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Welcome to the Jungle

February 20

Our group just returned yesterday from Tiputini Biodiversity Station.  The Tiputini River is a tributary of the Amazon River.  We spent our days hiking through the forest on the look out for any sort of wildlife we could get our hands on.  It reminded me of fishing.  You spend the majority of your time just waiting for something to happen (in our case it involved looking at a lot of gorgeous greenery- can't complain too much) but the moment that you see some sort of wildlife, it makes the entire hike completely worth it.  We were able to see monkeys, toucans, parrots, a snake, a turtle, caimans (similar to small crocodiles) along the river, and of course loads of insects.

And our trip wouldn't be complete without the huge, palm-sized tarantula that found its way into my backpack as I was packing to leave.  I'd like to say that I handled it calmly and found a way to move him out of my dirty clothes and back to his home in the wild, but in truth I screamed my head off and begged for my friend Kyle to come help me get rid of it without killing it.  Luckily he loves bugs, so both me and the tarantula made it through the fiasco alive.

I’ve been volunteering at a children’s hospital (El Hospital de Niños Baca Ortiz, for anyone familiar).  It has by far been my most challenging experience here.  I have had fairly minimal experiences with the whole hospital/medical scene in life, so I figured I owed it to myself and the rest of the world to become acquainted and educated about it.  Each room has 4 to 8 children staying in it, with a chair set up next to each bed for a family member to stay with them.  It’s fairly common for parents to stay by their children’s bedside for nearly 24 hours a day.  So I go, equipped with games, puzzles, and books, to just spend time with the children, add a little spark to their day, and give their parents a some relief.  I wear a white coat and with that seem to be able to go just about anywhere in the hospital (although I have yet to figure out how much of has to do with the white coat and how much is my white skin).  I spend most of my time in the trauma ward since I have found those children to be the most alert and responsive.  I hope to make my way to oncology, prenatal, and the HIV ward but all in good time.  I want to give myself a little more time to get in touch with my role there, the language, and the people who I am working with.  It’s a challenge but it’s also a process.

With that I hope this email finds everyone doing well and in good health.  Stay safe and warm during the end of these winter months.  And thank you so much from everyone I’ve been hearing from.  It’s always nice to have a little taste of home....