Author Archives: Brooke Alumni Ambassador

About Brooke Alumni Ambassador

I'm Brooke. I spent a semester abroad in Chile learning about traditional Chilean medicine and Chile's intercultural healthcare system. I am now a Gilman Alumni Ambassador looking to help share my experiences abroad and encourage others to make their own international memories.

Maintaining a Language After Going Abroad

While I was abroad, I took all of my classes in Spanish. My home-stay family didn’t speak English, and all of my research was completed in Spanish. I was surrounded by Spanish every day. So when I came back to the United States, I felt pretty confident in my Spanish-speaking ability. Granted, I was far from fluent coming back to the US but I did feel like I could understand most things that I heard and I was able to get my point across in a conversation. I didn’t realize just how much daily practice I needed to keep my skills where they were. As the months have gone by, my confidence in my ability to speak Spanish has decreased. I felt slow in my Spanish recall. It took me a few seconds longer to understand what was said and to formulate a response. Any conversation I had in Spanish, it felt like I was always lagging a few seconds behind. It was a sad realization that my Spanish was slowly slipping away. I didn’t want to lose my Spanish, so I started looking for ways that I could keep practicing. Here are a few options that I found to help me keep practicing:

  1. Find a friend! One of my housemates is a Spanish major, so I’m really lucky. However, talk to your friends and see if any of them is learning or knows the language that you studied. Even if none of your friends knows the language, see if any of them wants to learn.
  2. Volunteer! I have volunteered at a free clinic at school, and we have a large Spanish-speaking community. I often will do some translating or just have some conversations with patients. It challenges me, and I learn a lot of vocabulary. There are a lot of different places that you can volunteer and work as a translator or as a tutor. Not only does this help you improve and practice language skills, but it also is giving back to the community.
  3. Read, Watch, and Listen! While this won’t necessarily help you practice speaking a language, it does keep you thinking in a language. Additionally, it can help improve vocab and grammar skills. While I was abroad and since I’ve come back, I have been watching either Spanish TV shows/movies or watching movies dubbed in Spanish. I will also have subtitles going at the same time. This helps me keep up when characters are speaking too quickly. Listening to music in another language is an excellent way to challenge yourself. Songs can be really quick. They can use slang and words that you don’t recognize. Try to listen to a song you like and pick out the lyrics. Or you can look up the lyrics and try to sing along.
  4. Talk to yourself! It might sound a little crazy, but by switching to thinking in another language, it helps improve language skills compared to trying to translate in your head. If you can change completely to thinking and talking to yourself in another language, it helps you to not switch back and forth between two languages once you get into a conversation. It will speed up a conversation and make it more natural. There are so many phrases in languages that don’t make sense when translated directly and false cognates can have drastically different meanings. It’s always better to try to get to a point where you are thinking in another language when you are speaking it. So practice just switching for a half hour or so at a time and only letting yourself think in another language or talk to yourself (it doesn’t have to be out loud). You really will see a difference the next time you have a conversation if you try this.

There are so many ways to keep practicing a language once you come back to the US. My best advice is to find a way that is fun for you. Don’t feel like you need to come back and go into a class to keep up a language. All you need to do is keep using it. One of the biggest struggles that I face when it comes to speaking in Spanish is my fear that I will mess up or that my Spanish will sound broken. I find it hard to force myself to speak Spanish when I have another choice, even though I love the language and I genuinely do want to become fluent. However, most people that I’ve met are encouraging and helpful. People are excited to see others learn their language so don’t be afraid of going out of your comfort zone.

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The Return Home

I’ve been back in the United States for about a week now. It didn’t really hit me that I was leaving Chile until a few days after I got home. I felt as if I was just going on another trip as part of my program. Even stranger though was the fact that I felt as though I had barely left the U.S. when I got back to Dallas. It didn’t feel as if I had been away for around four months. The time went by much quicker than I thought it would.

I still feel like I’m adjusting but it’s gotten easier. Probably one of the hardest things to adjust to at first was all the English I was hearing. I had been so used to having to focus on a conversation to really understand what was going on. I was so overwhelmed by being able to understand everything people were saying. I couldn’t tune out all the conversations going on around me for a few days. Also, I kept responding to questions asked in English in Spanish. This was especially apparent on my flight from Santiago to Dallas. The flight attendants would ask me something in English and I would almost always respond in Spanish. I am still saying ‘permiso‘  instead of excuse me and ‘gracias‘ instead of thank you. I often find myself not being able to think of the English word I want to use in conversations. I also have started using strangely translated English phrases. This means that when trying to say “a lack of something,” I have said “a fault of something” instead because in Spanish the phrase is falta de algo.



My greeting when I got off the plane.


My sentiments after 33 hours of travel with only 3 hours of sleep.


Other that this, I don’t feel like I’ve experienced a ton of reverse culture shock. One of the things I was not expecting was how my body would react to eating food that I was accustom to eating in the U.S. before leaving. After four months of almost only bread, meat, potatoes, and avocado, my stomach is not up to the task of processing spicier food or even large amounts of vegetables.

Also, it’s been interesting getting back into working and being on my feet for long hours. The last month and a half of my time in Chile I was inside talking to people or working on my paper. I had been doing a lot of work but it was mostly on my own time. Being on a strict schedule has been a change and I’m still getting used to that. Additionally, I have been used to spending almost all my time with the same 23 other people who have similar schedules to me. Most of my friends from Whitman College live in other areas of the country than I do and many of my friends from high school are spending the summer elsewhere or have since moved away. I keep thinking that I should text other students from my program before remembering that they are all around the world at the moment. I also keep thinking that I see people from my program when I’m out, even though I know that none of them are close to my town.

I am so thankful for all of the experiences that I had in Chile during my time there. I am even more thankful for the people that I met. My Putre and Arica host families were amazing and I am so lucky to still be in contact with them. I hope that I stay in contact with them for the rest of my life. I also hope to remain in contact with the people I met on my program. It was so amazing to talk to people with so many different perspectives. Almost all of my classes in college have very like-minded people and many are majoring in the same subject with similar career interests as me. On my program in Chile, there were anthropology majors, biology majors, chemistry majors, public health majors and sociology majors. There were people who also wanted to go to medical school, as well as people wanting to go to nursing school, work in public health or who wanted to pursue careers in anthropology. Overall, I think the people that I met, both Chileans and other study abroad students, were what really made my experience in Chile what it was and it has been the hardest to adjust to being away from these people after returning to the United States.

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Then and Now

Today marks my last day in Putre. I took the bus, La Paloma, to Arica for the last time. As I approach the last week of my time here in Chile and finish tackling my Independent Study Project (ISP) paper, it’s a good time to stop and reflect on my time here.

Most prominently, I have grown significantly in my own self-awareness and my own shortcomings in knowledge. My time in Chile has shown me how little I know about my own understanding of the U.S. and the programs available to help our citizens. I have realized my lack of understanding of just how the U.S. health insurance system works. Beyond that, I have had the ability to truly think about my personal prejudices. I’ve always considered myself open minded and tolerant but that was challenged during my time here. One of the best examples of this was after talking with a Machi (the traditional healer of the Mapuche people) in Makewe. On the bus back to our houses, I had a conversation with another girl in my study abroad program. The conversation was about how we could not personally believe that some form of traditional medicine would work to help cure cancer or other chronic, often deadly, illnesses. It was a moment when I realized just how much I believe in conventional medicine. I am open to believing that medicinal plants can help with colds, cases of flu, muscle aches, headaches, and altitude sickness, but I am not able to convince myself that the same types of remedies could work for what are traditionally thought of as grave or chronic illnesses. How is it possible to believe that something might work for minor health problems but not major ones?

Additionally, being in Chile has opened me up to handling uncomfortable situations much better than I previous had. There were very few people that I met in Chile who did not ask me about the current U.S. government and political climate. I have never talked so much politics in my life as I have here in Chile. I learned to be able to have an open dialogue about the political climate in the U.S.

Also, last week I was at lunch with my host family in Putre and a pastor of an Evangelical church in Putre (my host mom is also a pastor of an Evangelical church in Putre). It was the International Day against Homophobia, Transphobia, and Biphobia. The other pastor who was having lunch with us was talking about gay pride flags being put up at municipalities across Chile and even rumored to have been flying in front of the Moneda (Chile’s equivalent to the White House). It took me until he asked me if I was okay with someone being able to legally change their name and gender to fit their identity to realize that he was talking about the flags as a negative action. He proceeded to explain to me that he was not homophobic because he did not have an issue with the gay people (as the Bible says you should not have fights with others) but that he and the church were against the actions of gay people. He used the example of going to a park with his son and seeing two men kissing as violating nature. Personally, I find it hard to comprehend how someone can separate a person from something that they include as part of their identity. Furthermore, how someone can be convinced that they are not saying homophobic statements when stating that they disagree with and disapprove of homosexual acts with such a strong disdain. I tried to explain in this conversation that it is part of their identity and that it is a right everyone has to be able to love who they love without fear of discrimination or violence. It is also the right of each person to be able to publicly display this love in actions such as kissing, hand holding, hugging, etc without fear of retaliation. Whether or not my ideas got through, I do not know. But I do know that had I been confronted with this type of conversation previously, I would have become too angry to be able to hold a rational conversation.

Probably the most obvious ways that I have grown as a person are in my Spanish language abilities. When I first arrived in Chile, I was overwhelmed when spoken to in Spanish. I could not understand half of the words said to me and with the infinite number of Chileanismos that exist it was even harder to comprehend what was going on around me. I am now able to communicate the vast majority of the thoughts that I have (although not always successfully) and I am more comfortable with the idea that I might fail to communicate what it is I am trying to get across. When I arrived, I often refrained from engaging in more challenging conversation topics because I might not be able to express myself adequately. Now, the majority of my conversations are political, deeply personal, or full of words that I don’t understand but it doesn’t matter because I am willing to ask instead of just pretend like I know what’s going on.

And lastly, nothing helps improve your flexibility like vague directions and non-existent guidance. While the majority of the time I have been in Chile I have felt babied by my study abroad program, there was the occasional moment when we were given a task with minimal explanation of what we were doing or how we were to accomplish it. The most extreme of these situations was the Estudio de Pueblos. Essentially, my program drove me and some fellow students to the bus station in Temuco and set us loose to go to a town we had been assigned to learn about over two days. After two days, we were to take a bus back to Temuco where we would take another bus back to Makewe. There wasn’t much in the way of tips, guidance, or preparation. We were told about a day and a half beforehand what this project was and what it entailed. This starkly contrasted what I had come to expect from SIT after a month and a half of closely planned programs. This was, however, a little more of what I had been wanting from studying abroad. We got another opportunity to be completely in control of our schedules during this past month of ISP research.

Overall, I have grown as a person but mostly I have grown to understand myself more. I have learned what I do not fully comprehend and I have realized that sometimes I need to dig a little deeper than the first answer given.

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For my Independent Study Project, I have been in Putre for the past two weeks. The majority of that time I have been traveling with the healthcare team to many of the smaller towns for what they call Rondas. Essentially what that means is that the entire team of the Family Health Center or Centro de Salud Familiar (CESFAM) travels in a van with the basic equipment needed to provide healthcare services to the more rural towns in the Andes. The team includes a doctor, medical technician, nurse, nutritionist, psychologist, child education/development specialist, as well as a Qulliri and Yatiri, who are the traditional healers. The full Rondas with the entire CESFAM team travels to each town once a month. During this time they set up in the town for anywhere between 2 to 5 hours. Patients are usually waiting or trickle in during the time we are there. I went with the team for all 6 days of full Rondas this month. We went to a total of 10 towns in 6 days. For the majority of the patients we saw, this is the only time they have access to healthcare unless they have a vehicle to drive to Putre. Putre is on average about 2 hours away from these towns but many people come from even farther just to visit with doctors during the Rondas. This is even more complicated when you factor that most of the patients tend to llamas and alpacas. Generally, they don’t have another person around to take over the care of their animals and are forced to put them in a pen on Ronda days.



Some of the alpacas roaming around.


The van that the Ronda team travels in.


During my time in each town, I have a short questionnaire of 10 questions that focus on what type of healthcare and treatments the patients tend to use since they have access to traditional doctors and a clinical doctor during this time. What I found was that almost 80% of patients visit with both doctors during the Rondas and that roughly 70% use both traditional remedies, as well as prescribed medication. However, the majority of the people I talked with also told me that they generally take traditional remedies and only take pills if they have a chronic disease or if their sickness has not cleared up while taking traditional treatments. This was not surprising to me though. I had anticipated that traditional medicine would still be a large part of the culture in the Andes. What did surprise me was the conversations I had with the traditional doctors. I had expected that they would believe the current intercultural healthcare system was a step in the right direction but would have many suggestions for improvements. What I found instead was that for the most part, they are exceptionally pleased with how the system is currently working. This has changed a lot of the outlook of my Independent Study Project.



A volcano in Lauca National Park behind a small town.


Going on the Rondas has been a very eye-opening experience for me. It completely redefined what I think of as rural. Many of the people I met live with only their family members close to them. They don’t have access to stores to buy food and need to choose their vegetables carefully to have ones that will last until the next opportunity they have to go shopping. They live off of the animals that they care for and that is the majority of what they consume. Also, at first I thought that seeing a doctor once a month might not be necessary. I don’t go to the doctor that frequently and nor do many of the people that I know. However, I realized that’s the difference between having the privilege and luxury of deciding when I need to go to a doctor. These people don’t have an option many times to go to a doctor whenever they feel sick. They have a single day every month to get any prescription pills they need to handle any sudden illnesses. Additionally, only three of the towns that we went to had children in them. The majority of the patients we were seeing were elderly and many were battling with some sort of chronic illness that needs to be controlled. Even with the Rondas, often patients have to come to Putre, or even as far as Arica which is an additional two hours away from Putre, to get some sort of testing done. While the Rondas help bring more accessible healthcare to these people, maintaining a healthy life is still an obstacle for many of these people.



A church found in one of the more rural towns.

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Intercultural vs Multicultural

When I started this study abroad program we were told a lot about the concept of intercultural medicine. It seemed to be what everyone we talked to was aspiring to create within the Chilean healthcare system. Now that I have had time to see the problems and goals of an intercultural healthcare system, I am not sure that I agree with the concept. For starters, the majority of people who have spoken to us about trying to create an intercultural system of healthcare are people who do not identify as indigenous and don’t use traditional medicine. On the other hand, those who do practice traditional medicine and often times do identify as part of an indigenous community in Chile have spoken to us mostly about their desire for better communication between Western medicine and traditional healing. In fact, several have even spoken against the current model of intercultural health that the government has tried to implement.

The Chilean government has been trying to promote intercultural health by including traditional medicine within their health centers. While this seems to be a good first step for creating an open dialogue, there are many downsides to this. The first being, that this allows for people to claim that they are intercultural without actually communicating. This was the case in Putre with the Aymaran traditional medics.  While the Yatiri and Usuyiri/Qulliri have their own office at the health center in Putre, the doctors don’t refer their patients to them as frequently as their claim of interculturality might suggest. Although, the traditional medics do refer patients with a higher frequency than the biomedical doctors. Obviously, this doesn’t support an environment of equality between the two systems of medicine and it also excludes patients who do not know to actively exercise their right to see traditional doctors.

Another problem with this system is that the current system of interculturality requires both medical practices to be housed within one building. Since the biomedical system is the one defining this type of interculturality, this means that the traditional practices are expected to move within pre-existing biomedical health centers. While for the Aymara people this doesn’t seem to have a significant impact on the effectiveness of the traditional practices, the Mapuche practices are severely impacted in a negative manner. For the Mapuche, the spirituality of the place where the medicinal plants are collected and where the Machi (the Mapuche traditional healers) work are equally, if not more, important than the actual remedies taken. Due to this, many Mapuche people believe that having the Machis practicing within hospitals and health centers decreases the actual healing abilities of the Mapuche practices. Again, this indicates a lack of respect or understanding of the traditional practices.

The Mapuche that we have spoken to throughout the program have told us that for them, a better system of intercultural health would have a system of communication and referral between Machis and health centers, but that each would continue to practice in their own respective places. However, this is only based on several conversations with people who identify as Mapuche. In general, I feel as if I have heard more conversation about the intercultural health system from the Mapuche people than I have from the Aymara.

During our time in Putre, the majority of the conversation about intercultural health came from the biomedical side. This sparked my interest and is currently the basis of my Independent Study Project (ISP). The ISP is a month long research project that is the culmination of our time in Chile. I will be spending the majority of my time in Putre speaking to traditional medics such as Yatiris and Qulliris about their experiences working at the health center there. Additionally, I would like to speak to the people who use the traditional medicine available at the health center and potentially speak to a Yatiri who does not work within the biomedical system. I will also be traveling on rondas (medical rounds in which the professionals of the Putre health center travel to other rural towns in the mountains who do not have their own health centers) to speak to the citizens who use these services. I hope that I will be able to find out more of the Aymara opinion on the current model of intercultural healthcare. Would they too prefer a more multicultural system with better communication and understanding between biomedical systems and traditional practices?



Belen is one of the towns that I will be traveling to during the rondas. It used to be the largest town in the area but has since decreased in population.


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Overcoming Loneliness in Chile

The past three weeks of my study abroad program have been spent traveling. We spent a week in Putre and then had one day back in Arica to unpack and re-pack all of our things before we headed to the south of Chile. Our first stop was Temuco area. Here we spent most of the out time in Maquewe, which is a town 20 minutes away from Temuco. Despite it’s proximity to a city, Maquewe has no cellphone service, most houses don’t have internet, and there is no store or plaza around. It’s a very rural, spread out town that consists essentially of houses, farms, a hospital, and a school. Each day, for me to get to the hospital for class it was a 25-30 minute walk on the “highway.” There are buses that go from Maquewe to Temuco but other than that there was no public transportation system. Here is where my feeling of loneliness started. The house I was staying at was one of the farthest houses from the hospital. While I was staying with one other girl from the program, I felt very separated from my friends and I missed the ability to leave my house to just walk around small shops near the plaza.

Things didn’t really get any better when we left Maquewe to do our small group study of one of the other small towns around Temuco. I was in a group of three other girls going to Chol-Chol. Within the group, I definitely felt like I was an outsider. Most of the conversation came back to sororities or other topics of conversation that I could not really join in on. It didn’t help that in the afternoons we got trapped in our hostel because of the pouring rain. Again we had no internet but there was no cellphone service. For the entire time that I was in Chol-Chol I still had a feeling of isolation. I was really looking forward to our time in Pucón and hoping that it would be better and in reality Pucón did end up being a better situation. Maybe it was because we traveled as a group to some waterfalls, lakes, and hot springs. I was also just really excited to have a two days of free afternoons to explore and take a break from the constant class and lectures that we had the week before.



Hot springs in Pucón!


Some of the waterfalls we went to see in Pucón.


Nicole and I on the other side of the falls.


After our two day mini break in Pucón, we headed to Santiago. This is where my feeling of isolation hit me the hardest. During check in, I somehow ended up without a roommate. The second night in Santiago I had spent an hour in an Entel store trying to get my phone to work since I can’t receive phone calls. I was with a group of people from the program who were also trying to fix their phones. When we got back to the hotel, the other girls I was with rushed out to go to dinner with a friend who was studying in Santiago. It was getting kind of late at that point and I was trying to find someone who was still around the hotel and hadn’t eaten yet. I didn’t have much luck and the messages that I sent out to people weren’t getting responses. After about another hour I heard back from one group of people who were in the city eating. I headed out to try to join them. I got on the metro and then was using my phone to get me to the restaurant address when my phone suddenly lost all data. I couldn’t find my way to the restaurant so I had to call my friends to find me at a street corner and I sat there for about 20 minutes.

This was really the pinnacle of my loneliness. I was sitting in front of a bank on a dimly lit street corner in Santiago at 9:00 at night alone, just waiting for people to find me. During this time I really felt alone and forgotten. However, this feeling was about to finally lift starting the next day. The next night I asked one girl to let me know what her plans for the night were, instead of trying to make last minute plans and sulking in my room. She texted me around 8:30 and we went out to dinner with three other girls and then we walked around Santiago looking at different restaurants and cafes until midnight when we returned back to the hotel. The following day, a girl came to my room and told me that she had somewhere that she needed to show me. So we put on our running shoes and she took me to a park. I was a little confused why we were there until I saw the climbing holds on a building. She had run past this the other day and thought of me. I was so happy, not just to have found a climbing wall but also I was happy to know that she had thought of me. We hung around to watch people climb and then jogged back to the hotel.



Some of the climbers in the park in Santiago.


That night was the birthday of a girl in the program and so we went out to dinner with her at a Mexican restaurant nearby the hotel before buying ice cream at a grocery store and working on homework in the hotel conference room. However, it wasn’t really until Saturday that the feeling of isolation completely lifted. Saturday was our one free day in Santiago so eight of us decided to take a bus to Valparaíso for the day. We took the bus in the morning and made the 10:00 am walking tour of the city where we got to see the former prison, many murals, a cemetery, and hear a lot of the history of Valparaíso. The tour ended around 1:00 and we found a lunch place right by the street fair. Our lunch was very disappointing – our soup was just fish broth, and my friend’s seafood bowl tasted like nothing. But the food we found at the street fair made up for that. After touring the fair and getting little gifts for friends back home, we headed out to explore more of the city’s famous murals and see the open air museum which is a collection of murals created in the 1990s.



A mural we found in Valparaíso


Song lyrics painted on stairs in Valparíso.


“We are not hippies. We are happies.”


By the end of the day, we were exhausted and ready to get back on the bus to Santiago. As I sat on the bus, I realized that I hadn’t smiled or laughed that much since we left Putre. I had probably laughed more that day than for the entire two weeks of traveling we had done before. It wasn’t that people hadn’t wanted me around or had forgotten about me, it was that I had let it get to my head. I let all the little moments, the little accidents, build up in my mind and turned them into a much more extreme situation that it was in reality. Before, I felt like I was being pushy asking if I could come along to dinner or on little adventures, but that day in Valparaíso made me realize that I needed to make the effort to be part of the group. I needed to ask if I could come because otherwise I wouldn’t do anything and that, above all, made me feel isolated and like an outsider. There was, in reality, no one stopping me from participating except myself.

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Goodbyes are the Hardest Part

Have you ever met someone and within a very short amount of time felt an immediate close connection with them? I have thought I felt something like this before but I never could have imagined just how close you could get to someone in five days.

Five days ago my program traveled to Putre. Putre is a small rural mountain town on the border of Bolivia. For our five days there we were staying with a homestay family in groups. There were three other girls and myself staying with a family in Putre. Throughout the entire time we were there, our host family was so welcoming and caring.

Our mom gave us small flutes that had llama/alpaca designs and said Putre on them at lunch the first day together. The first night at dinner we had an amazing conversation about religion. Our mom asked us if we were religious. This can sometimes be a very touchy subject but she was very open to hearing everyone’s opinions and beliefs. We talked about being spiritual without adhering to a specific religion and about Buddhist beliefs as well as Christianity. At the end of the conversation she even said to us that our differing beliefs about religion would not separate us. After dinner we even went to the Evangelical church that she is the pastor of and participated in the service. It was very different from religious services I have attended previously. The majority of the time we were in the church we were singing. For every song there was a video that accompanied it. Some of the songs we sang in Spanish and for these the lyrics were part of the video projected up on the wall of the church. Many of the other songs we sang came from a hymn book. In the book each song was written in both Spanish and Aymara, the native language of a large majority of the people who live in Putre. Because we were there, they decided to sing in Aymara for us. These songs all had videos to accompany them with images of people in traditional clothing in fields with different animals or in water playing instruments and singing. We followed along in our hymnals trying our best to sing in Aymara. For the first two songs it was really challenging but it got much easier as we started understanding the pronunciation. After singing two songs in Spanish and four or five songs in Aymara, our host-mom read a gospel passage and started her homily. Then came the Sign of Peace. After that we all headed over to another small building next to the church that had a kitchen and an dining room with several long tables. On one table there were three plates of sopapilla that had been made before church and cups of tea. We sat there for about 20 or 30 minutes just talking to the other members of the parish. They were all so welcoming of us.



The view from just outside my homestay in Putre.


A mural depicting llamas and alpacas.


Throughout the rest of our time in Putre I consistently felt so welcomed by our host family and also by everyone we met. Part of the program was talking to the Aymara traditional medicine providers in Putre. Señor Teófilo is the yatiri. His role in traditional medicine within Aymara culture is to communicate with different spiritual entities. He does this to read hojas de coca (coca leaves) for people. Within these readings he can tell you about your health, your job, and your love life. He can use this to help figure out if someone has an imbalance within their body that is causing them to be sick. Additionally, Señora Fausta is the qulliri/usuyiri of the town. A qulliri is the person who uses herbs to help cure illnesses and prevent illnesses as well. A usuyiri is a traditional midwife. Both of them were very welcoming and taught us so much. I even went to Señor Teófilo one morning to get my coca leaves read and Señora Fausta made me a jarabe (a solution of eucalyptus, honey, and a root of an herb called yareta) for my cough and bronchitis as well as a cream for muscle aches. I feel like I learned the most from them. Through them I saw the potential for intercultural medicine to succeed. They worked with the local health center to treat patients and they were so open to learning about and incorporating occidental medicine in their traditional practices. They used occidental diagnoses to help cater traditional remedies and medicines for their patients and they also understood which types of illnesses they were able to effectively treat and which ones they were better treated by occidental doctors. However, this system does not yet go both ways. The medics at the clinic in Putre change a lot. At least every four years there is a completely new medical team in Putre. This means that some of the doctors that come are more open and accepting of traditional medicine and its benefits than others and it presents even more of a challenge in creating a sustainable system of reciprocity between the two types of medicine to best benefit the patients in Putre and surrounding towns.



Welcome pawa with the yatiri and qulliri/usuyiri of Putre.


The last night that we were in Putre the group of girls that I was staying with went stargazing and on the way back we saw that our host parents were in church so we stopped in. It was just about the end of the service so we stayed. At the end our host mom said that she was so happy we had come to Putre and that she hoped we learned a lot while we were here and that she had learned a lot from us. After that she asked us is if we wanted to say a few words about our time in Putre. We all said that we felt we had created a very strong connection with the people and the place in the short time we had been there and that we learned a lot about the Aymara culture. Then another woman from the parish started to close the service with a prayer. Her prayer lasted for five minutes or so. I have never heard so many well wishes for strangers in my life. A large part of her prayer was directed at us and wishing us well in life and in our studies. It was amazing to see someone who thought the best of everyone, even people she had only met twice for very brief instances. By the end of her prayer I was almost in tears and one of the other girls I was staying with was crying. The rest of that night was spent saying very heartfelt goodbyes to our host father since we wouldn’t see him the next morning. Our sister-in-law gave us hair ties that she had made for us. They were flowers made out of fabric with traditional patterns.

The next morning we left at around 9:30 but as we walked to the bus we saw our sister-in-law again. She was in a store and beckoned us in. Once we were in the store she asked us if we wanted any snacks for the ride home. As we started to get out our wallets she quickly told us no, she would be paying for whatever we wanted. It was very sweet. We each ended up getting a lollipop for the drive up Lauca National Park, where we were visiting before returning to Arica that day. It was very hard to get on that bus and leave behind Putre and our family. I don’t think I have ever connected to someone so quickly and with such strength before in my life. I couldn’t have imagined an better first trip out of Arica.



Volcano of Parinacota in Lauca National Park.


More mountains in Lauca National Park.


Selfie with some vicuñas in Lauca National Park.


More vicuñas in Lauca National Park.


A viscacha in Lauca National Park.


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