It is very much as we remember it, but greener and with more water. The drive from Managua north on the Pan American highway is sometimes harrowing, with 18-wheeled tractor trailers careening around narrow mountain roads, and impatient drives determined to pass on two-lane roads, with yellow no-passing lines regarded as nothing more than modest suggestions. But the tobacco fields and rice paddies are lush and the normally dry creek-beds have water. There are leaves on the trees — perhaps the beginning of an early wet season?
Three hours north we arrived in Totagalpa, site of the municipal clinic. Our local medical liaison, Dr. Janet Tellez, spends Fridays in Cuje. Eager to see our local friends and to begin preparations for this year’s clinic, we headed up the mountain. The roads are worse than before, very likely a result of more rain — consistent with our earlier observations. The roads are rutted and washed out and our rented Prado bounced and shuttered it’s way to the top. As always, Dr. Janet was warm and gracious — and delightfully appreciative of the fetal doppler we brought for her use as a small token of our appreciation for her efforts to accommodate our work. Wanting to be sure that information about the clinic days has reached community residents, we drove next to three of the schools in the district. It has been some time since we last visited the school in Quebrada Grande, and this year’s four-wheel drive Toyota is doggier than the one we had last year. Short story: the beast lacked the intestinal fortitude to climb out of one of the deeper canyons on the return to the highway. It stalled out with about 80 yards to go and there was no choice but to unload the students, back down the “road,” and take another, running shot at cresting the hill. Another shot or two — and four-wheel drive — and we were on our way again.
We learned today that we’re traveling with a rocky start. We seem unable to conduct business in Ocotal without Michael Cammarata’s devastating good looks causing a distraction. So taken are the young Ocotalians that they seek us out to proclaim their undying affection for this bullfighter-in-the-making. Apparently you cannot mask deep passion with modest manner and attire.
The A-team will return to Cuje, and specifically Chaguite, tomorrow. We’ll seek out those residents who we have come to know as informal leaders. Our goal is to increase our knowledge about any and all health projects that have been or are being done in Chaguite or the surrounding communities — one more significant step in preparing for our community meeting.
The rest of the team arrives tomorrow. There will be much emotion: team members have not been together for nearly three days. It is a highlight of the experience to share the excitement and anticipation of good work to be done.