Snap! I had been carrying a bucket over my head when the unnerving sound interrupted my train of thought. The sound was the straining and stretching of muscle in my ankle as I tripped over a pile of rocks in Nicaragua. Did I really just do that? Quick, I need to think of a cooler story before someone asks me how I did this. Blinking back tears, I limped over to a ledge where I could sit, imagining an intense story I could tell my classmates. Chased by one of the vicious dogs? Falling off a roof? Maybe attacked by a pig?
The large bucket I carried before my “attack,” (“Chase?” “Fall?” I hadn’t decided yet,) was filled to the top with clay that would soon become the bricks of Villa Catalina’s first church. I travelled to Nicaragua with my school to help the locals build various buildings, like this church. As what felt like the muscles of my ankle slowly, but forcefully ripping from my leg, I glanced over at a ninety year-old native woman smiling a toothless grin at me. Not only was she carrying extremely heavy buckets, but the tiny four year-olds were also shoveling. Great, now I am the helpless one.
One of the men from the service group carried me into the local hospital’s waiting room, where he placed me on a bright orange, plastic chair. The waiting room, better re-named the “waiting closet,” consisted of no more than five squeaky chairs. After a few minutes, a Nicaraguan stranger, who was waiting for someone else, smiled at me, picked me up “baby-style,” and brought me to another tiny room where three other patients greeted me with kind eyes. There, a small x-ray machine was wheeled out and held over my throbbing ankle. Even though my ankle was just badly sprained, the Nicaraguan doctors had never heard of air splints or walking boots. Instead, the nurses wrapped my leg in a cast. “¡Ella es una giganta!” They laughed and exclaimed, “She is a giant!”At five feet and nine inches, I towered over most of the doctors and nurses, so the nurses were forced to use two packages of cast material for my “giant” limb.
During the week I’d spent in the remote villages, I had come to realize exactly how different this Nicaraguan world was from the one I was used to living in. In the hospital, however, I noticed that our worlds are really not that different after all. Sure, their X-ray machines might be the size of my brother’s X-box, and the hospital might be smaller than the average American house. Strong men may replace wheelchairs, and the partially-broken plastic chairs may be far less comfortable than the lounge chairs in most American waiting rooms. But it is all irrelevant. The Nicaraguan people showed me something universal: hospitality and graciousness. They took me in right away, no questions asked. They helped me to the best of their ability, even though I was not “one of them”. Although many Americans consider Nicaragua to be a “poor country”, the personalities of the people in that hospital make them richer than they would ever be with the new church we came to build.
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