This past Tuesday was the 100th Anniversary of International Women’s Day. A day to celebrate women in all the roles they play in their own lives and ours. A day to celebrate how far women have come in gaining equal rights and respect in our world and a day to reflect on what and where there is still injustice for women in this world. I had the privilege to celebrate this day with the women of Ometepe, and the men and children who support them, at an event that NDI along with other local groups helped to organize. The other groups involved were: Fundacion Entre Volcanes (FEV)– an organization that works for gender equality, Asociacion de Moviemiento de Jovenes de Ometepe (AMOJO) – an organization for the rights of youth, Panteras Rosas – a feminist group that promotes equality and is against any type of sexual or racial discrimination, and the women of Simpateca de Cocibolca – who graciously let us use their space and are currently running a restaurant and working towards holding classes on healthy cooking. I believe our event here on Ometepe was the only nationally listed event on the WHO’s International Women’s Day website. Rather than use the slogan on the WHO site it was decided that our event would have it’s own slogan:
¡Todas juntas, todos libres por los derechos de las mujeres!
The day began by meeting in front of the hospital for a march through the streets to celebrate being a woman and shouting slogans for a life free from violence, equal pay and a life free of discrimination. After buses and trucks arrived (one of our transport buses broke down 10 minutes before the pick up time) bringing women and their families from the other communities around Moyogalpa we began to march, some in full costume, others with signs and slogans and the local band from Los Angeles to play when voices needed a rest. We marched past the Alcaldia (Mayor’s office), the Police Station and other places where we felt needed to listen to the women and their plea for justice. We then marched onto Cocibolca, the restaurant where we would show films of women visionaries and role models, speak about what it means to be a woman and to participate in International Women’s Day, inform the women about programs available to them as well as have some fun with drumming, dancing, a play and some food. Other than a few hiccups (most notably the buses and when the power went off just as the videos were to start) the day was a success and I hope that the women who participated felt like they had a voice and it was heard.
The rest of the week seemed to go by in a bit of a blur, as I was feeling a little under the weather. By Thursday I was running a fever and even the hospital director was on my case about why I haven’t been in to get antibiotics. With the insistence of some people to help guide me to take better care of myself (notably Tony, Raly and my mom) I reluctantly called in sick for work on Friday and spent most of the day sleeping. I must admit that I am a bit of a pouty princess (I was told that pouty is cucharita here or little spoon) when I am sick and so it was nice to be surrounded by really great friends who were patient with me when I lost my voice and brought tea, movies, ginger and oranges. Also I must admit that I have recently developed a slight obsession about scorpions hiding out in my couch and in my toilet paper roll. Again while I was sick and curled up on my couch I would occasionally peak about searching for a sneaky scorpion that I was sure was lurking to get me at a moment of weakness, not something I have previously concerned myself with when I curl up on my couch with my blanket for a change of horizontal scenery. I am most definitely on the mend and feel another good nights sleep and some more hydrotherapy and I should be right as rain for tomorrow. I am happy to say that lots of vitamin C, great friends, tasty teas, sleep and some old school naturopathic treatments do great things clearing out a cold (that and perhaps some trusted comforts like homemade chicken soup and a grilled cheese sandwich might not hurt either).
I found the hardest part of being sick here, aside from being a little lonely in the evenings, was taking time off work. Here I was with a little cold, and yet I found it a challenge to motivate myself to do the things I knew I should like warm salt water gargles etc, but there were people out there waiting for me who were in much rougher shape. I know and have told many people back home in Canada that you have to set boundaries, and you have to take care of yourself first because if you don’t then you can’t take care of others but I find that hard advice to follow myself. I have a tendency to keep going until I run dry and probably would have pushed through had it not been for a few discussions with Tony and my mother regarding setting boundaries and taking care of myself. I must admit I felt unbelievably guilty when I ran into someone from LA as I was picking up soup and water that told me that there were many patients waiting for me that morning. I felt I needed to justify how sick I was, even though I felt that I just had a bit of a cold.
I also was given a small taste of the challenges that people face here when they are sick. I already knew just by the conditions people come to me with, as well as the severity of their pain that the people here are tough. I have seen patients with such severe pain kidney stones that brushing a finger along their back will cause their muscles to twitch and spasm. It is unbelievable. And then to think that people have to go on with their day when they are sick, either going off to work in the campos or another job, or take care of the family is incredible. Many days the power will go off, and sometimes will stay off almost the entire day, same with the water. And so for example if you are the mother or grandmother taking care of the family and are ill yourself, how challenging is it to get better when you are just battling to make it through the day and ensure that your family is taken care of? Once again living here is a lesson in humility and in becoming aware of the differences in life here versus the life I grew up with.
I also want to take a little space in this post to tell anyone with family or friends in Japan that my thoughts are with them. I have been updated little by little from friends on the situation occurring there from the earthquake. I hope that response for relief and support is quick, and that the worst is over.