San Dionisio: Nicaragua’s Vaccination Initiative
Another Account from Tina Stelling’s adventures in Central America
The hills appear to be buckling against the weight of one another in the retreating sun, cramming onto the horizon in a battle for the on-looker’s admiration. I am standing at the bus stop staring at these hills, but rather than feel inspired by their beauty and warm pink backdrop, I feel overwhelmed by the looming darkness. The woman who was supposed to be waiting for me at the bus stop hasn’t answered her phone for hours. There are no hotels here, and I am looking at the flora enveloping the hills with disdain, as if it is the fault of the hills that their seemingly soft lushness will make my bed for the evening. My day pack feels heavy, despite the fact that it is completely void of food, or any other basic supplies (besides water, thank God) that would make a night of unplanned camping less burdensome.
I sigh, conscious of the fact that every pair of eyes in the village is fixed on my back. Shaking my head in exhausted frustration, I turn around, feebly intent on finding a way to deal with my unfortunate situation. How do I get myself into these situations?
Looking around, I am struck by the number of men staring at me. I see one young girl of roughly 12 years old. I approach her and ask if she knows The Nurse Yamilet. Confused, she stares back at me, slowly and deliberating shaking her head. She gazes thoughtfully over her shoulder for a moment to a small structure that presumably serves as her home. Then looking back ahead in my direction she says, “This is all that I know.”
I turn around and see a group of teenage boys constructing a wall in front of another house. I walk up, bidding them a good evening. No one moves. They just look at me, gape-mouthed. “Does anyone know of anyone, perhaps their mother, who would be willing to rent me a bed for the night and sell me some food?”
Everyone shakes their head, not saying a word. I sigh.
Then a man behind me calls out, presumably one of the many villagers who has been watching me since I got off of the bus, “She is looking for The Nurse Yamilet.”
I don’t turn around. I keep my eyes on the boys. One of the teenage boys blazes red in the fading light, and smiles shyly at me. “I know The Nurse Yamilet. I..take you to her house?”
“Yes! I mean…please. I would be very grateful.”
The boy puts down his tools and motions for me follow him. The other boys immediately burst into a fit laughter. We both ignore their cackling. His name is Joseph, and he isn’t 100% sure that The Nurse Yamilet is the nurse that he knows, but she is the only nurse that he knows in the village. Less than 10 minutes later we are standing in the narrow street that leads to Yamilet’s house. Three children walk outside. I ask if Yamilet is home. They all stare at me. The eldest says no. I ask if she mentioned that I was coming to visit for a couple of days. No, she didn’t, but that’s okay.
I spend the rest of the evening watching poorly dubbed, extremely violent action movies in the living room with the children until Yamilet gets home. She laughs, happy to see me. Her friend apparently forgot to meet me at the bus stop. The next couple of nights I sleep in the same room with Yami and her two youngest, who share the bed next to me. The chorus of the animals permeates my subconscious, and I dream of animal revolutions and uprisings.
I met Yami while I was walking down the street in Matagalpa. I was lost, like usual, and I asked her for directions. She was very friendly, and offered to take me in the direction of where I was going. She asked me where I was from, and then I asked her where she was from. She told me that she lived in a small community an hour and a half from the city. She said that I should come visit sometime, and laughed. I said that sounded like a delightful idea. Surprised, she stopped mid stride and sized me up. I smiled, unwaveringly. “Okay,” she says, “what day works for you?” I came five days later.
She called every day to confirm that I was still coming.
March marks the health ministry’s vaccination campaign, where nurses all over the country walk from house to house vaccinating both adults and children, and providing small children with a preventative parasite treatment. I spent my Saturday walking through rural areas with a group of nurses, a couple of doctors, and our locally hired guide, who helped us navigate back paths in an effort to find some of the homes that were hidden from the dirt “highway”. We rode out of town in an ambulance, complete with two wooden benches built into the side walls of the van, with multiple people sitting in the aisles on the coolers holding the vaccines. We walked all day from house to house, asking to see people’s vaccination records, throwing rocks at angry dogs to scare them off as we walked uninvited on to countless properties.
This Article was Written By Tina Stelling