We headed out to the countryside bright and early Monday morning. It is nice getting up and not having to scrape ice or snow off the car, so the warm is tolerable, unless you like the snow, but you need to go with the flow, you know, and you don’t want to be slow, oh no, I’m rhyming again, sorry. We needed an anesthetic for our equine castrations called xylazine, but it is a controlled drug. No problem down here, just pull into a little house that doubles as a store, look in the cabinet, and there it is; the fact that it is an open bottle with only 15ml instead of 20ml is not unusual, so we even got a little discount. Who needs a veterinary license anyway. Then off to our first stop in the San Francisco area in central Nicaragua, at a small town called Vijegua, which is pronounced VIJEGUA, just like it says. You can probably tell by my pronunciation that my Spanish skills are improving, oui oui.
We set up all our small animal medical and surgical supplies and tables inside the church, which is a typical small town building, rectangular, brick, walls going up 6-8ft, then open air until the roof; no pews, just the plastic one piece lawn chairs you see on any outdoor porch in the USA. That is the only type of chair they have down here. Then the 12 students split into 3 different teams, 1 doing equine with Dr Justin, 1 doing cattle and pigs with Dr Mark, and 1 doing small animal with Dr Wayne and I. Then they rotate each day so all of them get experience in each area. The large animal work includes vaccinating, deworming, castrations, floating horse teeth, and sick animal treatments as needed. The small animal work is similar, with spays and neuters taking the majority of time, but deworming and flea and tick medicating lots of dogs and a few cats. We start in the morning and then continue until all the animals are done, usually between 3-4:00, with a break for lunch.
The second day we set up in a town called Las Mercedes in a beautiful park the had a playground and lots of large trees with a huge canopy and extensive roots that were above ground and radiated in every direction, flowing down the gentle slope like a wooden waterfall, a wonderful location for a veterinary MASH unit. Once people know the veterinarios were here, they just start trickling in, no rush or hurry, everyone relaxed and friendly. They love watching the animals after we give them the pre-surgical sedatives, as they turn glassy eyed, start to weeble and wobble, and finally lay down in a peaceful slumber. They often watch the surgeries and ask questions in spanish about what we are doing; they are very warm people. It was kind of neat to just watch all the action, guiding students in surgical techniques while a bible study with the women is right next to the surgeries and kids and dogs are running around, kids swinging and playing on the monkey bars while they watch the surgeries, arts and crafts and playing and laughing, things that aren’t normally in the same place at the same time, but here in the countryside, it made perfect sense. It just fits here.
After the work in Las Mercedes, mid afternoon on a dry, hot, sunny 85 degree day, sweating and dusty and stinky and happy, we went to a river, the only rapidly flowing clean water I have seen here. The river was shallow, the current was strong, the water was warm, and we waded in and payed down with the water rushing over us, it was better than a water park, and we all washed our hair and tried not to fall on the round slippery rocks. The food is simple and delicious, and always includes guya pinto and pollo – rice and beans and chicken. You might not think rice and beans are good breakfast food, but you’ld be wrong (as usual) because they are, try them try them and you will see, you will like them in a tree.
We go to bed early now, after our group devotions and prayer. The girls sleep inside the church the guys outside; some people in hammocks, some on cots. It’s 10:00, but feels later, and we are tired from a day of feasting; feasting on life in a different world. We have had a time of new and different, with a pace that seems slow, but a day that ends full, with bodies that are tired, but hearts and souls that are quickened, ready, hungry. We spend so many days rushing, hurrying, trying to take big bites of life so we don’t miss anything, always striving for more. But we end up missing so much, especially the smaller things that don’t demand attention because they don’t beep or blink or glitter. But if we slow down and look and listen we can see things that are truly filling, the little bits of real life that feed the soul. So we begin to know the people even though we don’t understand the language, and we feel something familiar in a place we’ve never been. I think it’s a little taste of heaven, and it feeds the soul.
Thank you Lord for the Feast today!