Friday, December 26, 2008

One Day-Many Ways

My afternoon of rainbows (see previous post) turned into an evening of airplane maintenance. I was anxious to change the oil on the 182. There was about 90 hours on the oil and 70 on the filter. We usually try to change the oil every 50 hours but the 182 has been so busy there was no chance before. I dropped the oil and put on a new filter while Chichito worked on putting on the new rocker box cover gasket I had bought in Santa Cruz for Cylinder #1. He was convinced he could solve the oil leak that has been plaguing us ever since I met the airplane. Much to my amazement the filter was the cleanest Ive ever seen when I cut it open. Thanks to God because this engine had been given trouble with metal shavings and low oil pressure a year or two ago. Chichito notified me that he had been in contact with the village of Ingave by shortwave radio and we were scheduled for a trip there the next day. Also he comunicated with Spanish and motions that there was a woman at a nearby ranch who needed to be flown to Guayara for a C-section early the next morning. He suggested that I return by 6 in the morning so we could go get her as soon as possible. I agreed and went home to the school for a short nights rest under my mosquito net.
Early the next morning, when it was still quite dark, God woke me up and I spent some time with Him before I went looking for a motorcycle and breakfast. Breakfast was easy, a couple more hardy multigrain poncitas that I had brought from Santa Cruz. The motorcycle was not so easy. It was still pre-6am and I had to wake somebody up to get a key. To make a long story short I woke almost everybody in the effort to find one motorcycle, with a key, without twisted handle bars, that had gas....Finally I was off to town in a hurry to what I thought was an emergency. As it turned out, it wasnt really and I was really early by Bolivian time. Chichito and I waited at least an hour before the guys who riding on the trip out showed up. For once I think we would have found our destination without the GPS. The man on board was a pilot too and we had a heading to follow and him to recognize landmarks. After an hour we arrived at a little ranch with an airstrip. I made Chichito make two low passes to make sure the strip was safe for the little tires on 38F. We picked up the pregnant lady and her little family and headed back to GY. When we arrived the crew from the school was ready to go to Ingave. I taxied over to the gas pumps and found out that someone had cut the electrical wire when cutting a tree and there was no gas. Somehow within 30 min. we had gas, God is good at testing us.

It was almost noon before we landed at the village. This time there were not so many people with complaints, but there was a man who had been bit by a poisoness snake and a 14 year-old girl who had just given birth two days before. The nurses were busy for several hours and even enlisted our help. I had the hard task of getting some hot water for a epsom salts foot bath for the bitten man. After that was done (his wife did it mostly while I supervised) I sat and kept him and his monkey company. We were all quite impressed with the tigre (jaguar) that he had kill many years ago. Cornelio the gardener and husband of one of the nurses is holding it in the picture. It must have been a fairly big one.

When the foot soak was all done I went looking for something to do and learned where Brazil nuts come from. The young men were hauling big sacks down towards the river so I asked what was in them. They said Alemendras but that didnt mean anything so they showed me, we call them Brazil nuts. They grow on tall jungle trees. The young men tramp around the jungle in December and pick up the coconut size husks. Each one has about a dozen nuts inside. They put them in sacks and haul them out of the jungle on their backs to sell. At Ingave the local river trade boat was visiting that day and buying all their nuts. A few minutes later Cornelio called us all together for a quick powwow. He had contracted the trade launch to take us down the river 30 min to the village of the indigenous people. This was the village where the boy and his father were from that Dr. Kim evacuated to Riberalta a couple weeks earlier. We decided to go even though there was barely enough time before sunset. So if you are counting, this was my third method of transportation that day. Riding the boat was really fun, especially going downriver. When we reached the villages bank we disembarked and walked about half a mile into the jungle were the village was built on the top of a little hill. Cornelio told the villagers that we had medicines and only 30 min to give them out so come quickly. They did. It was all I could do to pull the nurses away when our time was up. Thankfully I had the boat pilot to help me, he was leaving whether we got on or not. Eventually I had to grab the big bag of medical stuff and start down the trail, finally Cornelio and the nurses tore themselves loose with promises to return and came with me. On the ride back up the river I calculated the time we had left with a theoretical 630pm sunset and I figured we could just make it home flying fast, none of my usual fuel saving 100knot flying. I gave the missionaries a three minute deadline from the time the boat touched the bank to when they had to be in the airplane. We did pretty well but we had headwinds. I usually have a 20 or 30 min buffer with sundown but I let myself get stuck in this situation. It was a good lesson for me. Thankfully I had an out. About halfway home we would pass right by Riberalta and I could land there. The missionaries could take the bus home from there and I could fly to GY the next morning. As we approached Riberalta I called for a sunset time and they told me 637pm. The GPS said we would make it and I knew I would pick up a couple minutes in the decent with higher speeds so we kept on going. We landed with only 7 minutes till sundown left. Praise God!
So why am I writing all this rather self incriminating material. Well, I know that it was a miracle that we made it because later I discovered it wasnt the airplane that God needed back in GY that night, it was the nurses. One of the women at the school had a Gal-bladder attack shortly after we got back. The nurses recognized it right away and rushed her to the hospital. God always knows best, I was glad to ride in on the coattails of that miracle. By the way, the ride home in the truck and walking into the jungle village completed my list of Bolivian modes of transportation. Dirtbike, airplane, walking, truck....I guess they do ride taxis and busses a lot too. But this is not what was important about the day.
We saw a lot, we learned a bit, and we helped a little. It is so important to trust God that His will is best and be flexible if our plans dont match His. We have plans to go back and spend more time with the indigenous people but pray that it will be in His power and His WAY.

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