A story before I begin, or am I just beginning with a story? ...
Monday night I attended a patron saint festival in the small town of Diriá. The festival honors San Pedro, the dedicated saint of the town, with a celebration that lasts several days. June 29th, on whatever day that happens to be, is the final culmination of the festivities. The festival itself was interesting and lots of fun. A replica of the saint was paraded through town with music and revelry. There was also an hour were all of the people circled together for a rosary and to speak about how San Pedro is the heart of the people there, although challenges remain that the community still faces, such as poverty, domestic violence, etcetera. But through prayer and community they hope to see positive changes in these areas.
One of the funny moments of the night though came when I had first arrived in the town. I was walking through the central park, with another student and a local friend, when a middle aged man came up to us with a question. He was obviously drunk, stumbling with his speech and steps, but we cautiously let him approach to hear what he had to say.
"¿De donde son amigos, alemán o gringo?" He asked the other student and I if we were from Germany or the US, alot of the fair skinned travelers here tend to be Germans for some reason. So we told him we were from the US, eyeing him for a reaction since some people here don´t like US travelers due to the history of US government and business exploitation in Central America. But our response didn´t phase him.
"Ahhh, amigos! Tengo una pregunta para ustedes...¿dónde está el corazón de América?"
Where is the heart of America? I thought...what is he asking exactly? Is he asking what the capitol city of the US is? I wasn´t sure what he meant and no one else in my group was forthcoming with a response, so I doubtfully replied "Washington D.C.?"
He looked at me funny, and then repeated the question several times, a little slower with more emphasis each repitition. I, not having any other idea to what he was asking, gave the same response, repeating it slower and with more emphasis each time.
Finally he shouted, "¡Nicaragua, Nicaragua es el corazón de América!" This did not make sense to me, was he saying Nicaraguan culture, or the Spanish language are so engrained in the US that it has become the heart of "America?" I decided that must be the case, and it didn´t matter much at that point as my company was urging me to move on rather than philophosize with an inebriated stranger in a park, something I am often a sucker for.
But I was still scrathing my head, so I asked the local who we were with what he meant. She smiled and told me that in schools in Latin America, America represents all of the americas, north, central and south. I had heard this before (thanks Silvana!) but it had never officially clicked I guess. Thus, being in the center of Central America, you can call Nicaragua "the heart of America." So I guess we are all americans afterall? I don´t think that has been written into immigration policy though, not by any country. And I haven´t heard if Lee Greenwood´s "I´m Proud to be an American" song has been translated into Spanish or any of the countless indigenous languages between Fairbanks and Patagonia...I´m still laughing at myself over that one.
Is this July already? My time here is starting to pass quickly in contrast with the first week here that seemed like a much longer period of time. I´m finally becoming accustomed to my stay here, learning how to get places independently and able to get along easier with the language, which is still far from fluent, but more functional than when I arrived. I´m also developing friendships with the people I work with or see regularly in the hospital and neighbors, which is something that a shorter stay here would not cater to. So while it is difficult being away from home for so long (I won´t be back until Aug 8th), I´m finally starting to see the benefits of being here for a longer period and feel more like a part of the community here as opposed to just someone passing through...which is essential when you want to serve the community you are in.
Monday morning I arrived at the hospital and was pleasently surprised to see a new medcabinet in the emergency room...it has separate droors for medications with alphabatized labels and everything! It´s nothing brand new, but gets the job done much better than what we had before. I had a picture of the old med cabinet to share but the film for that photo did not pan out.
This will be my last week in the emergency room though, as the next two weeks I will be moving on to the labor and delivery department, which I am kind of dreading but feel like it will be an important experience to have, especially to see how things are handled here. I think it will just be hard to see alot of the very young mothers giving birth. It is relatively common for women to give birth at very young ages, 14, 15 or 16. And often times their bodies aren´t developed enough to handle birthing well, which can create complications. It is unfortunately almost equally common for these young mothers to end up as single mothers with little means to further themselves, and children to raise, which creates a cycle of poverty. But we´ll see how things go next week, I am sure there will be more to talk about then.
Other news and gossip here...the coup in Honduras, a neighboring country, is making alot of headlines here. Some people are worried that if Honduras destabilizes it could spill over into Nicaragua. But presently it seems like there is lots of international involvement and pressure for things to resolve peacefully, although there is alot of conflicting opinion here on the ousted president Zelaya and whether he deserves to be reinstated.
Alexis Argüello, the mayor of Managua and a former boxing champ (http://www.bbc.co.uk/mundo/america_latina/2009/07/090701_1717_nicaragua_arguello_muerte_jrg.shtml), was also found dead yesterday (possible suicide), so the government has officially declared three days of mourning.
Okay, that´s all I have time to write, not sure if I´ll still be able to get these photos loaded, but if not tonight then I´ll try again tomorrow. Hope all is well for anyone reading this.