Monday, November 24: I can’t believe this is our last day. Last night we stayed up late to see two last patients who needed fairly minor adjustments to their hearing aids. Afterwards we chatted with Rildo for a while about different aspects of hearing aid programming. It was fun to share knowledge with a colleague from so far away, and to see how much we had in common.
On Monday morning, after our last delicious “Luh breakfast” (sob!), we exchanged gifts with our new friends. Then we walked down to the School for the Deaf in Parintins. We were treated to a tour and an explanation of the wonderful work they’re doing there. We met some Deaf teenagers who had not been in a school until they reached adolescence (because the services just don’t exist in rural areas), and it was just amazing to see how much they’d learned so quickly. Meeting them was a poignant reminder that the drive to learn and communicate and participate is universal. I was moved to tears by the teachers’ passion for their students, and the incredible things being done in this school for these sweet children. During the tour, we learned that we were allowed to buy some of the things the kids made in arts and crafts time, so Ellen and I picked a few things to bring home with us to remind us of this wonderful place.
After the tour, we headed back to the clinic to pack up and say our goodbyes. I couldn’t believe how much Ellen and I had come to love this group of people in such a short amount of time. It was so hard to say goodbye, but we promised to come back, and we meant it! Davison, Ellen and I got in the taxi to the airport and waved goodbye to our friends and the clinic that had changed our lives.
At the airport , Ellen and I enjoyed one last bit of Parintins fun. Then we unexpectedly ran into a friend we had met while out to lunch on Saturday. He generously offered to let us store our things at his hotel in Manaus during the 10 hour layover before our flight back to the U.S. It was yet another example of the amazing friendliness of the folks we met in Brazil.
Back in Manaus, we stashed our heavy suitcases at our friend’s hotel and then went to explore the city. Davison gave us a tour of the Teatro Amazonas (one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world), which is where he works as a guide.
After the tour, we shopped for our last few souvenirs—I just had to get a hammock like the one I had napped in during our beach excursion on Sunday—and then went back to the hotel to hang out with our friend and relax a little. Our flight to Miami didn’t leave until 1:05 a.m., so we had plenty of time for a late dinner and some fun conversation, and then it was back to the airport. Ellen and I had fun goofing off while we waited for our flight, and then it was time to board, and our time in Brazil was officially over.
We slept through most of the flight, and then blearily wandered around the Miami airport. Next up, the flight to Dallas, and then finally the flight home to Bloomington-Normal. I couldn’t wait to see my little boy!
What an amazing trip this was. We are both so grateful to the Oticon Foundation for this opportunity, and to the Vivo o Som Foundation for the wonderful work they let us help with. It was one of the best weeks of my life. In summary, here are a few things I learned while I was in Parintins:
- Humanity is remarkable in the similarities I’ve seen in every place I’ve been fortunate to visit. Everyone laughs with their friends, loves their family, and wants the best for their children. The people I was lucky enough to meet in Brazil amazed me with their vitality and love of life. I can only hope to carry a bit of that vitality with me everywhere.
- Hearing loss affects everyone differently, but underneath it all is the universal desire to communicate with loved ones and interact with the world. The opportunity to provide hearing aids and counseling to improve communication between people and their loved ones is something I’ll never get tired of doing, and I’ll never forget the happiness on the faces of the people at the Vivo o Som clinic when we turned their hearing aids on for the first time. Being an audiologist is truly the best job I could ever have hoped for, and I’m so happy to have opportunities to work directly with children and adults and their families. It’s the most rewarding thing I can imagine.
- As much as I love being a clinical audiologist, I have to admit that being a professor is pretty amazing too. Having the chance to work so closely with Ellen this week has been incredibly rewarding. I’ve known her since she was an undergraduate student, and to see her now as a third-year doctoral student—so accomplished and confident—was just the reminder I needed that THIS is why I pursued a career in academia. Working directly with patients is wonderful, and I love it; however, knowing I’ve helped train future audiologists to go out and do great work and help exponentially more patients than I could ever see on my own… that’s what makes so much of this worthwhile.
Obrigado, Brazil. You changed my life.