Tahuayo Lodge, Amazon

Old Nov 1st, 2016, 07:52 AM
  #21  
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Dolly held forth for quite some time, during which dogs, puppies, chickens, and children played, crawled, laughed, screamed, barked and rolled around at their mothers' feet. The room wasn't so much a health clinic as a women's rest, much like I had seen before in New Zealand. This was a perfect escape hatch for mothers to come and socialize,bring their kids, get out of the house for a while and enjoy each other. The husbands couldn't argue with a visit to the clinic, a sniffling child or a sore back. Meanwhile, moms could gossip, laugh, and get away from the drudgery of their lives for a while.

In this instance, Dolly was taking a rare opportunity to educate the women about what happens to the female body when one has a child late in life. She has spent untold hours shadowing caregivers that Angels of the Amazon has hired for the clinic, and she has gotten and education in medicine that she hadn't planned on. It's helped her better understand some of the challenges the women face, and they listen to her. The influence of religious pressure, in some cases the evangelicals in particular, can make it challenging for these wives to say no to husbands who want to keep having kids later in life no matter the consequences to the mother. But they listen to Dolly and she takes advantage of every chance she gets.

The women are the reason that family size has dropped from 8/12 kids to 4/6 and lower. That has reduced the financial pressure as well as the physical pressure, and it has also allowed a number of the families to send more kids to school.
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Old Nov 1st, 2016, 08:03 AM
  #22  
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The day of our celebration, Dolly and I head into town to see what's being done. At Estelita's house, which sits strategically on the corner of the soccer field, many women are gathered, cutting chicken for the big meal. Garlic cloves are being peeled, and abuela, the village shamaness, is helping. This house has the best porch in town for breezes and it's where all the tourists come use the toilet. And, it's the main store, where Estelita convinced her husband to create a few shelves to sell drinks, candy bars and other goods.

That's another fun story. Estelia breaks into giggles. At first, he resisted mightily, arguing that he wasn't a salesman. However, after a few weeks when tourist money began to pour in the door, he began pushing Estelita to expand the store and now he won't leave her alone about it.

The store has become a magnet for people to gather, and while it also provides a few too many sweets to cause decay, it does create an income source for the family. Estelita's daughter now goes to school in Iquitos and for the first time, there is genuine hope for a family member to get advanced schooling and become a professional.

As Dolly and I talk to the women who are cutting the chicken and garlic, more women walk up and bring vegetables. It's going to be one heck of a party. The gaeity is infectious.

At first, just the women were going to celebrate. But the men, who had worked long and hard on the smooth concrete floor, insisted on dancing with their wives. So a much larger event was planned. There would be a bit of champagne, lots of food, decorations. Everyone was chipping in. Everyone, that is, who had supported the Artesan Center.

Some of the men had held back, embarrassing the women who were up at one am cooking for those who toiled in the cool of night. Several of these women, using funds they'd earned from their craft sales, hired outside help to take over for their husbands for several days. This so embarrassed the husbands that it didn't take long before the men were back at work. Economic power had changed the playing field for these women, and they wielded it effectively.
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Old Nov 1st, 2016, 08:06 AM
  #23  
 
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Thanks for sharing your observations here. Hope you are back up to 100% soon. If not I'll bet they can straighten you out in Cuba!

I fell in love with the frog basket. My "teacher' when I visited in 2010 was one who thought it up, apparently.
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Old Nov 1st, 2016, 08:01 PM
  #24  
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When night finally arrived, the center was jammed with people, kids, husbands. Balloons had been found, somehow, and decorated every corner. Baskets and crafts were everywhere. The women- always the women- carried the huge containers up the sharp concrete steps to the top, redolent of spices and garlic, and we all salivated. Dolly allowed me to pitch in as a server, and in a few minutes the entire room had fragrant chicken, rice and salad. We all stood for a toast, and Estrelita spoke to us all to start the celebration.

The party was then on.

At the door, kids crowded, wide eyed, and outside, others gathered to watch, a little envious of the fun, the music and the fragrances of such good food being enjoyed. The dancing and celebration went on, and all remarked later on a night well planned and executed. I snuck home under a nearly full moon and went to sleep to the sound of a million frogs.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 06:12 AM
  #25  
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At one point during our stay Dolly told me the story of Cesar, an old man who had gotten ill with a small cyst in his lower left back.

His family, who lives just upriver from the Tahuayo Lodge, believes strongly in the healing power of shamans. They went to Adolfo, whom I had previously met, and herbalists, for cures. This went on for some time, but the cyst got bigger. In fact it became infected, and the pain spread so far throughout his body that he was unable to walk.

Desperate, the family finally gave up and prepared for his inevitable death.

Dolly was finally able to convince the family to take Cesar to the the clinic at Esperanza Village, where their nurses inspected the wound and realized the seriousness of the infection. Angels of the Amazon paid for the whole family to go with Cesar to Iquitos and there, a doctor put the man in the hospital to drain what was now a deep, serious infection, remove the cyst and put him on meds to allow him to heal.

Over the next few weeks, Cesar's body became swollen, which was part of the healing process as it processes the infection and fluids worked the infection out. But his family got scared and demanded he be released back to the care of the shamans in El Chino.

Here is where Dolly, ever sensitive to the balance between the old beliefs and the value of Western medicine, fought to keep Cesar in the hospital. For an additional two weeks, they allowed it. Then they put their foot down. He was coming home. Dolly was able to get an agreement that at least he would stay on the pills while also receiving shamanic treatment.

Today Cesar is well, and he waves at us as we pass him on the river. Dolly says that his wife isn't so sure any more whether it was the shaman or the pills that did the trick. It's not her job to be right either way. What she cares about is that they were willing to get him to the hospital in the first place. She lost a woman to ovarian cancer for the same reason- the lack of faith in Western medicine, and not taking preventive care seriously. All she wants to do is have people be willing to do both, if necessary, and when the herbs and incantations clearly don't work, to at least be willing to bring their family member to the clinic. For Dolly, that's progress. It's a fine line, honoring ancient practices that are in many ways important to the culture, but also providing an additional option that can and does save lives. I met several for whom this has worked. Having met Adolfo as well, I also fully understand his critical importance to the community in terms of psychological support and guidance. His kind is dying out and that is a shame. The shaman's role is multifaceted in the community- it's not an either or. Dolly recognizes the need for both.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 06:26 PM
  #26  
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Another experience was when we went to Buena Vista, a town that had once been a thriving, lively concern. Today, it consists of barely seven families, a decimated elementary school building, and a great many cows. One of the rather funny markers of the landscape are elevated toilets, ancient porcelain thrones that sit quite all by themselves in the middle of nowhere, indicating where houses once stood, but now the only thing left is the stubborn pot. On occasion, a child will use it, despite the fact that it most certainly doesn't flush.

On the edge of this town live an old couple, Manuel and Rosa. They are in their late seventies. The house is ramshackle, the roof repeatedly falling in and in need of repair. A few years back, Dolly enlisted the volunteer help of a group of New York City high school kids and some Angels of the Amazon funds to rebuild the entire roof for the old couple, as they were regularly drowned by the annual deluge.

The old man had been dogged by multiple complaints, the worst of which had been when a fly laid eggs in his ear while he was sleeping. They hatched and the larvae went to work on his inner ear. The shaman had no idea, the locals had no clue. He got a fever, terrible headaches, and went a long time without proper care. Finally Dolly intervened and got the old man to Esperanza Village where the fly larvae were discovered and removed.

The old couple is on Dolly's food basket list. Their grandchildren, who are numerous, come by and beg off this free food, which Dolly tries to prevent as best she can. She is careful who she provides the free food to as she doesn't wish to be strictly a charity, but in some cases it's necessary as with this elderly couple.

Down the walkway, we stop in to visit one of the children that Dolly sponsors. At eleven he's very small for his age. He's pale, and clearly not getting adequate nutrition. We drop off some sugar and rice here. His mother, who has only two of her own teeth left, has a habit of flapping her shirt up and down when she is hot, and she is naked underneath. She is mentally a bit slow, but immensely sweet, and she knows why we're here. She hustles her son and his paperwork to us and he comes, reluctantly, dragging along a soccer ball, one of many that Dolly has given as a gift for good schoolwork. The boy's father paddles his big brother an hour each to get to the new high school in El Chino, just one example of the dedication some parents show to ensure their kids get a break.

The next house has a girl child who is full of vinegar, ideas and math equations. Home to take care of her father, this young lady receives extra help but not because she isn't motivated. She just needs to stay focused. Her dream is to be an accountant, and after sitting with her for a while there is no doubt that she'll accomplish this. She's clearly very bright and she has a head for numbers and math. They fascinate her and she reads anything she can find from scraps of newspaper to books. This is the kind of child Dolly that really makes Dolly smile, although they all do, but this girlchild is a mold-breaker. Her father is very supportive of her dreams, it's just having enough money to pay for her education. Angels of the Amazon can help up to a point, but the family also needs to provide some material support which indicates commitment.

The kids, every single one, leap to greet her and are delighted to show their homework. That she shows special interest in them is a huge motivator.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 06:42 PM
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The high school is another treat. Once a crowded room on the main soccer field next door to the cantina, and filled with distracting noise, the beautiful new building rises out of the clearing in the jungle far back from the main village. It has its own separate, clean bathrooms, and a number of rooms for all kinds of teachers and subjects. The attractive young man (girl crush alert) who now teaches here is provided by the Peruvian government, among others, and loves the idea of being able to teach in the woods. His challenge is trying to accommodate the lack of basics he was presented with initially.

The group of kids who line up in a big circle when Dolly and I enter the classroom is shy and nervous. They slowly warm up, and respond to questions about what they dream. Many of them want to be. We have lots of doctors, a number of nurses, a few engineers and a smattering of mechanics. The dreams are big. Unfortunately, the money to support them is even bigger. Dolly and I listen and offer thoughts and ideas, including poking a bit at those students she knows don't do their math homework. That makes them laugh.


It's good to have dreams, but it's also good to be realistic. The challenge is to find a starting point for these kids, whom Dolly wants to succeed as best they can. The worst would be to have them aim so high it would be impossible for them to move forward. She wants them to have a Plan B, and a Plan C, just in case.
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Old Nov 2nd, 2016, 07:04 PM
  #28  
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On two early mornings I was able to slip out with Dolly onto the quiet tributaries of the local rivers to go bird watching. At just about 6 am, the hawks and various parrot pairs were lit by the rising sun, and the lone tall dead trunks always had a hawk gazing out over the river.

Families were also out on the river, heading out to fish or search for fibers in the forest. Always happy and laughing they passed our slow boat. Dolly called each by name, and I saw many I had met, eaten with, interviewed. So many familiar faces by now, all woven into the tapestry of the river community and its wildlife. The fibers would feed the crafts, the crafts would provide the funds, the funds would feed the kids, the kids would be educated, the cycle would move slowly and quietly.

The waters rise each year, and they drop. With the work of people like Dolly, the women she is developing and coaching, the quiet waves of social change are much like the movements of the Amazon. Almost imperceptible, but profound.

It's a remarkable thing to be allowed to shadow the work of someone as committed as Dolly Beaver, and then write articles that may well provide material support for those efforts. When we are particularly blessed, travel affords us a look into the worlds far away from the average tourist. If we are uniquely blessed, we are changed forever by them.
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