Day 7 – Final Thoughts

We stopped at a couple of floating gift shops on the way home. One with jungle animals to hold. 

The other a little tamer. 

Then back to the city where the port was jammed. 

Every few minutes a street vendor tried to come on board to sell us something. They are everywhere and there are not a lot of tourists. They are selling to other Brazilians. 

The boat on our left was loading stuff to carry up river. Someone was doing paperwork but given how it was all shoved in I don’t see how stuff gets to the right place. 

We saw a tugboat pushing two barges full of semitrailers. One was FedEx!  Apparently they go somewhere up river and are emptied and/or loaded and come back by river. 

I won’t call this life changing for me as I’m very stubborn but it has certainly made me think. I might have changed another persons life. Rex left an order for more small boats. We’ll see what happens. 

I will be back. 


Day 6 – Mellow out

Today will be fishing and swimming and getting ready to head back to Manaus. We are adding six or eight passengers. Missionaries and ones in training that are heading home after a week in the village. 

Oh, there are in fact pirhana in these waters. 

No new revelations for me so far but a reminder that I need to work on simplifying my life. Remove distractions, pay down debt, spend less, need less, find the right person to share it with. 

I see these villagers and I question what Europeans have brought them. A dependency on the outside world. A total loss of their culture. I’ve met people in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s some of whom could work me in to the ground if I tried to keep up with them. 

I hear people talk about doing medical missions in to the deep jungle to bring care. I don’t think I agree with that. Those people have been fine for thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of years. If the mortality rate is reduced will that strain their resources? Will that bring a dependency on the outside world? Will that destroy another culture in order to “help” them and bring them Christianity?

Olivia came back today. Happy smiling little girl. 

Yesterday when we were talking to Mr. Manuel the 72 year old canoe builder I asked if he could make toy sized ones, eighteen to 24″ long. He said sure so we placed orders for three. We went back today and he hadn’t been able to. He couldn’t scale it down. Rex and LaDonna ordered something larger to pick up this evening. When they went to pick it up one of his sons had built the boat. He’d seen his father getting frustrated and decided he could do it. Rex complimented the work and then pointed out the son had a good teacher to which son agreed. This brought some pride to Manuel and might have helped heal a relationship. Then the grandson told him “I can make the little ones while you make the big ones.” Maybe that’s why I’m here. 

Day 5 – In Timbó

The name of the village is pronounced Chimbo. 

We pulled in about 11:00 and as soon as we docked our breeze disappeared. As the old saying goes “It ain’t the heat, it’s the humidity.” On the plus side the motor isn’t running so no noise and no diesel fumes. Rex, one of the boat crew, and I did some electrical work and got us running off of shore power. 

The extension cord runs over the side of the boat to the shore and up a pole where it is spliced in to the mains. 

There is government supplied electricity and lots of satellite dishes. Several pay phones dot the village along with three churches. 

After lunch Jason, the nurse who handles the medical portion of the boats work, was headed out to see a village child with an abscessed tooth so we all went along. Ten or more people living in a two room shack. The 72 year old grandfather, Mr. Manuel, is the village canoe builder and does amazing work. None of his sons or grandsons have followed in his footsteps. The girl has had the abscess for two weeks and it has not responded to penicillin. The local missionary medic has been telling mom for a week the girl needed to go to the hospital. She keeps saying “tomorrow.” Before we knew this the grandmother had said there was no money to get the boat to the hospital so I supplied the equivalent of $25 to get the girl and her grandmother there and back. When it came time for the boat taxi mom was back to “tomorrow” but Jason insisted and basically shamed her in to it. Rex had to bribe the boat captain to stay long enough to get the girl there. Turns out her name is Olivia, the same as my middle granddaughter. 

Hydrating Olivia via IV. 

Jason delivering her to the boat. 

This evening there was a display of the jewelry handiwork the village women created. I bought a few pieces for myself and my granddaughters. 

Day 4 – Preparing to leave. 

Shopping for supplies today. Four different stores to get what we needed. Even though one looked like a Sam’s or COSTCO it didn’t have everything we needed. 

Spaghetti for dinner and then off at midnight. 

One thing that has always tugged at me is the water. I’ve never had a chance to explore it. Sitting here on the bow of the ship as we first head south down the Rio Negro and soon up the Rio Solimões is glorious. The southern sky is completely foreign to me. Last time I was south of the equator I was five years old. 

Right now the river is at its peak. Other times of the year we would have to sail around this peninsula as the channel on the map wouldn’t be big enough for the boat but tonight we sail over the jungle canopy in the dark. 

Day 3 – Tourist first. Mission second. 

Our bus was waiting for us but we had some people who were joining us that had not arrived yet. The area in front of the hotel is small and lots of traffic. Several heated conversations between our driver and hotel staff. They finally found a compromise and the bus moved out of the way. 
Small motorcycles everywhere. I forgot to say yesterday that we were driving as school let out. Mom’s with kids on scooters and small motorcycles buzzing around like bees. 

We did our final touristy things of getting souvenirs in the big market downtown. The first place I’ve seen tourist. A group of heavy metal fans all in black doing the same stuff every tourist does. 

I was surprised by the no smoking signs and the recycling bins. Not sure how much the bins are used by you don’t see many smokers. 

In the afternoon we went to Casa dos Filhos were Captain Rex and crew put in a show for the kids. This is a center that provides care and education for the extremely poor. All of the children are below the poverty level which is pretty low here. And yet they seemed happy. Even I got a spontaneous hug from a kid. 

On the street it seems like there is so much energy and everyone is doing something. Smart phones everywhere. Then you see a favela, a slum of wood and cardboard shacks and you can’t imagine how these people survive. 

The Venezuelans we saw yesterday are gone today. Removed by the government. Don’t know where to. 

Two small victories today. I remembered the Portuguese word for “I’m sorry” or “excuse me.” Desculpe. 

Our group got a little spread out while walking. The translator was in front of me and turned to look where people were at. Her first thought when she saw me was “He’s a Brazilian, where is everyone?” Score for blending in. 

Mission work

I don’t know how to describe this evening. If you’d told me a few days ago I’d be standing on a street corner in Brazil leading a prayer for a transvestite prostitute because he asked me to I’d have told you you were crazy, but it happened. 

Prostitution is legal here. The government even pays for sex reassignment surgery, but only one way. The prostitutes come in all shapes, sizes, skin tones, and genders. Some of them are quite good looking. Some of those are men. Of course most of them are controlled by pimps and on drugs. One we spoke to was a dealer too. Some go to the prison to have sex with high powered criminals there. Brothels are not legal but of course their are ways around that. 

Prayer requests almost always involve protection for themselves and their families. 

A very surreal night. 

A lot for me to process. 

Day 2 – Tourist stuff

Manaus has a population of about 2.5 million. One two lane blacktop road goes to Venezuela. Other than that everything comes in and out by boat or airplane.  
People everywhere. Thousands of small motorcycles. Federal Police inspection stations where we sometimes get stopped for seatbelt checks and the drivers paperwork. 

Political problems in Venezuela pushing refugees here. Crowds of them living under overpasses. 

Going threw the rain forest in the way to the falls we go up and down small hills. At the bottom of every valley water flows. Sometimes just a trickle. Sometimes a small river. Nicer spots have what appear to be swimming holes and restaurants. 
Driveways, all with gates, show up regularly, although fewer as we get farther away from Manaus. One very well kept one had a barbed wire gauntlet to run before the gate. No signs. 

Fried manioc (cassava). 

We also had beef and fish for lunch. Excellent food. 

Both sets of falls were great. Long hike to get to them but beautiful areas. Funny to think of it as rain forest and exotic. I suspect you might find similar places in parts of the U. S., minus the monkeys we saw at the second falls. 

We wrapped it up with Burgers at Jhonny’s. Excellent food again. (And that is spelled correctly.)

Day 1 – Travel Day

0745: I’m the first one awake. All packed and ready. Today is all travel. The longest leg is only five hours but we won’t be there until nearly 10:00 PM CST. 
0940: Through security and waiting for the plane. Aggie in front of me got a full bag check after the x-ray. He had bug spray and shampoo and lots of other liquids. Idiot. 
1040: Taxiing for take off. Apparently WordPress for iOS doesn’t let you access a draft even though you can save one. Hopefully I can recover the earlier parts from the web. (I did. It involved connecting to my desktop from my phone. Bringing up Firefox. Going to WordPress. Finding the draft. Copying the contents to the Notes application on my Mac which then automatically updated Notes on my phone where I’m editing this.)
Just announced a 15 minute delay for take off and we have a fairly tight connection in Dallas. 
1215: Made it with a few minutes to spare. 
In the midst off all this I’m selling one house and buying another. Doing paperwork on the phone. Amazingly good that I can get to pay stubs and tax returns electronically. No stress. 
Gotta love it when the safety briefing video fails. 
0119 the next day. Obviously we made it. Rex and crew met us at the airport. Staying at the Intercity hotel. Nice place. The adventure starts at 1015 in the morning. Goodnight all. 

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