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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

Unimaginable Differences

Outside the Health Clinic in Nicaragua
Outside the Health Clinic in Nicaragua

I am still in awe of the cultural differences I encountered while on a recent trip to Nicaragua. I was only there a week and even though it felt like longer, it still wasn’t enough time to see everything. You cannot imagine the poverty, but the optimism these people have will make you think it’s not a third world country. Everywhere we went, people smiled, greeted us, and invited us to sit with them.

I Went to Nicaragua to visit my sister, Kate, who is volunteering with the Peace Corps in Corinto, a small city on the coast. The United States has been sending volunteers to Nicaragua for 30 years now and as of today there are about 240 volunteers there, working in health, business, environment, agriculture, and teaching English as a foreign language.

My sister works at a youth clinic next to the hospital. It’s small, but the work they do is amazing. All the women and children who come to the clinic really trust her and she’s already become a Nicaraguan. She also works at a soup kitchen, which runs solely on donations, and those aren’t always reliable.

Kate is lucky compared to other volunteers when it comes to living conditions. She has four stone walls, a real roof, and a window. This is not common in Nicaragua. Even the areas frequented by tourists are full of begging children and starving animals. Something I never got used to was how inexpensive everything was to us. We bought large glasses of wine for $2 and our Christmas dinner, which included steak and drinks, cost $80 for 8 of us.

Although I wouldn’t want to live there, I didn’t want to leave. Old women were walking around with these beautifully colored and intricate aprons, carrying baskets of fruit and bags of milk on their heads. They walked through the streets at 8 a.m., screaming, “Leche!” It was 80-90 degrees every day and I drank soda from a bag.

Everywhere we went, people stared and smiled. One thing we had to get used to was the noise. During December, people shoot off fireworks and other extremely loud noisemakers constantly throughout the day. There was not a moment of quiet all week, except maybe when we were sleeping… maybe.

Being in the Peace Corps and living in this way is something so foreign to most Americans. While there I got a small taste of what it is like, and although I believe I adapted well, being there for 2 1/2 years is something I cannot imagine.

We had to shower with buckets and we shared an outside stove with Kate’s neighbors. I admit I loved the bucket showers, but I did not love the cold water. Also if you do not filter the water there, you could get a parasite. Here in the United States, even the lower classes have hot water and electricity.

Despite all of this, Nicaraguans have free health care, free education, and they were the friendliest people I have ever met. The whole country is beautiful and I cannot wait to go back in January 2013 to visit her again.