AMAZON BOAT TRIP - MARCH 7-14, 2020
7 March 2020
Our service crew for this trip is from TaleMed Healthcare Staffing and consists of a physician, three nurses, and 8 non-clinical staff members. We are joined by a three-person dental team as we arrive in Manaus after mid-night. Filled with anticipation, Earl and the crew help us get settled into the boat and our bunks. Docked in Manaus for the night as we wait for two more team members to arrive, we watch the moon glistening over the Rio Negro on a warm and peaceful night. We snack on the food prepped by the boat crew and we happily find our beds to rest. One of our nurses came from Alaska and has been awake now for 36 hours.
8 March 2020
BREAKFAST! BREAKFAST! We awake to Earl calling out to the boat. We were able to try to make up for the late night by sleeping in as we wait for our last two service members to arrive. Eggs, ham, cheese, fresh fruit, and fresh coffee greet us in the galley. As we finish breakfast we begin to organize the supplies we will need in the next few days. Medications, dental equipment, clothing, scrubs, and pregnancy tests are sorted and stocked into the exam rooms. Once the last of our group arrives we leave Manaus and head for the first town, Lago Preto, a small community up river (southwest) on the Amazon, which Earl informs us will be one of the poorer communities we will serve on this trip. En route we walk-through the plan of operation for our mobile clinic, Earl teaches us about the Central Brazil Ministry and the numerous rivers in Brazil, and we have the opportunity to take in the setting sun over the rainforest. We arrive 5 hours later, after dark and our captain brings us through a narrow channel mere feet wider than our boat. The Comunidade Lago Preto is home to around 500 people and consists of stilted homes tattered and worn by years of sun, rain, and floods. The only new building we can see is a church built by CBM where a rousing service is taking place. As we lay down to sleep the air is filled with the sound of insects, frogs, and howler monkeys.
9 March 2020
We awake again to Earl`s voice but today there is no casual start to the day. We move quickly to eat breakfast and then to our daily devotional. We are joined by the church leadership of the Lago Preto congregation as Earl and Susan lead us in song, scripture, and a personal message. As we finish the service the locals are waiting for us to open the clinic. We saw and treated patients for well checks, parasitic infections, pharyngitis, hypertension, and a skin wound. Our dental team stayed even busier with cleanings, dental repairs, and root canals. The heat of the sun eases slightly as we begin to get our first light rain of the trip. We clean up for the day and begin the 12 hour journey down river, past Manaus, to our next town. We gladly accept the chance to rest and joke with the boat crew arguing over who has the better sports teams.
10 March 2020
We spent 16 hours driving overnight to the next town in a lake called Paraismo, which means paradise. The lake water is much clearer and colorful birds fill the trees. There will be four towns we visit here. This is the area where CBM is building a juice factory to support the community and help fund their operations. Several boat crew members have family in the area who come to visit. We also had the chance to attend a service in the small village church. Wes played guitar for us as we led the group in a song we learned on the trip Fico Feliez.
11 March 2020
Only a 5 minute boat ride to the next village. As we arrive there is a large group already waiting to get medical and dental care. As school lets out, the area is flooded by kids in vibrant green and yellow shirts and pants, the colors of the Brazilian flag. The kids who don`t live in this village board a school boat (instead of a school bus) to get home. One of the best example of how the water ways are the roads and highways here. We were able to swim in the lake and jump off the third floor of our boat in this lake (Ken, it’s a lake and not the Amazon river…it doesn’t count).
12 March 2020
The third village of the lake sits in the back of a deep branch of the lake. As we approach we are caught off guard by the stunning view of their church on top of a high, jungle covered hill. We had a busy day and Mark saw almost 100 people in one day. We had the chance to walk up the church and get amazing views of the surrounding area. As we finish up early we go to the fourth and final village. Several of us played soccer with the locals and were handedly beaten. We had a brief moment of cell coverage but trying to take the time to call or text loved ones meant being subject to swarms of insects. Covering yourself head to toe in clothes and spray is only moderately effective.
13 March 2020
A short morning of care is all we have time for as we have to start the 24+ hour ride back to Manaus. We take the time to debrief on the events of the trip and appreciate the incredible team work and team growth. We plan for how we can continue to contribute to help CBM and the people they serve through their ministry. We have had no cell phone reception for 3 days and as we return to more populated areas we get our first updates of the COVID 19 closures, cancelations, and reactions.