I am writing my first blog in a while and I have much to talk about so I think I will divide it into 2 or 3 entries. I am typing this from the back of the hospital boat as I head up river for the next 5 days. I will be working in a small native community called Angoteros. They have a small clinic or Posta de Salud. I am going to relieve our other Peruvian doc, Juan Jon who has been up there for 3 weeks. He is going to head further north to the border with Ecuador and work a few days at the Centro de Salud de Pantoja. On his way back down the boat will pick me up and we’ll all head back to Santa Clotilde. I am both excited and nervous. I will be there pretty much alone. There is a technico de salud , a laboratoristo (lab tech) and a midwife in Angoteros as well, but I think the technico will be heading to Pantoja for their short trip. So that leaves me, myself and I as the health care worker. Thank God there is a midwife because I still don’t have even close to adequate skills as an Ob/Gyn, but I am reluctantly learning more each week. My Spanish is getting better, but it won’t help me much in Angoteros as this is a native community and most speak Kichwa. I would love to take pictures and send them, but I broke our camera about 3 weeks ago.
I went to the Arumisha (a-room-eee-shaw) to celebrate Carnavale. The arumisha is a palm tree that is decorated with ornaments and all day long people dance around the tree and sing and throw water on each other and smear dirt or colored dye on each other …..oh and they drink. I went and as I arrived so did the rain, but that did not stop the party it just added to the fun. We passed around the beer, sang and danced. I had the camara in my pocket, and I thought I was clever enough by putting it in a plastic bag before I left home. However, I was not smart enough to ensure it was completely sealed and it got ruined. I don’t know why I was initially surprised that it got wet, we are living in the middle of the rain forest.
Although Carnevale is widely celebrated in town with each neighborhood having an arumisha over the course of several weeks in February, I was quite surprised to find that this community is not as religious as I had expected. In talking with Lucio, our one officially registered nurse who is from the south near Cusco, he said the people in the north and here on the Napo River and not very religious (Catholic or otherwise) like in other parts of Peru. They do live off the land, but I was expecting more respect for the land like we see in our Native American culture, maybe I’ll see more when I go to the communities. However although the church is not overflowing on Sundays the services are nice and Fr. Jack is not only a great doctor he gives fantastic sermons that are relative to the conditions and ongoing struggles on the river and in daily life as it relates to the readings. The church is an impressive work of architecture in my mind. It was built I believe in the 1950s when a group of volunteers came from a Canadian farm community (as there was a group of Canadian nuns working in Santa Clotilde) and the town needed a church, so what did they build? A barn of course! The arches for the ceiling probably go up 50-60 feet and it was solidly built as it still looks great today. We have been on the boat 3 hours now, I am gonna enjoy the view, only 2 more hours to go before we hit Angoteros.