Posted by: Matrixity | October 17, 2007

Sao Felix: Morning Session

This morning is Thursday, July 19th, 2007. After spending last night in the river we sailed back to Sao Felix to finish up our program there. The morning session was to be vacation bible school, more teeth brushing and womens group. This would be our second 1/2 day in that village. For breakfast we had some sort of white corn mixture and milk. It reminded me of white hominy we can get in the states. In the amazon it is called Munguza. In other parts of Brazil, munguza(recipe) is called cangica. It was sweet and eaten with milk.

Hair Braiding Sessions

The day began with hair braiding sessions. All of us were armed with brushes and hair bows/clips/ties of all sorts. These little girls have never been to a salon so we wanted to do something they had never had before. It began just for the little girls, then the mothers wanted it as well.

Most of the girls had never seen themselves in a mirror. When we pulled out a mirror here and at an earlier village, they were nervous and some were afraid to see themselves. They would look but not for very long.

Braiding Hair of Mura girls in the Amazonn

Me braiding hair

This morning there was a large group for vacation bible school. There were about 60 kids or more. We did the crafts, songs and giving out prizes. Where we were holding the activities was at the localschool. There was a teacher there but there were no school books of any kind. The supplies were gave were school supplies and the extra was given to the teacher at the end to be distributed as needed. It was extra notebooks, glue and a coloring book of the bible. In addition, the teacher was todl that in 30 minutes when our session was just about over, she could come to the boat and get even more supplies.

It seems like used school books from Sao Paulo could be sent here to be used. I asked about it and was told that for political reasons no books could be sent. It seems a shame that politics get in the way no matter where in thw world you are. The good thing is that Jonathas told us at one of our sessions that they are plans to hire a teacher who will be there full time and that there is even money to pay her. So, some progress is being made for the future.

After the hair braiding was vacation bible school.

Vacation bible school 3rd village

We did more crafts and this time a few of the men got involved as well as the mothers.  Then it was back to the boat to the next village for the afternoon.

Posted by: Matrixity | October 5, 2007

The Bug Whisperer

After visiting Sao Felix today and having to leave to spend the night docked in the middle of the river, I realized just how alive the Amazon nights are. Out on deck it is fine to go in the dark with a flashlight in case you need it. You just do not want to have to turn it on for any length of time. The many large flying critters will find you by the light. It is very loud at night as well. The river is alive with all sorts of strange sounds. Mostly it was the sounds of frogs that was deafening all night. I loved it. It was my intention to record a night on my cell phone but I forgot! Sometimes there was the occasional loud flip flop sound from something big in the water. Could it be the beautiful and elusive pink dolphin or large deadlycaiman? You just did not want to know about the last one. Well, it could be a very large fish like the Pirarucu that could take off an arm it it wanted to.

For the most part, my cabin mates and I learned to leave the cabin lights off when we went in and out to go to the bathroom because the very second it was on and the door opened, the bugs just flew into the light enmasse . No matter how hard we tried to minimize the bugs, there were always bugs in my bed and there were odd and pretty bugs in the room. I was always ready to yell, “where is my boot?” To kill it. Virginia on the other hand was always saying, “No. I will get it.” And she did. Virgina was the bug whisperer. She would collect whatever large and most different creature it was in her hands and place it gently outside so that it would live to bite another day. Finally all in the cabin referred all the bugs to her. She even had dragon flies landing on her during the day and visiting on her for long periods of time. I did get a very blurred picture of this but, it was so blurred I will not post it. My hand must have slipped on that picture.


Me in the cabin….no in the domain of the bug whisperer


This is right before bed. I had the top bunk. See that stool? It was hard for Sue and I to get up and down so we stole a plastic stool. She did. I had no idea where it came from. She had it in our room one day. It stayed the entire trip. We used it daily between the two of us.


I came prepared for bugs. I had gone to Passport health and purchased the “mosquito kit” that was recommended when I got all those shots. It had odorless repellent and a small bottle of sting ease in it. I loaded up on repellent daily. I even treated my clothes with that special repellent as well. Plus I had Joan at the church praying for me…no bites. She told me that was her constant prayer while I was gone..that I would not be bitten. I did not get a single bite when I was there. Not one. I did not even encounter a single mosquito flying around me at all.


Sue on the other hand stepped into a mound of large ants and her foot was stung multiple times. She had a terrible itch and she mentioned it to me. I whipped out my bottle of sting ease and allowed her to use it. She did get some relief.


I remember getting up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Nancy and I and I think Virginia as well and the boat was docking someplace else. We watched as they used a large searchlight to check the water level, check the land and finally move in close to tie up to some trees in the middle of no-where. It was amazing because the Amazon river is not charted, hence the need for the searchlight. With it all being flooded forest and farmland beneath us, that is just forest and farm land most of the year when the water is low, there are not navigational charts like we think of in America. So search lights and depth finders are used. After staying on deck for awhile, the boat moved in closer to a small strip of land and Isaac got out and tied us up to a tree stump. Even at night the scenery is beautiful. Back to be bed we all went! Sue did not wake up. She was sleeping a very sound sleep.

Posted by: Matrixity | October 3, 2007

Party Boat on the Amazon River

After dinner each night members of both the American team and the Brazilian team normally would congregate in the common room and socialize. There was always sweet, black Brazilian coffee and cookies, someone would play the guitar and there was lots of loud laughter all around. (I was the quiet one when I laughed…you know how quiet I laugh). This evening ( and it is still Wednesday , July 18th) Isaac, one of the crew members brings out a bag of hand made jewelry that he sells to the missionaries. Of course we Americans fell in love with it all. It was all beautiful. Most of us bought all our souveniers for the people back home from him. I did.

I bought a brazil wood cross that had the three symbols representing the presbyterian church, the medical boat and Manaus. This was for Whitney. For my mother I got a bracelet made from brazilwood, tucuma, murucu and blue acai. My bracelet was all natural acai and brazilwood. I got some other things as well for some others.


Here we all are just hangin’ out



Here is the group of us all together. You can see the jewelry spread

out on the table. That was the night we made our purchases.

Caio, the Brazilian dentist for the trip, who was the serious cutie patootie on the ship broke out the Brazilian chocolate. I have never tasted chocolate like that. It was a life altering experience. It was a large bar of Diamante Negro. The American team could not stop eating it. That chocolate and the black brazilian coffee and I was wired for the next two hours.

Diamonte Negro

Sue told us simply hysterical stories about her family. She was very animatedd when she told them and she had all nearby rolling with laughter. One was about how she gave away the family dog and then took her children to Walt Disney World to help them forget about the dog. The other was about her son talking back to her. They both fell down on the stairs. Sue was going down but she was taking her son with her!

Posted by: Matrixity | October 3, 2007

Sao Felix: Early Evening

In the post just before the last one I indicated that Nancy and I had come back just a little early to be sure we had enough of that brown Amazon water to take a shower in. We did not have to stand all soaped up in the shower for 30 or minutes waiting for a few trickles of water to come from the shower heads. We had lots of water pressure because the tanks were still full. After our showers we went up on the top deck and just sat in the breeze. It was slightly windy and very cool. It was heavenly. The sun began to dip slightly as it would soon be dark. As we sat there we had our very first thunder storm in the Amazon. Me, the crazy one told Sue and Nancy that I wanted to experience everything that was to experience, including a storm. They both looked at me like I had three heads. They both said that we were a large metal boat on a very large river of water with nothing around at all. We would be the only target that lightening would find! They said they were both praying against me on that one.

Just as we were talking about it, it began to get dark in the distance and it began to thunder and lightening. It was heat lightening. No rain ever came. It thundered for a while, the clouds got dark and then light again and all of a sudden a very large rainbow appeared in the sky! It was fantastic. That was my thunderstorm on the Amazon. Thunder. Clouds and Rainbows.

Storm Brewing

View from the deck as Nancy and I sat on deck enjoying the breeze!Mirror images

Mirror images of plants as we sat on the deck.

The tunderstorm and heat lightening began and we were left with a rainbow.

Here I am with on deck with the rainbow over my shoulder.

Rainbow and Me

Below is the same rainbow from the village view.

Rainbow in the Amazon

Just a little while later we got word from the village that the soccer game with the kids had just ended and that a villager was riding a local bull. Kind of an Amazonian rodeo going on. Crazy! I did not go down to see it. I went back to the deck and the breeze. Some of the brazilianship crew still fished for those elusive pirahna so that we could have pirahna soup. They promised. They did not catch a darn thing! I was disappointed. It began to get dark so we undocked and shoved off to spend the night in the middle of the river. For safety, we could not stay tied up at night at the villages. These were not people of our time. They still believed in magic and that is their native religion. Plus the indians who lived in the interior jungles could be hunting at night or may have seen us during the day and did not know who we were. We may have been a threat. Jonathas told us that there are still no less than 30 active cannibal tribes in the interior jungles of the Amazon. We were deep off the beaten path so when dusk came we had to get far away from any village or land for our own safety.


Sao Felix at dusk as we pulled off to spend the night away from shore.


Dinner was some sort of soup that seemed like it was a combination of leftovers of all the dinners we had to date. It was good, but it was like the kitchen sink with all kinds of stuff in it.


Posted by: Matrixity | September 25, 2007

Limited Medical Care for the People of the Amazon


One of the things that struck me as harsh was the lack of adequate medical care for the villagers along the riverbanks of the Amazon.  I know that is it due to the  remoteness of the area and their tribal lifestyle that is under presevation by the Funai.  While the rest of Brazil enjoy socialized medicine, it works well, IF you can get to a doctor.  It hit home to me when the young woman fainted during the service while we were still at Natal.   We were able to whisk her over to the medical boat by canoe and have her checked out.  She was revived but if there was something really wrong, we would be able to do nothing.  We were a floating medical boat but only for check ups. One of my room mates, Virginia summed it up best and made it hit home.  We were talking..what would happen if someone had a heart attack or went into labor and had trouble?  Virginia said they would just die.  Just die with no help at all.  They have no medical care and the mision boats are not frequest visitors as the Mura live in the flooded forest.  People from the outside world only have access for a short period of time each year.  For the most of the year, they are cut off from what we call modern civilization.

That made me sad.  I thought of all the recently expired drugs we were stocked with and all that we had given out to treat all the parasites and worms and colds.  These few doses were all that they would have for a very long time.


At night my cabin mates and I would sit around and talk about the day in our very small, animal filled  cabin.  The dental stories were just terrible.  There were some people with so much decay that jaw bone was exposed.  Teeth were broken off and there was little to nothing to hold on to,  to do the extraction.  And there was no anethesia.. just knumbing, so extractions were done with little medication.  I think that the pain of the extraction was less than the long term tooth amd mouth pain the Indians had lived with.  There would be a little pain relief, short term antibiotics and off they were sent with  a piece of  gauze stuffed in.  I am so glad I do have access to medical care in my life.  If some sort of horrid infection developed after we left from parasites in the water or whatever…they were on their own.   It made me wince just to think about it,  so I tried not to.  Jonathas said a time or two,  that it might not seem like we were making a difference but we were.  What little seeds of hope we planted when we were there, was making the difference for  the villagers  right then at  that time and place.  They needed so much more. 

dental clonic in the amazon

here are 2 of my cabin mates working

in the dental clinic with the brazilian dentist

There is hope for the future, though.  Jonathas told us that there are plans for a mission in the next few weeks to open the first clinic that is free standing.  Progress is being made.

With medical care being so limited, I asked where and how the dead were buried with all this water, water everywhere! I was told that since there is no method of embalming, the dead are buried quite away from the villages due to the smell of rotting bodies.  There are no real tools like metal shovels so the graves are shallow ones.  Some bodies are in wooden coffins and some not.  Normally to get to the burial place there is a water procession by boat with the body in the lead boat, sometimes in a coffin or sometimes not.  On our trip back home I did see one cemetary.  It was high in the cliffs and near the waters edge.  Based on the water stain levels in the red clay beneath the cliff, the water at times was very near flooding the cemetary.  If there was any more erosion in that area by the Amazon river, bodies would be floating away within a year or two.  I did see a few woooden crosses standing, otherwise you would never know it was a cemetary.

Posted by: Matrixity | September 23, 2007

Sao Felix: Afternoon Arrival

Well, as I earlier said, we left Natal right at lunch time to sail to Sao Felix. This was a larger village than Natal. We would arrive by 2pm to begin our program again. This is the view as we arrived.

Sao Felix

Off to the right was “Escola Municipal Indigena Dr. Jaconino” building. I never made it down to that building to the right, as all the activities were at the end of a cowpatty loaded trail, at the community center. This village looked like it has some electricity as there was a electrical pole up and it lead to some houses. I asked Amanda about this and she said that the electricity was used sometimes if someone had a tv or most likely for a generator that the village used at times.

Sao Felix

The afternoon was spent with Amada, Denny and the members of the American team who worked VBS. We put together crayon packets for VBS which would be held on tomorrow morning. The doctor and dentist saw patients. After that we took a nap. The heat was exhausting and then Nancy and I headed down to the village to visit the people there. Michelle stayed on board and basically read books. I am not sure, but I do not think she did a lot of visiting with the villagers. Once we got the the village we helped teach the children how to brush their teeth.

As you will recall in an earlier post, the dental team did nothing but extractions all week. Only one filling. The dental hygeine there is just non existant, so a group of us did teach the kids how to brush at this village as well. There were about 40 kids and we just lined them all up and demostrated how to brush. We gave each child a toothbrush and a tube of toothpaste and a small cup of bottled water. Then we demostrated and spit out on the ground. They might never pick up that toothbrush again once we leave, but at least we made a little difference while we were there.

Brushing teeth in the Amazon

Toothbrush and toothpaste distribution

Sue: Dental Team

Showing the kids how to brush


Teeth Brushing Class

Group picture with me on the left rear

with some of the kids after teeth brushing class


Some of our hard work did pay off.

Young girl brushing her teeth in the river just

as we were about to leave for the evening.


After assisting with the dental class Nancy and I wanted to try to have some water to take a shower, so we went back to the boat and took showers. I think we skipped the service this evening. I was tired. I remember a nice long river water shower and feeling how good it felt to wash my hair. Then it was time to wait for dinner!



Posted by: Matrixity | September 23, 2007

The Mura Tribe

The people that we were visiting on this wonderful trek down the Amazon River was the Mura Tribe. I tried to find out as much as I could about them when I got back and they are most interesting. The Mura tribe live on an actual Indian reservation. In Brazil, the indigenous population are protected by the FUNAI (the federal Indian agency, National Indigenous Peoples Foundation). The National Foundation for Indians – is the Brazilian official agency in charge of protecting indian interests and protecting their culture. FUNAI has the legal duty and rights to accompany the lives of indians all across Brazil, and because of this it is the best source of information about Brazilian indians.

FUNAI estimates that there are today about 345,000 indians in Brazil, grouped in about 215 small societies (tribes) . Even though the indian reserved areas are protected from third parties, the indians don’t have privileges in exploring their lands. All economic activity conducted by indians or within their reserves must be overseen by FUNAI. Unlike the north american indians, who have special licenses for, among other activities, establish and explore casinos in their reserves, Brazilian indians have no economic privileges.The Mura, or Múra-Pirahã are hunters and gatherers. They mainly live in Amazonas, along the Maici and Autaces rivers. There numbers had been declining, but due to some intervention by modern medicine, there has been a slight increase in population. They have just about lost their native language, which is called Múra. It is most likely related to Matanawi, which is extinct. Members of the Pirahã can whistle their language, which is how its men communicate when hunting in the jungle.

Mura Indians

It is reported that the hunter-gatherers seem to be the only group of humans known to have no concept of numbering and counting. Not only that, but adult Múra-Pirahã apparently can’t learn to count or understand the concept of numbers or numerals. They are the only people known to have no distinct words for colours. They have no written language, and no collective memory going back more than two generations. They do not believe that outsiders understand their language even after they have just carried on conversations with them. They have no creation myths, tell no fictional stories and have no art.

mura villagers

They practice a native religion that is some form of witchcraft. I think is is Quimbanda. Rituals are concerned with necromancy, divination or preparation of amulets, potions or other devices intended to bring supernatural aid, to obtaining resources or to deal with other areas of life. While we were there only a handful of people decided to accept Christ as their savior. It was not a thing we pushed on the indians. We told them about God and asked if anyone wanted to accept Christianity during the daily worship service. No forcing of anything.

The people to me were just beautiful. The kids were very well behaved. Even more well behaved than some American children. Could be that since they do not have the stimulation of television and internet that our kids have, makes for a totally different child. Some of the children were a little timid and so were some of the women. I recall two who turned away when I was taking pictures.

Posted by: Matrixity | September 20, 2007

Mystical Toothbrush Experience!!

The Proper Way to Brush Your Teeth in the Amazon
This was a funny story of sorts. We ate lunch as we sailed along to the next village. After lunch I was waiting by the bathroom door for whoever was in there to come out so that I could brush my teeth. I had my toothbrush, cup and bottled water. Someone asked me what I was doing? What else could I be doing? I was waiting to brush my teeth. I was then informed that for the Amazon I was doing it all wrong. I asked what was the correct way? I had my bottled water. I was not using the brown river water that flowed from all the faucets.

I was told that the proper way was to brush your teeth on deck and spit everything over the side of the boat. EGADS! What sort of teeth brushing was this? My mamma never taught me to spit over the side of anything. Then I began to look around and ask and just about everyone I spoke to said they were doing the same thing. I even saw them all doing it. Now my cabin mates were not….not consistently. I decided to try it.

The key was to be sure that noone was standing on the deck below doing the same thing. Just look down before spitting to be sure you did not spray someone else on a lower deck or a boat full of villagers who came to dock before we even got to a village. It was a practice I did not keep up. I may have done it a total of three times the entire trip. I went back to brushing with my bottled water using the bathroom sink!

Posted by: Matrixity | September 11, 2007

Need Gas?

Do you ever think about gas in the Amazon? I did. We had traveled more than 24 hours in one direction with no sort of gas fill up at all. I was curious about this but rest assured, running out of gas in the Amazon would never happen. You would just boat on down to your local convenience store and gas station and fill her up!

These were stationed all along the Amazon River. This is the typical Amazon gas station. This was an amazing site to see!

Amazon Gas Station

Posted by: Matrixity | September 10, 2007

Natal and Departure

River View

The view from the shore was lots of water. The entire village was just about flooded. VBS is over and we are going to transport back to the boat by canoe. Need I saw that I was in the canoe with people each time who almost tipped it over! It was either them or me about to tip over into the water. That was an adventure!

VBS ending

There I am in the green shirt and beige shorts handing out paper crosses

After VBS Pastor John held the service and donations were given out to the few families that were there. During the service a young indian woman fainted. We do not know why but she was taken to the boat so that the doctors could check her out. It made me think about the medical care after we left. There was none. So whatever happened to them once we were gone, they were on their own. If they got seriously hurt, then they just died. Virginia and I spoke about that. Sad…but it is their way of life. They are so remote that no one can get to them, even if they wanted to.

canoe at Natal

Me heading back to the boat via canoe

We would be going back to the boat by canoe to have lunch. While we were eating we would be traveling to another village to provide services to them at 2pm. Once I got back to the main boat the young woman who fainted was still at the room used for medical triage. She seemed okay. I approached her and shook her hand. I hoped that she would be okay. We had lunch. I tried to cool down by going to the room for awhile. We traveled on to the next village. So long Natal.


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