Mrs. Gillick and the medical mission people
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We interviewed our librarian, Mrs. Gillick, because she had recently been to the Amazon Rainforest with her husband.We wrote, and brainstormed about 50 questions and got way more information then we had expected. Take a look! (For your information Q: means question and A: means answer.)
Q: Why did you go to the Amazon Rainforest?
A: I was on a medical mission, and since it was between Christmas and New Year we didn't have much choice. Plus, we have always wanted to go to that part of the country since we speak some Spanish. It is always nice to know the language your patients speak.
Q: Who owns the rainforest?
A: The government owns the area along the river and they give parts to the people to live on.
Q: How do they travel?
A: They travel mostly by canoe. They also have covered ones for when it rains called river taxis. When they go on short trips into town they use their small canoes. Since there are so many tours, the people's life style sort of changed. Now the wealthy people even sometimes have floatplanes!
Q: What is the average number of people in a family?
A: The people's children mostly die because of mid-birth diseases, and other sicknesses. The average family has a mom, a dad, and usually between zero and three kids.
Q: Do they all ride in the same canoe on their to-town rides?
Q: How many canoes per family?
A: Only one.
Q: What does their hut look like from the outside?
A: Their huts are generally square and probably about 20'x20' or smaller. The sides come up usually about part way and it is rare to see a hut with walls. Some of them do have walls though, but all of them have a thatch roof.
Q: What does the inside of their hut look like?
A: They use whatever kind of boards they can find. They are usually rough and there are splinters everywhere. Sometimes they use bamboo sticks and tie them together with rope to make walls and stuff. Also, they keep their food in cardboard boxes, and what they want to keep away from their animals is hung from the ceiling. They also have sheep, and some dogs that roam on their property, and the women have brushes, and brooms. Their houses are surprisingly clean. There is a spot on the wall where they keep their hammocks during the day.
Q: Where do they sleep?
A: They have separate hammocks for each person. They hang them and when they wake up in the morning they fold them together and put them into a divot in the wall.
Q: How does one family know if another family owns a piece of land?
A: They know because they travel in canoe and they will see a path from a canoe to a hut. They only take about two acres so the people will probably go about four more miles up river to settle if it is open.
Q: What was one experience you had while you were there?
A: One day some people invited us into their home. They didn't have much to offer so we drank tea with them. Seeing how proud they were of what they had was great. It was so hard to live there and they were so proud. Another experience was I watched a woman wash her clothes in the river. She would soak it then scrub on a rock, then bang it and start over. They didn't use much soap.
Q: Did you go into the rainforest often?
A: Yes. We went three times on tours. We went on our time off from the clinic on walks with the naturalist that was there with us. One time I asked the naturalist, how do we get Heart of Palm? He said he would show me so he went over to a small palm tree that was growing nearby and cut it down with his machete. Then, he cut off the outside branches and the bark and said taste this and I did and it was Heart of Palm! Heart of palm is like a pickle that they put on salads in fancy restaurants.
Q: Where did you stay?
A: We stayed on a large houseboat that can sleep about 25 people. This boat was built by a man and a woman a while back named Mike, and Susie. They had come to the Amazon on a mission like ours, they were Americans and had come from Georgia. The woman was a nurse, and the man was a mobile home manufacturer. The people needed medical care and medicine like the kinds that she could get to them. She had seen a man earlier that had been bitten by a poisonous snake and needed medical care fast. That helped her make up her mind. They were very wealthy people and sold their home, and one of the trailer parks that they owned. They bought and designed the boat we were on on our mission. The temperature averaged about 90-degrees per day and the best about the boat was that there was air-conditioning! Also, there was a bathroom in each cabin, and a bunk bed, and a dining room. It was really nice.
Q: How long did you stay for?
A: Eight days and seven nights.
Q: What do they eat?
A: They are mostly vegetarian because they mostly eat what they grow. They have over fished a lot of the fish in the river and are taking more to farming. Some of the stuff they farm is banana trees, plantains, papaya, and mango. Also, they have fruits that Americans have never laid eyes on! They also grow corn.
Q: How do they make a living?
A: The men go into the jungle (which is their back yard) and cut down palm leaves. They then dry them for about a week. They pre-thatch them then load them onto their canoes and take them to town to sell. Another way is to sell small trinkets to the tourists. They sell beaded baskets, woven work, other beaded work, and necklaces, and earrings made out of seed from the rainforest. All the work is very difficult. The main things they sell are items like, machetes, buckets, plastic and charcoal. They get the charcoal by burning trees to just the right point and then putting the fire out. They bring the charcoal in chunks and give them to people in gunnysacks.
Q: Where do they get supplies?
A: They buy them from Iquitos, a town in the Amazon forest, or from whatever town they sell their goods in. It is about two or three blocks of stalls that people sell their things in.
Q: What is a machete made out of?
A: Some type of tempered steel that is flat on one side and a knife on the other. It is about three inches wide and the people sharpen it on a rock. Every time they sharpen it, it wears down a bit. A man might have one machete all of his life and by the time he is old it will be about a half inch to an inch wide.
Q: Are the different people's property widely spaced from one another?
A: No. The houses in the core of the city are pretty close together but the further you travel outward the more spaced it is.
Q: Do they eat the river dolphin?
A: No way! They are not even allowed to catch one!
Q: What happens in a medical emergency?
A: The people will call the witch doctor, which is also called a Shaman. They do the craziest things! The Shaman will burn them if they have an open wound! Sometimes he will even poke the patient with pins! It is bizarre! They strongly believe in evil and think the pain from a sickness is brought to them by demons!
Q: Do they have schools for the kids?
A: Yes. Most of the kids can read and write. They don't have much to read but they can read. The adults can't read as much, though.
Q: What kind of animals did you see in the zoo?
A: We saw jaguar, cheetah, iguana, all kinds of parrot, all kinds of snakes, different kinds of monkeys, wild tapir, leopards, and LOTS of fish. They had piranha, catfish, and a lot more. The zoo wasn't even the kind of zoo we have. It was a lot of fences in a giant field. There were lots of animals from the rainforest. It was really interesting.
Q: What cities did you visit?
A: We only visited Iquitos but traveled to lots of different villages.
Q: Did you meet many of native people?
A: Not really. It was kind of like "Hi, where does it hurt, here is your medicine, bye" type of thing. We really didn't get aquainted with the patients. Two young men that were there went out every night after dinner and talked and walked with the people. He brought them small McDonalds toys, and gave them to the children. They really like doing that.
Q: Where the people friendly?
A: Oh yes! They were courteous and respectful, and nice as all get out!
Q: Do they really sell animals for like $0.25 like they do in books, and movies?
A: No the government is really cracking down, because they realize their natural recourse.
Q: Did you really see Pink River Dolphins, and where?
A: Yes! We saw them at the mouth of the Amazon, when we came in off a tributary. It was really neat, they were even jumping! I tried to get some pictures but they didn't turn out.
Q: What was another experience you had?
A: We were walking through the forest and the naturalist stopped us and cut a piece of leaf . He had us smell it and it smelled pretty bad. He then said, if we were to smell this smell again to stop, and hold perfectly still. It either means there is a big snake around, or tarantulas. After a while he stopped us again and said do you smell that? We said yes and we held still. He poked around with his machete until he found a nest of tarantulas. It was pretty scary.
Q: Can you describe the smell that meant there were tarantulas or a big snake was around?
A: No not really. It kind of smelt like dirt. It also smelled somewhat like spices. It was a spicy dirt smell I guess.
Q: Were there River Dolphin in the zoo?
A: No. They probably need the current. They were jumping when we saw them, and I don't think they could live like other zoo animals. They are very different creatures.
Q: Do piranha bite the people when they bathe?
A: No, not really. The people have learned how to stay and get away.
Q: Did you have to bathe and drink from the river?
A: No way! We bathed on the boat in showers, and drank pop, and bottled water. Stuff like that.
Q: Did you enjoy your stay and would you come back again?
A: Oh yes! I really liked it! I really like the people I met. This time I was joined by a high school principal, some kids, and nurses on our trip.
Q: Did you see many animals at night where you stayed?
A: No. We were on the river and not many animals come to the shore at night. We weren't really watching anyway. We heard a lot of animals though like owls, monkeys, and lemurs. There were no coyotes, and/or wolves to hear howl.
Q: Did you fish?
A: Some kids that had come with us did but I didn't. You had to have your own pole. We didn't. The kids did catch fish though. One caught a piranha, and the rest were these catfish looking things that no one know what they were.
Q: Did you see any manatees?
A: No, but we knew they were there. We did see them in the zoo though. They are really weird looking.
Q: How far did you travel upriver?
A: About 150 miles up and 150 miles back down.
Q: How many miles did you travel upriver each day?
A: Actually, we traveled at night. We probably went between twenty and thirty miles a night.
Q: Did you go into the rainforest itself?
A: Yes. Three times.
Q: Are their small canoes easy to tip over?
A: Yes. All they are, are trees dug out, and hallowed.
Q: Is poaching a problem there?
A: We didn't see any, but yes it is. The government is trying to stop it now though which is good.
Thank you Mrs. Gillick and we hope you go back to the Amazon someday.
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