This morning we awoke to a bountiful breakfast of eggs and fresh fruit. We began our day with an experiment. We were tasked with a shopping challenge in which we were given 200 cordobas ( roughly $7 ) to purchase enough food for a normal Nicaraguan family ( 4 – 6 individuals ) to last a week — Immediately it became clear that we would be unable to accomplish the task without some impressive bartering skills.
Taking into account Nicaragua’s Diabetic populations, some groups prioritized the families health at the cost of substantial quantity; other groups sought food that was cheaper but were lacking nutritionally. The one condition of the experiment is that we had to stay true to typical Nicaraguan cuisine and purchase staple ingredients such as rice, beans, and cooking oil — anything beyond that was up to us.
My group opted for a health meal and it quickly became evident we would be unable to produce a healthy meal at an inexpensive price.
We were later informed that it is normal in Nicaragua for merchants and clothiers to up-sell seemingly affluent customers, and in the case of the Brigade that every single one of us. The merchants drastically increased their prices and made quick work of our 200 Cordobas. We were left for a small but healthy meal that would likely feed a family of 4 for no more than 3 days.
Despite not accomplishing the objective my group took the time to discuss how the experience of shopping on a budget is never easy — regardless of your country — yet in Nicaragua a family is expect to eat on $1 a day. This means smaller, economical meals once a day. A drastic difference from what we knew about American poverty.
Afterwards we travelled to the health clinic in Nueva Vida and I returned to my role de-rusting and painting the support beams used in the construction of the new observation clinic. De-rusting is exactly as it sounds — using a metal bristle brush to scrap the rust oxide off large metal beams. After the support beams were clear of rust they were painted in anticorrosive pant and left to dry. Once dry the beams were incorporated into the structure and the construction of the clinics roof and walls.
Something that I’ve found extraordinary throughout this entire experience is the health clinic’s ability to chart so many people and make due with such limited resources. Its hard not to be in awe of the people of Nicaragua. Despite the adversity they face the people of Nicaragua are an extremely hardworking, thoughtful, and socially conscious people. Many Nicaraguans are knowledgable about the state of global affairs and go so far as to engage us on recent American policy – a feat that many people back home are incapable of doing.
It seems that ignorance is a luxury many Americans choose to embrace rather than rectify by learning about our changing political landscape. Even the children of Nicaragua are committed to their education – though the education system is lacking many children go to incredible lengths just to attend school. Students in the village of El Pourvenir travel up and down a mountain every day just to attend secondary school.
The entire Brigade has been an extremely enlightening experience and forever changed not only my perception of Latin America but also my home in the United States.
-Brandon (PS: Hi Mom, hi Dad)
Waking up at 6:30 AM again, not a surprise. No alarms, no nothing, yet I still wake up at this time. I feel like I have some sort of internal alarm clock going on thats delayed a hour due to the time difference between Nicaragua and the U.S.A. Anyways, same old routine to start the day. Use the bathroom, get dressed, go to the common room, go to the kitchen after to carry the food in, sit down, line up for food, get my food, etc. Food was eggs mixed with pepper and beans as always. I love this type of food, anything that I can mix with hot sauce is ok in my book.
After breakfast, we spent our day exploring the area around SEPS (where we live). The whole point of our exploration is to look for groceries on a budget to buy that we will be donating to poor families. I ended up on a team with Maha, Nicole, Ivy, and Nancy. We bought lots of fruit, rice, beans, oil, and more. It was interesting to see the markets, open and lively. Very similar to Ghana so I wasn’t too shocked about how it worked or how it operated. After the market, we went to the clinic to continue our construction work.
Arriving at the clinic, it was nice to see an all girls team defying stereotypes working on the roof and actually finishing it. I ended up digging a 1 meter hole that entire day. Let me tell you this, DIGGING A HOLE IS HARD FREAKING WORK. I had no idea it was going to be that hard. My back hurt, it was exhausting, and fatigue set in eventually. It took me, Ryan, Diego, Tre, and Shirah to really push through and finish the work. I don’t know how other people, especially Nicaraguans doing this job solo. It really opens up one’s perspective about how hard working these people are. We finished digging the 6 meter hole and more of the sewage pipes inside the building. We earned a good dinner at the end of the day.
Back at SEPS after showering and eating, we then had a 7 question reflection. We sat in two lines with each of the lines facing each other. One line would rotate down a seat every question so we would have someone new to talk to every question. It was then finally to end the day and began a most deserved rest.
We began this morning with our usual 7:15am breakfast. I personally have enjoyed every meal that has been prepared and served to us Brigadistas. I can say that this hardy breakfast was muy importante for the work that we were soon to be challenged with throughout the day at the clinic. I will mostly focus on my day and the task that I was assigned.
Soon after breakfast, we were split into groups of five. Each group was lead by a strong Spanish speaker. The purpose of the creation of groups is to cooperatively collect approximately a week’s worth of food, traditionally based in Nicaraguan cuisine. Food items included frijoles (beans), arroz (rice), leche (milk) and other fruits and vegetables that could easily accessed within the streets markets we visited near our living quarters called CEPS. Besides us Brigadistas not have great knowledge of the area and vendor pricing of such food items, each group was given only 200 cordabas, which is about $7 US dollars. The goal was to use every cent wisely and provide enough food for a local family, usually consisting of 5-8 family members. What I learned most from this challenge was that stretching the dollar is not easy to do and typically can leave the shopper to exclude the healthier food options. This is because healthier food options tend to be more expensive per kilo in comparison to non healthy food options.
After the food market we went to the JHC clinic to begin another day of work. My first task consisted of a lot of shoveling. With a couple other Brigadistas, I mixed cement and then helped lay cinder blocks to help build a wall for the future x-ray room. It was very important for us to pack cement in tightly so that the x-ray room would pass the x-ray certification test. While doing this I was suddenly called to assist fellow brigadistas on a task that was going to use all the muscle and energy I had left in the tank. I helped dig a hole that was going to be used for the buildings sewage system. After a couple hours of thrusting a pick and shovel into the dirt, we successfully created a one meter deep hole that will hopefully benefit many clinic volunteers and patients in the future. Today I was proud I could learn a little more about what a Managua resident may experience when shopping for food and the amount of effort and passion it takes to build something special for others.