Monday, January 31, 2011

Balabac Medical Mission: Here we go again!

We were very excited to prepare for a second medical mission. We were going to the island of Balabac, which is an island just off the southern tip of Palawan. One of our newest missionaries, Roy Reyes, was actually a missionary on these islands for about 7 years and knew what to expect while traveling, for our living arrangements, and the type of medical help these people would require.
A couple of days before the trip Roy filled us in on the details of our trip. Trucks, boats, hikes, crocodiles.....wait what?? Allow us to explain: We were going to have to drive to Rio Tuba, which is the southern-most tip of Palawan. From there we would take a passenger boat for 3 hours till we reached the island of Balabac and then we would take a small, canoe-like, motorboat through crocodile infested waters (YIKES!) till we got to the side of the island that our medical mission was going to be on. From there it was a 1 hour hike through the jungle till we reached our homestead. Needless to say, we knew this trek would not be a usual one and after some crocodile self-defense classes we were ready to go. ;)
Friday morning we awoke at 5 am to a Monsoon of rain going on outside. Not perfect traveling weather, but we knew God would be with us. We packed up our medical supplies, hammocks, camera gear, etc. and headed off. Danny agreed to drive us all down to Rio Tuba. We were planning it to be a 3 hour drive, but surprisingly it only ended up being an hour. So we arrived at the port at 8 am, and our passenger boat was scheduled to leave at 11 am.
The boys had to ride in the back with a tarp over them to keep from getting soaked.
As we waited at the port, we decided to explore our surroundings. What we realized right away was: Rio Tuba is a very, very dirty city. The docks of Rio Tuba were some of the most interesting sites we've seen. Many houses are built on docks over the water, which at first, we thought was kinda cool. (Come on! Who doesn't love an ocean view) That was until we had to use the bathroom. 
<---When we found the C.R. we looked down to see it was merely a hole, cut out in the dock, that goes straight into the water. So...basically the people do their business directly into the same water that they fish in, bathe in, and swim in....EWWwwww. It was at this time that we realized that the floating brown things in the water below were not debris. While we were observing the nastiness in the water and discussing how gross it was, Allison swung her hand down by her side and happen to hit the front of her Nikon SLR camera and the lens cap popped off and fell perfectly between the slots in the boards of the dock and with a simple splash began to sink beneath the murky, poo polluted waters of Rio Tuba. After a blood curdling scream on Allison's part and the panic of our little missionary group we tried to convince Jam to jump in and get it, to which he replied, "Ewww! Yeah Right!" Suddenly there was a *Splash* from behind us. Two little boys, that had been fishing off the dock, had seen our panic and jumped into the filthy water looking for this little lens cap. 
After some searching they were successful. Hooray!! Afterwards they just climbed out and went back to their fishing. We literally had to chase them down to give them 20 pesos each as a reward. 
I guess jumping into the poop water was nothing for these 8 year olds. But nonetheless we were incredibly grateful. But this, of course, sparked a conversation between us missionaries, "How many pesos would it take for YOU to jump in that water?" Not enough, thats for sure! After drowning the cap in antibacterial for about 30 minutes, Allison was happy with her whole camera once again. 
After a delay in leaving the port, we finally loaded the passenger boat to head off. Which was kind of a scary task. The bridge between the dock and the boat was merely a little board that was not connected to either the boat or the dock. So as the boat moved so did this bridge. After some help from Jam we were all able to load that boat and we were finally off. :) 

Yay! The Adventure continues! We rode the passenger boat for 3 hours. We stopped at a couple different docks to unload supplies and passengers. After riding so long in the sitting area, we decided to have some fun on the front deck of the boat, to help pass the time. The weather was perfect and the sites were breathtaking!
"I'm the King of the World!!"....or so he thinks. hehe
When we were about 3 miles away from the next island, Roy said "Our stop is coming up here soon" So we just figured he meant the islands that were on the horizon. When all of a sudden the boat's motor stopped and Roy said, "Ok, Lets Go." We looked around to see no dock, but in fact two little boats, like canoes, coming up to the passenger boat. "Wait, What!!! We have to hop off this boat to those tiny boats IN THE MIDDLE OF THE SEA??" "Yep" said Roy. 
Oh dear....honestly the best way to describe these boats is like wooden canoes with motors. So they were extremely tippy; breathing wrong could send these boats tipping one direction or the other. After loading all of our stuff and ourselves into the boats, we waved goodbye to our passenger boat and set off on a scary, rocky, 1 hour ride to our next destination. Many prayers were said and Hymns sung until we felt a little more comfortable.
Follow the leader.
House in the middle of the water...I wonder where their C.R. is?? lol
Here is a video of our boating adventure:

We arrived to a small little inlet and were told to get out of the boat and walk through the water to the land.
"But didn't you say there are crocodiles" asked Sam. 
"Yes" said Arman (one of the Balabac missionaries) "and be quiet, cause they are sleeping right now." We must say that was very reassuring to hear. (Not!)
The inlet was very pretty and kinda looked like a set for a ride at Disney World. Except the crocodiles here aren't computer operated and could actually eat you. lol.
As we were climbing out, a caribou driven by a little, 12-year old, girl came and collected all of our stuff to bring to the mission spot for us.
We made it to land and started our 45 min hike to the missionary compound. After an amazing attempt by Allison to show us how low she could get to the ground without smashing her face into it (lol), we realized the mud was too slippery to walk with flip flops and decided to walk barefoot. We felt like real Palawanos :)

YAY!! We arrived to the church where we would sleep and set up our medical clinic. When we reached the compound we were greeted with Fresh Coconut juice straight out of the Coconut. Yum :) After discussing some things withe the missionaries at the compound we began to set up camp.
We sure were ready for a rest :) As we may have mentioned in earlier posts, two Christmas' ago, our Grandpa had gotten us these really awesome hammocks that have mosquito nets built right in. (Which is perfect for the Philippines since it is Malaria city!) Who knew 2 Christmas' ago that we would NEED these hammocks. The Lord works in mysterious ways. But we were so excited to use our hammocks for the first time! Since we were staying inside the church we had to tie our hammocks to the supports and the windows. So we set them up and climbed into them. We were a little scared at first, nervous not only of falling but of breaking their church. But after saying a quick prayer, we were finally able to fall asleep.
Phew...What a journey, and it's just the beginning. We can't wait to see what adventures and people we will be met with during this medical mission! Till then...

~Me and Her


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