Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Week 14

The story of our trip to Inahuay is waiting for our boat. We were planning on leaving to Inahuay on a Thursday afternoon, planning on arriving to Inahuay on Friday afternoon. Yes, I know, the boat trip really is 24 hours long. And that’s down river with the current! Well, of course our boat was not ready to leave on Thursday afternoon, in fact there was no boat at the dock. Josh finally figured things out and found that a boat leaves Saturday at noon. So we get ready the truck packed and head down there early to be waiting to board the boat and get a good spot for our hammocks. We arrive early enough that we are the first ones to arrive on the boat and set everything up. The hammocks and set right up next to each other, and we are spacious. Then the boat starts to fill up as more people begin to board. Then the boat starts to becomes overly cramped as people are packing in, putting their hammocks everywhere, including in between ours. The boat is finally packed tight, we are cramped. And of course, the boat doesn’t leave on time. In fact, the boat doesn’t leave until 7:00 that night as we wait on the boat for hours before it leaves. We travel down river for 24 hours straight, stopping along the way dropping of various items and people that live in remote villages along the Ucayali. I remember soda being a popular drop off item in those remote parts, gotta get your sugar fix somehow out there. We arrive in Inahuay Sunday afternoon and move in to our hostel.

A local nurse/dentist down there is running for the mayor of the town and hooked us up with a free stay in the hostel for the entire time we were there. We begin clinic on Monday as usual as help as many people as humanly possible. It was packed, but the people were really patient. When we overbooked the Dental side, the people understood they might be helped in the morning and were willing to come back that afternoon. No one was pushy and they were very nice to us. Tuesday, the clinic team split into two so we can help more people. I was on the smaller, travel team and Julie stayed with the bigger, base team. I hopped onto a small, pecky pecky, as they call it and headed off on the river to a couple of remote villages. Again, the people were so grateful. The people made us lunch, chicken soup, and it tasted amazing. Martin, one of the missionaries that went to Inahuay only a few months earlier with the dental team kept telling us that those remote villages will kill a chicken for us and make amazing chicken soup. Well, they didn’t kill a fresh chicken I’m pretty sure, because it was pretty hard meat. However, the soup was good and I was grateful. While I was off eating chicken soup, Julie stayed with the base team in Inahuay for another day to finish up everyone there. The next day Julie got to come with us up the river to another remote village on a pecky pecky. I really don’t remember much of the villages or the people, but the places were beautiful. I do remember meeting some shipivo people. These people don’t really speak Spanish, and all the ladies dress the same. They are all old, and I’m pretty sure they are dying out without the culture being carried down the generation.

I am becoming more confident as a dentist, and I am starting to have a good time. It is always a little stressful at times with the screaming child that won’t cooperate, but you learn tricks along the way to coax, trick them into cooperation. It’s also very difficult to dig out root tips at times, but my savior Colt, always knew the trick to get them out. I tried to help out in pharmacy one day when the dental load was light, and know I see whey Julie had a hard time at first. The doctor’s handwriting is horrific and there are just a bunch of pills everywhere, very difficult to find the ones you need. The doctor writes prescriptions at a 100 mph and it’s very difficult for the pharmacy people to keep up. I started to get the hang of it, but I’m glad my job was just to pull teeth and the occasional screaming child. We ended the week well at a really pretty village with cliffs overlooking the river. The medical team was running out of medicine and the dental team was running out of patience. I finished off my term as a dentist pulling out 4 molars on a screaming 3 year old, priceless!

We ended our trip up the river with a trip to some hotwater springs in Contomana. The ride up to the water springs was a 2 hour off-road adventure, but it was worth it. Julie and I sat in the springs for 4 hours straight, extremely refreshing. What a perfect, relaxing vacation as our adventures as missionaries in Peru come to a close. We had a good time, learned a lot, but are extremely glad to come back home to the United States where live is oh so comfortable.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Week 13

This week has been a pretty chill week after the hectic week of clinic we just came off of. This has been pretty much a preparing week for the next mecical campaign down the river. I worked 3 days with the manual labor guys hauling wood out of the jungle again. It was actually pretty nice to get back to this sort of work. I was pretty tired dealing with so many patients every day. I was definitely ready to back to some manual labor with the guys.

Julie has been helping the other nurses prepare the pharmacy for the upcoming clinic. I think she made cotton balls and gauze or something like that. She also made packages for mini surgeries that the doctor will do in the upcoming clinic. Neither of us had hard work this week. It was very relaxing and the perfect way to spend the week before we start another clinic.

This week is also Semana Santa, also known as Easter. We had nightly meetings for the kids at Santa Elvita. Once again, I had to give the opening sermon for the series. The topic was about forgiveness and how Jesus could still forgive those who were persectuing him while on the cross. The kids attention span isn't the greatest, so you have to go over the points pretty quickly. I think the kids are becoming better listeners though. I hope they get a little bit out of our messages, but I'll never know until heaven. It's been fun being able to preach, but I'm definitely not a future David Asscherick or anything. I don't get nervous at public speaking, and my spanish is comfortable enough where I don't need to prepare that much anymore, so all those things help me to be able to give an effective sermon (I hope).

Anyways, we leave for Inahuaya tomorrow. The boat ride takes about 20 hours, so that should be interesting. Once we're there, the group will split into to 2 groups: one bigger, more stationary unit, and a smaller more mobil unit. I chose to be on the smaller travel team and Julie decided to stay with the big group. There are supposed to be a lot of adventures this upcoming week and I'm really excited to be able to get out there and do something different. Hopefully it will be an amazing way to end my stay here as a student missionary.

Weeks 11 & 12

Sorry we haven't written in a while, things have been crazy around here recently. Let's see...we had a group from Ozark Academy come down for their spring break. The poor kids were a little bit shocked to find out that they would be taking bucket showers and using an outhouse, but they got used to it after the first few days. When they first arrived we heard nothing but complaining. I asked one of the girls how she liked Peru and she said, "It's nice. Except I don't like the bugs. Or the heat. Or the humidity. And I don't like taking bucket showers or working in the field." Welcome to Peru, haha.

Before the high schoolers arrived we decided to play a little prank on them. Our cook, Jose is from the Dominican Republic originally but grew up in New York and goes to Southern. He decided to pretend not to speak any English. Whenever the kids wanted to say something to Jose we would have to translate for them. They all had to help him out with the cooking and it was hilarious hearing them try and communicate with him. They literally knew zero spanish. Jose said to one of the girls, "Cual es tu nombre?" and she looked at him blankly and said "I don't speak spanish." Then Jose was like "Tu nombre. Mi nombre es Jose. Cual es tu nombre?" and she still had no idea. I don't know what they're teaching those kids in Arkansas, but Spanish certainly is not in the curriculum. Each day Jose would speak some English to one of the kids to see if they would notice but they never caught on. He talked to one of them in English for a full 2 minutes at one point and then switched back to Spanish without him noticing. Finally after about 3 days Jose announced at dinner time, "I speak English perfectly." The kids just looked at him and said, "Who taught him how to say that?" It took a while for them to actually believe that he spoke English and a lot of them were mad that we had tricked them. But it was a lot of fun for us and it gave me good practice with translating.

After the Ozark kids left, we had a week-long medical/dental clinic at kilometer 8. A group from Eastern Virginia Medical School came down to help us out. A group of them were working on getting their MPH and as part of the program they had to get experience with community mapping. So during the day a group would go out into the community and do a survey, finding out where people get their water from, how many kids they have, etc. Not sure what they are going to do with the information once they get back to the States, but they seemed to think that the information was pretty important. There were 4 medical students, 3rd-year resident, and a doctor that came with the group as well. Since we had so much extra help we were able to see 1066 patients in 6 days. It was a mad house! People would start lining up outside the church where we were having the clinic at 4 am. At 6:30 we started registration. I got stuck doing registration this clinic. Not a fun job at all, especially when you have to turn people away who have been waiting in line for hours.

Once registration was over, I helped out with getting the heights and weights of all the kids under 6 and the blood pressure of adults over 20. Then I worked in the pharmacy filling prescriptions and giving shots and talking to the patients about each of the medicines. It's exhausting, but really good practice. Then around 12:30 I had to start afternoon registration and do everything all over again. It was pretty much non-stop from 6:30 am to 6:00 pm every day. Craziness! I got to help the doctor out with removing a growth on this girls ear and with a circumcision. I don't think that urology will be a field I'm interested in. Sorry, dad!

Brett was on the dental team and they had their hands full as well. They saw almost 230 patients and between Brett and this other guy named Colt, they pulled almost 190 teeth! The other two guys on the dental team did fillings. Brett's last patient of the week turned out to be a nightmare. He numbed her all up and started pulling and her jaw came out of socket. Once Brett realized this he stopped and it popped back into place. He didn't want to continue and was going to send her home, but the doctor wanted to pull it out for some reason. So he had one of the guys hold this poor womans jaw out of socket while he pulled the tooth out. While he was pulling, the woman actually fainted. I don't know if it was from pain or what, but she was out cold. So we had to give her an IV shot for pain and then she just lay there for about an hour while we packed everything up. Then we drove her home and dropped her off with a bag full of Tylenol. Needless to say, I definitely will not be having any dental work done while in Peru.

Anyway, things are pretty much wrapping up here. We have one more clinic and then we leave to travel around for about 10 days before heading back to the good ole US of A. Hope everything is well at home. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Week 9 & 10

The weeks have started to go by really quickly lately. All the days are blending together and it's really hard to separate out in my mind what we have been doing. We have started to become accustumed to life here in Peru. Waking up sore every morning, having to go back to the grind for another 8 hour day in the hot, humid, miserable jungle. Or for Julie, dealing with kids and having them bug her nonstop, all the time. We have become used to this sort of work, and it's become a routine now. However, we definitely have started to feel the effects of homesickness, Julie a lot more than me. America is just a lot more comfortable and easier in every way possible. Food, sleep, work, climate, and the list goes on and on. But I know for a fact that it was been a good experience so far, and I'm extremely glad that I chose to come down here for these 4 months. I know I have a month left, but the time is going to fly by and before I know it, I'll be back in America.

These past two weeks are kind of blended together for me. I can't remember what I did exactly each day, but we did finally go down to km 4 and set up Julie´s jungle gym for the kids. It was a mess of a day because it decided to rain the day we went to set it up. It was such a miserable ride down there in the back of the truck. And it was even harder getting the area ready to put up the equipment, because the site was a complete mud pit. But the rain did decide to quit enough for us to get the equipment in the ground and cemented in there so no one can steal them. I came back a few days later on my own and bought paint for them. The day that Julie and I wanted to paint them, the weather decided to play with us, and it was another downpour, ha ha. I had to come back another time and we finally were able to paint just the monkey bars. There was a big miscommunication with the paint and primer and all the things they want you to mix in the paint here. The paint apparently doesn´t come ready to be brushed on here, and that was just a mess trying to figure out how to get it right. We finally just started slapping the paint on the wood, so hopefully it will stick for a few years. The kids absolutely love the jungle gym and we couldn´t even keep them off it for us to paint them. Julie eventually finished painting the other 2 swing sets. It looks really cool and we put on some extremely bright colors to really make them looks flashy. I think the kids are going to love them and it was a really good idea to put them there. I know there will be some broken bones because of us, but that´s just a part of growing up, at least for me it was, haha.

The past two weeks we've been playing in a basketball tournament in Pucallpa. It´s been a lot of fun just getting off of 38 and being able to play some sports. We started off 3-0, but had a couple of really close games. One game, each team only had 5 players, so none of us could foul out or that would be trouble. The game was neck and neck the whole time. The peruvian style is so much different than ours. All they do is fastbreak and cherry pick the whole time. We like to play big and slower. The two styles clash and it makes for an interesting game. We seem to not be able to stop the fastbreak, but they just can´t handle our power and height. In the end, we ended up winning by one point, my free throw with 10 seconds left in the game. It felt good, but it only lasted for about 4 days. Our next game was against the guy who is running the tournament and been watching all of our games. He knows our strengths and weaknesses. He told Jose, our cook who got us in the tournament, that he was going to beat us badly. We had no idea what was coming. Apparently the guy brought in some ringers from the mountains to play against us, and I believe it. Ther were two guys taller and bigger than me and a point guard that could handle and shoot the ball really well. The game was extremely close the entire time, we were actually winning for the majority of it. But inevitably, the fastbreak started catching up with us and it ended up killing us. Another killer was the fact that I couldn't outrebound them every time because of their two tall guys. It was a hard battle, but I'm sure we would have won if our two best players hadn't fouled out at the beginning of the 4th quarter. The refs are obviously not for us, so that's always a struggle too. So our perfect record is tainted at 3-1 with two games left in the tournament. I´ll keep you updated on how it ends, and the revenge that I personally seek on the Raptors.

The girls also got to play a game last week. Julie was the team's point guard and it was quite a site. I know Julie doesn't play basketball or even like the sport for that matter, but she was out there giving it her all. The girls only had 5 players, and boy were they exhausted. I've never seen Julie sweat so much in her life. They eneded up loosing pretty badly, not necessarily because they aren't good, but they other team had some amazing players. Yet again the fastbreak killed the Americans. This tournament has been something good for everyone to get off base and relax a little. I'm glad the Doctor let us join and have a life outside of 38.

Julie's campaign ended and she is now back at 38. I know she's extremely glad to be back at a more comfortable location. Plus she doesn't have to deal with a 100 kids everyday. Next week, a group of 23 highschoolers are coming from Ozark Academy. So...we´ll see how hard these guys can really work. They're coming to help us machette in the fields and construct some random things the doctor wants. It should be interesting with all the people that will be there, I think a total of 50 will be a base. Way too many.

Until next time, hope everyone has a awesome and exciting week.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Week 8

This week was quite an adventure. I finally got to get off base for a while and get to do some real missionary type of work. It really got my energy up and back into the spirit of working out here in Peru. I really was dragging for a while and it was really hard to motivate myself to get up every morning, put on my work boots and head on out into the jungle and machette or carry lumber. But this really brought my energy back.

To start off the week, we had a free day with the manual labor team because we had completed all of our tasks for the two month stand. But instead of having an entire day off to do whatever we wanted, such as play soccer, basketball, and go swimming, the doctor wanted us to be productive and go and help other people. The idea wasn't a bad one, so we agreed and ended up going to a hospital for a few hours and visiting with the sick people there. It was a good experience and I think the doctor had a good idea. After visiting, we played some basketball in a park in pucallpa. We tried to teach the peruvian workers, but that was an epic fail. They just can´t handle the basketball well, or shoot at all, haha. After some basketball, we just ate lunch and headed back to base. It was a great day off of work and an excellent way to start off the week. Tuesday, we just hauled lumber out of the jungle all day. Not as bad as you think, but way more primitive than we would do in America. It's not a bad task, and a pretty good workout. I kind of like doing it actually.

Wednesday is where the real fun begins. We had a 3 day dental trip at km 4, the town where Julie is staying. I got to learn how to numb people up and yank some teeth on the fly. The first day I just watched a lot and learned how to give the lidocaine shot. I actually practiced on Julie how to give a bottom IA block, numbing her entire bottom left jaw, tongue, and cheek. I hit it perfectly, and she was numb for a long time, ha ha. Thursday, I actually got to pull my first tooth. It´s a lot harder than it actually looks. I was just too careful initially and needed to just force my way in there. Finally, with some coaching from the rest of the team, I was able to finally twist that sucker out. I felt really bad for the guy, they have no idea that when we´re there, speaking english right above his face, that the other people are teaching me exactly what to do and where to stick the needle and stuff, ha ha. But they get free dental care and I get to practice doing something pretty fun. I didn´t end up working on many more patients. I pulled 4 teeth and 2 root tips out of a little girl on friday, poor girl. She was young and absolutely hated the dentist, and she had no idea that i was brand new. I struggled for over an hour trying to get everything out, but finally did. It was a good struggle, the more problems gives me more practice. I get more practice in 3 weeks and another clinic in kilometer 8.

Julie had a pretty relaxing week. It was her last week of VBS, so she was pretty excited to get that over with. She finished up with the kids and was trying to keep planning for her park. It was awesome that I got to see her for a few days that week. I don't envy her at all where she lives. I slept terrible and did not like the bucket showers at all. I'm extremely glad where I live and I'm sure Julie will appreciate coming back to base as well.

Also, a group of us missionaries entered a basketball tournament in town and played a game on wednesday night. They had us play an exhibition game to see if we were good enough. They put us up against a mix of some of their best players. We just played 2 ten minute periods. It was a lot of fun playing some real basketball against some peruvians. We definitely were good enough for their tournament. We won by a ton and are ready for the tournament now. We were supposed to have a game on Saturday night, but there was some miscommunication, so there ended up being no game. But I´ll keep you updated on what happens throughout the tournament.

Sorry for writing this so late, Sunday was an unnecessarily busy day. I´ll write a new one this Sunday to keep things flowing again.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Week 7

Last week was pretty relaxing for me actually. I worked on planning out the playground and garden and did VBS. Life as usual here in Peru! I met Brett and Daniel (one of the Peruvian manual labor guys) in Pucallpa on Tuesday and we bought all the supplies for the playground--wood, rope, metal, clamps, screws, etc. Things are a lot harder to find here than in the States. Unfortunately there is no Home Depot where you can get everything you need in one place. Finding the supplies for the playground was an all day affair. We probably went to 20 different stores looking for various things. To make things even more difficult, we weren't even sure exactly what we were looking for. Luckily Daniel had an idea of what he wanted. I don't know what we would have done without him! We'd probably still be looking for supplies right now.

We went to a menĂº for lunch that day and a meal for three people ended up costing us about $3. Unfortunately it cost me about 5 lbs. as well since I got sick from the food. I was sick for the rest of the week and still have not recovered completely from it. In fact I'm waiting for lab results right now as I'm writing this. The results were supposed to be ready this morning but now they're saying it won't be until this afternoon, leaving me with quite a bit of time to kill in town. Hopefully it's something relatively easy to get rid of. Being sick did have its advantages though. I got to go back to 38 on Friday afternoon and then slept all day Saturday.

Brett's week was a little more eventful. I don't remember exactly what he did on Monday...I think he may have helped Juanito in the jungle cutting down trees. Then on Wednesday and Thursday he helped Daniel build one of the swingsets. I got to see it when I went back to 38 this weekend and it looks really good! I can't wait to see everything when it's finished. We're doing two swingsets with 3 swings each, monkey bars, and a see-saw. They're building everything at 38 and then taking it apart and bringing it to where I live sometime next week I think.

On Friday Brett let one of the other manual labor guys help out with the swingset because he felt guilty that he had an "easy job." Instead he worked on dragging the trees out of the jungle from 8 am until 2 pm, with no lunch break! I don't know how the manual labor guys do it... It's so hot and humid here it's a miracle they don't pass out. I can barely stand running around after the kids for 3 hours every day and they're out there all day!

Saturdays in Peru are not at all restful (unless you're sick, then you get to sleep all day without feeling guilty!). The church that Brett goes to keeps him especially busy. First he goes to Sabbath school, then church, then at 3:00 he visits people and give Bible studies to people who haven't been coming to church recently and tries to bring them back to church, and finally at 4:00 there is a meeting for the youth with games and a short sermon. Saturdays where I am are just as busy. I do Sabbath school with about 75 kids, then sit in church with the kids and try and keep them quiet. After church we go back to the house and make lunch and have a little down time before the youth meeting at 4:30. Then to top it all off we have social games after sundown. Normally you would think that social games would be fun, but I don't think they are. The games pretty much involve running around in circles to music and then doing the chicken dance. And I wish that were an exaggeration. The Peruvians here seem to enjoy it though so that's what matters. By the time Sabbath is over you need another day of rest to recover from your day of "rest".

Luckily Sundays are restful in general. We get to go into town, get internet, eat, walk around, and pretty much chill. Definitely a good time to recover from the week and get ready for the next. Well, I think that pretty much sums up our week. Thanks for reading!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Week 6, sorry for the tardiness

This week was quite a busy week for me (Brett) because it was Week of Prayer at my church, Santa Elvita. After working out in the field for 8 hours, we had to go to the church for 2 hours every night. It was a pretty tiring task for me. I had to open up the Week of Prayer on Monday. The theme was ¨Brighten In Me¨ literally translated. Not sure if it makes sense in english, but that's what is was. On monday I basically had the ¨wake up ¨ message for the week. I preached about how we shouldn't just stay in our comfort zones and that we need to try new stuff and push ourselves as Christians. To wrap up Week of Prayer, we had a party on Sunday. It opened up with games at 10 in the morning on a field. We did all the camp relay games and had some good, clean competition. My team, of course, won haha. We were called the ¨conquistadors¨ and had a great time showing everyone how talented we really were. I had 3 little peruvian kids on my team from the church, we had a great time. In the evening, there was a valentine dinner for everyone from the church. Julie helped decorate for the valentine dinner, and it looked great. There were some cheesy games played before dinner, but the funniest one was for the couples. Of course they elected and have Julie and me play. The object was for the couples to turn around and not face each other and stand about 5 meters apart. Then on the male side, we had to crow like a rooster, each of us one at a time. And then the girls had to chose which crow was her man, it was called ¨eso es mi gallo¨. It was good fun and great food, i think the week of prayer worked out really well.

On Thursday, we had a day off to be able to watch the superbowl, but this didn´t work out so well. Apparently, when the people downloaded the superbowl, they didn´t realize they had only gotten the first half. So after all the waiting and anticipation, i was only able to watch the first half. I did eventually get to watch the second half earlier this week. I was such good revenge to see the Colts lose after they beat up my Bears 3 years ago, as i watched that game in the dorm in Spain at 4 in the the morning.

Work was pretty much the same. We basically mowed the 1-2 foot high grass around 38 with machettes. This work is brutal and my hands blistered up so quickly. I couldn´t even use my right hand the next day, and ended up switching to using my left hand. Work here is amazingly difficult and painful on the body, but in the end it rewarding. I love working with the peruvians. We always have a great time talking and joking around. I'm really happy with the job I have and would never trade it for any other job here.

Julie had a pretty chill week she said. She went to pucallpa pretty much everyday to plan for her park that she's going to be putting in the area where she's living. She was trying to figure out how many jungle gym items she can afford along with all the plants. It's quite a task and takes a long time. I went down to pucallpa after work on friday with one of the peruvian workers that know a lot about building. We went everywhere to get prices on wood, screws, bars of iron and everything else we need for the park. It´s a lot of work because no one really knows anything about jungle gyms, and around here they're mostly made out of iron. But I have complete confidence in Daniel that he can make an awesome park for the kids in Mariopesa. It was a really good idea by Julie and it's awesome that her parents funded it. It's gonna be a lot of fun to build.

Julie also went around a neighborhood called, Jardines, to started another VBS for the next three weeks with the kids there. So she's gonna have a lot of fun with that again, ha ha. I hope the kids there will be nicer to her and give her an easier time. It´s hectic trying to deal with so many kids in another language, i can´t even imagine it. I can barely do it at summer camp in english. But it´s a good experience for her I think and she´ll have a lot of stories when she comes back home. It´ll be a time we´ll never forget and can always remember back to what we did in peru. Hope everyone has an amazing weekend, and week 7 will be written on Sunday. Take care!!