Greetings From the Jungle

Dear Family and Friends,

Greetings from the jungle!  Well, it's been a while so thought it time to tap out a message on the bush telegraph once again.  We hope this finds you all well.

As for us, we are doing ok.  We've not been completely sucked dry by the mosquitos yet, and we are finding that mosquito nets are useful for far more than just mosquitos.  In fact, it seems that they are useful even for keeping out larger pests, including Trarantulas!  We did have a hunsman spider on the top of our mosquito net the other night, and it looked very scary as a silhouete trying to eat a moth.  But more importantly, yes, we have seen a Tarantula...and Michael even survived it walking on his arm!  I'm still yet to be convinced that they are big friendly furry spiders, but i must say it didn't appear to be the least bit aggressive (I say this as I duck to stay clear of a bat flying through our house - not a blood sucking one though)!  The Tarantula was found in one of our friends houses on the inside wall.  They have a resident tarantula in the roof - that stays in the roof and only descends a couple of inches when it rains really really heavy (actually its the house that we will call home one of these days).  The 2 girls, Megan (10 yrs old) and Sarah (13 yrs old) brought it over to show me.  They were carrying it in a bucket but after showing me, we walked over to their house, and then took it out of the bucket and proceeded to pose with it on their hands/arms/shoulders for photos.  Well, Michael wasn't too keen on letting it walk on him, but after seeing these 2 girls with it, thought it musn't be too bad, so posed with it for a photo.  I wasn't so keen, so thought I'd save the privilege for another time.  Worse than tarantulas though is what I've called the "alien bug".  It's about the same size as a tarantula and looks very scarry...its black, has 8 legs and 2 arms and walks sideways.  It's hard to describe how wierd and scarry it looks but will try and attach a photo.

Well, despite how it may sound, our lives aren't completely consumed by bugs.  I have seen a giant rodent which they call "hochi's" and they look to me the same as a "capybara" (which is defined as the worlds largest rodent) but it looks kind of like a half sized wombat.  It ran out of the overgrown garden beds that I was clearing a little over a week ago, and was very shy.  The other bit of wildlife worth reporting on was the sighting of a Toucan.  I was fortunate enough to see it fly across the road in front of the vehicle we were in, and then it landed in a tree on the side of the road and sat there until we drove out of sight.  It was beautiful, but unfortunately have no photographic evidence of the sighting.  And while talking animals, yes, there are about 5 pet cats and 2 pet dogs.  So I don't think I need to add any more cats to the collection.  The cats are very friendly, well looked after, and one of the cats just killed 2 mice for us.  So that was a bonus.  One of the volunteer couples here, Ruan and Tara, own one of the dogs, and take it home with them to the USA every Christmas break (for 2-3 months) and then bring it back to Bolivia (on the plane) with them for the school year.  So its a well travelled dog!

We are still living in limbo a bit.  We are just in the process of shifting from the "home" we were settling in to, to live in the room of the house that another american couple are living in here.  I find it a bit unsettling but one of these days, we will have a place to call home.  Another family are moving into the place that we have been living in - they are local Bolivian teachers, who will be teaching some subjects to the students here.

The students have arrived here, so the place is feeling a little more alive now.  Today is the first day of classes so things are getting going.  Michael & I were asked late last week to teach a class each - a little daunting with no teaching back ground and limited knowledge of the language.  We have both accepted and we will at least give it a go.  Michael will be teaching what they are going to call "Electrics", a practical subject which will be about electrical things in all different forms - in cars, houses, electronic equipment, etc etc.  As an Electrical Engineer this should suit him very well, and being a hands on subject based on theory, I think he will really enjoying teaching this.  As for me, I have been asked to teach their "nursing" subject - no surprises there.  I'm not completely sure how it will go - its a 4 hours class, once a week (as is Michael's), and there is no curriculum made up for it yet!  First class is tomorrow!  Likewise for Michael's "electrics" subject.  So if anyone has any ideas they would be most welcome!

(In Town)

For the past few weeks, some of our time has been consumed with getting settled in to life here, washing clothes in the river, the usual housework, cooking etc.  Michael has been helping with different mechanical work around the place, and has spent time cleaning out the tool shed, getting an old alternator working again for charging the batteries that are also charged by a couple of solar panels here.  He has also been working with me to set up a better system for keeping the financial records here, of which I will be caring for this year.  This has taken up a lot of my time over the last 2 weeks, although I have managed to get a little time for video editing, and also some time for working in the 'vegetable gardens' - which were totally overgrown with jungle when we got here.  So I have started clearing/weeding etc and now have 2 large beds cleared.  It's quite satisfying to see.

Several days after we arrived here, a couple of American volunteers, who have been travelling around different projects of Gospel Ministries International in South America, arrived at the school to make an updated video of the project.  We were able to work alongside them a little to help put together this new video.  One of these guys was also travelling to the associated orphanage in a town called Rurranabaque (also in Bolivia) - about 40 hours (450 kms) by road from Guayaramerin in a southwesterly direction, and invited us to go along with him.  It is on the road from Guayaramerin to La Paz and is about half way between the 2. We were fortunate enough not to have to travel by road, but Jeff flew us in the little 4 seater plane.  Michael sat up the front and even got to touch the steering wheel occassionally!  It was a 2 hour flight each there.  We flew up on the Friday, and spent the weekend at the orphanage.  It was great to see it, as we had met the volunteers who are working at the orphanage when in Santa Cruz, and had done some music recording with Melissa, who had started the orphanage last year.  So it was good to spend some time with them again.  We flew back on the Monday.  It was a good flight, and could just make out La Paz in the Andes Mts from the plane.  Rurranabaque is a pretty town and is a jumping off point for a lot of the jungle tours and wildlife tours.  It is where the plains meet the Andes, and the mountains behind Rurra are beautiful to see.  There is also a large river their called The Beni.

Apart from this, we are learning some more patience.  We are just in town today, organising our Brazilian visas, so we can stamp into Brazil (across the river) and then stamp back into Bolivia later and get the free 30 day visa once again.  We have been to Brazil.  They speak Portugese there which sounds so different to Spanish, although there are apparently similarities.  You can also really notice the difference in looks between the Bolivians and Brazilians.  We went across the river to Brazil a couple of weeks ago to get our free Yellow Fever vaccination in brazil on the border.

(Crossing the Rio to Brazil)

Michael also wanted me to include the story of an experience that really appealed to his sense of humour.  Two weeks ago we were driving home from town in the evening after dark, with Jeff driving.  As you go out of town, just on the edge of the town there is a checkpoint gate that is monitored by a policeman.  They never care to check you on the way into town, but always check you on the way out of town and sometimes they try to find small faults with the vehicle in order to solicit bribes etc, and won't open the gate for you to let you pass through.  This particular night, the policeman found a problem with the headlight.  Jeff went and talked to him for five minutes or so and eventually got back in the car and we were allowed to pass through the gate.  When on our way, Jeff explained how he had talked to the policeman for a while.  The policeman was after a bribe but Jeff refused to pay.  Eventually he had an idea - knowing how boring it must be for the long night-shift, he suggested - "how would you like a good book to read?".  The book he offered to bring him was a book entitled "Mission Pilot", which tells the experiences of of David Gates - the head of Gospel Ministries International.  Well the guy agreed and we were on our way!  The funny thing about it all was the whole idea of working your way out of a difficult situation by sharing a religious book with someone!  (Only in Bolivia!)

Well, I shall leave it at that.  We trust you are all well, and surviving the dryness at home...wish we could send you just one hour of the rain that we get here!  It's often so loud on the tin roof that you can hardly hear each other talk.

Love to you all,
Danielle and Michael