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Sam: Otavalo/¡Huelga!

October 8, 2010
Last weekend, we in the Public Health concentration track had known for a while that there was an observation trip but little did I know that it would be in Otavalo. Again. Luckily, I like the ‘valo, so missing class to go to my future location of retirement was no skin off my back. We left from CIMAS at seven on Tuesday morning and drove to Hospital ‘San Luis’ de Otavalo. On a side note, Ecuador is really into unnecessary quotes. There is a store down the street from me that touts its “‘Carnes’ frescas” (Fresh “Meats”). The hospital caters to both mestizo and Kichwa populations, so all signs are bilingual in Spanish and Kichwa. I began to feel dizzy, so our track coordinator, Vanessa, gave me some orange drink and took me to the magical realm of the ER to get my blood pressure checked. We think it is altitude sickness but it could easily be a reaction to medicine as well.

After the hospital we went to Jambi Huasi, a traditional clinic, where Señoras Conchita and Juanita perform diagnostic rituals with eggs and cuy (guinea pigs). I was the lucky one who received the cuy diagnostics (videos and pictures coming soon). Señora Juanita, who stands eye-to-eye with my sternum, rubbed me down with a live guinea pig. The guinea pig dies in the process (probably due to being swung around by the neck) and is then skinned and gutted, acting as a representation of the client. According to a deceased rodent, I am completely healthy.

The group left for Casa Sol, where we would stay the night, for a lecture on ancestral wisdom and health. In the lecture, we learned some basic plant remedies, however the plants can only be harvested at dawn, noon, dusk, and midnight so that the plant energies are most effective. After that, we performed a wisdom ritual and then walked to the Peguche waterfall just because we could. The sun set, and we had dinner before going into town for pies, empanadas, and phone minutes. Casa Sol is famous for being designed by the Kichwas and painted by first graders.

On Thursday we went to Cotacachi, a leatherworkers’ village north of Otavalo, to learn about traditional birthing methods in Jambi Mascaric, a center for health and education catering to the Kichwa community. The demonstration took longer than some actual births, but I suppose for some members of the group it was helpful and interesting. In recent news, Francisco is a new father.

When we got back on the bus we learned about the state of affairs of the nation. For those who do not yet know, the police began protesting a new law that would allegedly limit their benefits. The police began burning tires in the street and took the Quito airport and a bridge in Guayaquil. President Correa took to the street, where he was hit and tear gassed. After this, he was rushed to the hospital to be treated, which was promptly surrounded by police. The military and the police got into a shootout with rubber bullets, but two police officers died in the standoff. Correa’s supporters busted him out and took him to the presidential palace where he gave a speech denouncing the protest as uninformed and unprofessional (as the ones who are meant to keep the law are the very ones who brought on the anarchy) and suggested that it was an attempted coup d’etat by former president Lucio Gutiérrez. People in the States who say that Obama is charismatic have never heard Rafael Correa speak. Maybe it was because of the situation, but there is a reason he has such a high approval rating.

Back to the task at hand, Dr. Suárez, the Cimas program director, would not let us return to Quito, so we joined with the Education track (also in Otavalo) to stay at Casa Sol and watch the aforementioned events unfold. We also learned how to play Cuarenta and heard some good Ecuadorean jokes.

This morning we were finally cleared for takeoff, so we came back to Quito where we were debriefed and met some of the students from the University of Washington who will be with Cimas for a few weeks.
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