Category Archives: south america

Studying Abroad with a Chronic Illness or Disability

Hola de Peru,

Living in Huanchaco is such a beautiful experience. I am in love with the sights, the sounds, the smells, and most of all the kind people I’ve met. I am in an ethnographic field school which takes me to three different cities across La Libertad region of Peru: Trujillo, Huanchaco, and El Milagro. I have a very different experience than my classmates do, however, because I have a physical disability and am chronically ill.

Walking the streets of La Libertad, I notice every doorway. Thresholds are an immediate sign of whether people with disabilities can easily enter or exit. Entrances here are typically flat (the same level as the ground) or they have a large step up to enter (much like in the U.S). Government regulations have only recently dictated that public buildings have access ramps, so anything constructed before that legislation is not required to be accessible. There is also a correlation between poverty and access: the wealthier an area, the more accessible it is, and the unfortunate vice versa.

Then, of course, I have my individual struggle with my health. Each day is an uphill climb at 50% capacity. Luckily I have a great cane, a program director who supports and believes in me, and the incredible Gilman team backing my every step up that mountain.

 

on huanchaco beach

This photo was taken on the north end of Huanchaco beach and shows the view of the markets and the fisherman’s pier. The beach is accessible for people with disabilities on the southern side, but not on the northern end. There are too many rocks and it becomes quite steep to get from the road to the ocean.

 

Studying abroad with health challenges definitely has its own unique set of challenges, but that is no reason that it cannot still be an incredible experience. Here are some tips that have helped make my experience go a little smoother.

  1. Some countries and cities are more accessible than others. When deciding where to study abroad, do some research about the destination. Are buildings required to have access ramps and/or elevators? Is public transportation accessible to your needs? Are roads paved or dirt? Will you be able to get your medications in the host country? It’s important to consider these things in addition to the academic program.
  2. Build a support network. I cannot stress enough the value of making friends who will stand by you and support you when you feel ill. Find a friend in each class. Become close with your roommate. So far, having supportive friends has made the experience abroad more manageable, accessible, and enjoyable.
  3. Along those same lines, have an open line of communication with your professors and your program director.  Let them know how you are doing, what you need, and what would make the experience more feasible for you. It is very likely they will be more than willing to accommodate your needs. That has certainly been the case for me.
  4. Learn medical terminology in your host country’s language. Before coming to Peru, I made sure to brush up on my Spanish vocabulary of the human anatomy and symptoms. If you can express how you feel and what your body is going through, you can better receive the medical help you may need.
  5. Similarly, find out your prescription names in your host country. Some medications go by different names in different countries. If you will be receiving refills while abroad, be sure to know what to ask for from the pharmacist. It’s also a good idea to have a note from your doctor listing and describing all your medications (both in English and your host language).
  6. Call venues ahead of time to see if they are accessible for your needs. If you are going out and are worried the destination may not be able to suit your needs, give them a call and find out. Call restaurants and ask if they can accommodate your food allergy. Ask if a building has an elevator. You can even ask what the venue is like so you can determine what support-gear or mobility device you will need. If the venue cannot meet your exact needs, they may be able to work out some other type of accommodation.
  7. Rest and take care of your health. I know being in a new place is exciting, and it is incredibly tempting to want to fill every minute. However, you will have a much better experience if you also take care of your body. You will miss out on more if you are only functioning at half-capacity. Take siestas, say no to late nights every now and again, get enough sleep, stay hydrated, eat well, exercise (if applicable). Your experience abroad will be so much better if your health is a priority.
  8. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. This is the tip I struggle most with. But you will not get what you need if you don’t ask for it. Talk to your professors, your friends, people you meet on the street. They can offer assistance and are often quite willing to do so.

 

at huaca de la luna

This is at the Moche site ‘The Temple of the Moon’ and is one of the oldest archaeological civilizations found in Peru. I had to break out my cane at the Huaca because the only way in or out was through several flights of stairs. We also went to Chan Chan that day, which is a Chimu site, and is completely flat and is entirely wheelchair accessible!

 

Studying abroad is a very attainable goal for people with disabilities! As my health declined in my teenage years, I worried I would never have the chance to study abroad. Now, I am living in Peru, learning more than I ever dreamed possible! Just because I’m sick doesn’t mean I can’t accomplish my dreams. I simply have to go about them a different way. And there is nothing wrong with different.

Best of luck to you all in your journeys, travels, studies, and dreams! May you have good health and amazing experiences!

Saludos!

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Adjusting to Life Abroad

Hi, my name is McKinley. This summer abroad is my last semester of undergraduate studies. I study cultural and medical anthropology as well as sociology at Utah State University. This is my first experience leaving the United States, and I’m spending it in an ethnographic field school in Huanchaco, Peru.

A little more about me: I am a painter, photographer, classical singer, and I have a lot of rare medical conditions causing a physical disability. Many of my experiences and observations in Peru are influenced by my health. Hopefully I’ll be able to give some suggestions to make your study abroad with health challenges a bit easier.

I was incredibly excited to study abroad, and had very few reservations about my trip. My biggest worries were about my health. I wasn’t sure if my medications would be allowed in Peru (they were). I checked with the U.S. embassy in Peru to see if my prescriptions were legal. I called my airline as well to check their restrictions for how to package my medications and how best to stow my cane during the flight. (It is also possible to board early and get assistance if traveling with a wheelchair or other health concerns). I also worried that I would be too sick to participate in classes or activities. So I made preparations with my doctors and with my professors so if I felt subpar, I could still complete my work. I’ve already fallen ill, and was well taken care of. I have even been greeted with traditional Peruvian healing remedies. I was also concerned about exposure to water-borne illnesses from recent flooding in the area. I bought a water filter to screw on top of my water bottle when I drink. Some of my classmates purchased steripens to filter their water. Our professor likewise provided large water filters for us to fill water bottles with. I was pleasantly surprised to find that water sanitation is a priority in my hostel and in many of the shops I’ve visited. 

 

spread of traditional healing herbs

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Spread of traditional healing herbs. A local woman who is a traditional healer showed my class her collection of plants and herbs which she uses to treat and cure everything from joint inflammation, respiratory issues, and stomach/digestion problems, to helping stroke patients recover from paralysis. When I fell ill, I used some of her medicinal herbs!

 

I’ve been in Peru for one week now and have noticed a few differences from the U.S. As an an anthropologist, it’s very important not to generalize. Therefore, these observations are specific to my interactions in La Libertad region of Peru in June 2017.  First, there are few, if any, accessibility ramps for people with disabilities. Second, two lanes of traffic often become five, and cars definitely have the right-of-way before pedestrians. The traffic laws are barely enforced by police, but there is a social norm in driving that helps people be slightly more safe. Third, smiling at strangers of the opposite sex can potentially be interpreted as romantic interest (my friend learned this the hard way). Fourth, the women (and sometimes men) greet and say goodbye with a kiss to the right cheek. Fifth, most of the food is locally produced, making meals clean and healthy. Sixth, some Peruvians run on “la hora Peruana,” or “Peruvian time.” This is a habit of running late (by a few hours). Finally, there seems to be a multi-generational commitment to the central family unit. Grandparents, patents, and children are frequently seen together enjoying family time. Likewise, there is a genuine concern about close friends. 

I’m quite smitten with Huanchaco. It’s a quiet city right on the beach. The crime rate is very low, so I feel safer here than in the bigger cities (Lima, Trujillo). Everyone I’ve met has been really kind and helpful. Still, I had to adjust to speaking and listening in Spanish full-time (talk about a brain workout). It made me anxious the first two or three days, worrying that I wouldn’t understand or wouldn’t know what to say. But it has already become easier, and I expect my language abilities will only continue to increase (so don’t give up hope). I haven’t felt terribly homesick yet, likely because I’ve become good friends with my classmates. My best tip is to make a friend and stick close together until you both become more comfortable. 

 

Huanchaco coat of arms

The crest of the city of Huanchaco. This one is located in the Plaza de Armas in Huanchaco, which is located right outside my hostel. The four images are la Iglesia de Huanchaco (top left), Chimu culture (top right), Moche culture (bottom left), and caballitos de totora or reed wave riders (bottom right).

 

I’ve set some goals for my study abroad experience in Peru. I want to track my personal, educational, and professional progress. These goals include completing original research and producing an ethnography, surfing, trying Peruvian foods, learning about traditional ethnomedical beliefs, and helping provide humanitarian aid to a town destroyed by flooding. It’s important to me to keep my sights set high, but within the limits of what my health will allow. This week, I’m working on my writing skills as I work on my ethnography. I’m particularly inspired by Benjamin Franklin’s words:

“Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing.”

I wish you all the best from Huanchaco. Keep dreaming, keep achieving, keep reaching. There are so many good things ahead. Happy and healthy journeys to you all!

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Rondas

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.

 

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Some of the alpacas roaming around.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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?

 

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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.

 

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Hot springs in Pucón!

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Some of the waterfalls we went to see in Pucón.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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A mural we found in Valparaíso

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Song lyrics painted on stairs in Valparíso.

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“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.

 

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The view from just outside my homestay in Putre.

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Volcano of Parinacota in Lauca National Park.

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More mountains in Lauca National Park.

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Selfie with some vicuñas in Lauca National Park.

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More vicuñas in Lauca National Park.

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A viscacha in Lauca National Park.

 

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Filed under Brooke in Chile, south america

Beauty and the Beast

Arica is a beautiful city. The coast and the ocean are amazing. There are beaches with dark golden sand and the waves are perfect. El Morro, a large, rocky hill that overlooks the city and coast, has breath taking views of the city and from anywhere in the city you can see the massive Chilean flag that flies on the top. You can’t see it from the city but there is also a huge statue of Jesus Christ on top that looks out at the ocean. It is a symbol of peace between Peru and Chile after territorial disputes were finally settled.

 

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The view of the beach from the top of El Morro.

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The group taking pictures of the massive Chilean flag at El Morro

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Closer view of the El Morro Chilean flag.

 

Outside of the city is pure desert. Sand dunes and almost nothing else. Years ago, an artist was commissioned to create several sculptures in the desert to the south of Arica. The statues that the artist created are massive, sand colored creations that are the only things that stand out for miles. His inspiration was the idea of people living in space. There is even a “landing pad” for extraterrestrial aircrafts that is a design made of rocks.

 

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Statues representing male and female figures in the desert south of Arica.

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Another statue found in the Arican desert.

 

There are also murals all over Arica. I’ve seen many around the University of Tarapacá and also around the old University Républica where we have our Spanish classes. Most of them seem to be memorials to people who lost their lives during the violent 1973 Chilean coup. All of the murals are very detailed and many are very colorful. Some are more abstract and include depictions of owls and colorful designs.

Besides all of this, there are just wonderful people. Everyone I have met so far has been very welcoming and kind. Everyone has been patient with me and my Spanish speaking abilities which I have been really grateful for. Most Chileans speak really fast and with so much slang that it’s hard to understand what they are saying even if you understand all of the words they are saying. My host family has been exceptionally welcoming. They have helped me a lot with my Spanish and they are very generous. I am really enjoying my time with them and getting to know them more. My host dad just came back from vacation the other day so I just met him but so far he seems very friendly. He’s been super funny so far. I also got to meet my cousins the other day. They are from Santiago but are currently in Arica. Two nights ago we went over to my abuela’s house for “once” (dinner). The next night we had a barbecue at our house. My host dad prepared fresh fish that he bought at the port that morning. It was delicious. The fish was reineta, a fish common in the ocean off of Chile. I am looking forward to trying more of the local fish while I’m here.

 

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Reineta being sold fresh at the market at the Port of Arica.

 

The other night I went to El Centro, the main shopping street in the center of the city, to get ice cream with a few other students from my study abroad program. When we got out of our colectivo (a carpool style taxi with a set route), there were several events going on in the plaza. One of the events was a traditional African-Chilean dance to celebrate the African heritage of Chileans in Arica. The dancers were amazing and there was a band of men and women playing drums and singing. I felt so lucky to have arrived just in time to watch the last few dances and experience this tradition.

 

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Dancers celebrating African-Chilean traditions.

 

While everything has been amazing and interesting so far, I have noticed that in the midst of all the beautiful places, there is a lot of trash. Arica’s tap water is safe to drink but most people who can afford to buy bottled water do because the tap water doesn’t have an appealing taste. I was told it’s because of the amount of minerals in it but I’m not really sure why it tastes bad. Most people buy bottled water and many families have the stereotypical office water cooler-type dispenser in their homes. Arica doesn’t have a very good recycling program and many of the people who live here are not very environmentally conscious. This means that there is a lot of plastic waste and garbage everywhere. I have found myself needing to buy bottled water occasionally and I feel really wasteful. Over the past week I have been better about filling up the water bottles that I brought with me and using those as much as possible but it is challenging because I drink a lot of water during the day. I do want to work on improving my environmental footprint while I am here though.

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Filed under Brooke in Chile, south america