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9/14/06 (Thursday)

Thursday, September 14, 2006 

7:00 AM.  The sun is up and the sky is blue.  I am mostly packed and ready for the trip back to Borbon and then on to San Lorenzo.  I slept fairly well last night but did hear rain off and on.  This morning the river has risen a couple feet and appears to be running faster.  The canoe traffic comes and goes like a highway.  It is interesting to see the people move about.  Most are in small, narrow dugout canoes that have just enough room to stand upright and they move along so gracefully standing and rowing.  Then others come by that are powered and they generate a wake.  The rowers don’t seem to be bothered by the waves at all.  They just move on through them.

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A house across the river from the dorm. 

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This lady was shoving off after doing some laundry in the river.  Her dog was running along the bank with her.

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Looking across the river at a couple canoes.

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A local traveler.

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House across the river.

We shoved off for our trip back about 9:30.  First we went to the hospital to see a couple patients and scheduled another surgery.  The lady was a Chachi Indian and did not speak at all.  These people come in with the husbands and the husband does all the talking.  Jane will purposely ask the lady specifically and the husband always answers.  Their culture is one that is dominated totally by the men and the women stay silent and do all the hard labor.  This lady had an enlarged ovary that hurt so we put her on the schedule to remove the ovary.  Our trip back was in the bright sun and it was a beautiful day.  The river banks were illuminated brilliantly by the sun and the jungle was beautiful.  I shot a lot of pictures as we moved along with the current.

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We are shoving off from the “dock” at Zapallo Grande.  Most places just had steps coming down to the water’s edge.

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A view along the river.  People were getting out of their canoe.

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A small village along the river.

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This lady was doing laundry.

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A shot looking up the river.

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A group of young men all with canoes moving along the edge of the river.

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Another village

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Some of the lush vegetation that covered the river bank.

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There were frequent clusters of tall bamboo.

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These men were moving lumber to the water’s edge.

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We came upon a raft with some men on it as they were navigating it with the current heading down river.

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This was a frequent sight…a person standing in the canoe paddling along.

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Another village consisting of a few houses.

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A view of the river with the vegetation that surrounds the village at the left of the picture.

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Most of the river looked like this picture with wilderness on both sides.  The vegetation would only be cleared by a small village occasionally.

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Laundry

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A passing canoe heading up river.

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This was a local school bus carrying the soccer team from Zapallo Grande to another village for a game.  

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The yellow crates were full of beer bottles.  The local beer delivery service.

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Interesting palm tree hanging out over the water.

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We pulled up at this village to pick up a passenger who was to meet us there.  A little girl was doing laundry on the step.

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Group laundry

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We had a lady and three children ride with us a short distance.  We stopped at her house to let her off the canoe.

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This was her home.  She had a small baby and two small children.

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Occasionally there were bamboo structures at the water’s edge.  These were for trapping river shrimp.

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We would encounter stacks of lumber tied together floating down the river.  One time we came upon a large group of large logs all tied together. 

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This was a lumber yard that was at the bridge where the highway to Borbon crossed the river.  I assume the bundles of lumber floating down river would be retrieved there.

About an hour into the trip the motor suddenly revved up and then stopped.  The motorist pulled the motor up and tried working on it.  He fixed something and then tried to start it but he could not even turn it over.  It was like the motor froze up.  We were drifting with the current and were at least a hour away from Borbon under power.  Drifting with the current and paddling would take us the rest of the day.  Another canoe came along and the guy signaled to that driver who came over and pushed us to shore where there were a couple houses.  The man came out of the house and greeted us warmly.  The rest of the family came out and treated us like honored guests.  We spent an hour or so there with them while the guy who pushed us to shore went on upriver and took a message to someone who sent another motor back down to us on another canoe.  We had an interesting time mixing with this family and enjoying the activity of the little kids.  The man picked several coconuts and used his machete to open them.  He gave each of us a coconut to drink the milk inside.  We sat and drank the coconut milk and enjoyed the treat.  Usually, they sell the coconuts for $1 each.  We tried to pay him but he refused.

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The place where we stopped.

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Jane, Raquel and Annabelle sat on an overturned canoe under the house to get in the shade.

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The people living here had three horses that roamed freely. 

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Several chickens were running around. 

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There were a couple little girls and a little boy that came out to greet us.  One little girl had on a frilly white dress.

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The people brought out plastic chairs for us to sit on.  Jane said these were probably the only chairs they had in the house.

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The man and his older son saddled up two horses to go into the land and drag out some trees and lumber.

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The saddle was one piece carved out of a tree trunk.

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This was a sugar cane processing mill.

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Food was cooking on the fire.

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He was skilled at using the machete to open up the coconuts.

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He chopped the outer shell off until he could slice through an edge of the cocomut and make a small opening to drink the coconut milk inside.  Each coconut probably contained a liter of milk.

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Jane is holding her coconut.

Once the new motor was installed, we we were on our way again and made it to Borbon by mid afternoon.  We all got some sunburn sitting in the boat the whole time without any shade.

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Borbon

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Approaching Borbon

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Borbon water front.  People are out doing laundry.

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Local Laundromat

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This large barge was sitting at a dock.  We went past this barge and then pulled up to some steps to get off the canoe.

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Once in Borbon, we spend a little time at Raquel’s office.  I was able to see her work more closely.  She had a map on the wall of all the river systems she works in to manage the river blindness medication distribution.  She goes to all the villages and there are probably over a hundred small villages like Zapallo Grande or smaller on the rivers.  Some of the villages are so remote that one has to hike carrying all the medication, sometimes for several hours just to reach the village.  Jane said some of the villages are really deep in the jungle.  Fortunately, the people are friendly and welcome visitors.  There are no tribal disputes or other types of conflict that would make it dangerous for Raquel.  I really respect Raquel for the work she has done over the years.  She has single-handedly eradicated a terrible disease from the people of Ecuador.

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This sign was on her office wall.

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This poster Raquel drew to illustrate the river system under her jurisdiction.  All of the colored dots represent villages she visits to distribute river blindness medicine.

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Raquel is pouring us some cold water.  She lives here in her office when she is not in Quito.

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Some of her pharmacy.

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The front desk of Raquel’s office.  I am impressed at the work Raquel does in reaching out to the people of the rivers.  She has done so much in helping these people just through the river blindness work and getting to know them so she can bring Jane and others to them for care.

Jane and I traveled from Borbon to San Lorenzo arriving here about 4:30 or so.  We unpacked and then got ourselves organized to start seeing patients tomorrow morning.  I got moved in and spent the evening working on email and catching up on downloading pictures.   

Lord, this opportunity to go to Zapallo Grande and see and experience a different culture was incredible.  Thank You for that.  It was such a joy to feel the call to go with You there and to participate in extending Your love and Your mercy to the people there.  You protected us throughout the time and even allowed us to spend some time with some very gracious people along the way.  You even allowed us to taste some of Your coconut milk.  Thank You, Lord for Your incredible unfailing love that You share so richly with everyone around the world.  Amen.

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