My eyes open to the symphony of bird songs swelling outside my widow, the light is still in soft grays. A fresh breeze is coming up from the water through the silowhetted trees. Running shorts, Tee-shirt… and then with socks and shoes in hand I quietly nudge the screen door open, not wanting to awaken Maria.
Luzeiro bounces over, leaping up at my knees, and tripping over himself like only a puppy can. Nipping at my socks, he nearly absconds with one before it gets on my foot. Then it is the shoe laces, I can hardly tie them down, “You silly dog! Come Here, yeah that’s a good dog! Oh, you’re so sweet!” As I stretch muscles, he chases his little tail – nearly two circles and then flop! He trips and hits the tile, but his tail is gripped victoriously between his little teeth and he gives it a good knawing before a beetle distracts his attention! I climb over the fence a ways down from the entrance because I don’t want him to discover he is small enough to fit under the gate. “I’ll be back!” I respond to yipping pouts, and my feet pick up rhythm along the dirt road.
Doves with rosy tinted feathers scatter into the overgrown edges, Kiskadees flash yellow breasts in the sunlight that is now slanting golden through morning clouds. Something like a sore-throated turkey with a hiccup calls from within the jungles curtain, and other groups of this funny bird answer in a chortling greeting. My thoughts modulate into prayers matching the steady pattern of my steps - thoughts of hope, love, and protection for those I love.
Descending the rumpled road that curves down into the little town of Puraquequara, a motorcycle turns onto the road in front of me – two guys and probably 50 pounds of Tucumá headed to the market.Asphalt, a curve, a slope, a dip down past the garbage dump. Awkward vultures hop out of the way, to lazy to fly. Their funny warted heads and dusty feathers seem at home with the stench of trash, and dirty water trickling across the street. I pass a small girl dressed in the government school uniform, an elderly man carry a bag of fresh crusty buns from the Panderia, a little boy chasing a rooster. Brazilian tunes bounce out from the radio of a corner store.
People are not accustomed to seeing a girl jog through the streets. Running is for soccer fields, catching chickens, buses, and taxis. They pretend not to stare, and I pretend not to notice. “Bom dia,” I puff to an elderly woman walking with her granddaughter toward the bus station. “Bom dia,” she grins. The bus squeals to a stop and the people scramble aboard, it passes me twice on the next few roads as it picks up people headed for Manaus. Cresting one of the higher points in the loop I can seen the Amazon river in the distance.
Circling back through the streets I pass the dump and the little sitios on the edge of town. The bumpy road climbs the steep hill, my toes strike at the clay, my lungs grasp the air. There is little flat ground in this region, it is either up or down or water. I follow the clay road to its end - to home. The lake is beginning to take on the blue of the sky, and two pairs of parakeets chatter their way across the sky. The day has begun.
I forgot the name - but you boil it and make what ever you imagine the smells match... for example - scalloped potatoes for Sabbath dinner! Everyone liked it :) But forgot to take a picture of the final creation...
Photo flashbacks to the miracle filled years of when IAAI Instituto Adiventista Agro Industrial was started by my grandparents and a team of other dedicated people with a vision of providing education to the children from the interior areas of the Amazon.
Below is a clipping of when the govenor of the state awarded the SDA church with 25,000 acres of land for this agricultural school to be constructed! In the height of their program, the school had 100 greenhouses among other productive industries where the students could earn their tuition, and gain an education in practical skills. As a birthday gift, I met with my Grandma and traveled out to IAAI. It was a privilege to visit this special place and hear the miracle stories firsthand.
This is the Paraiba, the little river that runs through the jungle down behind the school.
The road down to the swimming hole in the Paraiba, where they used to trek down morning and evening to bathe, do laundry, and haul water up for cleaning, cooking, and drinking. Exploring the old road that Papa blazed out to where the school was to be built through what was virgin jungle at that time. Now - half puddles - due to the rainy season. Pe de Moleki - an typical Indian food made from Mandioc root and baked in banana leaves. A yummy treat! The first house Papa constructed here on the land. There were thatch roofed shacks before, but this was the first wooden house - still in good condition after many years. Rio Preto, the river through the little town several kilometers away.
Looking to the future - Inspired by the past - Content in the Present
"You should come visit my church sometime, I think that your grandfather could find healing there." Martin's German-accented English seems odd in the middle of this Brazilian hospital hall, like a clownfish in a school of Tambaki. "What church do you go to?" I keep one ear tuned to the cubbyhole of a nurses station where a specialist Dr. from the Adventist hospital is going over Papa's chart. "It is the church of the Amazon. We meet out in the jungle and drink a special drink made from the leaves of a certain plant cooked with fibers of a jungle vine. And we sing beautiful music – hymns." "Why do you drink this stuff?" "So you can talk to yourself." I burst out laughing and then bit my lip trying to stifle my rudeness. "Really. So what does this stuff do on the molecular level?" Surely an educated man such as he would have put some thought into this. "It enables you to connect with your inner self, to gain knowledge and insight. You need only five ingredients; the leaf, the vine, fire, water, and time." The more serious I realize he is, the more I begin to pray. "When you drink it, you connect with yourself, from deep down to your higher self and the higher spirits of the world. To find out where you came from and what is important in life." "Those are questions that every human asks at some point in their life," I comment trying to gauge when I can mention the hope of my heart. He nods gravely, "I was in Nepal for a time and I know the beliefs of the Buddhists, Hindus, and many of the other Eastern religions. They are good, but now I have found the true religion. The ancient religion of the Amazon it dates back hundreds of years to the indigenous tribes of this area. We also pray to Jesus Christ and the Virgin Mary." "And this religion gives you peace?" I ask. God, a little more time please, I can see the Dr. heading my way. "Yes, more and more it does." "Well," The Dr. begins, "I have looked over everything and there is no necrotizing tissue so there is no need to operate. The culture and sensitivity results have returned and he has been switched to the specific antibiotic to combat the infection. Here is my name and number, if you need anything call me." "Thank you very much," I take the paper with his number and hear one of the nurses calling me to go check Papas' IV. Excusing myself I head towards the room, God how can people actually believe this stuff! So sad, empty – brown goo? Lord, I haven't had a chance to explain, but please plant one of your plants in his heart.
(The past week I have spent over 100 hours in the hospital with Papa, 24-hour shifts, and night shifts. It was an amazing learning experience that really helped me appreciate my education, and enhanced my understanding of how Brazilian healthcare works. The following snippets are a small selection God's blessings.)
"Oi! Senhora!" A hospital employee waved Papa's cane at me. "You forgot this." Embarrassedly expressing thanks I retrieved the cane and turned back to the wheelchair. In strongly accented Portuguese Papa was praying for the tropical giant. The transporter was the largest Brazilian I had ever seen. On our way to the new room when Papa commented on his height he said that he was 1 meter and 95 cm. Yet in spite of his strength he was battling a force stronger then himself, the addiction of nicotine, and for this release Papa was praying.
"Wait here please," the man disappeared around the corner and I wilted onto an empty seat near Papa's wheelchair. The hallways of the government hospital 28th of August were lined with gurneys, make shift IV poles, and people waiting with their loved ones. There was a muted drone of voices, punctuated by the hospital staff scurrying in and out among the masses, and framed by brown uniformed security guards at the entrances. God, it would be nice to be inside a room tonight – instead of this crowded hallway. Minutes later, two sisters I meet at Graças'clinic rounded the corner nearly stepping on us. They were both nurses who worked at this hospital come to find us after their shift finished. Familiar faces, greetings, and helpful assurance.
Shoving a plastic sack under the metal frame I tried not to feel the roomful of nearly 20 pairs of eyes watching us. This was the 3rd room that evening and it was nearing midnight. The communication system of the hospital is still a mystery to me. "Where is my cane?" Papa looked up at me with bewilderment as he transferred from the wheelchair to the bed. "I've got to have my cane." "I don't know, I'll go look for it." I dumped his sheets beside him and retraced our steps through the crowded halls where we waited and could not find it anywhere. God, a cane seems small, but I know that you know where it is… and ummm… it's nearly midnight. I barely sat down to explain temporary defeat when Martin, a German patient with a broken arm from our second room sauntered in swinging the renegade cane. "I thought you might be looking for this." He grinned at my relief, "He left it in the bathroom." Papa smiled with appreciation, "You just helped to answer my prayer."
The small room was lit by a small light on the side, and now after 1 p.m. most of the 10 patients in the room were beginning to drift off. There was barely room for a plastic lawn chair to fit between each bed. Nearly 20 people in a room less then the size of 2 hospital rooms in the States, and one bathroom at the end for us all and all the beds in the hall. Protocol seems to be if you need another place for someone you just tape a number up on an empty section of a wall. Papa smiles, squeezes my hand, and closes his eyes.
I zeroed my hearing onto the guards voice, trying to make my neurons synapse faster to decipher what he said . . . something like "do you need something?" "No, I'm just waiting." "You're not a Brazilian are you." I shook my head, wishing that it wasn't so obvious. "Where are you from?" "The United States" "Do you speak English?" He asks in English, grinning at his own attempt. "Sometimes I just feel the need to speak English." Then he switches back to Portuguese, "Jesus loves you. You did not come to Brazil to become weaker. God is with you, and He will bless you." Then he disappeared down the crowded hall. God, you knew that I needed to hear that. Thank you.