Sunday, September 16, 2007


Since everyone seemed to enjoy the post I did about floors, I have decided to continue on in that same style, this time, I will write of our bed situation in answer to a question left by Liz.

For several months we all slept in hammocks as we had no floors or real furniture at all. It is very difficult to have furniture on dirt floors. Especially dirt floors in the jungle. There is so much humidity that anything left on the floor will quickly rot and mildew. Cement floors only helped to slow the process down slightly! I use to say that if I sat still too long, I would grow mold on myself!

As a home school science project, I had the children make a hand made barometer. The plan was to record the atmospheric pressure for several days. The problem was that once we made the barometer, the children quickly lost interest with the recording part. Due to the high humidity, the thing hit 100% immediately and never changed!!!

So hammocks were the only option left for sleeping. We all love hammocks so it wasn't a problem. For a short while we did set up small tents in the house and the children slept on foam mattresses inside the tents. I thought it would be safer, more protection from malaria. But it was too hot!! And the foam started rotting!!! The indians knew what they were doing by using hammocks.

One interesting thing about sleeping in hammocks in an indian style house , is that you rock each other to sleep! The poles used in construction are all attached to one another, so if you move in your hammock it causes the pole to move. Every time anyone moves, the entire house shakes.

After we poured the cement floor in our room, we decided to build a frame and fly out a water bed mattress. A regular double mattress was too wide to fit in the Cessna, so that meant a water bed.We had the frame built and set up as we waited for the mattress to be flown on. For one reason or another, it took nearly three months to get the mattress out to the jungle after we had the frame up.

We still did not have a water pump or water barrels at this time. That meant we had to fill the crazy queen size mattress up, bucket by bucket! Hundreds of trips down to the creek , then back up to the house with the water!! It took a lot of buckets!!!

We never needed a heater on the water bed, which is a good thing, since we only had the generator on a couple of hours a day and did not even have a generator for several years. We used a thick mattress pad and that was all we needed since it was always so hot in the jungle.

The chief of the village thought our water bed was amazing! He would come up to the house and walk into our room just to push on the bed and watch the waves! Anytime someone visited from another village, we knew the chief would bring them up to the house to see our bed. We tried to get him to lie down on it once,but he said if he wanted to sleep on water, he would go take a nap in his canoe!

After we had our bed, the children started asking for beds. My husband had lumbered some wood in the jungle using an attachment to a chain saw called an Alaskan Saw Mill. He made each child a small bed and we bought the foam mattresses again.

They were all excited to sleep in their little beds up in the loft. They quickly tired of their new beds though. They said they were boring!

They said it was hard to go to sleep in a bed that did not move! My son even said it was "freaky" to sleep in a bed! He felt like a dead person!!! We always laid the dead out on a board for viewing before burial. He said lying on his back in bed gave him the creeps!!

Needless to say, shortly there after, they were all back in their hammocks, happily swinging away as they rocked themselves to sleep.

When my son was checking out colleges to decide where he would attend, he inspected each dorm room to see if there was a possibility to hang a hammock. Unfortunately he did not find American construction of buildings to be very hammock friendly.

Every few days, all pillows had to be taken out and put in the sun on the clothes line to "dry". This was the only way to keep them from mildewing. Even so, we changed pillows every few months.

We also slept under mosquito nets. We all had several bouts of malaria and dengue, except Jackie, who for some strange reason seems to be immune to malaria.

We combated malaria at all times. Sometimes we won, sometimes we lost! We fumigated regularly, kept sick people under mosquito nets, and treated those with malaria. Our village had the lowest rate of malaria in the entire river region. We also had the lowest infant mortality rate as malaria claims the lives of so many infants.

We did lose a few children and elderly to malaria. Usually when they came from hunting trips or travel and were already in an advanced stage by the time they reached us for help. It is very difficult to watch a baby's life slip away from a disease which is preventable.

We learned of the Neem Tree of India, which is a natural mosquito repelant. The leaves may also be used to prepare a tea which helps to kill the malaria parasite in the blood stream. When we began to see the resistant strain of malaria in our region, we were able to use this tea along with the drugs to help the patients get well. We imported several trees and were able to plant a few in the village. This is the only medication now available to them for malaria treatment as the government is not supplying them with medications nor helping with the fumigation.

I miss my water bed! I miss hearing my children sing themselves to sleep as they swing in their hammocks.

I do not miss the malaria or mildew!


Pam said...

Sweet but funny post. You are forever making it clear how different our lives have been!

ElĂ­zabeth said...

This is my down-to earth, way-too-political comment:

I would like to see if the bolivarians are willing to suffer these living conditions, in order to teach and help our indians in the middle of the jungle.

And Rita, I don't own a hammock -as I live in an small city apartment- but being the daughter of a llanera lady... I love them! so does my husband and my son. They fight for it each time we're in a house that's got one ;-)


Jackie said...

I have my hammock hung up here in's my favorite "rocking chair" for Abbie. How does one raise a baby without a hammock?? By the way, I got site meter for my blog and it's soooo cool. I have a reader in Peru and New Zealand! Know idea who they are.

WomanHonorThyself said...

awwwwwwwww I love hammocks Rita but give me my bed and down blanket any day of the week!..ha

Mizz E said...

"If I wanted to sleep on water I'd take a nap in my canoe!"

What a witty remark.

The whole recollection is a testament to the right uses of God's gifts, including good common sense.

jennifer said...

I love the window to your life in the Jungle!

Jane-Jane said...

Rita... Z&M are still in MEXICO. I do have a current address (as of 8:30 this morning!) Let me know if you want me to forward it to you!

Jungle Mom said...

that would be great. I knew they could no longer be in Venezuela in a tribe...

groovyoldlady said...

Well written and informative. I took a first look and said, "Ack...too long, I'll just skim the entry." but I didn't skim, I read every fascinating word!!

Julia_1984 said...

I still dont know one single venezuelan -indian or criollo - who doesnt sees a hammock and inmediatly jump into it! Keep writting about your jungle experiences

Bob said...

I thought of you today as I was sweeping! Now I will think of you and your family when I lie "dead" in my bed.

Sarah Joy said...

So are you sleeping on the "dead bed?"

You would laugh until you hurt if you saw me trying to get into a hammock several years ago. I figured it out, but not until everyone in my family was nearly rolling on the floor.

Farmer John said...

I guess the hammock would keep the niguas off you, too...