Leaving on a Jet Plane
Campus photographer Steven Broome, nursing student Leah Moore and football physician Dr. Michael Poss spent a week in Nicaragua. Broome shares a few thoughts on the trip.
A gallery of photographs taken in Nicaragua can be viewed here.
Steven Broome photographs children in El Rosario, Nicaragua. Photo by Cindy Spruell.
Q. Describe your mission, and if you had any personal goals, what were they and did you succeed in accomplishing them?
A. The overall purpose of our mission was to go out to the rural areas where there is very limited health care and provide free clinics. We visited two communities and treated a little more than 800 patients in four days. Our team was made up of one local doctor, Michael Poss; three members of the Southwire pharmacy staff, Linnie Walls, Cindy Spruell and Lois McHan; a UWG nursing student, Leah Moore; several support staff and general helpers, myself and a few others; three Nicaraguan doctors; five translators; and Ronnie and Angi Hopkins, the missionary team who live there full time. Another primary goal for the group was to begin talks with members of three geographically close communities to establish a permanent clinic in their area. The short-term medical trips like ours are very helpful. But a long-term vision of health care and health education would be much more beneficial to the local population there.
Q. The country sits 11 degrees above the equator, which means it gets a little warm there. What was that like?
A. It was very hot. The temperature was near 100 degrees each day. We were warned about dehydration, so I kept a water bottle with me at all times – I filled it 5 or 6 times a day. It was not very humid, as it is the dry season there. Between November and May it doesn’t rain much. By this time of year everything is parched and dusty. Dust is everywhere. There are no lawns, just dirt and dust. It was typical to see herds of cattle being driven down the dirt roads in search of a place to graze – and that REALLY kicked up the dust. The rainy season begins the middle of May. Then all that dirt turns to mud. I probably prefer it being dry.
Q. What preparations, like getting vaccinated, did you have to make for the trip?
A. When visiting a developing country, such as Nicaragua, certain vaccines are necessary: typhoid, hepatitis A and B, and updated polio and tetanus vaccines. We were told that mosquitoes would be terrible. So I took some repellent that was 98 percentDEET – I only received one bite the entire week. A few other members of our team took garlic pills to ward of the insects ( I’m just glad I didn’t have to share a tent with one of them!). One of the benefits of traveling with a medical team is that if you get sick from something you eat, you’re pretty much covered as far as medications go. I got sick the second night and was quite miserable for a few hours until the antibiotic kicked in.
Q. You mentioned that a cook traveled with the group. Can you describe some of the native dishes that you enjoyed?
A. You really have to be careful about what you eat and drink there – just as in any other new place. We carried our own water with us – probably 60 gallons for the week. And we were fortunate enough to have our own cook who traveled with us. She prepared three big meals a day for us that were a combination of Latin American/American dishes. Gallo y pinto (rice and beans) was served at every meal – even breakfast – as well as fresh pineapple, watermelon, papaya, and fried plantains. Cabbage salad was also a staple of most meals. One of the most interesting “American” dishes that was prepared for us was spaghetti. It was kind of like taco beef on noodles. Other ethnic foods we were able to enjoy were fresh grilled sea bass, grilled seasoned pork and gallo y leche - a kind of rice pudding with raisins and cinnamon. One evening we got to sample some armadillo that a couple of local teens had caught. Surprisingly, it wasn’t half bad drizzled with a little lemon juice.
Q. What is your favorite memory from the trip?
A. There are so many memorable moments it’s hard to narrow them down to a favorite. It could be watching the sunset over the Pacific from a black volcanic sand beach. Or, it could be looking up at night and seeing a sky full of stars so overwhelming that it’s hard to believe it’s real. It could be Eduardo, who played and sang a special song to me on my birthday. It could be little Anjelita, the three-year-old who kept bringing me wild mangos all day. It could be the destitute single mother of five who, as we were leaving, presented us with a two-litre bottle of milk that she desperately needed to feed her baby. It could be all the hugs we received as we said goodbye. Or it could be the teary eyes of our team members I happened to notice as we left. But I guess the thing that is most memorable to me is something that encompasses all of that. It’s the acceptance and appreciation that the people gave such an outsider as myself that made me feel at home – even though I was thousands of miles away.
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