It’s been a month since our trip to the jungle, and it feels like it’s been so much longer! Oh how I wish I could be back in that humid, steamy, sweaty, beautiful part of the country!
During my time in Peru, I’ve seen two out of the three landscapes: coast, and sierra. Finally, I was able to experience the jungle! My husband works as a translator (if you’re in Peru and need a tour guide/interpreter let me know!) and he was going to be working with a medical mission team. When we asked if I could join and the answer was “yes!” I was so excited and thankful for the opportunity. I haven’t worked with my husband (traveling & interpreting) since we met in person a year ago, so I knew this was going to be a special week serving alongside him.
With an open mind, heart, and 30lb. backpack, I hopped on the LAN flight to Tarapoto with an amazing group of 9 doctors, nurses, and teachers.
Tarapoto is known as the “eyebrow of the Amazon jungle” and it is a popular destination for tourists and Peruvians alike. I don’t have much to share about the city itself (the airport is really nice!), because we drove from Tarapoto to a small town about an hour away, where we spent the week ministering to the people.
I won’t go into full detail about our week and all the great people we met, but I will tell you that the team was there to teach basic medical and health skills to the villagers, so they could use those skills as a ministry in their own small villages. Some of the students had traveled 3 days up the Amazon River just to come to this class! They were so desperate to learn ways they could help their villages and share the Gospel while doing so.
Among the things they learned: – how to take vital signs (blood pressure, temperature, pulse, blood oxygen level, check the eyes & ears for problems) – how to make an oral rehydration solution for someone who is dehydrated (a big problem in the jungle) – how to wash their hands properly, even with only a little water – how to clean & bandage wounds – how to deliver a baby – how to help a baby breathe. And perhaps the most important- to always pray with their patients!
It was fascinating watching the students learn to use the instruments, how foreign everything must have seemed to them! I even got to learn alongside them, as I had to help interpret and explain how to take a temperature, how to take a blood pressure, etc. I loved learning and teaching!
Classes were in the mornings and afternoons, and we were done every day around 5:00pm, when the church served dinner. The church was AMAZING! The women all got together and planned out a Gringo-safe menu for the week… breakfast, lunch, and dinner! They did such a fantastic job feeding us delicious food that was safe to eat. One morning we even had pancakes and SYRUP! The women also cooked food for all the students, so that was about 50 people to prepare food for, 3 times a day. They were such sweet servants, showing God’s love through their yummy food!
At the beginning of the week after lunch, the youth pastor asked me if I wanted to teach. He knew I was an English teacher, and he wanted to take advantage of my skills and have me teach English to some villagers! With hardly any warning or materials or any clue what to teach, I started class at 2:00 with 5 students, one helper, a brown roll of paper, and a sharpie. Class went surprisingly well, and the students did a great job participating and repeating the English words and phrases. Of course I had to translate and tell them what exactly they were learning, but it went well. I ended up teaching two more afternoons with the same group, and we had fun together!
In the evenings, the church compound would come alive, as students would change from their nice “class clothes” into jerseys and shorts… welcome to soccer country! The men would play soccer until it got dark, and even then they would continue until there was a winner. The women put up a volleyball net, marked the boundaries with ashes from the fire (genius!), and played until it got dark or their kids got fussy. The kids ran around with bottles, balls, and animals, entertaining themselves with their surroundings- how different from Gringo kids with electronics!
I loved the way of life in the jungle… everyone was so hardworking, friendly, honest, and thankful. In the mornings, kids would skip to school, adults to the fields. In the afternoons, people would take shelter in the shade from the sun, and occasional rainstorm. At night, everything would come alive again with sports, food, and fellowship. It was almost so relaxing and foreign… I hardly looked at my watch all week… I just went with the flow of things in the jungle.
There were ups and downs to jungle life though:
-The power would randomly go out at night and stay out. One night I woke up around 2:00am to discover pitch darkness. I’m talking, so dark that when I opened my eyes, it felt they were still closed. It was freaky and I had to get a flashlight to use the bathroom!
-The water would go out, despite the gigantic rainstorms they had nearly everyday. This was especially a problem in the women’s bathroom at church. Yikes.
-The kindness of the villagers. This was a major upside! Whether we encountered villagers inside the church compound, or outside, they were all so kind.
-The heat… I had a love/hate relationship with it! I loved being hot for the first time all year, but I hated the sticky feeling that comes with it. I much prefer being hot than cold, so I could probably adjust to jungle life
-Jungle noises. They were both freaky and cool at the same time. There’s no way I could identify what animals were making what noises (the freaky part), but they provided just enough background noise that I could drift off to sleep quickly.
This was just a glimpse into my week in the jungle… I’m hoping to go back again soon!!!