Everyday Problems of a Volunteer

As a volunteer in Leon, Nicaragua, Robyn shares the ups and downs of her daily life. Braving sickness and doubts, she paints a very clear picture of the hardships, but also the great aspects of volunteering in a foreign land.

Last week, I got the chance to tell you more about the busy life in Leon and gave you some impressions about my voluntary work in Central America. Get an update about my life in Nicaragua and read some small stories how Nicaraguan medicine, folklore and football, theater create my everyday problems at the social volunteer project ‘Sonflora’.

Gold customer at the pharmacy

A few weeks back I was stomach sick and had over 40 degrees fever. Since I didn’t know what it was I went to the doctor who gave me two bags of IV and antibiotics. Apparently I had bacteria in the urine and in the stomach.

Someone asked me when I was deparasited the last time. Um, never?!

Apparently it is recommended to do that twice a year. Well now I know that. The thing though was, that after they had put the IV needle in my hand, my vein started to harden. Since it hadn’t gotten better after almost a month, I decided to go to another doctor and ask. Said and done. On Monday afternoon, I went there. The doctor gave me two different creams to apply and antibiotics and aspirin.

I also thought I could have asked as well about my bald spot on my head that appeared a few months back. As the internet freak I am I had already browsed around and diagnosed the cause to be too much sun, and too little water.

It turned out that I was wrong. I apparently have some sort of fungus and now I have to use a special shampoo 3 times a week to get rid of it. Sounds normal. But, more so, I have to take a medicine to remove the fungus completely – for eight weeks.

This medicine is so strong that I have to take another medicine to help protect the liver. And because it is so strong I need to protect the liver furthermore by not drinking alcohol for the coming 13 weeks (!) I also got various vitamins that I must eat to protect the hair from falling off more.

Wild bulls roaming the streets of Leon

This weekend was the celebration of San Jeronimo, the saint who translated the bible from Latin to Spanish. There were lots of people in the streets, mainly drunks and different groups made bulls that are called “Toros Guacos”, accompanied by people fighting the bull.

The sounds of sirens and firework were mixed with shouting and the contagious rhythm of the drums.

Every week there are movie showings in Leon, for 30 Córdobas in Loro trips every other Tuesday and in the culture house for free every Thursday. They show documentaries from Nicaragua or Latin America. Unluckily I had seen both movies this week.
We also have a Mexican couple living with us in the house for the two coming weeks.

My godson was born on the 25th of September. He doesn’t have a name yet. He is the nephew of Jorge. I have never been a godmother before, and it feels like such a great honor.

Not all rainbows and unicorns

On Friday I thought I’d go with the kids to the football court and play some games. I had it all figured out, that we would warm up with playing catch, and then divide everyone in teams and do a competition of relay. First normal running, then jumping, then running backwards etc. The problem started when we were to divide the teams.

There was one girl who no one wanted in their team, and some even said that if she plays, they won’t play. I was horrified, sure it might be true that she is a bad loser, but everyone against one is never okay. From there on, the day kept on going bad, I felt like I was yelling to get the attention of the kids all the time. If it wasn’t someone screaming at me that someone said a bad word, it was someone throwing fruit peel or pulling on my arm telling me that someone was cheating.

Some days it just doesn’t work very well and I wonder what went wrong and what I could have done better.

It’s hard not to feel bad and feels as though I haven’t learned anything in the past few months.

Next week I will not go to the football court alone – with 25 kids to begin with. But we had some bright spots of course. Doña Nicolasa has a tree of Spanish lime outside her house so the kids climbed up and happily collected a bucket full to eat. There were some missionaries from Managua who came to the house of Doña Nicolasa, and we all played Uno and board games with the kids.

From Broadway to telenovela

In Las Peñitas business has been as usual. Some of the girls made a theatrical presentation for the workers. It is fun to see how much imagination they have, and how much they learn from us adults, as they were portraying a teacher in a school class who kept telling the kids to be silent. Every time the teacher left “the classroom” the kids went crazy hopping on the chairs.

Two of the girls had been fighting about something trivial and weren’t talking to each other. I could see how it affected both of them, and that they really wanted to make up. By the end of the day one of them asked me for advice and said she didn’t want to fight anymore. I told her to talk to her friend and apologize, but she was too shy to do that.

In the end she agreed on sending her a note, and so at the end of the day they made up. How important it is for people of all ages to apologize and forgive.

“Apologizing does not always mean that you’re wrong and the other person is right, it just means you value your relationship more than your ego.”


Robyn, 29 years old from Sweden. Volunteer in Leon, Nicaragua with Sonflora since march 2013. Each Thursday she is giving an update about her volunteer experience she gained in Latin America.

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  1. says: Quared

    Woah, sounds like you’ve been on a real medical rollercoaster lately! From stomach bugs and surprise bacteria to hardened veins and fungal scalp – you’ve definitely had your fair share of health adventures. Although this game has simple graphics, it is extremely addictive to me because of its attractive gameplay. Geometry Dash World is a masterclass in level design, with secrets and surprises around every corner.

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