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Born in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Daniel has lived in Toronto, Canada for 28 years. He’s a loving father, practicing dentist, divorcee and a well traveled “citizen of the world”. Having had extensive experience with online dating, travel and life in the Philippines, Daniel will tell it like it is and will no doubt open some eyes. He is currently engaged to a Chinese lady that he met on CLM and will very soon get married. However, he's seen a dark side too. Get ready for the good, the bad and the ugly.
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Shangri-La, Living in a Stress Free Community    

By Daniel Chermont
3285 Views | 7 Comments | 5/15/2012 10:13:57 PM

Summer 1975. Our group was getting ready to board a Canadian made Buffalo plane from the Brazilian Air Force and head to the Green Wonder, the Amazon. We were students of Medicine, Dentistry, Veterinary, Nursing and also students of Pharmacy and Medical technicians. We were in great mood, very happy and positive, singing popular songs and playing guitar getting ready for an experience that would last a life time.

Nothing prepared us to what you would see later though. We had several meetings with our teachers and instructors and we were told what to expect and also some hints of how to behave properly when dealing with our native population. They have their own laws and etiquette and they are not subject to our laws or Criminal Code. They are in the same level of children or a person with a serious mental illness, they will not be prosecuted if they hurt the so called civilized man. In other words, they are above the law and the Constitution, they have preferred status.

We were going deep inside the Amazon to provide Health Services, to promote health in those communities, do vaccinations, dental care etc. It was an ambitious plan. This was a combined effort of the Ministry of Health, our University and the Brazilian Air Force, that would give us all the necessary logistical support.

We were eager to start to work and to do what we were trained to do. In just few months we would graduate. With us, we had seasoned professionals, doctors with years of experience, people already graduated and doing Residency, some with a Master’s Degree and our teachers to overview the procedures and to monitor the quality of the services provided and obviously teach us.

We had the opportunity to see diseases that you only see in Pathology books which was fascinating. Diseases like Leishmaniose, Leprosy, Tuberculosis and all kinds of insect transmitted diseases like Chagas Disease. The Ministry of Health built three small hospitals in key strategic areas, fully outfitted, with Surgical Center, X Ray, Lab for exams, everything we needed. It is not a place where you can grab a phone and order something and have it delivered by Fedex the next day. We had to have everything we needed on hand. Just to give you an idea, our radios could not get any Brazilian station, but we could listen to Cuban Propaganda non stop and sometimes some music played by Radio Havana. This was 1975, the Cubans were very active those days.

Some of us were dropped in Obidos, where the Amazon river is at its narrowest point. Is the only place where we can see the other side of the river but is also were the river is very deep. Navigating in the Amazon is like navigating in the ocean, we can not see the river banks in neither side, it is just water everywhere you look..

Some of us went to Oriximina, that in native language means “the land of gold”. It is quite impressive to see minuscule particles of gold mixed with the sand of the local river.

The other group went straight to indian villages, the real thing. To get there, we had to use boats or small planes that could land in a very small unpaved landing strip. The pilots were really heroes. A miscalculation, would mean game over, you would crash on the trees ahead. Not a pretty sight.

The idea was to rotate the students so, everybody had the opportunity to deal with people that lived in remote areas and also our natives in their normal habitat. Some tribes don’t wear any clothing at all, just some feathers and also paint their bodies with vegetable die. They are very pure and innocent, you feel love and respect for them instantaneously. The kids run free, have their pets, turtles, monkeys, birds, they play and swim all day long a virtual paradise. They don’t go to kindergarten (children‘s garden), they live in “kinderparadies” (children’s paradise).

Everything was a reason to celebrate. They party everyday, if there is not a motive, they invent one. Always dancing, singing. Brazilian natives hunt, fish but also cultivate the land for things like cassava etc. Fruits are everywhere, provided by the Lord, all you got to do is to stretch your arm and grab one. We tried delicious fruits we had never seen before.

It was a very humbling experience. We went there to provide a service but we were the ones that were taught unforgettable lessons. If I live 100 years, I will never forget the things I saw and learned with them. I learned from the kids even how to fish using bow and arrow.

The main lesson was to observe them and compare their way of living with the ways of the erroneously called “civilized man”. They are far ahead of us. No stress, no obesity, no cardiac diseases, no people suffering from mental diseases, all the things that afflict those living in the big city. They have fresh food and fruits in abundance. They do not eat sugar, the only thing we saw was abrasion because they cut a lot of things with their teeth. The native ladies give birth, wash the baby in the river, put the baby in their backs in something they make for this purpose and go back to work !!! They work as hard or harder than the warriors.

They have a perfect understanding of the seasons, when to plant this or that and live in perfect harmony with nature. They are very independent and proud and yet they are very generous, share everything they have and are very amiable, always smiling.

I could write a book just about the two months I spent in the Amazon, for which I feel very blessed. It made me change my ways and how I perceived things. It was very enlightening to say the least.

I will tell just one incident for you guys. There was a “caboclo” (children of an indian and a caucasian person) that was doing his work in the jungle and was bitten by a nasty serpent. His wife managed to suck out most of the venom (good for her that she did not have any wounds in her mouth, otherwise she would be in trouble) but still some of the venom entered his blood stream. He was brought to the hospital in Obidos in very bad shape. He had to get there by canoe, he paddled the canoe himself. The man was a giant, strong like a horse a very healthy individual. Perhaps this was what still kept him alive. The venom of this particular snake is lethal, the chances of surviving are very slim if any.

Our teachers did everything that could possibly be done under the circumstances, but the prognosis was extremely bad. The man was going to die. Major organs started to fail, his body was giving up. We were all devastated, feeling so useless. We are trained to take care of people, not to cross our arms and see people die. We were all sad and frustrated.

Out of the blue, a German priest that worked in a mission in the region approached our teachers and asked permission to give him some kind of mixture of herbs he had in a bottle, like a tea. At that point, anything that could help was valid. There was nothing that the medicine of the “Homo Sapiens” could do. The priest gave some of that potion, whatever was inside of that bottle and surprise, surprise, two days later the man was sitting in his bed and eating with his own hands. I witnessed a miracle, nothing more, nothing less. We never found out what was inside that miraculous elixir, but this is totally irrelevant. Few days later the guy was discharged, his life saved by a herbal concoction. Thanks God.

The day of going back to Rio was fast approaching and an immense sadness invaded our souls. We all felt so grateful of being chosen to participate in that program. Another group of students was coming to substitute us. The indians were aware that we were leaving and felt sad too. We developed a bond with them that will never be broken. We had the privilege of seeing and living in the real Shangri-La, a stress free society.

They did all kinds of parties in our honor, sang and dance like there was no tomorrow. We ate fresh delicious fish barbecued prepared their way, with vegetables, produce and tropical fruits galore of all kinds.

In the day of our departure, the Buffalo plane was there waiting for us. We had lots of gifts given by the natives, a mind full of experiences and a heart full of love for those special human beings. The “curumins” (indian children) sang for us a farewell song and many of us, including me, did not manage to hold back the tears. It was hard to leave paradise and go back to the civilized man inferno.

After graduation, some of our colleagues managed to get a job with the Government, went back to those places, married local girls and live there to this day. The last time I heard about them they were all well, had big families, were very happy and healthy. What else can I say? Sometimes I wish I had the courage to do what they did........

May God bless them all.

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#2012-05-15 23:16:41 by panda2009 @panda2009

Thanks for your sharing so beautiful stories, place, and people for us. Hope to go to the real Shangri-La some day.

#2012-05-16 00:51:07 by JohnAbbot @JohnAbbot

Daniel, this story was a wonderful gift to us all. What a fantastic experience you had, both humbling and empowering. Thank you for sharing it.

#2012-05-16 10:27:29 by xin73 @xin73

This is a you a wonderful life experiences.let your eyes see is how to make the dead come back to life in the process.when to leave you once stayed place, the feelings of be reluctant to the life of each person who had such feelings of parting.No matter how many times the separation is feeling of a shock.thank you and to share this wonderful life.

#2012-05-16 21:25:47 by smile01 @smile01

It is a amazing story .I always think doctors are that kind of persons who can see people die calmly .Obviously I was wrong .What is the story after you come back to the civilized man inferno?

#2012-05-20 14:09:30 by pourquoipasamour @pourquoipasamour

Smile01. Ni hao ma? I hope everything is fine with you and your family. Sorry for the late response. After coming back to Rio, I did 3 years of Residency in two major hospitals, I got my Master's Degree. I was alone, I decided to come to Canada to to my PhD in the U of T. Life took a life by itself, I had the opportunity to do thing I never dreamed I could do before. I traveled a lot, met people from all walks of life. No University could teach me what I learned in the University of Life. I am a simple person, yet in peace and happy. I am happy with the things I have and achieves, not unhappy for the ones I did not get. I am writing my book, telling my experiences, traveling etc. If I get it published, I will sen a copy to you as a gift. I hope it will be entertaining. I sincerely wish you all the best. Cheers, respectfully, Bira.

#2012-05-21 21:41:26 by smile01 @smile01

pourquoipasamour .
I am looking forward to reading your book.

#2012-06-11 02:40:37 by mercury0202 @mercury0202

Great story and wonderful experience. May I get a copy of your book too?

(Showing 1 to 7 of 7) 1
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