It’s going to be hard to describe what we saw today…
The crunch of plastic under our feet. The nauseating smell of a decaying horse carcass. The flecks of dirt and ash in the space between our eyes and eyelids. The explosion of black smoke in the sky. A toddler so dirty that he was indistinguishable from the surrounding garbage. Children swinging from a garbage truck tilted over 20 feet in the air to deposit new trash to the Nueva Vida dump. Some of them die, we were told. The sheer joy and shrieks of excitement at the prospect of a new load of trash to pick through. Dirty and abandoned stuffed animals turned face-down in the trash remains. The harvested peanut farm leading into the dump. Swarms of vultures picking at the same piles as the swarms of people. Dogs shrinking away in the shade of wheelbarrows, seeking solace and temporary safety under wheelbarrows. Cooking of mercury-laden fish from Lake Managua as lunch, boiled in a tin can over a makeshift stove. The fact that all of this is the product of human corruption, political warfare, and social injustice. The concept that this country’s president is also an alleged sexual assaulter.
Things that inspired us….
The incessant laughter of children playing in their unpaved roads. Seeing the growth of the Jubilee House Clinic and the variety of services they offer. Hearing Mark Lester speak this morning on the progress of Nicaragua’s economic circumstances since the revolution. Our wonderfully talented, sassy group attempting to write a Brigade theme song to Taylor Swift’s Trouble. Being able to share our experiences together in our evening reflection. The feeling of camaraderie while we all worked on various projects in the clinic. Being able to hand out medications free of charge. Giving a good laugh to locals as they witnessed our inability to paint, drill holes in cement and wash out paint buckets….ask Jeff. Having Oswaldo and Kate be able to translate and truly interact with the patients. Getting a good workout with the painters from Nueva Vida. Curry chicken with all of the fixings for dinner. Becca, one of the community leaders from JHC, being so hopeful about the progress in the community, and being so lighthearted about some of the difficulties. Having a Nicaraguan nurse thank me for attempting to speak Spanish to her (Beth). Knowing that I experienced something today that few get to in their lifetime (Meaghan). Even though we were in this horrible dump, people were able to sit down and eat lunch and live somewhat “normally” (Katie). That I was able to laugh, despite the language barrier (Patience). The fact that people of such diverse backgrounds have the opportunity to do something that has such an impact on the local people (Abishek).
Questions today left us with…
Are the people in the dump happy? How do you define happiness? Is development freedom? What is agency? How do corrupt governments continue to thrive? What more could we do as individuals to help the community? How much can you use something before it is considered trash? How do the people here view this large group of Americans? Is there really humanity? How do we really bring the brigade back to Bucknell?
As you can see, today was an overload of sensations, emotions, accomplishments, interactions. I think every single one of us fell in love a little more with this country, its people, its music, its vibrance, its food, its resiliency, and the love nestled in the belly of poverty. It all began with gallo pinto (rice and beans) and eggs and a fascinating talk by Mark Lester, questionably one of the most knowledgeable people any of us have ever encountered. He spoke about how the history of this country in terms of politics and economy has projected its future in these areas. JHC is the perfect example of a small, grassroots organization using appropriate technology to empower the citizens of its community, as we saw on our tour of the facility in the organic cotton cooperative, and health clinic.
Surrounding the clinic, the town of Nueva Vida consists of dilapidated tin shacks, squatter homes, and playgrounds with missing swings. A five minute walk from the clinic brought us to the Nueva Vida dump, sprawling acres and employing hundreds of people who pick through the trash to put meals on the table.
Lunch was a little quiet as we attempted to take in the magnitude of what we had witnessed. What we perceived as “tans” was actually ash from the dump, wiped completely clean by baby wipes. The various projects during our afternoon work in the clinic rekindled our morale but seemed to set the tone of drastic contrast, which we discussed over dinner.
From the country of never-ending adventure,
Meaghan (the neuroscience major), Abishek (the mechanical engineer), and Beth E (the creative writing enthusiast).