I arrived in Iquitos without any idea of what to expect, knowing only that I would soon have the opportunity to put two years of physician assistant school to the test. I arrived on one of the evening flights and somehow the mystique created by viewing it for the first time with the aid of artificial light never left me. I was immediately thrust into the inner workings of Amazon Promise as the pre-trip preparations were begun. As I sorted through medical supplies and other trip necessities I came to know my fellow travelers. The common bond which connected us was the simple fact that regardless of background or training, we shared the unquenchable thirst to interact and connect with another part of the world.
After only a few days, I had my first chance to get a taste of the healthcare we would be practicing when we held our first clinic in Belen. The sheer amount of people and variety of medical issues was almost overwhelming but gradually with the aid of the veteran staff of Amazon Promise, I fell into a rhythm. I quickly realized that although these people were only receiving treatment sporadically, and then only by the grace of Amazon Promise, this aid proved to be just enough to buoy them through their indescribably challenging lives. After a few clinics in Iquitos, along with some incredible extracurricular activities (meeting the shaman, the zoo, and the Belen market to name a few) we were ready to venture into the jungle.
The sense of a clear purpose was felt by all as we made our way up the Marinon and by the time we set foot on the shores of the Ucayali we had gained our "river legs". Continuing the whirlwind of surprises, we arrived to our new home for the next two weeks and found that we would be treated to almost luxury accommodations in our jungle lodge. Thus began two weeks of providing care to the inhabitants of that area of the Amazon Rainforest. The clinic days in the jungle were among the most rewarding I've ever experienced. The care we provided was genuinely appreciated by the villagers and the trust they placed in our aid made the experience all the more incredible. Everything from the well-baby exams to minor surgeries seemed to allow the Peruvians to relax just a little, comforted by the fact that, at least for a short while, they could rely on their health again. In addition to the days spent interacting with the people of the Yarapa and Ucayali rivers, there were also those which we spent enjoying the jungle that surrounded us. Trips to the jungle tower at dawn, canoe rides down the Yarapa, and afternoons spent relaxing on the beaches of the Ucayali all made us feel as if we had truly experienced the jungle.
All too soon we were headed back to Iquitos for the final week of the program. There we had three more clinic days which we handled with ease now that we were veterans. We were also able to help show community pride as we and the people of Belen cleared the trash from the future site of the Amazon Promise clinic. When the last day of our trip arrived, we all couldn't believe that it was over. To have spent so much time, energy, and emotion with the people of Amazon Promise and then just leave seemed impossible, but unfortunately it had to happen. And as we flew over Iquitos, this time with daylight illuminating the city and the jungle surrounding it, I realized that there was no question of if I would return to Iquitos, only when.