I arrived three days ago and I already have so much to tell. I promise I’ll try to keep the post shorter next time!
For starters, the heat is the first thing I noticed coming out of the plane. Oh was it was stuffy; I still have to get used it since I get a heat shot every time I leave my job and room. Ps I work in an air-conditioned place and have my own air conditioner in my room (So I’m spoiled I guess =D).
Don Ramon and Jeanette picked Michael and I up from the airport. Don Ramon was so nervous to pick us up, since others had told him we did not speak any Spanish, and he had been practicing how he would welcome us for the previous past week. When we arrived he only pointed towards his sign, with our names, and then to us as if questioning. Pobresito, they fooled him all right and it made for a good moment of laughter when he found out we were both fluent! Both Don Ramon and Jeanette drove us towards the apartment and described most of Managua along the way. I was extremely lost since everything looked the same to me but I kept nodding my head! Now I have heard of many places to see, eat, shop, and dance at but I’m only familiar with the surrounding blocks and the location of my job.
I arrived to my apartment, which by the way is adorable! Initially I only had time to drop off my stuff because we had an appointment with Lionel and Alicia. We met at the Laboratory, which is where I will be working this summer. I don’t know what I expected but the Lab definitely is colorful and stocked! Lionel showed me the place and introduced me to EVERYONE! Although I feel bad, I forgot most of their names! I’ll learn them soon, I hope! I was amazed to see the resources this site has, they research various diseases and pathogens (HIV, influenza, and Dengue being the most abundant but so I’ve heard they research malaria as well! Definitely will ask and try to check that out). Everyone appears to work great in collaboration and they are ALL so welcoming!
The first Nicaraguense food I tried was a place called Tip Top (which is like our verson of KFC haha). I didn’t have much time to eat so had to go for fast food! I also went to Metrocentro to buy a cell phone. To my surprise it’s a mall! It has EVERTHING! From restaurants, clothes, Movie Theater and even a stocked up grocery store. Best of all its walking distance from my apartment! I’m so glad to be surrounded by all the city life, it definitely makes it easier to explore!
I eventually made it back to the apartment early. When I showered, I noticed there was no hot water but it really doesn’t matter because as I said it super hot and the cold water feels AMAZING! I was planning on unpacking and settling in, but I lay for a couple minutes and passed out instantly! It’s a good thing since I only got about 4 hours of sleep in two days!
I started work on Tuesday, barely enough time to breath, but its okay since I’m almost done with my first week! Jose Santos who has been driving me around this week until I find a reliable taxi driver picked me up at 8am. It was an appropriate time for me, but a bit late for the Nicaraguense! I could hear music, traffic and the courtyard being cleaned this morning as early as 7 am and probably earlier! I made it to the Laboratorio and was introduced to Roger whom will be training me with PCR, RT-PCR, RNA extractions, data analysis and hemagglutination assays amongst other techniques! It’s so exciting! I feel so fortunate for getting this opportunity and being able to work alongside these researchers! Roger showed me around and re-introduced me to a couple of people. There wasn’t much hands-on work to do however since Lionel and Roger are both traveling this week and Aubree and Eva have not arrived yet; besides influenza season hasn’t started yet. It definitely is a slow week, but I’m getting used to the facility and having a chance to meet the people. In the meantime I will be working with Berman who is part of the Dengue diagnostic team. He showed me how to test blood samples using a PBMC protocol. I was excited to see that this laboratory uses similar or the same techniques we use in the US. It will make it easier to adjust and learn the techniques. The main problem I’ve had so far is the language, although I speak Spanish, I’ve never used scientific terms! Most words and phrases are translated similarly or are spoken using the English form with the Spanish accent, which definitely helps, but sometimes it’s just so hard to understand what is being said to me since some of the scientist and informatics students have heavy Nicaraguense accents! I’ll get the hang of things soon. They offered to lend me the English protocols but I told them I wanted to learn the Spanish terms and would ask in case of any doubts!
Since the Dengue season hasn’t started yet (until August) it was a slow day for that team as well. I was able to chat about typical Nicaraguense platillos, places to see; both here in Managua and in the surrounding cities! Berman and I also compared Mexican culture and dialect with Nicaragua’s. In addition, both Alicia and Berman had much to say about Eva! (She is the extraordinary woman who started this entire study and established this Laboratory). Anyway, she arrives next Tuesday and oh boy will it get busy and hectic around here! I had the opportunity to meet with her in Berkeley and she is full of energy! Everyone around here has told me that they don’t understand how she does it, she never seems to be tired, while everyone here gets so exhausted! They’ve warned me to get ready because Eva loves to dance and go out on the evenings!! I just can’t wait; she will definitely make it a busy but exciting week!
Tuesday, Alicia asked me if I liked to drink and when I told her I wasn’t legal yet the team thought it was hilarious! They told me I didn’t have to worry about the drinking age here and they recommended the zona rosa for places to eat! After a long day, Michael and I were able to go out the zona rosa; a street full of restaurants, bars and lounges, walking distance from the apartment. We didn’t know which place to choose and decided on a place called El Tercer Ojo which turned out to be Italian food! The food smelled amazing and was DELICOUS!
Yesterday I got to do hands on work with PBMC, it was nerve racking but fascinating; however I only counted 6 samples and it took me most of the day! Today (Thursday) will be a relaxed day. Initially I was going to get the day off and get a super long weekend but Alicia was able to hook me up with other members in Dengue research! Yolanda will be showing me PCR and then I will have time to work with the Dengue serology group!
By the way this Friday is Dia de las Madres so nobody works and it’s a 3 day weekend! Yaaay! Michael and I are making plans to go either to La Isla de Omotepe or San Juan del Sur! We will see what we decide! I’ll keep you all posted!