Alabama St. Student
December 18, 2013
Day Eight: Culture Shock
Welcome to the jungle. We were finally here. The TPaIDA group members and I had token a boat across the Amazon River to the Amazon jungle. Our purpose for this trip is to visit two villages and give them toys for Christmas. According to Dr. Rolling, we were going to stay here for the next two days, embracing Mother Nature. I have never hiked nor been in a jungle before, but I was excited for the adventure ahead.
Heading towards the first village, we hiked along a trail for about 30 minutes. We looked up, down, and all around, ducking branches and stepping over logs. We worked as a team, with each member telling the person behind them of any dangers ahead. Once we reached our destination, we were greeted by about 30 Indians. They sat us down on benches and performed a welcoming ceremony, where they danced and sang for us. While dancing around in a circle, they pulled us in one at a time. After the ceremony, we gave them candy and bought souvenirs. I bought a blowgun, mask, and bracelets. Getting to connect with the Indians was an amazing experience, and I enjoyed every minute of it.
After visiting the first village and eating lunch at a cabin, the TPaIDA group members and I hiked back into the jungle, heading towards the second village. Unlike the first hike, we carried all of our Christmas toys with us in the jungle. The hike was extremely tough for everyone, and we had to take three five-minute breaks. To get our minds off of the challenge we were facing, we thought of how happy the kids will be when they receive the toys we’re giving them. That kept us pushing on.
When we finally reached our destination, what we saw was beautiful. About 100 village members sat together, waiting for our arrival. All of the children sat up front, with the adults in the back carrying their babies. Big, precious smiles spread across the faces of every child. I was no longer thinking about how tired I was, or how my back was aching. It wasn’t about me right now. It was about them.
Dr. Rolling directed us to sit down, as the village mayor stood in front to greet us. He told said that he was happy that Dr. Rolling had come back to the village to give gifts, and he gave us fruit as a welcoming gift. The fruit was different compared to the common ones made in the U.S., but they were delicious. After eating, we started to distribute our toys and candy amongst the children. If felt great to bless a child with a gift of my own.
Once were we done gift giving, we played soccer with the village members. Although soccer isn’t necessarily my forte, I stilled had a great time playing. The time we spent playing with those people was invaluable, and something I will always cherish.
Before hiking back to the cabin, we visited the medical clinic of the village. It was extremely small, and it was hard for me to believe that the village members had enough resources to medically care for themselves. In the future, hopefully the village can be provided with the medicine and equipment that they really need.
At the end of the day, I can look back at those two long, hard hikes and say it was all worth. To be introduced to different cultures and to able to give back to others less fortunate is a true blessing. After spending time with those village people, I can tell that they know how to enjoy life. They don’t even need our toys to be happy; all they need is each other. That has opened my eyes and made me more grateful for what God has blessed me with. I have my health and a family that loves me; there’s no excuse for me not to be happy. This trip to the jungle has been an amazing, learning experience that has help me grow not only as a humanitarian, but as a person.