Littered streets, malnourished animals, and life out of a suit-case: this VIDA trip challenged me outside of the clinic more than I expected. We traveled on a bus, allowing us to see Nicaragua on a larger scale. This travel time also gave me space to reflect on our adventure. To not only think on the clinical experiences, but also to reflect on the culture of Nicaragua and what it would mean to have been born in this poor country. Hearing stories from our trip leader and the vet staff gave me insight into their lives. However, staying with a host family opened my eyes and heart to Nicaragua.
We stayed three nights in Masaya with our host families. I was placed with three other volunteers with a wonderful woman named Jeanette and her extended family. In this beautiful unique home lived six adults, two grandchildren, two dogs and a mango tree. Yet it wasn’t only their house that they opened up. My host family was so generous and made us feel the comfort of a home. It was Sarah’s (one of the grandchildren) fifth birthday, and she wasn’t allowed to eat her birthday cake until we were home to sing and celebrate with her. That night we sat in front of their house as Jeanette told stories and Sarah and I quizzed our foreign language skills.
A large pipe had broken the day we arrived in Masaya and left the town without running water. We were all very nervous at the thought of not having running water, but we quickly learned that buckets and bowls could provide just as satisfying of a bath as any luxury shower (especially after a long clinic day). Our host families were very gracious with the extra work this broken pipe brought. They would save water for us in any way they could and constantly went out of their way to ensure our comfort and happiness.
This genuine care for strangers living in their home changed my perspective for the rest of the trip. It opened me up to see different layers of Nicaragua as well as different aspects of my life back at home. A few days later after we left Masaya, I received an email from Jeanette wishing us luck and expressing how she missed us “mucho mucho”. It was a touching email that I will keep with me as I continue to meet new people and new challenges. To help me remember to be generous, gracious and open to sharing what is truly important.