Monday, October 8, 2007


Hold on to your hats. This post is about a mile long.

I went with a team of 12 Coloradoans down to Amazonas, where we joined with a group of 17 Brazilians, 1 Argentinian, 3 Swiss, and 2 North Carolinians, cruised a small portion of the Amazon River, and provided medical and dental care for the people. Here is a brief (believe it or not...) photo journal of the trip.

Arriving at Manaus Airport at 1AM, and greeted by a few of our translators.
Our hotel in Manaus, where we stayed the first and last nights of our trip.
View from the top floor of the fabulous Hotel Monaco. Rio Negro in the distance.Opera House
Our first official stop in the city was AMA orphanage, where most of the children have physical and/or mental disabilities. We toured the facility, sang songs, and played with the kids.
Me with Pricilla - an awesome translator, and Alejandro, who smiled endlessly when you said his name.One of the newest additions to the orphanage. She was fitted with a trach tube and is on IV antibiotics.
The bubbles were an insta-hit.
We toured around the city a bit more during our first day.
Here, playing in the square
The Flamingo game was on a little tv in this food court and tons of people gathered around to watch and cheer.
We boarded the boat that evening, so we could spend the night hours traveling up river.
Here, the JJ Mesquita in all her glory
Captain Ray (pronounced 'Hi') and me. Captain Ray is just about the most calm, soft-spoken person I have ever met and is very dedicated to these trips. He has a (very supportive) family in Manaus, but guides medical teams on the river 45 weeks out of the year.
The Cap's domain
Fantastically well-stocked kitchen
My roomies: Jessica, Brenda and Nesta
Sleeping quarters for the crew - none of this mattress business, they sleep Brazilian style.
The evening's dinner, no doubt
Our first 24 hours on the boat were spent en route to our first village. We used much of this day to prepare for the tasks ahead.

Here, an assembly line for the bags of clothes and shoes we left for families.
Our first stop was a large-ish village called Itapeacu, where we picked up another shipmate, Italo (see pic below). This town gets a good deal of attention due to its proximity to Manaus, and because it is home to a school that is attended by children and adults from villages up and down river. The streets here were paved (although all streets dead end at the outer limits of the village) by a politician some years ago in return for the support of the villagers in an election. (Not sure if the villagers upheld their end of that bargain, but the streets appear to have had no maintenance since they were first paved.) We stopped here briefly on our way out, and some of the men in our group returned later in the week to help with building and painting projects.

Homes in Itapeacu
Pedals not included.
My girls in the star club.
Italo, ballin' it up

On our way to the next destination that evening we encountered a lively storm that brought heavy rain and giant wind gusts.
Vila Alves was our next stop and our first official day of clinic. My role on these days was as a member of the triage team. We took each patient's history and symptoms, then took blood pressures, temperatures, weight, etc.

View of the village from our docking point
Villagers waiting to be sent through triage
My translator, Gigi, in the assessment area
Beautiful kids from the village
In another attempt to gain the votes of the river people, the state government of Amazonas installed satellite dishes to enable the people to have access to political news. With no televisions, though, and in many cases, no electricity, the structures are used for more practical purposes like leashing the cows or here, drying the laundry.
More village shots
Kids up in the trees, gathering fruitAfter a full day of clinic, a group of us conducted a women's clinic where we explained a bit about hygiene, birth control, and general female physiology, and got some time to answer the womens' questions.

The next day we docked in Sao Jose and conducted six straight hours of clinic. We had to rush a bit this day because we were scheduled to pass back through Itapaecu for a special dance presentation by the kids of the village - for us!

I didn't take many pics, but got a few of Dr. Jay doing a filling and, of course, of our brief soccer game - with half the village. (Aside: our dentists were extremely busy the whole time, but it is somewhat rare for the dentists to do fillings on these trips. They spend most of their time pulling teeth that are too far decayed to be filled.)

We stopped back through Itapeacu that evening and I made the questionable decision to let the kids use my camera. There was some tug-of-war and some touching of the lens, but in the end my trusty Canon survived.

Our next stop was in Costa do Amazonas, where the village was spread out over a couple of miles along the river. The water level was too low to allow the boat dock near the center of town, so we set up clinic at the far end of the town and hoped the word would spread that we had arrived.
The morning clinic was slow, so during lunchtime a group of us took a speed boat to the center of town and walked the three miles back to let the villagers know where we were set up. Here are some shots from the boat and the walk:
StreetlightWaterlineWe had a few more patients for the afternoon clinic that day, bought some fish from the locals' catch, and enjoyed a spectacular sunset back on the river.
Our last stop was to a recently expanded city that is a popular stop for the volunteer boats because of the access to supplies, food, etc. We visited some of the residents here and took a mini tour of a nature reserve where a squadrant of soldiers were preparing to enter a week of jungle warfare training.

Gigi and his model, the mantis
Home security system
More bubbles
Family pet
These guys were packing some major heat and I was slightly afraid I might get shot for smiling.
And to wind things down, here are some shots of the crew and our last hours in Manaus before returning home...
Dinner party our final evening in Manaus
The whole group
We all had a great time and if I have the chance to go again I most definitely will!


Unknown said...

I see your blog and say "amazing".

Unknown said...

Thank you for a wonderful description of your journey. Did you get out there and play soccer with the townsfolk?
Mom Bauer