Wednesday, March 28, 2012

ShabaShika Baba- It's jungle time

Goodbyes are necessary to create new hellos. As the convoy of all-american vehicles rolled up in the second most dangerous ghetto in Lima to whisk us away, I admit that I didn’t want t go. Though I could barely communicate with my family, they are some of the people I respect most in all of Peru. Dislodged from familiarity and feeling vulnerable, it was time to meet the rest of the trips’ wild family.So, if my counting is correct, our group currently consists of 24. Our aim and mission is to love God, love people and bring revival into the hearts of the broken. Another thing you should know about our team – we don’t really do schedules.Hence, the day after I arrive to meet everyone, we make the decision to go deep into the Amazonias to reach tribes that have never before seen “gringos,” or “whiteys,” as I more affectionately call us. To help you be a part of this epic journey into the jungle and back again, I will give you a snapshot of each leg of the trip.Lima to Pucallpa15 hour bus ride, again cankles, altitude of almost 3000m, altitude sickness, snow-capped mountains, falling out the toilet on a corner and mooning the back of the bus, man with gun on bus at 4am in the morning asking for money. Did I happen to mention the angel that sat next to me? His name was Manuel and he was such a papa: When we stopped he bought me food when I spoke he listened patiently and helped my spanish along, when it got cold he took his jacket off to his own detriment and gave it to me. Wherever I have gone on this journey God has put treasure on my lap, selfless people like Manuel. Seeing the gold in people is one of life’s great privelages and I am intent on discovering more in this smorgasboard of different cultures.Pucallpa to CacoPucallpa is a jungle city of around 200,000 people. It is hot, humid and wet with an average temperature high of 31 degrees. We were able, during our transition time before the jungle, to speak in a couple of churches around Pucallpa. I love being able to encourage other christians and churches through words and stories and just generally by being joyful. It was a privelage to see people in the church revamped and revitalised. As nice as Pucallpa was, we were fired up to go and visit tribes along the Ucuyali river that feeds later into the Amazon.We arrived at the dock, at 4pm on a Tuesday to catch the boat ride up the river. As I scanned the line of boats I was encouraged to see two “3 – deckers.” Sturdy looking things, that could traverse the wild river easily. Dismay started to creep in as we progressively left those comfort models behind, and the words ’surely not,’ crept into my brain on seeing the tugboat “Miss Adonai,” in all her grunge splendour. I can’t really describe to you what sleeping with 40 other people on this tiny boat in hammocks looked like so instead I’ll give you some pictures. 14 hours later, having been on this tiny boat on this river full of crocs snakes and more excitingly pink dolphins, we arrived in Caco, the first village.Caco to Nueve NazarethCaco has a shop, volleyball courts, a giant satellite and a radio commetary station: did not see that one coming! Here am I all prepared for thick forests, poisonous snakes and cannibalism and it turns out the Shipebo – Conibo people are more civilised than I am and probably wash a great deal more. We had a great time getting to know the villagers for a couple of days and to bond through things like fishing, cooking and a lot of volleyball. Many people came to hear us speak and come forward for healing prayer. A decent amount of the villagers complained about having bad dreams and headaches so we just asked God to heal them, praying for each individually. The next night more than 5 villagers came up and shared that they had sleep free of demonic dreams and the pain in their head had ceased. Praise god!Nueve Nazareth to Lost in the Amazon. So it turns out the boats get smaller. Equipped with 15 people and 15 peoples’ luggage on a small dugout we set out to visit the Ashaninka tribe. These people have suffered a sad history being enslaved by the spanish, being kidnapped by guerillas and having had land stolen from them progressively over the last 50 years. As a result they were forced to flee deep into the jungle – and I mean DEEP. Because our boat was flooding we were forced to stay in another village for the night to get another boat (I enjoyed this option more than slowly sinking into the Ucuyali river with all it’s fun creatures.) Little did we know then, what the next day would bring.HelpSo, high in spirits and ready to meet this amazing tribe, we set out in two dug-out boats. The sun was shining and it was such a treat to go deeper into the jungle, where the jungle is more thick, and the beige river snakes itself elegantly through the overhanging greenery. Butterflies flutter around the boat and monkeys playing in the surrounding trees – you get the picture, we are in a good mood at this point. Because of our small motor, heavy load and roof on our boat, our guide, (the pastor of the last village) advised that our groups should split up. Probably a bad idea, however ignorance is bliss. Isn’t it?After 5 hours following progressively smaller rivers, which became so tight that our boat would bang into the side because it couldn’t turn fast enough, I started getting a little nervous. “How far are we away?” Pastors’ reply “Oh just an hour and a half, we’re getting close.” Having not seen any civilisation for a solid 4 hours except the occasional logger I really hoped this was the truth. Soon after this little discussion, our guide’s son at the front of the boats’ demeanour started to change, he looked frightened. Turns out that the son and the pastor had no idea where they were going and everytime there was a fork in the river, they would just choose the larger option.Glad to find this out when we are lost in the middle of the amazon. Bless their hearts, they were trying so hard to help us. Anyway after being separated from our group for a long time (5 hours) and knowing the sun would set in two hours we miraculously managed to find some illegal loggers who directed us towards the tribes river and assured us we were only 45 minutes away. As we were again following down this weird little river, we became sceptical of the direction we were going and stopped for a moment. In the distance we could hear the sond of another motorboat on this labyrinth of Amazonian rivers. “UNINTELLIGIBLE YELL SOUND!!!!!!” Our dampened spirits brightened and the colour rose in my cheeks on realising that in the middle of this chaos we had found our friends.We discovered that our friends had been very close to the tribe when they were met by Ashaninka people in boats and asked their business. On believing that we had come to impose our culture on them and to colonise them they asked our group to leave (the weapons they were holding were also encouraging us to leave.) We managed to explain that we had come to learn about them and their culture and they said it was fine to visit, but it just so happened, that weekend was one where they were having crazy drunken celebrations and the authorities were out of town. This didn’t really phase us, we knew we were meant to come, we were SO CLOSE after the craziness of the day.However, it was not to be. The pastor on the other boat grew so fearful he would not budge. We asked him to take us to the tribe and he flatly refused. He didn’t even argue he just turned into a dictator, switched the engine on and turned the boat back in the direction we had come after taking 7 hours to get this close to this amazing tribe. There was absolutely nothing we could do. I sat fuming for the ride home which by the way was 4 and a half hours long, in the dark, in the amazon with only two small headlights which were almost dead. This route was hard enough in the day time. We just prayed and bailed water and sang crazy songs out of our own delirium until our arrival back at Nueve Nazareth.Reluctant Returns.The return trip seems a blur of frustration and disappointment. We promptly caught the boat back to Pucallpa after having our first meal in 2 days. By this point I have been wearing the same sweaty, dirty shirt for 5 days, drinking unclean village water and my hair is starting to dread at the bottom. I don’t even care that you have to dodge mangy chickens and jump over a live boar to get to the top deck. Sleeping in a hammock is a big blessing after concrete floors, up where the swarms of mosquitoes and biting flies can’t get you. After spending the night on the boat we arrive in at Pucallpa at 4am in the morning and that same morning catch a flight back to Lima.One day in our lives at the moment could be a full – blown blog. The lessons we learn along the way are too numerous to count like forgiving the pastor for sabotaging our mission and loving him anyway, coming into a culture not to force on them your own ideals but to learn and encourage, share in their lifestyle whilst sharing your own.I promise to keep you updated more regularly so my blog isn’t so long. Will tell you all about Macchu Picchu in the coming days.Love you all and keep praying, we really need it!Charlotte.

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