Arriving at Tamshiyacu, I was delighted to discover that cars and roads had not yet found their way into this secluded village. In fact, this sleepy little town seemed devoid even of motorcycles, which was a bit surprising considering that there seemed to be an infinite amount of them in Iquitos just an hour-and-a-half down the river. I was a bit apprehensive now that I had arrived, since there are no phones in El Fundo either, and no one here was expecting me because we had only made arrangements with APECA through their representative in the US with no way of contacting the field workers. However, I was greeted warmly by Pablo, the director of El Fundo, and he seemed enthusiastic when I explained The Odyssey, so we set out on the grand tour.
APECA is a small organization with a big mission - improving the lives of the people who live in this area of the Amazon. El Fundo is the model village for APECA's system, and amidst the tiny cluster of cottages nestled here on the riverbank, Pablo pointed out a number of ongoing projects that both enhance and make life easier for the people who live here.
We crossed the main fish pond and made our way to the carpentry workshop, which seems to be where Pablo spends most of his time. Basic necessities, like materials for houses and boats, are constructed here and when we arrived several people were busily banging and sawing, making beautiful new cabinets for the kitchen. We jumped right in to help, and although I am a bit rusty with hand tools (it has been awhile since high school shop class), I was excited to be doing something productive with my hands other than banging on my laptop keyboard. They were also building a large boat that I had seen down by the river. It is nearly complete, needing only a roof and some paint before it will be ready to take to the river and fulfill its primary purpose of delivering sorely needed vaccinations and medical attention to children in remote villages.
It was at this time, however, that I began to notice another buzz in the air, which seemed even more insidious to me than that of the motorcycles of Iquitos. It was the incessant hum of the bane of the Amazon - man-eating mosquitoes! Although my dorm was enclosed in mosquito netting, and I had covered my entire body with two kinds of bug repellent, nothing seemed to be able to stop the onslaught as wave after wave of these tiny beasts gnawed chunks out of my wrists and ankles. After several days of excruciating blood-loss, I have come up with a theory that these are not mosquitoes after all, but in fact close cousins of the carnivorous jungle fish the pira˝ha, which have developed wings and super-intelligence. (If anyone can find evidence to back up this theory, please send it my way!) (firstname.lastname@example.org)Somehow I survived the night, and although I was a few quarts short on blood, I set out for another day's work. After working in the woodshop for a bit, Pablo asked me if I would like to join his younger brother, Jaime, to go fishing out on the river. Since I'm a vegetarian, I usually don't eat fish, but I had been doing so on this adventure since there is very little else available. Although El Fundo is abundant with a wide variety of different fruit trees, the hot moist climate here is not conducive to growing vegetables, so fish is the basic menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I was very interested to learn more about the method of fishing here, so Jaime and I set out in one of the large motorized launches to see what we could catch.
The communities of the Amazon River basin are plagued with a number of health and social problems. The most serious of these is a lack of adequate medicine to treat the diseases, which are endemic in the jungle. Malaria, typhoid, and yellow fever are just a few of the problems encountered here. APECA knows that clean drinking water, vaccinations, and adequate food and shelter can make the difference in the health of these people. Although APECA does not have all the answers to the complex problems of Amazon life, they are taking initiative to make the situation better for the people who live here.
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