Above: A few of the kids I taught English to, Axel and Kevin Guzman.
Below: Izela, a lovely woman who helped keep our home clean and plenty of rice, beans and plantains in my belly.
I am so grateful for my wonderful friends here in Nicaragua and in the US. Thank you for sharing your lives and love with me. Abrazos!
My good friends Martin and Cesia who played with me in the dirt streets, at the lake, in the trees...
The wonderful ladies of my host family who have their own little store in the front of their house, Rachelle who shares my name and her mother, Tila.
Soft, small, warm, new life I hold in my palm
In November, I accompanied a group of herbalists from the US and Canada on a traditional and herbal medicine trip to Northern Nicaragua. The mission was to learn from fellow Nicaraguan community health workers including herbalists, the plants and each other. It was inspiring to see the effectiveness and extent to which natural medicine is build into the culture and structure of many communities as well as Nicaraguan health care laws.
First, we visited the poor and welcoming rural community of Miraflor, a two-hour pickup ride up a rough mountain road from the town of Esteli. Our gracious host families welcomed us with open arms, humbly providing hearty Nicaraguan meals, good company and simple sleeping spaces for a few nights.
With my family, I had evening conversations about the history of the Miraflor community and the surrounding nature preserve. We also discussed non-verbal communication in Nicaragua and I learned how to recognize when my Nica friends were politely trying to say its time to go while hanging out with a group of friends. I also learned how Nica parents hold firm boundaries with their children using just their eyes or a finger tip without breaking the flow of communication within the larger group of adults.
Soon after arriving in Miraflor, the mist and cooler mountain temperatures brought on some congestion in my sinuses so my host mom quickly went into her backyard to harvest a handful of herbs including orange tree leaves and wormwood. She boiled the herbs with garlic cloves and made me a strong tea that kicked out my sinus congestion in just 3 glasses. Below is a picture of Rafaela making the tea for me while she prepares corn tortillas in her kitchen. Everything was cooked and re-heated on the wood fired stove top to her left. The chickens and dogs running around would frequently get shoed out as she cooked and her 3 year-old grandson Jonatan played on the dirt floor with a handmade toy truck.
During the day our group of herbalists and naturopathic physicians conversed with Nicaraguan herbalists, community health workers and botanists from across Nicaragua. It was a unique gathering of many open hearts and minds to share this special place and medicine. The community herbalists and people who knew the local herbs shared with us how they had brought healing and saved lives in their community, especially throughout the contra war of the 80’s when the United States had placed an embargo on all medical supplies going into Nicaragua. The nearest basic hospital is hours away by bus so even now this herbal knowledge and these healers continue to play a very important role in the community. They described many common illnesses and the manner in which they treated them through various herbs growing nearby. Many of the herbs they use are prescribed in a similar way to what I learned in Naturopathic medical school and some are very different.
Many herbs were made into teas to drink throughout the day. Some leaves were heated and applied topically and one herb, rue, was mixed in alcohol and spit on children. One major difference in prescribing between Nicaraguan herbalists and what I learned in medical schools was regarding how herbs are measured and dosed. Often times the American herbalists would ask how they prepare and dose a particular herbal tea. The response often involved seemingly vague measurement such as 2 handfuls in a liter of water or a "hemi," which is merely a piece of bark the length of the distance between ones index finger and thumb as shown in the photo below.
Some of the herbs used here are; wormwood, cornsilk, parsely, peppermint, lemongrass and many more that I will add with the latin names once I am reunited with my field notes.
The mountain air was refreshingly cool and we spent hours exploring the jungle, the roadside and the high pine forests learning the traditional medicinal uses and superstitions regarding many shrubs, trees, orchids, ferns and other plants growing in the Miraflor nature preserve.
We also saw the potent datrura stramonium, a very effective acute asthma remedy when used correctly in low doses. We heard stories of local teenagers who had taken some and ran around mad and crazy for three days. There were many croton species trees that have a red sap that looks like blood as shown in the accompanying picture. The small fern below is placed in newly pierced earholes for 10 days to aid healing of the punctured tissues.
Ricinus communis, castor bean and leaf, is used topically for many ailments. One of the most interesting to me was the use of the fire-heated leaf for headaches. It is smeared with chicken fat and placed on top of ones head and under a hat for a few hours to relieve the pain.
After bidding our farewells to the families and herbalists that had shared so much with us, we travelled back to Esteli for a week of Spanish classes and trips to see local herbalists, farmers and community health workers. I was inspired again to learn of the integral role of herbalism and community healers in traditional Nicaraguan medicine, as is true for so many cultures.
Our afternoons were spent visiting two visionary and well-funcioning Nicaraguan herbal companies who buy medicinal herbs from local trained organic farmers. They create many salves, creams, syrups, teas and tinctures that we purchased to bring to our patients on Ometepe island. The profit their farmers make goes to improving and diversifying their land and is also used to buy basic supplies such as soap and cooking oil for their families. We visited very poor communities sustained only by the foods they produce on their small plots of land and saw how communities come together to support each others well beings and how trained community health workers are essential in providing health care to individuals in their community. We learned how traditional knowledge of the use of plants as medicine has saved many peoples health and lives, especially where there is limited access to doctors, hospitals and pharmeceutical medicines.
Isnaya Herbal laboratories, Esteli
One of the inspiring healers we met was a Nicaraguan midwife and health promoter, Mama Liche. This vibrant woman is in her 70's and has been working in Esteli teaching birthing classes, sharing herbal knowledge, performing life-saving gynecological exams and naturally birthing babies for many decades. Her energy and joy was an inspiration to us all and a testimony to the power of natural medicine and healing relationships.
Every morning, I was challenged to slow down my functional Spanish language skills in order to incorporate more appropriate words, details and especially correct verb conjugation. My Spanish teacher, Aura, also helped me by sharing many Nicaraguan beliefs about health and disease. One story that she shared and has been retold by many of my patients in Nicaragua surrounds the long-held belief that the body should not undergo quick changes between hot and cold. For example, women who have been cooking all day (which in Nicaragua means using a wood fire) should not bathe in the evening (because the water here is cold). Even if a woman washes her hands while cooking, she will likely develop inflamed hypothenar muscles in her hands, which is accompanied by much pain and weakness of the hands. I was skeptical until the day I entered class with a very painful and red thumb after taking a cold shower the day I repeatedly used my hand by writing in my notebook all day in the heat.
After a long day of travelling from Esteli, we caught the last ferry to the island of Ometepe where the final leg of the groups journey would be filled with seeing eagerly waiting patients at NDI's naturopathic clinic. I was thankful to be "home" and back to working with my patients.
We had a great week of sharing herbal knowledge in class, case reviews and with each patient the team saw. The herbal team brought with them more than $19,000 worth of donated herbs for our patients! I loved the collaboration we shared in formulating so many great remedies to help a variety of patients dealing with anxiety, body aches, influenza, digestive troubles, insomnia, depression, diabetes, high cholesterol and much more.
NDI brigade #33
Passiflora incarnata, the beautiful passion flower being visited by a leaf-footed bug is pictured to the left. The fruit that comes from these flowers is delicious and goes by many names, Calala here in Nicaragua and Lilikoi in Hawaii. One of the best parts of this trip was the 6 month-old baby girl named Lilikoi that accompanied us with a warm and open heart to everyone who held her in their arms and every tree swaying in the wind that she passed under.
Below is a link to a video of this 3 week trip with Dr. Tania Neubauer, ND, Paul Bergner, director of the North American Institute of Mecical Herbalism and Herbalist Sevensong, director of the Northeast School of Botanical Medicine. This service learning trip is offered across Nicaragua typically annually. If you are interested in learning more, check out the NAIMH's website by clicking on the name above.
Video Link: www.somebodi.es/hrb/todo.mov
Need to keep the rooster in the front yard?...why not tie his leg to an old car part?
We had no idea how to get the papayas out of our tree but they were ripe so we poked and prodded until one came tumbling down
Stopping by my neighbors home...actually I walk through their front porch on the way out of my yard every day.
The Divine Baby Jesus Variety Store in "downtown" Moyogalpa...all the name brands are fake knockoffs
The consultation room in the Moyogalpa Hospital where I see patients twice a week. They are given the choice to see their regular doctors or myself, the naturopathic doctor with NDI.
The many piglets neighboring the NDI clinic...they often squeal and yelp and sometimes scamper across our backyard amongst the group of patients waiting patiently outside in these plastic lawn chairs.
The crowded ferry ride back home to Ometepe at sunset
Medicinal Eucalyptus Tree
A very nice and costly meal: Potatoes, Rice, Beans, Plantains and fried ground beef. The meat was a special treat from my host mom who has no fridge, so the raw meat was left out all night. Thankfully no one became sick.
Volcano "La Concepcion" viewed from Charco Verde
The neighbor boys trying to sell us Americans a squirrel (for a pet) that they caught in our own backyard
Sunday: Family Fun Day at the Beach in Rivas on Lake Ometepe
I often wake up to the noises of cows, horses, pigs, roosters and turkeys outside my bedroom door...only sometimes do they leave a "door prize" like this one.
My friend Natali from Mulukuku, Nicaragua. I met her during the herbal brigade that came to work with NDI. She is a Nicaraguan trained psychologist, Bach Flower expert, an amazing woman and friend.
A group of friends relaxing at Totoco...a nice day of retreat
Beet and Potato Salad, Rice, Chicken and "Tajadas" which are chips, usually just made of plantains but this time yucca and potato as well I believe.
The final day of the public health conference at UNAN University in Managua met us early with sunshine coming through my bedroom window. After a breakfast of traditional gallo pinto (fried rice and beans) and eggs, we arrived to first meet with the group of 10 or so "promotores," community health workers, from our area on the island of Ometepe. They shared with us some of their goals and how Natural Doctors International may collaborate with them. They would specifically like to share and learn more about the use and dosing of traditional medicinal herbs. Some are using plants available to them such as basil, garlic, lime and others already but some "promotores" have not been trained in the use of herbs and would like to have this resource available. They suggested that NDI could help train them and put together a packet they could integrate into their work. They also posed that NDI could host a meeting every other month to help with this training, providing food and transportation as they lack funding. We also discussed the possibility of the Naturopathic Physicians working one-on-one with the "promotores" to help fill in some of the gaps in their training. A place to start would be to help them learn to take blood pressures, the appropriate use of antibiotics especially in Upper Respiratory Tract Infections and Urinary Tract Infections and basic skills to help them evaluate the need to transport a patient to emergency care. They also lack basic equipment such as blood pressure cuffs and glucometers.
When the larger group of over 30 "promotores" representing groups across the country convened, the entire group democratically voted on a new name. They each "promotore" present wrote their vote on a ballot and a small group pulled them form a hat one at a time, as a man showed the entire group each ballot as the tally was counted on the white board. A powerpoint presentation was shown displaying the year's finances and then the groups strengths. This group sees their strength in numbers/human resources as they have many inspired and devoted volunteers helping better their own communities health. They also value the democratic process as seen in the popular education model prevalent throughout the conference; everyone was involved and there were many opportunities for discussions, comments and observations as well as group activities. They also see their relationship with the government, the Nicaraguan Ministry of Health and church leaders as a strength.
The group then brainstormed goals for 2012, some of which included learning more about or focusing on the following:
· Self-breast exams
· Traditional Medicine (MASIRAAN) – I have a powerpoint describing MASIRAAN
· Myths, realities, taboos about medicine
· Midwifery training
· Training in cervical uterine cancer
· A reunion with ND’s – specifically the Ometepe group was seeking this opportunity
More about this group of Nicaraguan community health workers:
The group “Atencion Primaria en Salud”, recently changed to ASHA (Acceso a Salud: Health Access), is a democratic, Nicaraguan run non-governmental organization. It began in 1996 and now is comprised of over 300 volunteer community health workers or “promotores”. These volunteers work in the communities in which they live spread across Nicaragua in 11 different municipalities. They work towards the prevention and cure of disease in their populations. Their mission is to collaborate in placing knowledge and empowerment in the hands of their communities.
There are community health workers in the following municipalities; Moyogalpa, Altagracia, La Conquista, El Crucero, Santa Teresa, San Francisco Libre, Mulukuku, Bonanza, District 6.1 and Tipitapa. Over 30 of these community health workers attended this annual meeting in Managua.
One of the projects ASHA is currently undergoing is the distribution of medicines to each community health worker through “Botiquines,” or first aid kits which include basic medicines such as; amoxicillin, acetaminophen, metronidazole and oral rehydration solution. They also hold workshops which they are hoping to expand in the coming years.
All in all it was an inspiring weekend to see this group come together to strengthen each other and their communities, work towards better healthcare access for all and display a fair and valuable democratic process. As I watched the sunset from the ferry back to my community on Ometepe, I was thankful to have participated in this weekend on behalf of Natural Doctors International.
For more information or to make suggestions or donations, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Today I attended the first day of an annual public health conference entitled "Attencion Primeria En Salud," at the medical school at UNAN University in Managua, the capital of Nicaragua. It was the meeting of a non-governmental organization made up of public health volunteers from across the country. These over 300 "promotores," community health workers, spread across the communities of Nicaragua, are not medical professionals but rather volunteers trained in the basics of public health and medicine distribution. Inspirational leaders in their community, they are key players in triaging medical emergencies which saves lives and empowering communities to keep health in their own hands. This group began in the early 90's and has been working towards the betterment of health for the entire country ever since.
We heard stories from 8 different "promotores" groups from all across the country as to how health care went in 2012. Each group shared their accomplishments, challenges, suggestions and aims for the future. One man gave a short presentation on the signs and symptoms of Brain Hemorrhages and the importance of early medical attention. Another community had recently obtained an ambulance and a public health volunteer told the story of how his son still died of diarrhea because of how long the trip was to an emergency room (due to the floods during the rainy season). This experience gave him the desire to help save other lives and so he joined this group. Yet another woman from the island of Ometepe (where I live and work) told her own story of how she would have died of peritonitis were it not for a small wooden boat that brought her across the lake to the larger town of Rivas for emergency medical intervention.
Omar, a volunteer of 20 years who lives 12 hours North of Managua in Bonanza, shared with me how he helps his community. He has a first aid kit with the following medications: Amoxacillin (antibiotic), Metronidazole (anti-parasitic), Acetominophen (fever reducer), Oral Rehydration Solution (important for kids with diarrhea) and another that I've since forgotten. He does the best he can in distributing what he has to the folks that come to his doors at any hour. He also has some plants which he picks leaves from and sends home with community members when they are sick for teas. We talked about basil for colds, lime leaves for itchy skin, fresh lime juice for diarrhea, garlic for parasites and much more.
Some of the challenges the groups had were as follows:
-The ministry of health is not involved in many of the groups and the groups lack funding for medicine, equipment, training and organization
-The monthly meetings for each group have been decreasing to bimonthly due to funding
-lack of basic medical equipment like blood pressure cuffs
-lack of training manuals for new health promoters
-shortage of basic medicines
The only thing that was "off" so to speak about the day was an interesting "cultural activity" during the lunch hour, where a group of pre-teen boys and girls put on a performance for our group. The young girls, heavily laden with makeup, flowers, bright flowing dresses and fake long braided hair, danced for us to traditional Nicaraguan music. They were frequently interrupted by the boys who stumbled in with painted clown faces teasing the girls, referring to their bodies and dancing with sexual gestures to hip hop music. After about 10 minutes I left fairly disturbed. The group of Nicaraguans was laughing, clearly entertained by this skit and dance routine but I was not. I couldn't help but think of my young female patients who were pregnant without the father of the child involved in their lives or couldn't tell me if their husband was faithful to them as I treated them for yet another sexually transmitted infection. One of my first days working at the NDI clinic I treated a 16 year old girl in a high school uniform for an STI whose partner was over 40 years old and likely re-infecting her. In this "machismo" culture, men and women are treated very differently. Just as in the lunch hour entertainment, men in any culture can be permitted to disrespect women and appraise them for only their bodies. It was just difficult to see it so blatently in a rehearsed youth performance.
I am looking forward to the conference resuming tomorrow, where I will meet with the group of about 8 health promoters from the communities on the island of Ometepe. I hope to hear about their goals and needs... especially how I and Natural Doctors International may collaborate with and support their excellent and devoted work promoting public health.
Inspirational Health Empowerment murals line the brightly colored walls of UNAN medical school's outdoor hallways between the classrooms.
Bus Stop Lunch
Many of the same medical laboratory tests are available here in Nicaragua, theoretically...not on the island of Ometepe. Though I can order basic screening for anemia, urinary tract infections and parasites for my patients, most other laboratory tests are not only unavailable but extremely unaffordable for anyone living there.
Lately I have been realizing how easy it is to give in and submit in this Nicaraguan culture…to let go of ideals and just accept things the way they are. I sometimes look at the ramshackle way things are constructed or organized here in Nicaragua and across the developing world and get frustrated with what may seem at first to be lack of initiative or intelligence. But then catch me in this oppressive heat trying to meet my ideals with very limited financial and physical resources, a corrupt government and poor social structures...and I would likely make the same compromises as well.
In fact, I do yield easily here. For example, while I still step over fresh animal poop in the road, the dried stuff doesn’t even catch my eye any more. I often kick a chunk as I’m walking home. I sometimes am too tired to turn the fan on when it keeps blowing dust and papers around and so I just let myself sweat through my clothes at work. I want to eat a clean diet and not allow toxins into my body but I inhale burning plastic nearly every day and all the vegetables I purchase are laden with pesticides. Just in the first week, I grew tired of brushing my teeth with bottled water so I use the tap and hope I won’t get a parasite. My legs have gotten so itchy with bug bites (I think that is what it is) that I no longer with hold from itching. I just keep scratching until they bleed. I often let the beetles, spiders, ants, moths and other assorted bugs take over my computer screen, my room and even the kitchen. The moths tend to like jumping into whatever I'm cooking for dinner so long as there is steam coming from it. I still haven’t yielded to the tarantulas though.
A few other examples of yielding... just yesterday I found that the surging electricity here has fried my over $400 otoscope/ophthalmoscope. I need it daily to diagnose and treat my patients but there is not much I can do since I don't have the money or means to replace it right now so another doctor and I are making do by sharing. I wasn't angry; it didn't actually even surprise me. I simply forgot to use a surge protector while charging it. Also, our water pressure keeps dropping so we frequently need to take bucket showers. We have had someone over to fix it multiple times and by now I am just not expecting anything to really happen. I would still like sufficient water pressure with which to shower but am not going to get my hopes up. It seems like it is the same for the many poor Nicaraguans here. Regardless of how hard they work or choices they make, many will never have the opportunity to better their lives, save money, climb out of the cycles of poverty.
Most Nicaraguans have no choice in regards to the water they drink. They often have parasites before they can speak. Even if they are fortunate enough to receive the correct medicine to treat the parasites, they only become re-infected again. Some folks just go in to the doctor quarterly for the anti-parasitic medicine, knowing that they’ll need it. It is also not uncommon for young children under the age of two to scream when I come to take their temperature or listen to their lungs. This is because, many children have a deep fear of doctors because they have already been injected multiple times with strong antibiotics, for viral infections. There is no education here, even for many doctors, regarding differentiating bacterial from viral illnesses, the later of which will not respond to antibiotic treatment. This medicine just clears out the healthy gut flora making the babies a prime candidate for gastrointestinal upset and yet another parasite. Many Nicaraguans are so disappointed in the healthcare system here that they simply diagnose and treat themselves and their children, walking over to the neighbors to pay for a penicillin shot from the bag that hangs on the family clothesline. In the photo above, there is a bottle hanging next to the Piñatas that is used for this purpose. Many of my patients cannot even consider making dietary changes that would support their current illnesses. All they can afford is Gallo pinto (rice and beans) and plantains, usually because they grow them in the fields where they work. It is difficult and sometimes discouraging to attempt to make lasting change here.
But there is hope, change does happen and I have a lot to learn from my community here as well. Thursday night I was encouraged by an English lesson I gave to 4 teenagers. They shared with me their hopes and dreams and reasons for wanting to learn such an important language for their futures. We also shared many laughs and music. They, like many Nicaraguans, enjoy dramatic love songs from the eighties and nineties. One boy played the Titanic theme song, My Heart Will Go On, on a plastic recorder, one of a few instruments I have seen here. They loved it when I tried singing along. And the connection to community is strong in this culture. There are big celebrations for many things, especially patron saints, elections and birthdays. The piñatas in the photo above are homemade by a family here in Los Angeles and provide much entertainment at a fiesta. Also to note in the photo of a local Nicaraguan home above are the plastic lawn chairs, the typical and only living room furniture here, the avon clock as well as the simple kitchen in the background, past the scrounging chicken. This is actually a nicer home, a family that has enough money to have a piñata business and own a bag of penicillin to sell to sick community members. This family also receives revenue for hosting NDI guests, interns and students.
Three of us jumped on a little motorcycle this morning, me on the back rack and Kelly's feet hanging out to the sides to ride to the little town of La Flor, where the route up Volcano Concepcion begins. After a bit of mechanical troubles and a little extra walking (not too far thanks to the downhill coasting), we began the ascent to the mirador (lookout) of this majestic volcano mountain. I enjoyed the peace and beauty of a morning in the jungle...graceful butterflies, including the Blue Morpho, the chatter of birds in the banana groves above, the leaf cutter ants busy crossing the trail awkwardly stumbling as they carried organic material larger than themselves and I think I even found some turkey tail mushrooms. We took our time reaching the top to be greeted by beautiful blue skies and sunshine casting shadows from the clouds on the farms below. Beyond, sparking blue water of Lake Nicaragua meeting the Volcanoes across the shore. The wind was very strong and it was so much better than a high powered fan in refreshing my body and cooling my skin. A cow got friendly with me and cleaned off both of my legs with its sandpaper tongue, loving the salt from my sweat and even trying to eat my shoes. I am thankful to have received just what I needed today!
Since arriving in Nicaragua, this has been the most challenging week so far. I really enjoyed a full week of seeing patients. I find fulfillment and devotion to this work in their smiles, stories, patience with my language learning process and sincere gratitude. However, I haven’t been sleeping well and it is catching up with me. I am also still adjusting to living in a new place, with new systems and a new community.
This week I was able to take some time while seeing patients to learn some new words in Spanish. Instead of just moving on after I had explained a concept or an object that I didn't know the word for, I asked the patient what the word was in Spanish. I repeated it. They corrected me. I repeated it again and many times I asked them to spell it. I wrote the words down and later entered them into my vocab notebook. In thinking back to the near 50 conversations I had with patients this week, I remember learning cane, rash, scar, shovel, since, suppository, spit, wheezing, worn and much more that I have already forgotten but I am sure will come up again soon.
I saw many adorable kids with "el gripe," the flu. It's been going around for weeks. I remember one 3-year old boy with red cheeks and sad eyes who clearly articulated that he had a cough and fever, while most kids just stare at me while their mother does the talking. When I bend down next to the toddlers to check their throat and lungs, they have such varied reactions. Some scream fearing I am going to give them a shot because pain medicine shots are very commonly given in the hospitals here. Some little ones clamp down their mouth when I try to look inside, pulling back and throwing their head around to avoid the tongue depressor. Some just look at me curiously with wide eyes, responding "si" (yes) to every question I ask directly to them. Some twist to watch me when I put my stethoscope on their back, squirming in their mothers lap or pulling at the scope. I think I’m going to find a fun toy to distract the ones that need it. I love working with the kids. They have such vitality, many of them not slowing down regardless of how sick they are. They run around the clinic with a big smile, exploring everything while I’m explaining the treatments to their mother. Even here in a place that is poor and oppressed, the children offer hope.
I also enjoy seeing the grandmothers. These are the people that hold the families together. Many generations within a family have lived together in the same home their whole lives. The grandmothers generally walk slowly and with support of a daughter or grandchild, carefully stepping up into the clinic and shuffling into the plastic lawn chair where I often ask them to repeat their full name multiple times as I struggle to spell it correctly for our records. Their tanned and deeply wrinkled faces held in a constant smile, they begin to tell me what ails them, pointing often to their stomach, low back or other joints. Many have very few teeth so it can be difficult to understand them. I am glad they are patient as I often have to find a creative way to ask the same pertinent questions multiple times. They are so excited to see what natural medicines I have brought back from our dispensary for them, often checking to make sure I’ve covered all their ailments as I show them the little bags of pills and bottles of tinctures, explaining how they are to be used. They leave with sincere gratitude, big smiles and sometimes a kiss on my cheek.
Although I am honored to be working here, I also welcome the weekends as a much-needed break for my mind and time to myself. Today, I was able to sleep in and spent much time reading, reflecting, praying and walking around the yard observing the many beautiful fruit trees we have. I even climbed a ladder to knock down a papaya from a tree. Not nearly as graceful as the Nicaraguans who climb barefooted and twist them off by hand, but it worked. Tomorrow I will attempt to hike volcano Concepcion again. A last minute trip to Managua canceled our last attempt. The clouds were rolling in tonight at sunset so we may have another downpour while we sleep. We are hoping for clear skies early tomorrow morning for the ascent. I will bring plenty of water, snacks and sunscreen, as the top is very exposed. I am praying for rest and rejuvenation tonight and a great hike tomorrow to start off a new week.
I've been learning a lot from children here. I love their enthusiasm for life and for anything they believe in. Today I watched for almost an hour as a young group of kids dug in the backyard for an older cousin's marbles. Martin was in Moyogalpa for the weekend and his sister and cousins had been having so much fun playing with their limited marble collection in the backyard. Then his sister, Cesia, remembered that Martin had buried a large plastic water bottle full of his marbles under the hammock in the backyard for safe keeping. He wasn't around to protect them (or lead them to correct place to dig), so Jared found a shovel and started digging where Cesia remembered seeing him stash them.
The dirt here is very hard and compact. Jared dug for a long time, slowly making progress, while the kids screamed in excitement each time they thought the sound changed, indicating he may have hit the bottle cap. Handful by handful, Cesia pulled out small scoops of the parched earth alongside the house. And the other boys waited in excitement. How wonderful it would be to have a whole bottle of shiny marbles when each of them only had their small pocket full. Soon there was a growing pile of dirt alongside the hole and the kids were growing dustier. The youngest found a coffee can and took a turn scooping out the loose dirt Jared had scraped off the dense and brittle walls of the hole. Reaching in deeper and deeper, his hair and face were full of dirt as he turned his head to the side to see me snap a photo."Tapon, tapon!" he shouted, thinking he surely had reached the cap. Cesia pushed him aside and Jared started poking around with the shovel again, trying to pry under the bottle cap to loosen it. The hard object broke free and flung out of the hole, it had only been a rock. So they kept digging. Deeper and deeper until the youngest couldn't reach the bottom any more to scoop out the loose dirt. So it was Cesia's turn again. With her head fully in the hole to reach the bottom, her cousins teasingly pretended to push her in. She threw of her sparkly pink shoes in order to jump in the hole to see if she could feel anything with her toes. When she got out, Emerson had found a metal rod and started poking the bottom of the hole. Someone yelled to quiet the crowd and they all listened in anticipation. Wait, that sounded different. Could it be the bottle? They dug some more, and more. Eventually, some of the boys got distracted by chasing each other to the ground and soon they were all in a hog pile, except Cesia. She kept digging knowing that the marbles were there and wanting to find them before Martin got home tomorrow. We were all a bit disappointed that the marbles were never found but while Cesia pushed the dirt back into the hole some of us decided we would journey down to the lake.
We ended up stopping for some fruit and snacks along the way and had fun laughing and playing in the water until the sun was nearly set. The boys mother called for them to return home and we began the slow walk up the steep hill, Cesia goofing off the whole way keeping us laughing until we parted ways at their home.
Emerson stopped at his aunt's house for a handful of sugar because the passion fruits were not quite ripe yet. He ended up sucking the sugar out of a small plastic bag the whole way home.
Los tres amigos ready to play
My role was the jungle gym and jumping platform...all was fun until the kids informed me that I had cow poop on my shirt
Cesia painted her face with the Achote seeds
Rachelle Price, ND
I am a naturopathic family physician, a graduate of naturopathic medical school at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington. After many years of feeling a call on my heart to pursue further education in health care to better serve in the developing world, I attended naturopathic medical school a few years after earning my Bachelor's of Science in Biology from Bethel University in St. Paul, Minnesota.
My passion is learning from and serving my community as a physician, friend and educator. I focus on helping my patients discover the root cause of illness and improve their overall mind/body/spiritual health.
I also enjoy being active outdoors, backpacking, soccer, skiing, photography, cooking, gardening and working with medicinal herbs. Living simply, sustainably and creatively are important to me as well as song, laughter, music, friends, deep discussions and growing within a supportive community...and, I love to have fun.
Please peruse this website, check out my linked in profile or email me to learn more about me and how I practice naturopathic medicine.