Significant moments in life are often connected to memorable places such as Paris, where we snuck my grandma’s ashes into the Tuileries gardens, or Belize, where I spent my final fishing trip with my grandpa. When people think about places that have resounding effects on them many will mention events such as these that are associated with final memories. However, when I reflect on the places I have been, Nicaragua, with its vibrant culture and resonating people, fills my mind with unexplainable emotions. It was not a trip of last memories or goodbyes it was a trip that defines my future.
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As we drove past the typical tourist villages near the airport, our van sat in silence astounded by the colors of the countryside and the extent of poverty that became increasingly worse as we drove further and further away from the average American’s Nicaraguan experience. Dust covered children ran around in sagging diapers in front of their card board box houses that sat against miles of lushes green hills. Cows whose every rib was visible walked without purpose against the vibrant orange and pink sunset. By the time we reached the hotel, the cold showers and old blankets felt like royalty.
From that first drive in, every moment felt surreal. On the third day we went to a rural village that was another hour into the miraculous and poverty stricken mystery. As we drove, people ran out of their makeshift houses as if we were celebrities. By the time we arrived at the village, we had a small crowd eager to meet the big group of gringos. With extreme pride they should us their water system that they had built with donated supplies and walked us through their village beaming with accomplishment. We set up our health fair in their only school room and took vitals and handed out medicine to the children and mothers dressed in their very best attire for our health fair that was run by sixteen-year-olds. One of the moms let me use the fetal doppler to find her baby’s heart beat and as the machine began to pulsate, a singular tear ran down her cheek. She had had five children and never once heard their heart beat.
The trust I received from these people who I struggled to even communicate with was astounding. We visited the local hospital and were able to walk straight into the OR where they showed us to a closet that contained a mix and mash jumble of old scrubs. Once we tied on the various articles of clothing they brought us into the operating room where a pregnant woman lay on the table awaiting her C-section surgery. Standing three feet away from her I watched as the doctor operated, and within a matter of minutes pulled out a baby boy. The emotion that overcame me was indescribable. I stood unable to move as a watched the baby take his first breath and come into the world. This child was ten seconds old and had already changed a life.
That little boy did not choose to be born into one of the poorest regions of the Americas and I did not choose to be born into the wealthiest. I left this trip with gratitude for the life I live, but more I left that hospital knowing that I had more to say than “I am lucky”. I have yet to figure out where this experience will lead me but I know it will define my future.
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