Nicaragua: Medical Tourism and the Rainy Season That Isn’t

It has been a challenging visit to Nicaragua this time. This time last year there was a relatively predictable rainy season, with rain falling every day or two, cooling things off and altering the barometric pressure.

This time, in more than two weeks, there has only been one day of appreciable rainfall (and wouldn’t you know it, I was hoofing it in my non-waterproof sandals, trying to catch a cab to Spanish school as it poured down and my umbrella lay furled and forgotten in my bag!) I seem to be more susceptible to humidity this year than last, and that’s with the levels around 40-45%, which is supposed to be optimal for human comfort and health. Either my life in the California desert, where humidity typically hangs out around 4-20%, has predisposed me to discomfort with what is actually normal, something previously unnoticed is up with my health, or I’m just having more difficulty with it this year than last, for no obvious reason. What this means is that I feel exhausted all the time. It hasn’t stopped me from getting out and about, running errands, going to Spanish school, looking at potential rental houses, meeting friends, and eating occasional treats, and most days I’ve walked at least a mile, but I feel wilted all the time and have to fight the temptation to sleep through everything. We have plenty of fans, though they really just push around the warm air and don’t provide appreciable cooling or freshness.

My Spanish teacher tells me that the drought is already affecting food supplies: prices of red beans, a Nicaraguan staple, have gone through the roof and she is now buying the much less familiar black beans, which were received with skepticism by her four children.2014-07-21 13.18.22

My first outing was on the Monday following my arrival and was to Managua for a dental CT scan, a trip to the Canadian embassy and my first visit to PriceSmart (the Costco of Central America). It is smaller than my local California Costco but very similar. The food selection is much more limited although there were the requisite folks offering samples. Sadly, of the three personal care products I’d hoped to find readily available there, I found only one. I took with me on this trip a recently arrived couple who have a house in a neighborhood just outside of town, and it was nice to enjoy their company as I got to know them, while they got to stock up on household essentials at PriceSmart. After eating fast food for lunch at a local mall, we headed back to Granada.

I’ve embarked on only two pleasure outings this trip, so far, in between dentist appointments and Spanish lessons. The first was to a nearby small, peaceful river to swim, along with fellow students.2014-07-24 16.26.48 The path down was somewhat steep and treacherous for an older person, but I was helped both down and back up later, so there were no mishaps, and the water was blissfully clear and cool. Sadly, multiple wonderful in- and under-water photographs were lost when the photographer’s iPhone was stolen shortly after the trip and apparently before the photos had been uploaded to the cloud. For some reason (maybe because I was swimming and my camera was safely tucked away in my bag on the rocks that form the river’s banks), I didn’t take any photographs of the river itself, s2014-07-24 16.28.51adly. The drive there involved a sometimes-paved, sometimes-not, leafy green road, with occasional chickens, pigs, cows and horses to be seen along the way.
Later, we made a slight detour to a place where red volcanic rock pebbles form gravelly cliffs you can climb if you’re fast enough. 2014-07-24 19.07.08

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The second trip was with the friends with whom I’m staying, on a “chicken bus” to Masaya. The bus leaves from a street corner 3 minutes from the house and costs less than 50 cents each way. The market was hot, dusty, and a confusing warren of pathways where everything from bulk rice to fruits, vegetables and meat, and cooked food, to clothing, shoes, plastic wares and purses and backpacks are sold. Apparently there is furniture, too, tucked away in the back, and if you buy a larger item, it will get strapped onto the roof of the bus for the trip home. On the way back, someone had a big tube television on their seat. Sitting on the return bus waiting for it to fill up before departing  we were entertained by multiple vendors boarding to sell us everything from drinks and food to vitamin supplements and candy bars, many offering a stream of rapid-fire patter to encourage sales (and I thought I was starting to understand Spanish!) Only when there was no more room to stand, including on the steps, did the bus leave, dropping people off all along the way back to Granada. No chickens on this bus, however, or anything else live that I could see, other than human passengers.

Traveling to Nicaragua and back on Fridays, instead of Saturdays, means I miss several opportunities to enjoy Friday night expat gatherings, and in fact I only got to attend one this trip, because I spent my first Friday afternoon at the dentist’s! On the one Friday I was able to attend the crowd was noticeably smaller than the group that gathered during high season in January and February, but it was a pleasant evening of reacquainting with previously met friends and making new ones.

On Sunday morning, I finally made an effort to do some writing—this post being the result. The afternoon was passed blissfully immersed in the swimming pool in the nearby apartment building owned by an expat couple, who generously allow access to a few friends.2014-08-03 16.16.022014-08-03 16.16.21 I encountered another friend there, and so the afternoon was both cool and pleasant. However, despite intermittent dark clouds, and occasional growling thunder and lightning bolts, the hoped-for “downpour” was a sprinkle that lasted mere minutes and completely failed to dampen the thirsty earth.

This week I feel as though I am in free-fall, with the end of this trip rushing up to meet me like the distant ground to a sky-diver. I still have some free time which may rapidly get filled, hopefully by friends and acquaintances, but there are also dentist appointments and other things to complete before my flight out Friday morning.

3 Responses to Nicaragua: Medical Tourism and the Rainy Season That Isn’t

  1. International Mel says:

    It’s always a pleasure to read your all too infrequent posts. This one really made me miss Nicaragua – and fear for the gallo pinto! Sorry to hear you’re not feeling as well as usual but that unrelenting heat can really take it out of you! Have a safe trip back!

  2. Mike @ Farmstay El Porton Verd says:

    Like!

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