Admittedly, my nutrition blogging has fallen off the wayside since I arrived here on the island of Ometepe in Nicaragua to begin my new position as Programs Director for Natural Doctors International. Its been a process of settling in and finding my footing, yet now that things are settling down a bit, I'd like to share with you some reflections on these past few months. While I know this is veering off my usual topics of health and nutrition, in the more holistic sense of health, our mental, emotional, and spiritual self is equally (if not sometimes more) important. And since I just can't resist, stay tuned below for a delicious twist on a typical Nicaraguan dish...vigoron!
Its hard to believe I've been here for only 3 months, as it all at once feels like just yesterday I boarded the plane, and also that I've lived here on this island forever. Despite the challenges (and there have certainly been challenges), I feel oddly comfortable and at home considering I am on a rural island in Nicaragua. I love the people, the culture, the language and the music. I love the way kids are able to play in the streets and grow up with a deep sense of community, and I love that people end half of their sentences with "si dios quiere" (god willing). Whether it may be a simple "god-willing-I'll-see-you-
tomorrow," or "god-willing-my-family-will- eat-next-week," it is a culture of faith, spirituality, and accepting that we cannot control the future. This, I love.
The challenges? Being a single woman amidst a sea of families. Nicaraguans are known for their bluntness, and I get asked several times per week (at least), how old I am, and am then met with a gasp which is followed by "you are so old!!" While this was funny at first, it has come to accentuate the occasional loneliness that I had expected living here in a small village. The food is a challenge, we are so blessed in the US to have access to fresh fruits and vegetables that are not laden with pesticides, and meats that are not pumped full of hormones. That is not the case here. I am challenged daily by conducting life in my second language, living amongst profound poverty and the discomfort and guilt that brings up, and more...
But amidst those challenges, the work I am privileged enough to be doing here has exceeded my expectations. I have opportunities here for professional and personal growth that are simply astounding. These include organizing and co-facilitating our medical brigades where I get to translate for Naturopaths, Acupuncturists and other practitioners, so by shear osmosis am learning so much. I hear stories of patients' lives that have been so filled with pain I cannot even begin to imagine, yet they leave their houses at 3am in order to arrive at the clinic by 5:30 to get an appointment for later in the day, and I've never once heard a complaint about the wait...there is no sense of entitlement. Although it is a struggle due to lack of resources, I have been able to offer nutrition coaching to my patients, and am beginning this month to organize a nutrition class which I will present to groups around the island along with our resident Psychologist.
Thank you for taking the time to read, and now for the fun part....check out this delicious twist on a typical Nicaraguan meal, vigoron. This dish is a lime cabbage salad over a bed of yucca. YUM!!
adapted from globaltableadventure.com
2 lbs. yucca
1 small head of cabbage, thinly sliced
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1/2-1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp of salt (or to taste)
handful of cilantro
1 jalapeno papper, diced (or to taste)
**add your choice of protein, this is typically prepared with chicharron, or you can include any other type of thinly sliced or ground meat.
Peel yucca and cut into 3 inch pieces. Simmer in salted water until tender (should have texture like a potato). While yucca is cooking, combine all salad ingredients and mix. Traditionally, this dish is served on a banana leaf, yucca is the base and salad and meat on top. If banana leafs are hard to come by, a simple plate will do :)