Monday, January 19, 2009

Adventures with the medical team

One of the GMI volunteers in Bolivia has been working on connecting the services of ADRA´s river launch with GMI air support on the rivers of northern Bolivia for some time. He finally saw it come to fruition a little over a week ago when two doctors arrived from Brazil and he had N3538F and me at his disposal. We moved our base of operations to Riberalta for a few days as it is the gateway to the riverside communities that we wanted to serve.
To get started we flew into Ingavi, the little village three days by boat up the Rio Orto from Riberalta. I had already flown in there several times with teams from the school at Guayara so it wasn´t too terrifying. We we got there we found the people friendly and receptive as always. The doctors took care of the medical needs and recommended a family for evacuation to Riberalta for lab testing of both the father and mother. I made a trip out with the family and one of the doctors to buy more medicine. Some villagers found me at the airport so I had a full load on the return trip to the village as well. Then we flew back to Riberalta for the night with the team. The next day there was some villagers to take back to Ingave and a pregnant woman already having contractions to fly out with her family. The next morning I saw her husband in the market and he said we had come on just the right day, a day later would have been too late. Later that day we flew up the River Beni and made our plan of attack for all the villages with runways, that night we stayed with friends at Familia Feliz-GMI´s orphanage in Rurrenabaque. The following day we stopped at two of the places we had marked and worked until we ran out of time and medicines. The next day was Friday and George the leader of the team was sick with something we call mal de gringo, or sickness of the gringo. I am pretty sure he got it from some creek water he drank in a fit of thirst...oops. It was Friday anyway so we flew back to Guayara to spent Sabbath at the school. On the way we flew over the runway at the school and noticed that Jeremy had been busy, it was almost all cleared of bushes.
On Sunday we all had to do laundry with different degrees of desperation, I think mine was near the top...after washing our clothes in the creek we got in on the action at the airstrip and finished chopping down the brush. Now we have a clearing 1150ft X 50ft needs grading and either grass or gravel.
Before going to the school on Friday I took a boat to Brazil to fulfill my obligations to the officer of immigration in Riberalta who had stamped my passport in good faith that I would leave the country the same day. It was an adventure going to Brazil with two guys from Manaus. One is a Brazilian and the other is an Argentian living in Brazil. They were excited to take a first timer around a Brazilian town even though it wasn´t their own. You can imagine the fun times we have with language when I speak almost no Spanish, Fernando speaks Porteguese and a little more Spanish, Fredrico speaks both fluently but with a heavy Argentinian accent and George speaks Spanish, Romainian and Russian. Thankfully all three of them can pull out a little English when I get stuck and don´t understand something important.
On Monday we were back in Riberalta and I finished getting my visa extension that for some reason that God knows was totally free. It was a big blessing because I didn´t want to spend $130 of money that was needed for airplane gas on the extension. God has many ways of providing. It is also for 90 days which will take me to the end of my stay instead of the 30 days I was expecting. Thanks to God!

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