Here we are at the start of a new year, which also happens to mark the one-year anniversary of me coming to Nicaragua to work with NDI. The end of 2011 flew by, with me falling quite out of the habit of writing. I was lucky enough to have another good friend of mine come down for a visit in early October and took some time to travel around with her to San Juan del Sur for some surfing and Granada for some relaxing. For Thanksgiving Laura, Gary and I got together a little after the fact and they put together a delicious meal, complete with a pseudo-pumpkin pie that would fool anyone! My contribution was an apple crisp and my mothers stuffing recipe. October came to an end with us going out to a Halloween party where Tabby took top prize: a fan. November came and went quickly and was quite busy. The elections here on the island proved fairly quiet and seemed to go by without any large demonstrations. I went with my neighbours in the morning and then when I tried to join Donna and her family in the afternoon we weren’t allowed in the gate. It seemed that we as foreigners might provoke a fight. November also marked Donna’s despideda or going away as her time with the Peace Corps here had come to an end. As it was the Fiesta Patronale in Alta Gracia, I joined Tabby and her family there for the hippica and to watch the Baile de las Ramos – where people walk and dance with branches behind the horses to the church. It was a very busy end of the month for Tabby and her family as it seems within the span of a few weeks there were 4 birthdays: first little Luna turned 1, then Maximo turned 3 and then both parents had their birthdays.
Work continued to keep me quite busy with the patients, although things began to slow down through November and into December. I was able to attend another birth in the hospital. This one was the first where the partner decided to be in the room and it was quite moving to see how supportive he was, which can at times be rare due to the ‘machismo’ that is common here. I was able to attend a couple different conferences. One on the island about Dengue, Leptospirosis and H1N1 which was very informative as it showed how all the protocols and regulations are layed out from the mainland but that due to lack of resources and support are almost impossible to apply here. The other was in Managua for Living Waters for the World the organization NDI is working with on a water project here on the island. Unfortunately in the NDI clinic November was a bit of a frustrating month. Rats had decided to make a home in our lovely clinic and after having to do 3 deep cleans it was decided major renovations needed to take place. This meant that the clinic was closed for about two weeks, but was ready in time for the last brigade of the year and is far better organized and much more animal proof. The final brigade was a first for NDI as it was an herbal brigade with two very well known herbalists coming to teach and share their knowledge and the return of well-loved NDI doctor. Also joining this brigade was a psychologist and flower essence practitioner from Northern Nicaragua who was a pleasure to meet and work with and an unbelievable resource for patients that came through.
The year came to a close with the marriage of my neighbour and landlord Rubenia. The service was small and intimate, held right in front of my house and I was not only an invited guest but also able to be part of the preparations. Unfortunately that same night there was an accident on the island involving several friends which ended up taking the life of one, who was dearly cared for and whose presence will be deeply missed in Los Angeles and elsewhere by all who knew him. My last few days on the island were a mix of feelings, from those that came up just that week to trying to assimilate all I had seen and learned from the year. Getting ready to come home to spend the holidays with close family and friends was exciting as I had not been back for a year, but also I felt sad to leave these new friends and this life I had become used to here. Being home for Christmas was a much-needed break, that helped me to feel rejuvenated and catch up on some much needed sleep for the first week at least. The time flew by getting together with various friends and making sure to see as much family as I could. Before I knew it I found myself on a plane on my way down to Nicaragua, but this time it felt a little more like coming home than going into the unknown.