Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Taking The Show On The Road/Fighting The Good Fight Against All Reasonable Odds

A Spay/Neuter Clinic At The End of The World.

Next month we leave for the Corn Islands. It’s a team of eleven of us, thus far - five vets - Dr. Tom and a bunch I‘ve never met and four techs - Toni, Nick, Kit and I. And Donna and Kit for back-up and because they're running this show. A multi-day, two island spay/neuter bonanza.

The Corn Islands are on the Atlantic Coast of Nicaragua, two small, beautiful little Caribbean islands, mostly uninhabited with little tourism but a healthy diving/snorkeling industry. I’ve never been out there but the people I know who have - and the pictures I’ve seen - make it seem like a picture book paradise of white sandy beaches and blue ocean. To the best of my knowledge they’re accessible only by plane. The whole east coast of Nicaragua is very hard to get to - getting off the coast is even harder. You have to fly in on a small plane from Managua.

I think this is how it all began but I'm not entirely clear on it: a very cool couple from Colorado went out there to go diving and found a puppy, a sad, skinny, homeless puppy.* They found it a home with a restaurant owner out there but it was kind of an eye opening experience for them - they started to notice all the other skinny, homeless animals and wanted to help. So at great personal expense to themselves and with the aid of other ex-pats out and some elders out there, they got the ball rolling to do a spay neuter clinic. They found Donna and asked her if she knew any vets.

Field trip, kids.

While the couple and the people on the islands have been unfailingly generous - we have free housing, even a scuba/snorkel trip, we still have to cover all of our airfare. The two airlines which services the islands are not kickin’ down . And the airfare ain’t cheap. But with such a limited population of animals and an army of vets, imagine the impact we’ll have on the islands

We have a rare opportunity here to literally almost solve the starving spay population in a little known part of a third world country.


I never flat-out ask for money and I won't again but I am now: this is not a cheap project and we need funds to do it. The potential end result project is unbelievable - we can almost literally fix the problem in one small place. But we need money. We need money for airfare, we need money for supplies. While the islanders have been unfailingly generous, they can only do so much. So please, hit the link to Building New Hope on the side of the blog and donate through PayPal. And send a note specifying that the money is for Casa Lupita. If you mention you heard about the project through my blog so much the better.

Here, I'll make it even easier for you: . You don't even have to go to my links site. Just go there, hit the paypal and help out.

And for the record the cool couple that started this whole project? They’re taking Porsha. Told you she got a good home.

And At The Other End of Nowhere, Another Clinic Run Essentially By An Army of One.

Twice in the past few months I’ve been out to Las Penitas, a little coastal town outside of Leon. Las Penitas is not a big tourist site for gringos - it barely merit’s a paragraph in most guidebooks. One of my roommates turned me on to it and I went out there twice when I had people visiting.

Las Penitas is the real Nicaragua. Yes, there are nice summer and weekend houses out there owned by rich Nicaraguans and a few ex-pat owned bars and hotels but there’s also the poorer houses, the ones with tin stapled to the roof. In 1992 a tsunami hit the town and took out a lot of the buildings. Some have never been replaced and the ruins just sit there. **

Both times I stayed at Barco De Oro, a little hotel on the inlet at the mouth of the river. It’s a beautiful spot - you can see the ocean and the river from the patio, the hammocks are plentiful, the food is decent, the staff is nice, the surf is a little rough but I’ve body boarded out there a few times. It’s just at cool place.

Sandrine, the French woman who owns it, is a huge animal person. She has two dogs of her own that live there - Luna and Mileu. Luna is ancient, an old gray creaky creature that genially drops on her back for belly rubs when you look at her. Mileu, a big one eyed pit/hound something, is everyone’s dog. He comes to the beach with you and guards your stuff while you’re in the water, tries to get you to throw sticks for him, accompanies you around town. It’s kind of a cool thing - a free rental beach dog. There’s other animals there - a few cats, some nasty parrots, some odd pigeon things. With the exception of the birds all are ex-animales de la calle - street animals - that Sandrine took in. It adds a nice vibe to the place - a peaceable kingdom.

Las Penitas has a deluge of street animals, particularly skinny dogs. Some of them kind of belong to someone but most are just sort of hanging about, waiting for a handout. A lot of the other restaurant owners will slingshot them or throw rocks to keep them away. Sandrine doesn’t. While she doesn’t welcome them into the hotel she does occasionally put food out for the super skinny ones and she turns a blind eye when tourists share their food with them. She has names for some of them, watches out for them if they get too skinny or too sick.

As far as I could see there are no vets in Las Penitas. It’s about as unlikely a place for a spay/neuter clinic as you can imagine. Granada has a tourist industry, an ex-pat population that has imported some ideas about animals. Las Penitas doesn’t. It’s just another Nicaraguan town with a lot of skinny stray animals.

Unlikely, yes, but it seems Sandrine pulled it off. She got vet students from the college in Leon to come out and do spays and neuters. The original idea was to do all the street animals but the first time they did it a bunch of people living in town brought their animals in and so they did those instead. Now she’s setting up other ones, not just for the street animals but for the owned animals that didn’t get done the first time. They need money - for anesthesia, for supplies. So do we. Badly. But in a country with so few animal welfare resources it would be a sin for me not to mention Sandrine and what she’s doing out there against all odds.

I don’t think she has a pay-pal button on her website or even any information about her clinics. There’s just some very low key fliers up at Barco Del Oro saying look, this is what we’re doing, if you can help please do. But she does have a website with information about her beautiful hotel and her email address is up there. And I know they need help, too. Some of the tourists give money, some of the turista bus drivers will occasionally drop some cash, too. But for the most part it’s an uphill battle in a little known part of the world that has a lot of other problems and no over-active bloggers constantly talking about it.

This is her website: . If you find yourself in Nicaragua, stop by and see her. If you can help her with her clinic, please do. If you do web-design and can possibly help her set up a paypal button on her site for her clinic, drop her a line.

*Two things - if the small skinny puppy belonging to a restaurant owner sounds familiar it’s because it is, in fact, the Minnow. And Scot, if I’m getting the story wrong correct me here.

** See prior notes re: no one gives one tenth of a crap about Nicaragua. Did you know it had been hit by a tsunami? I didn’t.

****Some photo credits: I've never been to Corn Islands so I boosted the Corn Islands photos off of Kristen. She's a good egg, it's for a good cause, I don't think she'll care. The Las Penitas photos were mostly shot by K as well - my camera got boosted. In one Kyle, my old college roommate, throws a stick for Mileu, one of Sandrine's 'beach rental' dogs. Luna, the ancient dog, naps under a hammock. Final photo is a reciept for a donation to Sandrine's clinic.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

More Interluding (Kind Of): Weight/More Fun With The Postal Service/Feeling Competent

I bought myself a tee-shirt today. I never buy tee-shirts or tourist crap in general*. But this one is too delightful - and true - to pass up. It makes me happy. Seeing as my morning started with finding Fidel Castro eating a massacred songbird in my courtyard right after I got up, I really needed happy.

The Irish Girl Needs To Eat.

At least eight, probably closer to ten pounds. That’s what I lost during my week of fever. I lie on my back and look like a mountain range. All my clothes are baggy. When I was out the other night two people commented on how small my arms are. Not nice.

I am not a good Nicaraguan eater to begin with. Unlike some of my friends who have packed on the pounds here, I don’t like Nica food. I don’t like fried food. I don’t like things in milk-based sauce. My tolerance for beans and rice is only so high. The only things I do really well with are the plantains and these wicked potato ball things which override my objection to fried food and would give a cardiologist the vapors.

Oh and I like the salad. That’s how you know you’ve been here too long - you actually like the vinegary cole slaw type salad with chilies on it. But the salad is a useless item right now.

But I need to put some of this back on. Quickly. I had to bust out the belt for the first time since I got here.

And so I eat. I eat and eat and eat. I flag the bakery bike guys down whenever I cross their paths, getting big bags of pan dulce and fried doughy things. The anti-Atkins diet. I go to the European cafĂ© and eat paninis and gelato. I sit on the corner with Katherine and suck down fried potato balls.** My roommate brings home hamburgers from Chicken Sandwich Family and I destroy them. When I go to the Chicken Lady I tell her to double down on the plantains. I can’t bring myself to do the mayonesa they throw on everything that even resembles a sandwich here but avocados? Extra please.

My usual diet of fruit all day during the heat and Chicken Lady for dinner goes out the window. I eat three meals a day, stomach aches be damned. I suck down the juice, all of which here is full of extra sugar. Nicaragua is set up for people who want to put weight on. Just not for me to put weight back on.

No avail.

In the states I would have already packed the pounds back on. Thai food. Sushi. Italian food. Here it’s a constant fight to find the few things I like eating. And I’m not a huge eater in the heat to begin with so I fight with myself. And I walk everywhere so I burn calories like a motherfucker. I spend the .60 and take cabs.

Today after a noodle salad at 11 AM I give up. The belt can hang around for a bit longer. I’ll deal with the mountain range and protruding hipbones. It’s going to have to come back organically. All the food in this heat is making me tired. I can’t deal with one more stomach ache, one more sugar high and crash.

Except for the potato balls. I’ll keep working the potato balls.

More Postal Fun.

I go to the post office yesterday. I know at least two packages were sent to me over a week ago and they should be here by now. I’ve long since given up on having people sending stuff to my actual address - I tell them to send them to the post office in Granada. The mail service here is never going to send me anything letting me know there’s a package for me anyways so maybe I can win points by not even expecting it anymore. Save them the step.

It’s gotten to the point where they know my name. I walk in and go directly to the back, where the packages are. There are packages piled everywhere - outgoing, incoming, all in big mixed pile. The ancient file cabinet bulges with envelopes. And this is the room I can see. I know there’s another hidden room back there - on several occasions they’ve pulled packages for me out of the secret room after swearing they don’t have them.

As usual there’s a million people working there, standing around. When I walk in, before I even say a word the guy starts shaking his head. He doesn’t look through any of the piles or the clipboard that has a partial inventory of what‘s come in.. He doesn’t even offer to look. What’s your name? He asks me in Spanish. Feeent? No packages today.

Finn. I tell him. Finnegan. Not Feent. I offer him my passport. He doesn’t take it.

He just keeps shaking his head sadly. He looks so sympathetic I almost forget that I am standing in a room full of un-inventoried packages, any one of which could be mine.

You live on Calle Santa Lucia, right?

I am famous. I am fucking famous in this post office now. They know where I live. I explain that I just had my friends send stuff to general delivery. So they don’t even have to worry about a notice. It should just come right there. No need to send a notice. I’ll come and pick it up. Nice and easy. No fuss, no muss. I just want my clif bars. Please. Just the clif bars and whatever other ridiculous things my friends have shoved into a box and spent small fortunes mailing to me.

More sad head shaking. A few of the other package people have come out of the secret room. I look at them hopefully. They’re shaking their heads, too.

On a few occasions they’ve just had me go through the packages in the front room. They don’t even offer me that option today. They just shake their heads sadly. No clif bars for you.

I don’t get it. My friend Kathy has gotten every piece of mail ever sent to her. Every piece of mail - every single one, letter, package, postcard - I’ve had to wrest from the maw of the postal service. And every time I find that it’s been sitting there for weeks while I’ve been waiting for it. I don’t know if they don’t like my name, my address, my predilection for receiving actual packages. I don’t know. Nothing has ever been opened or stolen. It’s just been, well, not delivered. Left to rot in the secret room until I reach a point of near desperation.

Posiblement Lunes, the man says hopefully. Regressa en Lunes. Maybe Monday. Come back on Monday.

Maybe they just really like me and enjoy having me around. I don’t know. I just want my damn mail.

Maybe Monday I’ll act like I might cry. That works sometimes.

Back in the Saddle Again.

Nick and Toni have been doing mornings and hence Minnow’s ivermectin injections since I’ve been sick. Now that I’m better they’ve kept it up - gotten into a schedule they kind of like. This weekend they’ve had guests so Katherine and I have been holding down the fort again. Not hard with only three dogs. Katherine comes at night with me, in the morning I go alone.

It’s been weeks since I’ve done an injection. Yesterday I have to do it by myself. Minnow is not happy but she cooperates. Something about the needle makes me feel like I’m really back at work. Not that pills in hot dogs, tick picking and meals aren’t work but this is what I know how to do. I’ve been injecting animals since I was 17 years old - vaccinating and microchipping and giving fluids and taking blood. I went through the euth cert process in Florida and Colorado to do IV‘s, IP‘s, everything. A sub-q ivermectin shot is nothing. But it makes me feel competent.***

Today I am dropping off a cat trap with Lucy on my way to the clinic. Lucy is a huge supporter of the clinic and an all around fabulous person. She owns a beautiful hotel, Bohemian Paradise, that I’ve been lucky enough to stay in. And she cares. She cares about the street animals, she cares about the environment, she cares about the women that make the soap they use in the hotel. If you ever come to Granada you need to stay at her place. Honestly - .

And she cares about the roof cats. There’s about five ex-roof cats that live there now, lounging on the benches and hanging around the fountain. And she traps and neuters the ones that try to pop in.

When I’m dropping off the trap this morning there’s a lovely family from Tulsa staying there. I get to talking with them. This is Finn, Lucy introduces me, she’s with the animal clinic here. The family starts telling me about how they’re active with the shelters in Tulsa. They want to see the clinic, meet the dogs. I offer to bring them with me.

They come with me. I recruit the grandfather to hold Minnow while I do the injection. I show him my preferred hold - head over his shoulder, back legs braced. Minimum of force but no chance of her whipping around. He’s no Mandy but he holds like a pro. Minnow doesn’t whimper. It takes a split second. .4 cc’s and we’re done.

Is that it? He asks. Are you done?

That is it. I am done. But I scratch Minnow’s now-hairy little head and it feels good.

*That said order your rum and machetes now while I still have money. And while the tourist market in the Masaya does have taxidermied fighting cocks I am not trying to get one of those back into the states, no matter how much I love you. I’m sorry.

** I have, Katherine tells me at the clinic, been thinking about potato balls all day. She leaves in a week and a half and I just introduced her to the potato ball. I feel both good and bad about this. Good in that I had something useful to share with her. Bad in that I gave her a nasty jones a week before she leaves. And there ain’t no potato balls in Victoria.

What is a Potato Ball? A Potato Ball is proof that there is a higher power in the universe and occasionally it likes you. You take mashed potatoes and add about 50 lbs of butter and cheese. Like real cheese, not salty, rubbery Nica cheese. Then you make a softball out of it. Then you dip it in batter and boil it - literally boil it - in oil over an open fire. When someone orders one, you take the already deep fried potato ball and dump it back in the oil - a re-fry, essentially. Then you wrap it in a banana leaf and hand it to a gringa.

I realize this sounds absolutely repugnant. I really do. The first time my roommate showed me The Chicken Lady Who Also Has Potato Balls And Is Henceforth Known As The Potato Ball Lady I swore that was gross. Then I ate one. Don’t ask me why, I just did. And all it takes is one potato ball. It’s like heroin. Fried tacos, empanadas, gallo pinto - no thank you. But the Potato Ball, oh god the Potato Ball. I’ve come close to the point of tears on nights when the Potato Ball Lady has taken an unexpected evening off and I’ve had one of those days where I just need a fucking potato ball.

I don’t know what I’ll do without chicken ladies, potato balls and maduras.

*** One of the states - I can’t remember which - even gave me a certificate, frame-able, that I am euthanasia certified in that state. I remember finding that incredibly screwed up at the time. What exactly do you expect me to do with that? Put it on the wall next to my BA? And who does the calligraphy for the you-are-certified-to-kill-things certificates anyway? And for the love of god, why?

Friday, May 23, 2008

Interlude: A 3rd World Instruction Manual/Frustration/Chaos Theory/Has Anyone Fed Castro Today?

How To Take A Bottled Water Shower: A Third World Primer.

They fooled us. Tuesday night they sent trucks through the streets with loudspeakers announcing a major water-out Wednesday from 6 AM to 6 PM. Tuesday night we all dutifully filled every reserve gallon and pitcher in the house. Allan filled his coffee maker. I banked gallons in my room. The kitchen was full of reserve gallons, liters, everything. Everyone took long showers that night.

Wednesday morning dawned rainy, gray - and with running water. All day.

Thursday, however, I go to brush my teeth and turn on the tap to hear that sickly air-gasping noise coming from the faucet.

Water-out. And the occasional rolling black-out to make things really fun.

To quote a bunch of pissed off Nicas, thank you Ortega.

I have to go for my ultrasound and exam today. I need a goddamn shower. A real shower. That is not going to happen. Thus I am reduced to the gallon shower. J., my roommate, swears that's one of those skills you develop in Nica - The Ability To Take A Decent Gallon Shower. It goes along with Learning To Enjoy The Cabbage Salad and Dealing With A Postal Service That Has No Interest Whatsoever In Mail.

For those of you who have never done it, this is how it works:

1) Take out little wash basin thing. Fill halfway with water. Wash face.

2) Use face-washing water to scrub feet. Your face is substantially cleaner than your feet. And if you're like most people here you washed your feet before you went to bed so they're pretty clean already. And to be perfectly honest you're not going to get zits on your feet. Unless you're some kind of freak with zitty feet. In which case that's going to happen gallon shower/face washing water be damned.

3) Give up on the idea of washing your hair. Braid it back or pin it back or whatever. Unless you're a guy with shaved head just give it up. You can drop a couple of gallons in the basin and try it if you're that desperate but you're just going to wind up with soapy hair and no water left for the rest of you. Take some measure of relief from the fact that water-outs rarely last more than twelve or fourteen hours and the rest of the city has unwashed hair as well.

4) Get in shower with one gallon jug of water and big ass two and a half gallon bottle of water.

Yes, there is more water under the sink. Tempting. But keep in mind that you probably will want to flush your toilet at some point during the day. And you will want water to brush your teeth again if this keeps up. Also get the reserve water in the kitchen out of your head. That is for cooking and cleaning. And just as you know exactly how many reserve gallons are in that kitchen, all your roommates do, too. Be a sport.

5) This is where it gets unpleasant. Get in shower. Dump part of gallon of water over body. No matter how hot it is, this is not nice. If you don't believe me get in your shower and dump a bucket of water over yourself. While I, like most people here, don't have hot water, there is a world of difference between cold water coming out of the shower and purposely dumping cold water on yourself. It's vaguely sadistic.

6) Before you have a chance to dry, grab soap and lather. Quickly. And keep in mind that any soap you put on you, you half about three gallons to get off.

7) Before soap has a chance to dry dump remainder of gallon over yourself. Hit critical parts first.

8) By now you're original gallon is out. Refill gallon from big ass jug.

9) Repeat process until all soap is gone. Dump water over self. Refill gallon. Dump more water over self.

10) Even though you are essentially clean, extra deodorant and lotion are called for. You are clean, it's entirely psychological but still. Most people here shower several times a day - quick rinse offs, real shower and all. You will not be doing this until the water is back on. Fuck-all only knows when that will occur. Load up, kids.

11) When you come home that night and the water is on do exactly what you shouldn't do when you live in a country with a horrible infrastructure that causes rolling water-outs: take a twenty five minute shower. Wash your hair. Shave your legs. Act like it is the last shower you will ever get in your life. Shower desperately, apocalyptically. Your roommates have just done the same thing, as have all your neighbors.

12) Promptly forget to refill all your reserve gallons so when the next unannounced water-out occurs you will be shit out of luck and forced to make sad cow-eyes at all your roommates under the hope that they will cough up a gallon or two. Or to cannibalize your expensive five gallon jug of drinking water. (Expensive being 28 c. - about $1.09 but everything is relative).

Frustration: The Never Ending Story.

I thought it was over today. I really did. I walked up Calzada, through Parque Central today sure that the Sick Phase would be done today. Today I would get the ultrasound, the rest of the lab work, one stop shopping, write it off, clean bill of health and life carries on.

Sometimes I forget where I live.

I have a new doctor today - a radiologist. In theory he'll check everything - do an ultrasound, run all the labs, poke and prod me a bit and release me to life as usual. Not going to happen.

First of all I go without a translator. I don't know why, I'm just sick of asking people for help, my Spanish - particularly medical Spanish* - is decent, though rusty. And I'm sick of having people, no matter how much I adore them and no matter how much they've saved my life, all up in my shit. I've always been private about my health and my relationships. It's a good time to return to that policy. No translators. And mi doctora speaks some English, knows my language limitations so I kind of assume this guy will as well.

He doesn't but he's patient with me and all the language is stuff I understand - rinones, kidneys, antibioticas, etc. Most medical stuff is the same in English and Spanish but with different accents. If I don't get something he reverses, uses simpler language, uses a few English words. I like him. My Spanish, mostly forgotten and neglected during me being sick, comes back, creaky and stiff. I remember words like 'tuve' - I had, 'tal vez' - maybe, 'espalda' - back, 'tengo mieda' - I am scared.

But he can only do an ultrasound. He can do that and give me the results but I have to go to a lab tomorrow for the lab work and bring everything back to mi doctora for the final results. I want to scream.

He is incredibly respectful, patient, thorough. The gel is cold on my stomach. He tells me everything he's doing it as he's doing it - I need to look at your stomach, so I'm going to move this down. I try to tell him that I was sick when I was younger, I understand what he's doing, I take no umbrage. Esta bien, he keeps repeating. Es normal, esta bien. It's good, it's normal.

When he's done he tells me there's no permanent damage to anything, everything looks good. Despite roasting my organs in that fever, they came out unscathed. I will remain sore for a few days but everything is fine. But, he tells me, I am not cleared without that lab work. And without la doctora looking everything over.

For the ultrasound and all his care and time I am charged the princely sum of 250 c. - about $12.50. I leave with a typed letter basically stating 'esta bien' and a copy of the pictures of my innards.

There are times when I have my shameless American moments. I want clean and well lit and well organized. I want policies that makes sense. I want my mail. I don't want to hear Shakira or reggaeton or Enrique Iglesias at ear splitting, fan shaking volume coming through my window. I don't want to be the national ambassador for tattooed gringa women and I'm sick of mean eyed older women and their assumptions.

Right now I want medical one stop shopping. I want this to be over.

Wait, Stop, Rewind: Chaos Theory.

Lotta Nicaraguan crap-talkin' going on in this blog right now.

I've had a couple of people out to visit me since I got here. One, when faced with the Mercado stated "this is not a city, this is fucking chaos".

It is chaos, compared to the States. The crush of people in the Mercado. The nonsensical nature of our one chain store. The million unlicensed street food vendors selling everything from cheese to tortillas to bags of sugary juice type beverages with straws stuck in them. The horse cart and car traffic jams near the hardware stores. The never ending honking, noise, people everywhere you look.


But it's also vitally, hopefully alive in a way no place in the States could ever be. Public space actually gets used - there's a million kids playing pick up games of soccer or break dancing in Parque Central. Sidewalks are for eating, talking, even dragging the TV out for your favorite show. The pharmacist I always go to plays guitar so sweetly and always kisses my cheek, makes me practice my Spanish with him even though he and his family all speak English. Esperanza on the corner keeps my favorite soda cold for me, puts aside pieces of sweet bread when the bakery drops it off. The girls on my street who yell 'Feeent!' and wave when they see me, or stop to talk, chattering away at me with me only getting half of what they're saying, holding my hands to look at my rings or my arms, kissing my cheek, being patient when I forget words. The chicken lady who laughs and smiles and wonders where I was when I was sick and always piles extra chiles and maduras on my banana leaf. The boy down the street in University, about my half my age, who has a sweet crush on me and likes to practice his English with me, afraid to meet my eyes when he talks to me. The endless religious ceremonies. The fireworks that go off every night for no reason except Nicas like to blow things up.

And the churches that have been here forever and will be here long after you or I are gone. And the live music that comes from every direction - kids drumming in the street on Calle Calzada outside the bars, bands in the gazebo in the Parque, my drunken neighbor singing his brains out to sad ranchero music.

It is chaos. And gray water runs down the street and there's a huge litter problem and it's nowhere near perfect. But it's flamboyant and silly and ridiculous and tacky and dirty. And you either get it or you don't. And if you do get it you keep coming back. Like my roommate Allen. Like my friend Katherine. Like a bunch of other people I know who keep getting pulled back in, their second third fourth fifth eight 'I just bought a house here but it's just to rent out or I'm keeping the lease on my place or how much does it cost to change a ticket' time.

I get it.

Castro Is In The Kitchen Eating A Taco.

Technically the kitten has had a name for a while. When J's friend was visiting he started calling it Puma, prompting me to refer to J. as Uncle J-J whenever the cat comes up. But no one really used the cat's name except for J. It was always 'the cat' or 'that little bastard who was eating food off the counter'.

Lilly has rounded up an assortment of people who might possibly want a cat and there's been two offers to take him. He just has to be neutered. But every day the cat is supposed to leave and every day the cat is still here.

For the past week we've had Ivan, a Cuban guy from Miami, staying at the house. Ivan is awesome. He's funny, he owns an isleta and some property out at the Laguna he refuses to develop because it just makes him happy to know it's there, undeveloped. In a few months he's going to grad school in Seattle and sometimes we talk about Seattle or Cuba or linguistics or evolution or other things.

One day when we are all sitting in the courtyard Ivan comments on the kitten.

It's like Castro, he says, every day someone says he will be gone but every day he is still here. Unpleasant, pushy, and still here.

Thus the kitten becomes Castro. Unlike Puma, the name sticks. Where is Castro? Castro is bugging the crap out of me - has anyone fed him today? Castro knocked the garbage over.

For some reason I find this hysterical.

* Because my Spanish was so bad the last time I was here, the only Spanish I picked up was at the clinic - hearing Kit and Nick and Toni and the vets talk about infection and antibiotics with people. Thus my first fluency in Spanish was the names of antibiotics and whatnot.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Coming Back/A Rapidly Expanding Porsha Problem/Pi Finds Himself In A Change Of Circumstances/Minnow Grows Hair/Heckled

Coming Back

For the first time since I got sick I go out. Go for dinner and see a movie at a friend’s restaurant a few blocks up from my house. We go in a big group - Rita, Mae, Kathy who is in town for a few days prior to leaving for Mexico, Ivan from Cuba, a bunch of other people including some Nica women, friends of Mae and Rita, who find me hysterical - they keep tickling me and grabbing my arms to look. I adore them even though we can’t communicate in any sort of meaningful fashion.

It’s all Granada and I’m horrified to discover that everyone knows I was sick. People I don’t know well are coming up to me to see how I’m doing. This reeks of college, of being the sick kid, of coming back after Hodgkins to find the entire fucking city knew my business. Granada is a small town. My fever has become the thing of legend - the fact that I’m out and about and not brain damaged from it is commendable, I guess. I see Donna for the first time since she brought me to the hospital. I tell her I don’t remember most of that day. She tells me it’s not worth remembering.

Rita and Mae both volunteer with Building New Hope projects - in the schools. I know this isn’t what happened but I have this mental picture of Donna assigning me to them as their first project. I know she didn’t but it’s funny mental picture “don’t let the vet nurse die, we’re going to need her in a few weeks when we go to Corn Island”. But a Dutch woman from another project tells me there were daily updates about me on the circuit. There are comments about how tiny I’ve gotten - how much weight I lost in that one week. How odd.

It seems there are two camps - the ones that saw me or got the daily updates and are amazed to see me walking around - and the ones that only heard about it and are blasĂ© about seeing me. Either way it’s overwhelming.

Our group is big and we take over the place. There is a spattering of activity, rearranging of tables, Thalia is busy as hell. I give Julio another of my dwindling American cigarette collection. I have one of the Nica woman’s toddler on my lap and she tickles me, too. I am infinitely tickle-able, apparently.

I duck out early and walk home. I’ve walked home from Thalia’s a million times - it’s a short walk. Tonight it seems to take forever. La Doctora was over last night and said I looked good, I haven’t had a fever in days, I have my ultrasounds and lab work tomorrow. But so much activity after such an enforced period of inactivity drains me.

A Rapidly Expanding Porsha Issue.

I’d like to pretend I’m back at work, I really would. In reality Katherine is at work and I am sitting on my ass on a stool watching Katherine work. Thank god for Katherine who found the clinic about a week before I went traveling, signed on for a week to cover some clinic shifts and found herself married to the clinic for weeks on end while I got better.

And thank God for Katherine in that I mentioned that she had just been through her own butt-shot odyssey in my last blog entry and now I’m posting a photo of her. Because I know she’ll take it in good humor that I get so many Canadian hits*, specifically BC hits, and her country people, should they recognize her from my blog, will know she got the old IM in the cheek, too. And that I once threatened to stab her in the thigh with a fork under the table in a restaraunt but that's another story altogether.

Not that the cheek injection is anything revolutionary - if you’ve ever got sick in Nicaragua and been treated here you’ve gotten the needle, I think. At least if you’ve been treated by Nicaraguans. As an interesting side note la doctora is supposed to stop by tonight. I’m really hoping she shows up sans needles.

We’ll start with Porsha. Here’s the good news: Porsha has a home, methinks. With like the best person ever. And not only does Porsha have such a good home, she has a good home with an hour away from me in Colorado. So I kind of hope that I’ll be able to see her again, maybe bring one of my dogs up to chew on her. I love that dog.

So now that we’re over the Find-Porsha-A-Home-Problem what is the new Porsha problem?

She’s fat. Like seriously fat. Like beyond chunky, into the realm of the if-she-was-a-person-she-might-need-to-buy-more-than-one-plane-ticket fat. None of us can figure out her metabolism and none of us can deny her food. Porsha loves food like pageant girls love Vaseline on their teeth. And in theory it’s very easy to say ‘well then feed her less’ but a lot less easy when confronted with Porsha’s ability to inhale an entire cup and a half of kibble in ten seconds and then look at you with her one eye full of don’t-you-remember-what-I-looked-like-at-the-Masaya-bus-terminal. You fly over here and cut her food you heartless bastards. And please don’t suggest some walks. Toni and Nick took her home for a few days and the walk over to the house was painful. Getting her on a leash and out the gate was a chore in and of itself. Porsha is no dope. She has seen life outside the clinic gates and really doesn’t feel the need to be gallivanting around the city. She gets some exercise as a chew toy for the Minnow but it doesn’t match up with her amazing food-vacuum skills.

But the problem is Porsha needs to be on a plane next month. Which means she needs to be able to fit in a crate, let alone on a plane. And if she doesn’t leave soon we’re going to have to butter her up with margarine or something to smoosh her fat ass into any sort of acceptable size dog kennel. Either that or see if the municipal zoo has something that they use to ship wild boar or something of that size that they’d be willing to donate to the cause.

Minnow Grows Hair

Again, I can take no credit for this. I was gallivanting around the country and then I was enjoying my tour of bloodstained third world hospitals and contemplating my ceiling for a week while Toni and Nick were dutifully injecting her daily. But the Minnow, who showed up completely bald, is beginning to have hair. Lots and lots of hair. I was actually shocked when I saw her for the first time yesterday. Nick had been saying for weeks she was getting fuzzy but I lacked perspective - she still looked bald to me.

But now she is blond. Patchy and blonde, yes. But blonde. As in the sort of blonde you have to have hair for others to realize you are blonde-blonde.

And while Ramon moved on to his new home, as did Sherman, she continues to chew on Porsha. In the absence of Ramon she’s even charmed Freda and she and Freda will chase each other around and chew on each other.

I don’t get the Minnow Ju-Ju when it comes to the other dogs. She has broken down even the hardest of hard cases. And while I always thought she was cute, she had a sweet face, I have to admit that now that she is hairy she is adorable. Adorable enough that she gets away with yanking off my flip-flop and running amuck with it. When we go back to the Corn Islands in June, Minnow will come too. She will be restored to her owner, back to her bed and her meals and the life to which she was accustomed. A little older, a little wiser, a lot hairier.

And Then There Was Pi

Who I have to assume Toni named after the Life of Pi, because she was reading it at the Laguna a few weeks back.

I don’t know anything about Pi, except I got an email that there was a nice older, homeless dog hanging around Nick and Toni’s with a touch of sarna and since we had room, they were considering bringing him in. Today Nick called and told me they brought him in.

Thus this older black street dog, with his scarred face, finds himself in a total change of circumstances. He seems dazed, a little stunned. Like most new street dogs (Porsha excluded) he doesn’t know what to make of the kibble. He is sweet and quiet and unassuming and prone to putting himself in a kennel and staying there. He seems relieved and a bit tired, like he’s happy for the safe place to sleep even if the food isn’t what he hoped it would be.

Aside from some patchiness in his fur and some scars on his face he seems to be in decent shape. A little itchy, a little thin. But now we have two that need homes - Freda remains unclaimed, quietly waiting as she has since before I got to Nicaragua. And Pi sleeps it off, brand new, still settling in.

A Word On Power, Heckling And My Ability To Cut Loose With Strings of Profanity

The heckling thing has come up a lot lately. Mae, who is staying at the house, is having a horrible time with it. My friend Kathy came back and she noted that Granada is the worst for it - the constant hissing and kissing noises, the endless comments. I have an advantage in that I am tattooed and that intimidates the hell out of Nica men. They make comments and hiss all the time but it’s over the minute I turn around. I don’t even need a ‘que vas?’ to make it stop.
I admit that I don’t notice it anymore. I notice when I walk around with my roommates or other men it doesn’t happen - there’s a blissful silence - but I’m so used to it that most of it bounces off of me anyways.

And most of it is innocuous to begin with anyways - almost more polite than anything else. I very rarely get the super aggressive noises, the intimidation tactics.

The street the clinic is on is lined with hecklers. They sit on the corner and play card games and hiss and make their little noises but for the most part they leave me alone. There is one prick, however, who obviously plays it like a little power game. He wasn’t bad before I left but in my absence he got horrible with Katherine - saying all sorts of crap. It made me angry that he honed in on her.

Tonight we are leaving the clinic on our bikes when he hisses at me “hey sweetheart can I come for a ride?’.

I don’t know why but I just turned around and unleashed a stream of obscenity on him the likes of which I haven’t for a while. I won’t even try to recreate it. It was completely thoughtless - my friend told me this little piece of shit had been scaring her and when he tried it with the two of us my inner Boston Irish came out. I was talking to Katherine at the time and just stopped, mid-sentence, unleashed on him and turned back to her without realizing I had done it.

Did you just….she asked me.

Oh my god, I think I did. We laugh about it for a second. I’ve busted out the ‘que vas?’ once or twice and on one occasion the ‘no me hodas’. I even once got into a pointless yelling match with a bunch of fourteen year old boys that my name was not ‘Taaaatttttuuuuuu’ or ‘Bicicleta’ or ‘Sweetheart’. That actually ended well with them apologizing and introducing themselves. But I’ve never just double barrel unloaded on anyone before like I did on that cretin.**

A few friends of mine as of late have had cretin issues that have driven them to finally say something. I’ve said it a million times - I really don’t believe there’s any harm meant by 99% of the heckling - I think it’s just cultural and that’s why I ignore it or even smile at the old men. But there are the idiots that use it to try to insult or play little power games with women. And they deserve comments like “You bet your ass that cigarette is rica” or whatever it was that my friend Corissa said to one of them that made me laugh and undoubtedly left the idiot stumbling over his own tongue and wondering what sort of tiny little blonde maelstromm just ran roughshod over his dumb ass.

We’ll see what happens with The Cretin tomorrow when we go back. He so much as opens his mouth and I’m going to start insulting his mother - the nuclear insult in Latin America.

Postscript: I go to the clinic alone tonight for the first time. The Cretin is sitting outside when I go to unlock my bike and leave. He opens his mouth and I whip my head around, glare at him. He looks at the ground. ‘Hola, senora’ he says politely.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

*Sheena is a goddess. A really damn mean one, but that’s the best kind. We adore Sheena. I’m speaking of myself as the collective ‘we’ but it’s true. I love Sheena and if you don’t that’s your problem and she probably hates your ass, too. And will tell you that straight to your face, too. For those of you that read her blog but have never met her: yes, she really is just like that. Wicked, ain’t it? And yes, she does have tattoos and yes, she was a punk rocker.

** ‘Que vas?’ roughly a not nice way of asking what someone is looking at. ‘No me hodas’ - don’t fuck with me.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Monsoon/I'm Not Proud/The Things You Don't Hear


Tonight the rains start in earnest. We get a sprinkling but you can see lightening in the distance - el rayo - and then the thunder starts. The sprinkle ends and it’s heavy, muggy. I am sitting around the courtyard with my roommates when the storm hits.

If you have never lived in the tropics you don’t know what a storm is, really. One minute is heavy, silent, the next moment the sky literally explodes with rain like bullets. It’s so loud we can’t hear each other from five feet away. In minutes the courtyard, the dirt part, fills up like a pond. It’s violent and sudden and all we all find ourselves scrambling to remove things from the line of fire - water is flying everywhere. It’s hard to believe in the midst of all this water that we spent most of the day in a water-out, with no running water at all. That water would ever be an issue here.

The roof leaks in places and to keep the outside lights from shorting out we turn them off. Rita lights candles. We line up the rocking chairs against the wall, away from the rain and sit in companionable silence watching the drops explode everywhere, listening to the thunder - el trueno - in the candlelight. Last weeks rain was just a warm up. This deluge, this meteorological bedlam, this is the real deal.

In some ways I’m glad my main music source is gone. It’s too tempting, on monsoon nights, to put on something sad and nostalgic and fall headlong into your own brain. The thing about living primarily with men is they don’t let me do that - A. will let me talk things through, J. will make appropriate ‘what a tool’ comments but for the most part I live with boys, in boy language. And Rita, who is new, is a creature of light and joy - she’s irrepressible, always smiling, always laughing, always making me laugh with her. Her thick Portuguese accent makes everything she says sounds musical. I’m not allowed to give into my melancholy. Instead the storm seems like a celebration, a quiet party and the candles flicker and water spreads over everything and we smoke cigarettes and watch and listen to it all while our clothes get damp.

Ask me again why I live here. Even after almost a week of house arrest. Ask me.

I’m Not Proud.

We somehow wound up with a kitten, a leggy orange thing.

I’d like to say I’m the animal person, I love this kitten, it’s adorable, I’m so glad it’s here.

In truth I find it a charmless little creature. It rubs against your ankles like a regular housecat but if you try to touch it it either runs or tries to bite you. Plus when I was here last time we had a few kittens - clinic refugees - staying here and it didn’t go well. And those were nice kittens. They made the courtyard - our living room - smell like a litter box, knocked over the garbage, peed on people’s beds. Lilly found them proper homes. This house just isn’t set up for cats. Plus we’re all essentially transients so this no place for a cat to be taking up permanent residence.

And as far as kittens go it really is charmless. It follows you around squeaking and mewling for food and then is picky with what it eats. It will only eat meat, actual meat. And it kills absolutely everything. We’ve watched it devour all sorts of bugs and geckos. The bugs I can live with. The geckos - with their adorable chirping and predilection for eating mosquitoes - I cannot.

There’s a lot of theories as to how the kitten wound up here. My roommate swears it came down off the roof. I originally thought some kids chucked it through our security gates. Now I think one of my roommates, maybe even a short termer, brought it in. It’s big enough now that it could leave if it wanted - it could easily make it up to the roof, but it chooses to stay. Everyone claims not to be feeding it but we’ve all chucked it a scrap of meat, some milk. It doesn’t tame down at all - it refuses to be touched - but it stays.

I decide it should be fixed and Nick comes over with a towel and a cage. We chase it around the courtyard for twenty minutes like idiots, my first serious exertion since getting sick. Finally we decide it will have to be trapped. I’m not up for that yet, particularly as the roof cats are still getting down and the last roof cat I got was a female. I’m still interested in fixing them, I’m just not at full speed yet and up for dealing with the massive cat trap.

Here comes the part I’m not proud of.

I’ve been under house arrest for a long time with being sick. Today I find the biggest bug I have ever found in my room - some sort of terrifying giant beetle. I call my roommate J. in to ask for an assassination.

Okay, I should be not proud of just that for several reasons. Needing a man to deal with a bug in my room. Immediately asking for an assassination instead of a catch and release. But it gets worse.

J. comes in and confirms that it is indeed a huge, terrifying bug. The thing is literally the size of the palm of my hand. He goes for the broom and dustpan to try a catch and release because he is much more decent about these things than I am.

As we walk out of my room to hunt for the missing dustpan we see the kitten.

I told you I’m not proud of this. But you can see the thought hit our heads at the same time. The kitten loves to kill and eat things. Should we? Yes. Yes we should. I have been housebound for a long time.

J. gets the bug into an empty cigarette carton. It is furious, banging around. The kitten is messing around in the mango trees in the courtyard. It stubbornly refuses to come over. J. starts knocking a bowl with a fork, making food noises, trying to entice the kitten over. It ignores us. Meanwhile the bug is getting angrier.

I should note that my roommate is an amazingly good guy who works with a non-profit that does microfinance. He spends his days in the barrios in Managua. He will cop to not being an animal person. I am the animal person here.

I’m the one who comes up with the bowl idea. We set the bowl on the ground. The cat looks up, interested. J. opens the carton and shoves the bug into the bowl.

People I have been housebound a long time. I know this is not nice. The bug does not deserve this.

Even the kitten seems shocked by the size of the bug. It stares at it for a minute. The bug climbs out of the bowl. The kitten bats it for a second. The bug dashes across the floor. The cat gives half hearted chase, chases it behind the propane tank. J. and I follow it there, watching. The kitten waits for a second then goes back to what it was doing in the mango trees.

Both J. and I are deeply, embarrassingly disappointed.


When I say no one cares about Nicaragua, I mean it. The whole country could literally spontaneously combust and international press wouldn’t cover it. The only reason the Eric Volz issue got any press is because his parents immediately hired a press agent when he got arrested to paint the country in the worst possible light.

Which is why no one knows we’ve been under a transit strike that’s completely paralyzed the country for two weeks. The taxis and busses, the backbone of a country where no one owns a car, have been on strike. All the lorries have been parked as well, except for a few government subsidized ones. The main road through Nicaragua is dotted with roundabouts and everyone has had a barricade on it, lined with lorries and busses and cops to make sure no one gets hurt. Prior to being sick I skated through it for the most part, even though I was traveling. Using private drivers in unmarked cars. Gringo owned turista busses. But the country has been paralyzed.
Food isn’t making it to the mercados, the highways are full of pickup trucks with beds literally bulging with people, people like my roommate having to hitch rides to work in the back of those trucks. Prices have gone up on everything. Trying to get anywhere, because of the barricades, has slowed everything to a crawl. People haven’t been able to get to work. The roads, usually so loud with their million cabs with honking horns, have been eerily quiet.

One of my neighbors who goes to University in Managua has been out of school for two weeks. With the strike they just closed the colleges.

In a country where we all own our own cars it’s unimaginable for Americans to realize how this has devastated the country. Everyone here is union. For the most part their demands are righteous. But people here are also incredibly poor and their willingness to do this, to strike with no aid from the union to feed their families, speaks of the incredible strength and stubbornness of the Nicaraguan people.

Some gringos said this was going to get ugly, get violent but it never did. I didn’t think it would. I think Nicas, as a people, have seen enough violence in their country.

I love my country, don’t get my wrong, but the strike made think twice of how willing we are as a country to sacrifice for what we believe is fair, is just, what we deserve from our government. Ortega promised lower fuel prices for transit drivers - gas here is $4.50 a gallon - and didn’t deliver. We’re used to our politicians making promises and breaking them. Here, after a year and a half of Ortega, the drivers were not having it at all. It makes sense when you think of the fact it costs me 9 c. - about .50 - to take a bus to Masaya or ten c. - about .55 - to take a cab anywhere in town and the driver has to pay for the gas, the maintenance, everything.

The nice bus to La UCA, the University in Managua - costs me 20 c. - a little over a dollar for plush seats, curtains, and it only seats about 40. To make that work for you financially you literally have to drive that bus back and forth 20 times in a day to make a little money.

Supposedly it ended this morning. Things will be shaky for a few days as they get back to normal but still. It has nothing to do with animals, nothing to do with anything, really, but a whole country, a country four hours plane ride from most places in the US - was paralyzed and I’m sure none of you had any idea.

No one cares about Nicaragua.

Side note: did you read this whole thing to see if I mentioned you in it? I have a sneaking suspicion you did. I really do. See if that whole situation wound up in here. You should know better.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Part I: Fever Dreams

The first two days I sleep almost all the time. I dream a lot - deep, heavy, impersonal dreams. All of them are European in theme and all of them are vaguely unsettling in some way I can’t put my finger on.

In one it’s the late fifties/early sixties in some incredibly clean, boring Nordic city. My job is to be to the little girls voice in a series of car commercials - the fathers says something and I answer. But it’s not a little girl voice, it’s my voice and no one seems to notice. And the guy that plays the father - a jowly, heavy browed man, looks at me too seriously, like I am his daughter. The car commercials are in some language I don’t understand and I sit around a big microphone in a studio. I always feel uncomfortable, out of sorts.

In another one I am in Spain but not the pretty, picturesque parts of Spain. I am living in a crappy apartment complex in some suburb with a bunch of other traveler type people. No one has ever bothered to decorate, it has ugly carpeting. It’s time for me to leave and the bus is coming to take me to the airport but I haven’t packed. I don’t particularly like the place, don’t have any particular attachments to the people living there but the thought of packing seems overwhelming - I have a whole room full of stuff plus stuff in the bathroom. The bus pulls up out front and I am still staring at all of it. I keep staring at it as the bus honks, pulls away, leaves me there.

Every now and then I feel a small, cold hand on my ankle or forehead - one of my female roommates checking to see if my fever is going down at all or maybe I’m making some noise or something, I don’t know. My skin is so hot that I feel anything, any change of temperature on it will wake me up, stop the dreams. A breeze through my window, the kicking aside of a sheet, it all feels like ice on my skin. I press my lips together and they feel like they’re burning.

I don’t remember if I dreamt or not that first twenty four hours that I slept through, before they took me to the hospital. If I do I don’t remember them. But I was hotter still then.

Part II: How It Happened

And I’m skipping over the emotional parts of this story. It’s not the point.

I had been feeling a little warm, a little overtired for a few days. I wrote it off to not enough sleep, some emotion, a bit of a sunburn, the crazy heat that comes before the rainy season. It had rained the night before - it hasn’t since - and in the car on the ride back from Managua I fall asleep. I wake up when I get back to my house, pay the driver, go inside and lie down fully clothed on the bed and fall asleep. It is Sunday, around 11.30 in the morning.

When I wake up I am on fire, soaked with sweat, still in the same position. I look at my cell phone. It is Monday morning. Nothing seems clear, I feel like I’m drunk, in a fog but I also realize I am in trouble. I call around to try find my travelers insurance. I call my landlady to see if it ever showed up at her house. It hasn’t. I think I fall back asleep. This whole first day is a fever dream in and of itself. I’m sure I’m getting things out of order, out of sorts just in trying to retell it.

My landlady shows up with a thermometer. Apparently I look like hell. All I want is some water. She takes my temperature. It’s metric and when she translates it comes back at almost 105. Donna is coming with the truck, she tells me, we’re taking you to the hospital.

I feel terrible about this. Donna just got back into town Saturday night and I don’t want to be a hassle to anyone. You need, she tells me, to go. You’re really sick. Nothing seems very clear. I have trouble staying on my feet. Donna comes and we go to the hospital. It’s the free one. All open air except for the exam and hospital rooms. I find a bench in the shade and fall back asleep.
After a while they put me in a room, put me on fluids, take a bunch of samples. It’s a small room with three other beds, all full, bloodstains on the floor, rubber gloves in the corners. I am put in a chair with my IV. Please go, I beg Donna. I’ll call you when I know something. I watch the bag drain, try to sleep. I think the woman in the bed next to me is dying. People keep trying to talk to me in Spanish but I’m not lucid enough to understand it.

Eventually they move me to a bed. You’re almost done, they tell me. I call Donna. She comes back. While she is on the way they ask me something and don’t like the answer. They hook me up to another bag. When she gets here they tell I need the other bag, that I might not be leaving. I tell Donna I won’t stay here. There’s no fans or air conditioning, most of the beds don’t have sheets. My chills are horrible and I’m shivering. I keep asking for another sheet to use as a blanket. When they finally give me one it has dried blood on it. Whatever is in the bag is taking forever to go in and the needle hurts badly.

I know the restaurant has to open tonight and I tell Donna to leave again, I’ll call when the bag is done. She tells me she’ll send Lilly for me. I fall asleep again for a few hours and when I wake up the level in the bag hasn’t gone down at all.

I’ve had enough. I call Donna. Lilly is on her way. When she gets here we go over exit instructions, a handful of prescriptions. Your roommates are waiting to take care of you, Lilly tells me.

When I get home I immediately go to bed. Allen goes for my prescriptions. One of female roommates, a woman I barely knew who just moved in three days ago, notices the bag is leaking. John is out of town but she met one of his friends, a nurse. She calls the nurse who calls a doctor who shows up in fifteen minutes.

I like the doctora immediately. She turns up on a motorcycle, in her late twenties with a sweet smile, wearing heels. She looks at the bag. Your blood is congealed in it. That’s why nothing is moving, that’s why it hurts.

She and another roommate go to the farmacia on her moto. She comes back with some shots, other pills, the central American version of pedialyte. She uses the IV line to inject the drugs that were mixed in with the fluids and then disconnects the whole mess. She also gives me an intramuscular shot - a horrific, burning pain. She smiles sympathetically when my eyes water, when I whimper as the needle comes out.

For the next few days she comes over to do my injections, check on me. Yesterday she tells me my face has changed. Yesterday you looked like you were dead, she tells me, today your face, you look like you’re alive. As I take my injections she pats my back. You will be okay. Your fever has broken.

Part III: Cabin Fever/The Incredible Kindness of Near Strangers.

With the fever mostly broken and my lucidity restored I am bored, restless. Everyone looks out for me. Allen makes me rice. Mae picks me up things - water, more pedialyte, whatever. Rita checks on me, chides me when I talk on the phone too much, exert myself too much. While I’ve lived with Allen for months I barely know Mae or Rita. I am humbled by their kindness, their willingness to take care of me. The sickness has made me forget my mediocre Spanish and Mae and Rita prefer Spanish. Both them and the doctora are patient with my inability to speak anything but English. And I’m humbled by Allen’s concern, his constant assertions that I try to eat something.

Even still the stronger I feel the more being housebound wears on me. I read too much, squandering my few books. I spend too much time in my head. I watch BBC. I watch CSI. I spend too much time on the internet which has just gotten connected. Not being able to do anything for myself makes me insane.

Yesterday I go to the Pulperia for the first time. Rita walks over with me. I have never been so happy to buy orange juice in my life. I haven’t been out of the house since the hospital and the streets are so quiet - almost American. There’s been a big transit strike going on and I didn’t realize how silent the roads are without the million taxis, the few lorries, the odd bus or two. There’s just the odd private car and moto. The end of the dry season heat is overbearing and people are inside. It’s weird.

I walk back to the house - all 50 yards - by myself.

Today I go out by myself for the first time. There’s about twenty cabs operating legally in the city and I take one to the Mercado, go to the farmacia for myself, run some errands, make a few calls. After an hour and a half I’m ready to be back home - it’s hot, I’m tired - but it still feels good.

Now two hours I feel restless again. I take my meds, finish this, do some cleaning, contemplate a trip to the pulperia. I am bored out of my skull. Which is probably a good sign.

I am gearing back up. Tomorrow I’ll go to the clinic for a little bit, mostly to see the dogs and have a sandwich with a friend. By mid next week I should be back up to full speed.

*** A few notes: so what did happen to me? Tropical disease? Dirty third world country? No. Kidney infection. Same kind I’ve gotten in the states before. This one just got a little more out of hand because I was an idiot and didn’t take care of myself. Nicaragua is not going to make you sick. Just don’t be an ass and take care of yourself.

And will I get hepatitis from the hospital? No. My friends were there and I was lucid enough to know they were using a fresh needle they opened in front of me, a brand new bag of fluids. Yes, they need a maid but no, where it needed to be sterile it was. And my doctora is incredibly sterile - a fresh needle for every butt-shot. The Nicaraguan predilection for prescribing everything be administered via intramuscular shot, right in the cheek is a blog entry in and of itself. They never do that in the states. Here I was getting a bunch of them a day before I graduated down to just pills. And let me tell you people, they hurt like nothing you can imagine.

Particularly when, as my friend Katherine who has just been through who has just been through her own butt-shot odyssey notes, you have no ass.

And I’m very good about mentioning my roommates and Lilly and Donna helping me but it would be a sin to not mention David, my father, Pete, Karen, Kristen and my friends in Granada who offered anything at all, worried over me, sent me everything and kept me laughing, dealt with travel insurance nightmares and let me cry it out at times, even not so lucid times. Thank you. I love you.

And on she goes. ***