ETBU Students Overcome Travel Obstacles While In Ecuadorby Mike Midkiff
MARSHALL, Texas (7/21/13)- Seven Students and three professors from East Texas Baptist University spent 17 days in Ecuador studying, learning, and ministering during May Term. The time spent in South America became very interesting one day as the group traveled to conduct a health fair.
The day began as the ETBU students and professors traveled by canoe to Santa Barbara from Punibocana. Traveling by canoe from one place to another is not normal for college students so some had concerns about their mode of travel. The level of stress rose quickly as the canoe began to take in water.
"The canoe was taking in so much water our efforts to bail the water out with a bucket were useless,” said ETBU nursing student Joe McRee. "We had to pull over to the shore where half of us got out and had to walk through the jungle for a little while until we arrived at a place where our guide’s cousin lived.”
The cousin provided a more water-worthy vessel which allowed the ETBU group to reach Santa Barbara safely. The health fair conducted in Santa Barbara was very successful as the team did health screenings, mainly for children. Many of the children screened have limited opportunities to visit a medical facility.
As the two canoes left Santa Barbara with the ETBU team, the day of high adrenaline rushes was not over. On board the second canoe was a small lady who was the guide, ETBU Assistant Professor of Nursing Connie Wyzynski, Assistant Professor of Spanish Jose Alonzo, students Melissa Albright, Hannah Allen, Payton Beggs, Caitlin Coats and McRee.
This journey on the Napo River became frightening as the guide lost control of the canoe while trying to navigate rapids. "For the most part the river was not to wild but there were certainly parts that the rapids would get a little crazy,” said McRee. "At one particular part of the river, a short section of rapids caught the bow of the boat and began turning it sideways.”
The woman guide tried desperately with her steering stick to bring the canoe back on course. She lost her balance and went overboard. "Without even thinking, Joe (McRee) jumped into the water after her,” said Albright.
"The water was not very deep, about three to four feet. By the time Joe got to her she was coming out of the water and trying to reorient herself,” said Beggs. "He made sure that she was not hurt and they both worked together to turn the canoe back around.”
"As I was in the water, our guide indicated we needed to turn the boat around so we could head back upstream,” said McRee.
"Joe muscled the canoe around until we were facing the right direction,” Beggs said. "The current was strong and it would have probably taken me and two others to do what Joe did by himself. He was definitely our superman for the trip.”
"After we got the boat turned our guide was able to get back in the canoe and I kept pushing until we got to a more shallow part of the river near the bank, which allowed me to get back in,” said McRee.
Once McRee was back in the canoe they finished the journey to the village of Punibocana without incident.
The ETBU group conducted six health fairs and performed health assessments to over 680 children while in Ecuador. "I was told by the local doctor we were working with that we basically saw more people then he could see in six months,” said McRee. ETBU Professor of Biology Dr. Catherine Cone, along with Wysznski, co-taught the course Global Community Health and a Spanish course was taught by Alonzo during the study abroad May term class.
During the month of May, ETBU students had the opportunity to travel abroad with professors studying on five continents- Asia, Africa, South America, Europe, and North America.
Follow ETBU News on Twitter: @ETBU