It's been almost a week now since I've returned from Peru and I can honestly say that, despite having only been gone for 2-1/2 weeks, I still haven't quite adjusted to my surroundings yet. Perhaps it's because I haven't wanted to. But over these past few days I have had a chance to do something that time didn't allow when I was on the expedition with Amazon Promise: reflect on my experience.
To say that it exceeded my expectations would be true. In fact, it would be an understatement. I expected a jungle experience, whatever that means. I expected long days and hard work, feeling a bit out of sorts as a first-timer, complications due to language barriers, tentativeness between the group members meeting for the first time, some happiness and sadness and, yes, some heat, humidity and mosquitoes. I ended up experiencing all of those things. What I didn't expect was just how beautiful and wonderful the jungle really is and how comfortable I felt within it, but also how treacherous it can be if not prepared. The amazing transition from low-water to high-water seasons, the simplicity of life for the villages we visited, but the complications too. The seemingly instant camaraderie of the team members, who came together and stayed together, always supportive no matter the conditions or circumstances and regardless of the discrepancies of age, background, education or country. In fact, the diversity lent quite positively to the experience.
I didn't expect how great it would feel to live, even for a short while, free of all the gadgets and conveniences that home provides. Not having to drive a car, sit in traffic or wait in line for a cup of coffee. Instead, I got to experience beautiful boat rides down peaceful rivers, and wild rides in the motorcars in Iquitos and Nauta! I didn't expect how much I would savor a cold shower and warm beer at the end of a long, hot day. As a non-medical person, I wasn't sure how much I would contribute. But there were plenty of things for me to do (I even got pretty good at shampooing hair which is ironic given the fact that I haven't had any of my own for quite a few years now!) And despite the many things you were responsible for on the trip, Patty, I didn't expect you to have enough time to be so attentive to our needs.
Most of all, I didn't expect how much I would be affected by the people we were there to serve. I found them gracious, gentle, kind and optimistic despite their conditions. I came to respect their bravery and toughness when I knew they were hurting. I marveled at their work ethic and willingness to pitch in and help, regardless of age. I left the jungle with them deep in my thoughts. And they're still there. I want to thank Amazon Promise, and you, for allowing me to be a part of something so essential. I wanted an experience that would allow me to give directly to those in need, and this expedition was the perfect vehicle. I'll come back again. I probably still won't be a doctor or dentist, but I'll know more Spanish!