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Trip to Iguazu Falls

June 22, 2012

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update….we’ve been busy!

We had a two and half day “break” between major trips…and spent this time working very hard on coursework and observation. (6/12-6/14) As we near the end of courses, major papers and projects are due and the house is surprisingly quiet as students focus on these tasks. It’s not unusual to see most of our students sitting on couches and bean bag chairs in a semi-circle in the Casa loft area…all silently staring at computer screens or reading books illuminated by the soft orange glow of space heaters! While there’s a lot to see and do here, we are STUDYING abroad!

I will ask two of our students to post a reply to this installment that describes a unique experience they had during our regular shadowing time on Wednesday morning 6/13. Emily and Josh are both leaning toward careers that may involve health care management. The Walker’s were able to set up an appointment for them with the main office of Johnson and Johnson in Uruguay and they met with the director of this office. Both reported that it was a very interesting meeting and it was fun to see their enthusiasm for business and the possibilities of making a difference in the world through working in business.

On 6/14 we left Montevideo to fly to Iguacu Falls. The falls are located on the border of Brazil and Argentina, very near Paraguay. For students “collecting” countries, we actually were in all three countries during our trip!

It is difficult to describe the beauty of the falls. The volume of water and width of the falls are breathtaking. There are about 275 separate falls in the group collectively named Iguacu Falls. It has been named one of the seven natural wonders in the world. Pictures never can communicate the experience, but see several below. The experience is more remarkable because of the catwalks that have been built very close to several of the largest cataracts. You can feel the power of the rushing water, spray in your face…the beauty is overwhelming. I think that I could be a park ranger in this park and never grow tired of seeing these sights every day and watching the way the waters change through seasons.

So here’s a catalog of how we spent our time in Iguacu or Iguazu or Iguassu (depending on which language you’re reading in!).

6/14 We arrive in Foz do Iguazu, Brazil and checked in to our hotel. That evening we attended a music show showcasing the music of all of Latin America at the Rafain. The show admission includes a lavish buffet….and we all enjoyed the dinner and spectacle!



6/15 We toured the Argentine side of the falls. This was our first sight of the falls and it is breathtaking. You walk across a catwalk over water rushing toward the largest fall…the “Throat of the Devil.” What seems truly unique about this is that the falls have been formed because of two intersecting canyons that differ in depths…so you walk along what seems to be a perfectly flat landscape and suddenly out of nowhere an enormous hole appears and all of the water disappears over the edge of the hole. As you get nearer to the falls you see the magnitude of the fall you are standing over and are confronted with the power of the creator.


The students took a boat up to and under one of the smaller falls and came back to the bus soaked and happy! (The professors decided it was a bit too chilly to be drenched!)

If you’ve never met a coati these rodents of unusual size are very aggressive food scavengers who will attack the unsuspecting consumer, even jumping on tables and laps in large numbers and attempting to enter backpacks when food might be stored. Coatis are abundant in Iguacu. There seem to be fulltime employees whose only job is loud hissing and clapping while chasing coatis with bamboo brooms out of food service areas.


6/16 The Brazilian side of the falls is a new experience. From this side of the river you can see the full width of the falls. As you walk along a 1.5 kilometer path, each opening in the trees reveals a new view. We probably took 500 photos of waterfalls and rainbows. Thank goodness for digital cameras! The final walkway on this path takes you by the foot of one enormous as the waters flow into another large drop. It’s wet and deafening to stand near the thundering water and once again is awe inspiring and humbling to realize how small we are.


6/17 On our last day in Iguacu we toured the Itaipu Hydroelectric Plant. This structure on the Perana River supplies 90% of Paraguay’s electric power and 20% of Brazil’s. It is produces more electricity than any other hydroelectric plant in the world.  Though not nearly as beautiful as the falls, it was very impressive.


During the afternoon we went to a Bird Park with many endangered and rehabilitating South American birds….colorful, interesting, and startling at times when large parrots swoop down overhead or a tucan sidles up next to you on a railing. The weather cooperated and though it was a little drizzly, the birds were still active and interactive!


6/18-6/19 Back to the books!

6/20  Shadowing in the morning at Hospital de Clinicas and Escuela Roosevelt. The routine has been good. Our students are getting to know their surroundings and the physicians and teachers that they work with each week. At the hospital the students have seen patients and surgeries and meeting among staff members. They’ve observed the slower pace of medical practice and the resulting stronger bond formed between patients and health providers.

During the afternoon we visited the Legislative Palace. This remarkable building is the home of the governing bodies of Uruguay and is elaborately decorated in many different colors of marble all mined in Uruguay!


6/21 This morning we visited the primary Cerro clinic and then one satellite clinic. This simple facility serves a community of over 200,000 people, though only 77,000 use its services. The rest of the community members are members of either a mutualista (an HMO type insurance plan) or buy a private insurance plan. The investment in community-based clinics staffed partially by volunteers is remarkable. The influence of libertarian theology on the approach to providing healthcare is evident even in this secular society.


We have two more weeks in Montevideo. We are loving our experiences here and are all learning more about ourselves and our host culture and more about Global Healthcare. 



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