya to reconsolidate before trying to take the city of Managua (http://www.lavozdelsandinismo.com/nicaragua/2007-06-30/por-que-y-como-fue-el-repliegue-a-masaya/). Every year since a walk has been held from Managua to Masaya (approximately 30 kilometers) to commemorate the “tactical retreat”. I attended the event to learn about the historical significance of the Repliegue, and as a cultural learning opportunity. But it was also a much more political laden event than I had anticipated, feeling like a rally for the FSLN and Daniel Ortega supporters.
Nonetheless, it was an exciting day. The event began in the afternoon, as thousands of people crowded the plaza at the Mercado Roberto Huembes in Managua, a market named after another revolutionary fighter. I was there early enough to see everything being set up, as police cleared an area for the stage and soccer games were being played in the parking lot. By 4pm, the plaza was filled with thousands of people, wearing red and black (the colors of the FSLN), waving flags, and celebrating with song and dance. This year, 2009, marked the 30th anniversary of the Repliegue, so things were amplified in scope and degree.
Around 5pm the President of Nicaragua, Daniel Ortega, appeared on the stage, along with his wife, Rosario Murillo, the Nicaraguan ambassador to Perú and old time Sandinista, Tomás Borge, and a few others (http://www.presidencia.gob.ni/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=220:marcha-conmemorando-el-30-aniversario-del-repliegue&catid=63:julio-2009&Itemid=54). The group I was with was actually pretty close to the stage front, so despite all of the waving flags we were able to see Ortega and the others in detail. Ortega then opened up with a speech as the crowd quieted down. He talked about the significance of the history here, and he also spoke quite a bit about the situation in Honduras, talking about the importance of supporting Zelaya and reinstating a democratically elected president. Although, I couldn´t help thinking of the irony this presented, since Ortega and his party have been accused of blatant election fraud by numerous international sources (http://www.economist.com/displayStory.cfm?story_id=12607338) when they came back to power in the last election. Additionally, there was so much rhetoric present, including waving images of Che Guevara and Augusto Sandino, having to do with helping the poor and empowerment of the people, but it just doesn’t fit the reality of his presidency.
That afternoon, before the festivities began, our group had lunch in the market place. It is common, anywhere in Managua or surrounding regions, to be approached for money or food from impoverished men, women and children. As we were finishing our lunch, a young boy, who appeared about 5 or 6 years of age approached and asked quietly for some food. A friend I was with had some remaining beans and rice on her plate and offered it to the boy, who gladly accepted and sat down with us to eat. She asked him his name and age, and everyone in the group was a shocked to hear him say he was 9 years old. We have been realizing that here it can be very difficult to gauge someone´s age. The young people tend to appear much younger than they are, since their bodies often have less than ideal nutritional intake to develop on the same time frame as children in the U.S. or other industrialized nations. Further, the older generation here tends to appear much older than they are, since the hardships, heat, sun and malnutrition exacerbate the impact of aging here. I have talked to 50 year olds who appear 20-30 years older than their stated age. But even considering this, the boy in the market appeared very underdeveloped for a 9 year old. Having to beg for food in the market on a daily basis, it´s easy to understand how that might happen, just hard to palate.
With these kinds of images in my head, from just a few hours earlier, and the political realities of election fraud and corruption, it was a little hard to listen to the “rise poor people of the world” rhetoric stemming from the crowd and stage. But I know this was not a place to speak my mind, I was just there as an observer. I also know that there are other, or former, members of the FSLN party who recognize these contradictions and voice dissenting opinions from Ortega. But at that rally he seemed to still have a pretty strong base of support.
After the speech ended, the crowd of thousands made way, in perfectly chaotic fashion, for the streets leading to the highway towards Masaya. The walk had begun. In addition to the people walking the streets, hundreds of cars, trucks, and buses, packed inside with revelers waving flags and/or speakers blaring nationalist music made their way towards Masaya. There were also lots of motorcycles weaving their way through pedestrians, street stands, and automobiles. The sun had nearly set by this point, since it gets dark here around 6pm, but there was plenty of city and traffic lights all the way back to Masaya. Walking in the cool of the evening was much more preferable to walking that long distance in the heat of the day.
By the time we made it to the highway, the police had closed it to opposing traffic, and there were so many vehicles driving and people walking on the road towards Masaya that the walkers were moving nearly as fast as the vehicles. The walk was memorable, there was so much energy from the masses of people and celebrations, that it felt as though I could have walked forever. It was also a great opportunity to talk to other Nicaraguans. For a good portion of the walk, I traveled alongside a 60 year old man who kept up the pace the whole way. He was a life time resident of Managua and shared with me stories about the revolution, his family, current problems the country faces, etc. Stands along the road side also offered free snacks and coffee to the people walking, which kept us going. A five or six hour walk is a great way to get to know someone!
Along the way, I stopped in the city of Nindirí to watch Ortega pass by. He makes the walk himself every year, although there was debate on whether he would this year since he has developed a heart condition. We finally made it to Masaya around midnight. People gathered in the barrio of Monimbó for a final speech and celebration, and then the tired masses made their way back to their respective homes throughout Nicaragua. It had been quite a day.
Labor y Parto
The following Monday I started my rotation in the labor and delivery portion of the hospital. I was a little nervous going into it, not having any experience in this area, but I told the staff about my reservations and they have been very helpful in explaining everything that goes on and letting me assist in the process as I become comfortable.
It´s a little hard for me to compare my experience in this department to what it might be like in the U.S., since my rotation for maternity nursing is not until this fall semester, but overall it seems like everything gets done that needs to be, i.e., baby comes out of mom, baby stays alive, mom stays alive, everyone goes home (granted a little more complicated than that). Generally, every delivering mother requires the same sort of care, so it feels like we don’t struggle as much for resources as was apparent in the emergency department, where every patient might require different tools and treatment. There have been a few occasions this week that required cesarean deliveries, but these cases are wheeled into the adjoining operating room to be handled by surgical staff and equipment.
The biggest shock for me in working here, as I related to in a previous post, has just been the ages of the mothers. First time mothers seems to range from 13 – 19 pretty commonly, a 19 year old I saw last Thursday was on her third child! But young motherhood tends to be pretty normal here, and in developing nations in general, and there are pros and cons to be mentioned in both respects. Right now I am trying to collect further research data from the patients and staff here to explore the issue on a local level. I may post a little about this in the future as I learn more and just post my final paper here, once it is completed, for anyone that has interest in reading it.
Also, I would be remiss if I didn´t mention how amazing it is to watch a birth. Outside of the blood and drama, it´s amazing to see a new born child as they take their first breath. One side of me feels a lot of hope for the potential that this one new person can assume, and another part of me feels fearful, knowing the struggles they may have to endure, especially here in Nicaragua. But at some point all you can do is hope and pray…
Alright, that looks about all I have time to write about today. I´ll try and buy another disposable camera soon so I can post some more pictures in the next couple of weeks. Take care all...