AMAZON BOAT TRIP – FEBRUARY 7-17, 2018
After 20+ years of hearing my dad talk about his many trips to Brazil, I finally decided after I received nursing degree and passed my state board exam, I would go on a trip with my dad to Brazil. The adventure began early Wednesday February 7, 2018. After driving the hour and a half to Chicago, Dad and I flew to Miami where we met the rest of our team: Bekah, Caleb, John, Trisha, Willie and Winfred (aka Dr. Fred) all from Ohio. We had a few hours of layover in Miami before we boarded the plane to Manaus.
We arrived in Manaus late Wednesday night and were greeted by Earl and some of the guys from the crew. We took a quick picture of our group and then loaded into a bus and headed off for the dock. On the ride to the boat, Earl filled us in on some of the details of the trip, our room assignments and what we should expect. I learned that my name for the next 10 days would be Cheena, because in Brazil T’s are pronounced as a “ch” sound. We were also told at this time that we were not to flush any toilet paper. Paper products were to be placed in the wastebasket, as the plumbing on the boat cannot handle the paper. I think this bit of information had some of us a little worried but, no turning back now! We arrived at the dock and drove down right to the boat. After the crew loaded all our luggage on to the boat, our team boarded the boat and we left right away, heading east on the river. We then had a late dinner before heading off to bed.
Thursday, February 8th: We were still traveling along the river and because of the late-night arrival, we were able to sleep in a bit. After a delicious breakfast of a peanut butter and fried banana sandwich, a variety of fresh fruit and an amazing cup of Brazilian coffee, we got to work. We first unloaded and sorted all the suitcases of medications that the team brought. There were lots of vitamins, muscle rub, Tylenol, ibuprofen, Vicks, triple antibiotic ointment, allergy medications, etc. The team then spent some time counting vitamins and ibuprofen to make individual supplies that would be handed out to the people who came to the clinics. We briefly stopped at the Porto de Itapiranga to pick up Pastor Geraldo and his wife and then continued on to Sao Sebastiao. There was a meeting for the missionaries tonight in Sao Sebastiao so the team had some free time to spend walking around town. We stopped at a few of the stores in town and Willie treated us each to a piece of peanut butter flavored Brazilian candy.
After the team and the crew ate dinner, most of the team met in the dining area and played cards. Willie taught us all a game that was new to us, called Black 7. We ended up playing cards almost every night.
Friday, February 9th: Every morning the routine on the trip was the same, after breakfast, we meet on the top deck for our daily devotion, singing and Portuguese/English lessons. We left Sao Sebastiao and then arrived at the first village, Taboari. Dad (Merle) welcomed the people to the boat. I weighed each patient, measured each of the kids and did a blood pressure on anyone who was over 50, had a history of hypertension or was pregnant. Dr. Fred saw the patients with Willie assisting and translating. Trisha gave each patient worming medication and distributed goodie bags including: sunglasses, tooth brushes, tooth paste and razors. Bekah assisted Michelle, one of the two dentists we had on the trip. At Taboari, we treated 74 medical patients, completed 43 dental procedures on 27 patients and gave 14 pairs of glasses. After we finished the clinic for the day, we left Taboari and headed off to Cubuacá.
Saturday February 10th: We woke up at Cubuacá. After normal morning routine, we treated 53 medical patients, completed 48 procedures on 17 dental patients and gave out 3 pairs of glasses. Because this was a smaller village and we were able to finish treating everyone early in the day, we were able to wrap up and move on to Caranauacá. Everyone got to rest a little while as we traveled. The redes (pronounced hedgies) on the top deck were a popular hangout whenever we were traveling or had a little down time. When we arrived at Caranauacá, we treated 41 medical patients, completed 48 dental procedures on 21 dental patients and gave out 4 pairs of glasses. While in Caranauacá, we saw a family that CBM had built a house for many years. It was neat to see the impact that CBM had made on this family. We then headed off to the village of Santa Helena.
Sunday February 11th: This was our busiest clinic day of the trip. We did a full day of clinic in Santa Helena, treating 147 medical patients and completing 109 dental procedures on 58 patients. We also handed out 21 pairs of glasses. Some happy excitement happened today when four people from the village were baptized in the river right next to the boat. It was truly a beautiful sight, with the river, the background and so many villagers coming out witness the life changing event for these four people. Later Sunday evening, we all headed up to the village to attend a wonderful church service.
During this service, some of the children from the village performed a skit that Santana had worked with them on. While the entire skit was done in Portuguese, it wasn’t hard to tell what was happening, plus, Willie helped by translating some of it for us. There was a hooded “monster” stealing happiness (alegria) from the children. One child claimed their happiness came from blowing bubbles, so the “monster” stole the bubbles. For another child, a soccer ball was their happiness. Pastor Geraldo’s happiness was his wife and he was distraught when she was stolen from him. He then tried to warn Santana that her happiness was going to be stolen from the “monster” as well. Santana assured him that her happiness came from God who was in her heart and there was nothing and no one who could take that happiness from her. She also told Pastor Geraldo that if he wanted happiness that could not be stolen, all he had to do was ask Jesus to come into his heart, and he did.
After church we headed back to the boat and had a late dinner. We stayed in docked at Santa Helena for the night.
Monday February 12th: The boat left Santa Helena early and headed for Bom Jesus (Good Jesus). While in Bom Jesus, we treated 15 patients, 21 dental procedures were completed on 12 patients we handed out two pairs of glasses. After finishing up in Bom Jesus, we set off for Leandro Grande. When we first arrived, Bekah, Trisha, Willie and I all went for a walk in the village. We saw a hut where they cooked manioc (a Brazilian food staple), some papaya trees and some raised vegetable gardens. One lady from the village came out and talked to us, luckily Willie was with us and speaks Portuguese. She invited us in to her house, where she showed us two tubs full of baby turtles. Her and her children collected the turtle eggs from the banks of river. They keep the turtles until they are three months old then release them back into the river, so they can grow. They do this to keep the turtle population because they eat the turtle meat. After out little tour around the village, we headed back to the boat just as our patients began to arrive. We treated 32 medical patients, completed 22 dental procedures on 13 patients and gave out two pairs of glasses.
After finishing up the clinic for the day, the same lady that had shown us the turtles asked if we could go see someone who was unable to make it to the boat. A group of us took a small boat back to the newly built home and spoke to a man and his wife. They told us how the man had had a stroke and was unable to move for some time, but someone had recommended a “German stroke medicine” and with that and a whole lot of faith, the man had made an amazing recovery. He then played his violin for us and told us that we were all angels sent from God to help him. We prayed with the family before heading back to the big boat. Another group from our team gathered medicines and supplies to take back to the family. We stayed there for the night.
Tuesday February 13th: After our normal morning routine, one of the men from Leandro Grande brought a peacock bass to the boat and sold it to the crew. We then headed out to the village of Arára. We treated 77 medical patients and did 39 dental procedures on 25 dental patients. Earl had warned us that this village had malaria in the past, so we would be leaving as early as possible. Some of villagers had invited us up to a special church service. So, after finishing up in the clinic for the day around 3:30, we headed up to the church and had a little worship service. Dad did a magic trick with his special coloring book that everyone really enjoyed. The service ended just after 4:00 and we headed back to the boat and headed off. For a special treat, we had the peacock bass that we had gotten from the man in Leandro Grande for dinner. It was delicious, like most of the food on the trip was.
Wednesday February 14th: Happy Valentine’s Day! We visited two villages. The first village, Caiauá was a rather small village. We treated 12 medical patients and completed 16 dental procedures on 8 patients. We also handed out 4 pairs of glasses. We quickly finished up and headed back out on the river to the last village we would be treating patients. As we made our way to Inajatuba, it started raining. As we arrived there, we got a real taste of a rainforest down pour. It rained pretty hard for about half an hour and then the sun came back out and we set up for the clinic to open. We treated 73 medical patients, performed 40 dental procedures on 26 patients and gave out 7 pairs of glasses. After closing up the clinic, we made our way back to Sao Sebastiao. After we arrived in Sao Sebastiao, the totals for our trip were posted. We treated a total of 524 medical patients, completed 386 dental procedures on 207 patients and handed out a total of 63 pairs of glasses.
Thursday February 15th: After breakfast, Earl shared with the team more of his story and how he and Ruth Anne started out in Brazil and how they got to where they are now. After that, we had some time to spend in Sao Sebastiao. We walked to the church there and then visited the green house. It was neat to see the green house and hear about the different things going on there. They provide fresh vegetables and fruit to three school. After hearing all about the green house, and seeing the training center, we had a chance to visit Santana’s house (right next door). She served us a delicious fruit juice and we were able to buy some of her homemade jewelry. We then walked back to the boat and left Sao Sebastiao for our long trip back to Manaus.
Friday February 16th: When we woke up this morning, we were still on the way to Manaus. The crew blew the horn around 6:30 am to let us know that we would be coming to the meeting of the waters. This is where the Rio Negro and the Amazon meet but due to the difference in composition, flow rate, temperature and density, do not mix for several miles. After we encountered the meeting of the waters, we had breakfast and continued to make our way to Manaus. When we arrived, we docked near the market. Shortly after 8:00 a.m. we headed up to see the fish market, the banana market and do some shopping. After everyone had done all the shopping we wanted to do, and enough Brazilian coffee and chocolates were purchased, we made our way back to the boat. After lunch, we made the trip up to the hotel where the boat would stay until we left for the airport later that night.
While we were docked at the hotel, some of the guys went water skiing while the rest of us went exploring the zoo and shops near the hotel. After we were done exploring, Bekah also tried out water skiing. We then had some time to shower and pack before the staff made us our final meal of the trip. The guys cooked steak and sausage on the grill. We also had salad, French fries, beans, and two wonderful deserts.
After dinner, we made sure all our stuff was packed up and ready to go and then spent one last night in the dining area playing black 7. Before we knew it, it was time to head out to the airport and head back to the delightful weather that awaited all of us back home.