Saturday, November 29, 2003

well it is next to impossible for me edit this damn blog. i wish it was like a checking acct that if you just leave it alone awhile it would straighten out! oh well so my other way of handling this will be to just ignore it!

i can't believe its already thanksgiving! i missed eating turkey with my boys! but all is really fine here otherwise! i wrote a few people about having the midwives come to visit sipascancha. it was an incredible response! i had invited the pregnant women to meet them but 40 or 50 women attended. we had to move it from the clinic to the comedor (sort of a comunal dining room). it was really interesting. i felt the same sense of excitement i have from paulina, ignacia and rufina (the midwives) as they explained in quechua how they had met me and where and how happy they were to be of service to their neighboring community. so what was really enlightening was to find out its illegal for the women to have babies at home. this has been an attempt by the government to register the births more accurately. so, when a woman is in labor she is expected to get to the centro de salud in colquepata. but the only ways to colquepata are either a 3 hour horseback ride or a bit quicker by a small motorcycle inssued to the health promotores (gregorio, bless his heart!) of the village. (and these roads are bad!) and this is apparently free as is the prenatal care. but, the women don't like to go to the centro de salud because it is expensive for them to make the trip in the first place. i also have the sense the women are so depressed, caught in it all, they they just omit it thinking they have had babies before. but regardless, so what you end up having is a lot of women minus prenatal care, who if they go into labor at night, i guess can go ahead and have their babies at home, but if its by day...they have to get there or else pay a fine when they eventually show up for the baby's shots at the centro de salud. and you can imagine it can become a reason they never get the very interesting. but the women have agreed to being available in the event of a childbirth emergency, as well as teach about childbirth and emergencies to a woman interested in being a local partera, the health promotores and myself! And they are also returning to teach about the traditional medicinal herbs, their preparation, and are helping us to get plants for our greenhouse. so its very cool!! and they are just incredible women--really great role models here for the indigenous women who barely ever speak up about anything. i'm going to use some of the money i'm raising to pay these women who very graciously offered their time for S/45 total or equivalent to $10 or so!! and besides the shoes and christmas, this seems like a sustainable effort to finance! (and while i'm on the subject, i will also be giving money to Washington Gitapa Tapia who is a brilliant 21 year old who has started a project in Ollantaytambo feding the kids who walk for 2-3 hours back and forth to school often without much food day to day.) so if you read this and did not receive how you can donate, heres how! my bank is in eugene, oregon and is the pacific cascade federal union on 11 th and oak. you can write your check to me, Laurie Iaccino and in the memo line note this acct number: 26539 S4. this will direct the money to a part of my acct labeled 'pencils for peru'. a woman there at the credit union is named tracy clevenger, and she can also help you if need be. she then keeps me posted on who donates and helps me with the transfer so i can withdraw it here in cusco and in turn make sure the money gets to sipascancha or now at christmas, the ollantaytambo project. so enough!!

other things happening on the work scene is that we've started teaching classes. (forgive me if i have written this before; i can't alwasy tell what my last posting was about, dependent on the public computer!) so the classes are set up like a theatre production! (that sounds grander than it really is!) so in the comedor on one end of it we have set up the set to be the clinic one side and the home on the other. 2 teachers play the parents, they have a baby doll (white, with blond hair) and the bay is sick with everything from gripe, a respiratory infection, diarrhea, or some injury. we then act out the exam, while being translated to quechua, complete with sound effects via a mike hooked up to the boom box. after the exam and education with illustration about what to do, the 'father' graciously thanks (you have to see this, this guy is so much like the typical quechuan father!) me, pays me S/.50 and they then go home to actually act out the instructions. and this is so much the key because many times they always say,'si, si, doctora y gracias...', but they have so little to work with in their homes, that to see it really done perhaps will help in them following the instructions. so its cool. we have done classes and plan more on childhood illnesses, pregnancy, childbirth, family planning, hygiene, traditional meds etc. its hilarious really! between me examining a baby doll, the teacher who plays the father and the equally typical quechuan mother saying absolutely nothing!

i am seeing oftentimes the same type of problems: gripe, diarrhea, vaginal bleeding, eye problems, back aches, many skin problems and the ever present 'fiebre' or fever of unknown origin! i have started giving massages for the many low back aches they have too. (forgive me leslie, they DON'T know i'm not a massage therapist!!)

i continue to FREEZE in my little room! and in the clinic!! the last week we as a group have eaten together in the evening and then listened to andean music courtesy of a couple of the teachers and even danced! and theres volleyball!

so thats it for now! forgive me, there is always more but i get tired of typing, esp siince i can't type. tomorrow, sunday i leave for the hot springs with 2 women from my work. we will spend the night! then we leave for work on monday until wednesday. and on thursday i get to go backpacking with my friend washi, from the ollantaytambo project, 2 of his brothers and a girlfriend from holland. lousa doesn't hike much, so she'll have a horse. thank you i prefer my feet! we'll be going into the mountains off the beaten path to an incan village that from washi says is even more removed form current everyday life than sipascancha! so i'll write about it and maybe, just maybe try to post photos again.

thanks to all of you who have written and donated or in any way thought of me and the people down here. siempre, Laurita (Laurie!!)

Saturday, November 15, 2003

so its saturday and i am somewhere between cusco and cyberspace. i am trying to edit the blog but am having an incredibly difficult time!! damn!! so from here on out i will forego capital letters because of my level of frustration. (i'm sure as hell THAT will make a difference!!) so i think i left off in quito telling you about the conference i went to and was going to continue on about the trip we made into the sierra and selva after the formal conference. of course i do not have my notes!

so we left quito for the mountains. we visited clinics merging western with traditional medicine, a shaman practicing his art solo, a group of shamans, (picture oregon cardiology under an adobe roof minus an inexperienced administrator and lots of alcohol and cigarettes....), a village opening their community for the first time to a group such as ours, a sacred waterfall where we had a cleansing ceremony, a traditional food fair, a simulated demonstration of parteras (midwives) assisting a traditional birth, and the otavalo market, and i was introduced to the CONAIE, among many other things! the clinic was cool. options exist for everything there and serve the indigenous community as well as others. i liked seeing the systems could work side by side. don vidal, the shaman practicing solo struck me as authentic. if not authentic. at least practicing with some sort of integrity and respect for his art. he accompanied us to the the sacred waterfall and performed a limpieza (cleansing ceremony). before crossing the stream, he asked permission for us to pass< he tossed flower petals in the creek. when we arrived to the waterfall he set up what is like an altar on a large rock near the falls with flowers and fruits. he opened it with this spraying thing shamans do! i don't mean to mock it, i really don't know what that thing they all do is called! we had a small fire and we stripped to our underwear. one by one, he cleansed us with ortiga, or stinging nettle and then dipped the branches into the ICE COLD water and cleansed us again. yes, it was FREEZING. we were all just shaking from the cold. we then got another spray. this time with a flame and the shared the fruit after. i personally did not experience anything extraordinary but did feel lighter. it could it have been a reaction to the physical experience of freezing my ass off! we hiked back up in the rain and then soaked in a hot tub and drank wine! we stayed in a beautiful hostal and ate like queens. ..and kings. the next day paul and i visited the clinic that diego, the propieter of the hostal funds in some way. i was just jealous!! what a beautiful clinic! and what a beautiful valley it was situated in! they even had a washer and dryer!! but, it is also manned by a nurse, but she has doctors there i think 3 days a week. and they have yet to incorporate a shaman or other options of traditional medicine, but apparently have plans to.

so the group of shamans....while they perhaps have degrees of knowledge of tradional rituals and healing, this group left me little doubtful. we arrived and were first talked to by the apparent leader. they all stood in a row. it was obvious they had been drinking a bit before and they all smoked. he was nervous, you could tell. so they offered to perform a ceremony. we went outside and there was a starlike pattern on the ground and they to put a sort of altar on the pattern with fruit, eggs, flowers, etc. they stood in a sort of circle, but the leader positioned them as he thought they should stand. in front of each of them, were plastic coke bottles with this alcohol substance (!). They began by the spraying of the alcohol from their mouths in different directions. then they all pulled out filtered cigarettes (tobacco is a sacred plant...perhaps the filter is too!) so they smoked and chatted, laughed a bit and continued to drink. at this point, they sprayed the alcohol lighting it with the cigarettes. i should say they tried. a couple could always do it but they could not get everyone to do it at the same time , so they kept trying! and when they ran out of the alcohol they had someone there who had the responsibility to fill it up again. after this we all walked and greeted each other with hugs, handshakes and kisses. we were then blessed on our journey. so, if i sound doubtful its because i am. i struggle with this because i trust the tradition of shamanism. but this encounter brought to light what the indigenous will do to provide the tourist with an experience. so again i know they have knowledge that i don't possess, but the integrity of their practice comes under question when the reasons they perform their art are skewed by the influence of ecotourism. but can you fucking blame them? they need to eat too.

so moving on, we stayed one night in a village where the community opened their doors to us. apparently this is the first time they have done something like this. we arrived and first helped prepare the massive dinner they were to share with us. we then joined them for a town meeting. we sat in the front and all ages of the residents surrounded us. we got to ask and answer questions. but the one that stumped us was when they asked us 'WHY ARE YOU HERE?' we discussed this amongst ourselves and really had no good answer. even days after, that question plagued us. what, to watch? imagine them thinking what could they possibly have that we would be interested in? we then had a wonderful dinner and then music and dancing. we served traditional drinks, non alcoholic, being sure to observe the tradition that the kids were served first. i think they could have kept on with the party far later but we were tired! we slept on woven grass mats that night like babies!

the food fair we visited is one way the community is being reeducated as to their traditional foods. with malnutrition and poverty what it is here, to bring back their traditional foods is a definitely part of a solution. not to mention the pride. so we picked up a group of women and rode with them in the back of a truck where the fair was. there was cuy, quinoa, other grains, was great!

we observed a simulated birth with parteras assisting. what struck me about this was that is was a vertical birth. the man sits in a chair and the woman kneels in front of him with her arms around his shoulders. she is completely covered and never exposed. the midwive never performs a vaginal exam. apparently, the objection to hospital births in their traditional society is the issue of exposure. it reminded me of similar issues back when i had the boys with those being the reason i had them at home with the assistance of lay midwives. not because of exposure in my case, but feeling like i would have the warmth of my own home and the freedom to take whatever position i wanted! various herbs are used, and it was quiet and respectful.

the otavalo market was very cool. what i will remember about this is having lunch with alex and sabrina in the market for less than 2$ for all of us!! and of course the look for the chochos....alex was consumed by this thought....but i can now see why---crunchy beans with tomato salsa in a little bag with a spoon.

finally CONAIE is the political arm of the indgenous people of Ecuador. forgive me but i cannot remember how many but what is unique to this is that they have indigenous representatives in their government now and it is force to be reckoned with. and because i don-t have my notes with me, i cannot fill you in on the specifics of their fight for the rights of the indigenous.

We then flew to the selva (rainforest). we arrived to the town of coca (uhoh...) and we were greeted by the staff of an ecotourist lodge we were to stay at up the river napo about 3 or 4 hours. the boatride was wonderful. we arrived to a rather posh ecotourism lodge. beautiful gardens, a clinic not far away, various trails, a restaurant and rooms that were very comfortable. the hot water was provided by this cool system...they had coiled copper tubing buried in the husks of cacao beans..or was it coffee...anyway it was very large and the heat generated from the organic waste heated this coiled copper tubing and water. we had a great guide, in fact 2 great guides. i believe jose and juan. so it was pretty kicked back here. since we were a bit removed from the city, our schedule was just at the lodge. so no more running around trying to fit other things in. i liked the rest! here we took a hike with don juan, a curandero of a neighboring village to see the various medicinal plants and to talk about how they are used. i liked this alot. it was wet, so my notes did not make it! but i have photos that someday, if i can figure out whats wrong, i will download to the web page. we spent time with don juan at his home too. this was abit disturbing. it appeared like he was employed by the lodge to speak to the tourists. i understand the natural course of development of an economic opportunity but again i can't help but feel that tourism has really affected the traditional societies here and not always in a good way. so don juan alos performed a limpieza for us but it was different. he did not use any alcohol but did use tobacco and hortiga. his tobacco was rolled in a banana leaf. again, in spite of what motivated him to be with us, i had a similar sense of his underlying respect and integrity of his work, like don vidal. so we then played around a bit...jungle fun...blowguns, spears, etc. and back to the lodge. we spent some time in their clinic which is both shortstaffed and short serviced. of note here is this particular ecolodge, supports this clinic for a village nearby. it also has revived the cacao plantations for the people along this river and in this area. one day we went up river to the town of loreto to visit a clinic there. what a place and what a guy overseeing it all. without notes i cannot rememebr his name. this particular clinic really struggles and appears to serve the same population as the other clinic. so an obvious question in my mind is why they don-t pool their resources for just one clinic. here we had a bit of an adventure getting back to the boat. trucks out of gas, with flat tires, etc... we finally got a truck to take us back to the boat. so after it all we polished a couple boxes of peach wine, thanks to rohan.

it seems at this point we headed back to the coco airport and on into quito. and here it is halloween at this point! so we went out a bit dressed up! i had bought a leather flight jacket in a market in ecuador, so i went as a "motorcycle mama". rohan got his face painted a bit and cristina had a witches cap...after dinner we encountered this sort of train...bright lights, lots of color, blaring had maybe 10 cars to it. so the driver drives like hell around the corners making everybody squeal. interesting! i guess it comes out for holidays and special occasions. so after a couple nights of salsa dancing, confusion about tickets, and baby holding...the god babies of alex and sabrina, i was off to the airport, first to lima, where i spent the night and then the next day onto cusco and back home!

this late recap of ecuador doesn't really do it justice, esp without my notes. i went not prepared for the eco part of it. i went looking for info about the traditional methods of healthcare. it has definitely changed my outlook on what i do here. i left with thinking how important it is for me to ask what the people have done to take care of themselves, what native plants do they have that they use and what resources in terms of parteras, curanderos and shamans so they have. in my dreams i picture having enough of a respect for traditional methods and providers to use them. not only because it is their history here but because its affordable. it seems we have to use the resources we have in order for it to be sustainable and to serve everyone.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

the view from the four seater plane from Machalla to Guayaquil. and the plane itself! this is the tiniest plane i've ever been on! the airport we landed in was tiny as well. we cought a ride with 2 guys, for free on into guayaquil to catch a taxi to the bus station.
and the shot of the kid in the hammock, i can't remember where this was, buit it looked damn nice to me...

Ramon's mom with her beautiful grandkids at their home in trujillo.

shots of sipascancha. pigs in front of the clinic. i heard this snorting one day and there they were. a shot of the stuff i am trying to make for education, and art by vicenzo. and then there is the cocina where the women make the vats of soup for over 300 kids, with me shucking beans! and then there is a shot of inga, a girl from germany also volunteering handing out food donations. here are a few shots of my room completes with blue tarp curtains. as you can see it isn't much! you can't see my pee bucket, as somethings are just personal, ya know. the last shot is of a baby. this is how the mom's wrap them. he's about 4 months old and has a cold. we taught the mom how to express milk and put a few drops in his nose to help clear it so he could nurse. this is the next day and he's doing a bit better.

more from machu picchu. before ecuador i went with ramon and his friends from aquas calientes on a day the prices were reduced were the peruvians! we climbed huayna picchu, next to machu picchu and then went down the other side to temple de la luna. beautiful.

Trip to Machu Picchu