August 5, 2011

Are we done yet? A very busy first day!

Thank you to June volunteer Donna Bodkin for writing this post, which originally appeared on her blog.

So far our first day has included:  A jungle hike to the zipline.  Ziplining and hiking quickly back to catch our boat to work.  Learning how to set up a mobile hospital and spaying/neutering 19 animals.  Shopping in a village shop for souvenirs.  Repacking all of our equipment and loading back into the boat to go back to the lodge to relax.  Well, that's what we thought!  After a beautiful boat ride along the river, we arrive at the lodge.

Kendall and I enjoying the boat ride back to the lodge.

A tranquil setting.

The dock at the lodge.

Everyone helps to unload the boat and now it's time to clean instruments and surgery drapes so they will be ready for us to use tomorrow morning.  Of course the Amazon Cares staff, being polite, tell us they can do the cleaning and we can rest.  Nice try, but they aren't getting rid of us that easily.  So once again, we want to help. But where is the washing machine and where is the sink for washing instruments?  We all grab some of the stuff and start following our coworkers.  Wait a minute, we are going back to the river.  Here we get in a small canoe 2 at a time and paddle to a little dock.  It was just about 20 feet away, but I somehow managed to paddle us into some bushes.  Needless to say, my paddling privilages were revoked.

The hut in the background is the laundry.

Once on the dock, which has a thatch roof over half of it, I realize that we are in the lodges laundromat.  You have the open air side to wash the clothes and the covered side to keep the clothes dry from the almost daily rains.  We find large tubs and fill them with river water and Harri pours in some powder detergent.  And I do mean alot of detergent!  Debby and I put the surgery drapes in to start soaking.  A few minutes later, we put our hands in to start the scrubbing process and are surprised to find that the soap has actually heated up the water.  Maybe our detergent does that too.....I can't say I've done much hand washing in the past.....50 years.  As we all get comfortable sitting on the dock, we have some people washing instruments, some washing drapes and some hanging things up to dry.

The entire team cleaning instruments and drapes.

The social hour - doing laundry in the river.

 You must be thinking how awful this sounds after a long, hot day of hard work.  I agree!!  It doesn't sound like fun.  But, picture this;  sitting on a dock with a beautiful river view while trying to communicate with your new spanish speaking friends.  Fish are jumping out of the water.  Parrots and other beautiful birds are flying overhead.  Local people , who are always quick to give the gringos a wave of greeting, are out fishing in their canoes.  And a few wet drapes thrown at each other just to keep everyone on their toes.  I don't know about you, but suddenly my washing machine seems very plain and boring.  Now we are finally done!!


Local people out in their canoe.

 Oh wait, we still aren't done.  Someone has to pack the surgery packs for the next day.  Okay, so back to work for just a little longer.  We paddle back to shore (they still wouldn't give me back the paddle) and head to the lodge.  There we find a small table that can be used for wrapping packs.  Not much room for all of us to help, so the ones that know what they are doing start wrapping and I took photos of them working.  (It's almost like helping!).  Now we are finally done!!!

Packing the surgery instruments.

 And just in time for dinner.  We all sit together at a table and enjoy the food.  Now still very hot and tired, I can't tell you how good a cold beer tasted.  I am not a beer drinker, but beer is about the only drink that is actually served really cold.  And really cold tastes awfully good when your really hot.  Dinner consists of much food, much laughter and looking at photos that we have taken of each other throughout the day.  Strange to actually talk with someone while eating dinner instead of watching the TV.  We enjoy a nice leisurely meal and then our guide Christian is back with us.

Chatting around the dinner table.

It seems that it is time to go on a night hike and see what we can find out in the jungle.  So, off to find some rubber boots to fit each of us.  In addition to wearing the rubber boots, he reminds us that long pants, and long sleeves are a good idea because of the mosquitos.  No problem, we are prepared and ready to go.  Most of us have a headlamp or a flashlight to help us see along the way.  As we slowly walk through the forest, there is life all around us.  The variety of insects and spiders is amazing.  Our guide stops and tells about each thing we find and lets us take photos of these strange looking creatures.

It is a beautiful night for a long stroll through the Amazon Rainforest......but what is this, a few little drops of rain?  No big deal, we can handle a little sprinkle.  And then suddenly, the sky opens and buckets of rain are falling on us.  And when I say buckets, I don't mean those little buckets we use around the house.  I'm talking about 55 gallon barrels of water being dumped over your head one after another.  Quickly we trying to get our cameras under our shirts for some protection.  We are soon soaked and there is nowhere to escape the rain as we are already under the canopy of the forest. On the positive side, we are no longer hot, sweaty and sticky, now we are a little chilly and soaked to the skin. So, we begin the hike back to the lodge at a slightly quicker pace.  There is nothing we can do except laugh and try and push each other into streams of water running off of leaves as large as a person.  Of course, the funniest part was that not one of us was smart enough to take a rain jacket into the rainforest.  Including our guide!  We arrive back at the lodge and this adventure has led to another wonderful photo opportunity.  And the end of our first day as a volunteer with Amazon Cares.  We are finally done!
Note to self:  Next time you go into the rainforest, take a raincoat.

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