Sunday, June 28, 2009

Andean Medicine...

Is kind of amazing, even more so when you don't see it coming. That is exactly what happened to me the last time I was in Huancavelica.

As a Bridge of Hope team, five of us took the overnight bus ride to
Huancavelica for a little bit of work and a lot of celebration. The plan was to spend our first day running around the country side with Artisan Group El Mercurio playing soccer and volleyball and eating a mountain of food. And all of that did happen; I just did not take part.

I spent the majority of the morning, lying down with a bag of oranges as my pillow. No one really took notice until it came time for lunch, and I wasn’t able to eat. I continued to lye there and not move. My stomach hurt incredibly badly and I had frequent sensations to relieve myself of the contents of my stomach. I heard some commotion and someone asking for a cigarette. Someone said my name and helped me sit up.

That is when I was covered by a piece of manta. Manta is the colorful fabric that the Andean women use to carry children, food, boxes, just about anything, on their backs. Quickly realizing that I was too large for the first manta, a second was brought in for reinforcement. One of
the women from the group quickly joined me underneath my incredibly colorful, me-sized tent.

She was picking leaves off of some type of herb plant and crushing them with her palms. When she was satisfied with her herb crushage, she called for the aguita, or little water. It was a small airplane liquor sized bottle which drizzled liquid on to the herbs. She immediately put the concoction to my nose and told me to breathe, which I did. It was not water that had been combined with the herbs, but something that smelled stronger than rubbing alcohol. I continued to breathe in the fumes as instructed. Next, my doctor began to rub it over the entirety of my face, not softly. Then, she went up my shirt, and rubbed it all over my chest. And I mean that literally. Finally, she rubbed it on the back of my neck and made me smell it one last time, before we repeated the entire process again.

After the herbs were gone is when she requested the cigarette. Second hand smoke was the second part of my cure. She began puffing the Inka Cigarette and blowing in my face, telling me to breath, so I did. She continued to puff away and blow the smoke in my ears, armpits, down my shirt and on my neck. When I was sufficiently covered, she exited the tent and laid me down, retaining the integrity of my tent, and plunged a knife into the soil to preserve my energy. I was told to rest, which I did.

I tell this story somewhat in cultural jest, but more so to display the affection, compassion and sincere hospitality that I have always been shown by my friends here in Peru. As soon as they knew I was not well, they did everything in their power to help me. And while, culturally, it was out of this world, my well being was their first priority.

This kind of hospitality is an amazing thing. I hope I can bring this spirit of love, compassion and giving with me back to the states when it is time for me to return.

This pic is of my doctor.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Katie,

    Your story brought tears to my eyes...
    You are so right about what you are sharing... and our need to bring that spirit of love, compassion and giving with us when we come home ...

    I almost want to ask you: "...And? ... Did you feel better?"... but that's not what's important ...

    God's continuing blessings in your time in Peru!....

    I was just there, recently, teaching a course on Ecology and Theology at the Recinto Universitario in Lima. I met Jed and Alexandra, but I didn't have a chance to meet you...

    Best wishes!
    You are indeed very lucky to be there at this time!