Archive for February, 2011

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Amanda: Why Indian food might convince me to go veg

February 28, 2011
When I was little my cousin went through a vegetarian stage.  Inspired by a teacher who told her she should never eat anything with a head on it, my cousin Mollie vowed, from the age of 7, to forgo beef, chicken and pork and opt for veggie burgers for eternity, or at least until she turned 10.  At family cookouts my dad would plop a veggie burger on the grill for Mollie.  Veggie burgers, wrinkled, green and frozen in comparison to the big, round, beef patties my dad crafted himself, seemed as absolutely unappealing to me then as they did a month ago.  Few of my friends in high school and college, too, vowed a promise to abstain from meat, leaving me unaware of and uninterested in vegetarianism’s large hold on people throughout the world, specifically, here in India.

I never considered being a vegetarian until now.  Why?  For one, veggie burgers, unlike the wrinkled, green and frozen ones my dad made for Mollie ten years ago, are the bomb in India.  Like their meat counterparts, they pair well with ketchup and their fresh and spicy taste is completely satisfying.  Speaking of spice, Indian food is super-spicy. Spicy enough, sometimes, to make my eyes water and my nose run.  Vegetables here are fresh and yummy, and since my host family purchases produce from a street market, I know that most everything I eat is local and in season.  Almost everything I eat here is prepared from hand, even the garlic, with its invading scent, that my host mother peels and minces for dinner.

I haven’t actually missed meat at all in the past 6 weeks.  Unfortunately, I suspect being a vegetarian wouldn’t be as fun (or delicious) in the US as it is here.

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Kelly: emociónes

February 27, 2011

Last Thursday, we gave presentations on the group essays we wrote for our tracks. Both groups in our track chose themes about globalization/development and its relation to the concept of  ”interculturalidad” between Western and Indigenous medicine in Ecuador. When we finished with the presentation part of the class, we had a debriefing with our professor. She asked us to share our experiences in relation to the different conceptions of health and medicine we’ve encountered here. She wanted us to share our feelings, not the theoretical and analytical points we wrote about in our papers. She complimented us for our work, but said she was interested in how we reacted internally, for example, during the limpia con cuy.

I can’t remember being asked for my personal feelings from any educator in a long time. Our professor made it be okay to feel skeptical of these new systems of knowledge and ways of promoting health. After all, we’ve only just been exposed to this new cosmovision. I have had frustrations with the capitalist, Western system prior to this adventure, but if I am truly honest with myself, I don’t completely accept indigenous medicine at this point. I want to. It’s difficult to change my idea of health care from one of experts and evidence to one that encompasses the total well-being of an individual in their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health.

Our professor shared an example of how uterine cancer can be caused by poor relations with the woman’s partner. That to treat the cancer, the woman needs help resolving whatever negative aspects exist in her relationship. Herbs and forms of  body cleaning can help, but the woman won’t be completely well unless her mental/emotional health is improved.

I like to be hugged when I don’t feel well. Someone told me that older women who live alone or in nursing homes get their hair done weekly just to be touched. That seems tragic to me.

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Miles: Göteborg (and more!)

February 27, 2011

In honor of my friend Caitlin’s Spring Break, I skipped off to Göteborg, Sweden for a couple days with her and our friend Melinda.

Loved the State Museum. Got a half-price Italian meal—ordered a glass of wine like a fancy-pants. Went Thrift-Store shopping (brand new red belt!). Fell in love with Lidl grocery stores and their cheap prices. Stayed at a hostel and snuck 3 people into a 2-person room.

http://takkforthewaffles.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/goteborg4.jpg?w=460

The world's only stuffed blue whale.

 

Basically, I had the best time. It was nice to just spend some time being in another city. Oslo is fun, and each time I return from a trip I feel more and more like I’m coming home to Oslo, but I am also enjoying my Scandinavian adventures outside of Oslo.

Which sort of brings me to my point. I’ve been abroad for about a month and a half now, and I’m starting to wonder why I’m here. Not in an arms-outstretched, screaming to the heavens sort of way—I just want to know what I truly want out of my experience. When I come back home, and people ask me about my semester abroad, what will I want to tell them? Is it important to me to party every weekend, or is it important to me that I continue to write as much poetry as I write in the states? Do I want to ski on Sundays, or run around the city center? Do I want to travel around Europe, or do I want to stay in Norway the whole semester? (Yes, I know that the aforementioned trip to Sweden makes the latter option impossible at this point…) Do I want to try to eat out at every restaurant in Oslo, or do I want to keep cooking? Should I buy fancy bread, or make my own like I sometimes do in Minneapolis?

I try to keep all of these questions in mind as I make decisions about how I spend my time. I know I won’t be disappointed by my Norway experience, but I want to be as un-disappointed as possible, you know? I don’t really have the answers yet. I try to just trust my gut. I think that, as cheesy as it sounds, if I keep my one goal to be my truest self as often as possible, I’ll most certainly have the best experience that I can.

Things I have learned:

DADS RULE IN SCANDINAVIA. And by that I mean, they act like Dads. All the time. At the State Museum in Göteborg, I walked into the children’s area, and saw a roomful of small children and fathers. All sorts of fathers playing with their children. In my Gender Equality class, we’ve touched in the equality between parents in the Nordic Countries, but it was quite a gift to get to witness it. If I ever have children, that’s the sort of father I want to be—the kind that is an equal partner in the world of raising children.

MODERNIZATION IS SOMETIMES NOT SO MUCH FUN. One of my first reactions in Sweden was “wow, this look so European.” I would never argue that Oslo isn’t European, but it is much more modernized than Göteborg. Because of this, the buildings look much closer to buildings I see in the US. There are more chain restaurants and stores. More people speak English. Modernization = Globalization = US Imperialism? To be determined. (I think yes, at least a little bit. I’m not super fond of it.)

This was a shorter post. Maybe I’m actually getting better at not rambling? Doubt it! I think I’m in my second “too much input, no way to output” phase. It’s as if I’m cracking through to the second layer of life in Oslo, and I don’t know enough to comment yet.

Oh, and Wisconsin continues to fight. My mom keeps me updated regularly. I’m sending so many positive vibes towards Madison.

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Jonathan: The things I love about India

February 27, 2011

Before you begin reading, be sure to check out the recently posted photographs!

Living in the developing world is not an easy task, even if it is an emerging country.  Nothing can quite prepare you for some of the confusing situations, the seeming incomprehensibility of it all, and the constant reality of people living their lives the only way they can.  A land of extremes, India has taken us eleven Americans on quite the trip thus far.  And yes, I would never trade my time here; this is where I need to be right now in my life.  It is time to chronicle what I’ve come to appreciate about this place, or rather the iteration of India that I’ve thus far been exposed to.  There are things I do not like here, things I wish were different; things that challenge me and sadden me and anger me.  But there are things that give me great joy and pleasure.  In a country filled with so many realities, this is just one small slice of one of the many India’s.  Read on!

I love the sound of the Ganesh temple at six in the morning as rickshaw drivers, fruit wallas, businessmen, students, grandmothers, beggars, and many others begin to offer their prayers.

I love my walk to school on Wednesday morning as the street becomes a colorful bazaar with every imaginable necessity and trinket for sale as the masses hoard to offer blessings on such an auspicious day.

I love the smell of the city after a freak winter rainstorm, its pollutants either washed away or diluted, the smell of runny cow dung hanging lightly.

I love that the cow rules the road, and that monkeys seem to pose for photographs.

I love to laugh with rickshaw drivers as they try and cheat us and we call their bluff.

I love to watch old Indian men practice laughing yoga in the morning, standing in all types of unexpected poses, their big bellies bulding and their heads shaking in laughter.

I love way that Indian mothers click their toung when you say you’re full after just two chipatti’s, and the way they pinch your sides when teasing you.

I love that no question is off limits, that there is never fear in asking, and that one never has to answer either.

I love the way heads bobble to the side here in response to nearly every inquiry either too complex or too unknown for an answer.

I love taking bucket baths, shivering between ladels but using so much less water.

I love terrifying rickshaw rides, weaving in and out of traffic through impossibly tight alley ways and over much too tall speed bumps.

I love the way the mist hangs over the Thar Desert in the morning, a seemingly endless terrain with just the tops of mangeled and thorny trees coming out.

I love that I hear music constantly in the streets, streaming out of cell phones and houses wherever I go.

I love that I am never alone, even when my door is closed.

I love that neighbors and family seem to blend together; that the door is always open to a visitor; that the tenent in our house brings my host-grandmother prashad (spiritual offering) when she cannot go to the temple.

I love drinking steaming cups of sugary chai at least three times a day.

I love that I can buy sweets and samosas and other treats at every block.

I love how Indians so fiercely believe in their democratic experiment, not matter the corruption that besets them.

I  love that the use of Ayurvedic and Allopathic medicine has blended to create a uniquely Indian approach to health.

I love that salesmen board busses and hawk their wares, and that this is how people stock up on everything from pencils to bracelets.

For whatever it is worth, this is what I remind myself of during the most difficult of moments…

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Andrea: Tower of London

February 26, 2011
The Tower has held many famous prisoners in its thousand-year history; some in astonishing comfort, and others less so. Inside the Beauchamp Tower I saw lots of prisoner graffiti…

This was carved into the wall by Philip Howard, Earl of Arundel, in 1587. It says, “The more suffering for Christ in this world, the more glory with Christ in the next.”

In the infamous Bloody Tower, I learned about the murder of the Little Princes, Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York. I might have the story wrong, but from what I remember, Edward V was the eldest son of King Edward IV and Elizabeth Woodville. He was born in 1470 and ascended the throne when his father died in April of 1483. Because he was only thirteen years old, a minor, his uncle Richard, Duke of Gloucester, was entrusted as Protector of his young nephews. Richard had always been a loyal and trusted supporter of his brother King Edward IV, who was the boys’ father. The coronation of Edward was set for June 22nd, 1483. It was tradition for the coronation procession to take place from the Tower of London, through the City of London to Westminster Abbey. Gloucester intercepted Edward’s entourage as it traveled to London. Many of the young king’s supporters were killed and William Hastings was arrested on a charge of treason and imprisoned in the Tower. Edward was escorted to London and then to the Tower. On June 16th, he was joined by his brother Prince Richard. The coronation was cancelled. In 1674 two skeletons were discovered in the White Tower under the stairs leading to the chapel. The skeletons were subsequently reburied in Westminster Abbey as ordered by King Charles II. The skeletons were believed to be the remains of the bodies of the two tragic Little Princes, who were reputedly killed on the orders of their uncle the Duke of Gloucester, afterwards King Richard III. Jerk.
Anyway, I also saw some instruments of torture in the Lower Wakefield Tower…
The Rack
The Scavenger’s Daughter
Five hundred years of spectacular royal armor are also on display, offering a fascinating insight into the personalities, power, and physical size of England’s kings. The skill of the royal armorers was to combine practical protection for tournaments and battle with amazing designs and decoration.

The Crown Jewels are one of the unmissable highlights of a visit to the Tower of London. This astonishing collection of priceless Coronation Regalia has been on public display at the Tower since the 17th century, with only one attempt to steal them! Photography was not allowed, but thanks to Google…

The ravens are one of the most famous sights at the Tower of London. Legend has it that Charles II was told that if the ravens left the Tower, the kingdom and the fortress would fall. Just in case, the Ravenmaster keeps a close eye on them. See him in the background?
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Connie: We love Nagasaki!

February 25, 2011

The first trip of my spring break was taken in Nagasaki. The reason was that it was my friend’s hometown and he agreed to let us meet his family. Me and the two girls who went with me were greatly looking forward to it, though we didn’t know how Nagasaki itself would be. Several Japanese people said it wasn’t a very interesting place.

The three of us came back thinking about how wrong they were!

We were originally planning on taking local trains all the way there to save money, but we discovered that taking the 新幹線 (shinkansen), or the famous bullet train, only cost about $20 more and cut out 8 hours of travel. The train really was quick. It felt like we’d only just got on when we got off. It’s like riding an airplane, only on the ground.

When we arrived in Nagasaki we were not only greeted by our friend, but by a giant lantern—it was the lantern festival, and the town was littered with them here and there. All of the zodiac signs were scattered about the city.

We stayed in a hostel a bit away from the station. We would probably never have found the place if it weren’t for our Japanese friend. He knew exactly which tram we needed to take. On the way we admired the scenery that makes up Nagasaki. It’s a really charming city. The buildings climb up the sides of mountains and look almost surreal. There are trams rather than buses that give it a lovely feel. The place near our hostel felt very stereotypically Japanese – there was a river flowing right through the city with bright orange koi fish swimming in it. There were twisted old trees lining it and across from our hostel was a shrine.

The owners of the hostel were extremely friendly. The hostel itself was nice and cozy. I really liked it. When us three American girls were led to the fourth floor where our room was, we saw there was already one occupant in one of the beds. By looking at his clothing spread out on the bed we could tell immediately it was a guy. Our day sightseeing was spent pondering what sort of guy we were rooming with. We met him that night–he was nothing like any of our conjectures, but he was a nice Japanese guy and had very good English. We all wonder where you are now, Mr. Yoshi.

The first night we wandered down the river looking at the lanterns strung across it, went up and down the main shopping road which was scattered with festival food vendors, and went through China Town where the best of the lantern displays were. That night our friend took us to his house where his parents made us some of the most delicious food I’ve had in Japan, including pan-fried noodles, sweet and sour shrimp, and Japanese-style fried chicken. They were extremely open and friendly to us. The most interesting part was that the moment we met them, we knew exactly how our friend had turned out like he did. He’s an off-beat guy who is always trying to prove himself. I’m sure this comes from his friendly and also slightly off-beat family, almost all girls, who make fun of him every chance they get. When he walked in our friend said, “These girls gave me Valentine’s day chocolate!” His sisters were quick to reply with, “The first time since you were born!”

The next day our sight-seeing was more in-depth, even despite the steady rain and inevitable puddles in my shoes.

Our first stop was 出島 (Dejima), the place where the Dutch people who first came to Japan were forced to live. It was once an artificial island hanging off of Japan, but nowadays it’s surrounded by artificial land that’s really indistinguishable from the rest.

Of course the history of the place is interesting. But me being a language nerd, the most interesting part of the plaques covering the walls of the Dutch-Japanese fusion style houses was the way in which the Japanese and English versions of the same paragraphs differed. Naturally, the Japanese was more in-depth.

After exploring Dejima we made our way to Glover Garden somewhere at the edge of Nagasaki. Glover, a once-influential man in Nagasaki, owned a rather large chunk of land that has been turned into a tourist destination. The buildings there were the inspiration for the set to Madame Butterfly. But to me the most beautiful part was the outside with the beautiful garden. It was also the most bizarre, as you traveled from one place to another by escalator. It almost felt like I was walking through some kind of surreal painting.

After our site-seeing, we returned to China Town. We were just in time for the dragon dance, in which a bunch of people control a long dragon prop and make it float around the stage in the telling of an old legend. But my favorite part was the lion dance that came after. Fantastic work to all the Japanese people! Sometimes I really did forget that there were people inside.

Nagasaki is famous for several food items. These are Chinese food, チャンポン (chanpon) which is like thick ramen, トルコライス (Turko Rice) which is noodles with yellow rice and breaded pork on top, and カステラ (castella) cake. I had some of all of these things. They were good, but my favorite food on the trip was that prepared by my friend’s family.

Everywhere we went this day we saw high school students. “Don’t they ever go to class?” we asked. Our Japanese friend replied, “They’re probably on a school trip,” until he got a look at their uniforms. “What? Those are Nagasaki uniforms!” So, I guess Nagasaki students never go to class. Ever.

Our last day was short as we had to catch the shinkansen back at around 3:30. When we arrived back in Saijo, our Japanese friend immediately said he missed Nagasaki. The weather at Hiroshima station was very noticeably more chilly and there weren’t lanterns lighting the roadways. “Let’s get back on the train right now,” we joked. But of course we didn’t.

So far, Nagasaki is my favorite of the places I’ve been to. Definitely go if you get the chance!

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Kelly: Field study to Otavalo & Cotacachi

February 24, 2011

Our program is divided into 4 tracks, one of them being a Public Health group, which I am in. Last Wednesday–Thursday we took a trip to Otavalo and Cotocachi to observe indigenous medicine practices (un parto vertical y práctica curativa por Yachac) and to observe the interrelations of health systems (medicina occidental y indígena).

Our first visit was to Hospital San Luis in Otavalo. This hospital is the only intercultural hospital in the area and has been making an attempt to integrate/co-opt/absorb/accept (the word choice depends on your viewpoint) indigenous medicine into/with the Western medicine system.  A unique part of this is the presence of a sala de parto, which is a room that mimics the house of a partera (midwife/doctor) where a woman would go to give birth. We were fortunate enough to be able to enter the sala while a young woman was in the process of giving birth. The traditional way of giving birth is for the woman to be kneeling and kept warm by layers of blankets around her, and usually to be surrounded by her family. The partera present explained the different herbs used and we saw how she used massage, touch, and her voice to aid the mother. She said, several times in different ways, “Da ayuda de un montón a la mujer, nuestras compañera.”

After we left the hospital, we went to a health center with a focus on indigenous practices called Jambi Huasi (Casa de Salud). We visited with a Yachac (medicine man) who told us that his grandmother lived past 110 years old and started teaching him how to heal when he was three. His children don’t know his secrets and he doesn’t use or promote plantas sagradas (like Shamans do). In his candle-lit room filled with animal skins, bones, shelves of dried plants, some christian relics, crystal pyramids, and other assorted “sources of power and energy,” he explained that his knowledge is not studied, that it is knowledge of his ancestors and wisdom from nature.

Next we filed into the fregador, where we met the experienced fregadora Mamá Juanita (who our chauffeur later described as poca expresionante). She demonstrated two forms of body cleaning for us—one with an egg, the other with cuy (yep- a guinea pig). I volunteered to be cleaned by egg. Mamá Juanita had me sit in a chair and proceeded to rub an egg all over my body, softly chanting the entire time. She paused on my palms and the top of my head to tap the egg against me, saying “Chunga, chunga, chunga.” When she had finished, she cracked the egg into a metal dish and examined the contents. She proclaimed there was nothing to be seen and that I was healthy. If the yoke is runny or has odd colors, it signifies that the egg has absorbed bad energy from some part of your body. My yoke was golden and perky. Chévere.

And now for el limpia con cuy… Adriana was the only one interested in volunteering. Before I explain the process, I feel the need to give a cultural disclaimer so that this practice isn’t misunderstood. So, in a cleaning with cuy, the cuy is viewed as a sacrifice for the health of the individual. The cuy dies in the process of the cleaning and is cut opened afterward to reveal what bad energies it had absorbed from the person.  To start: Adriana stood in the center of the room as Mamá Juanita pulled the cuy from the burlap sack it which it had been silently stationed. Mamá Juanita grabbed two legs in each hand and began vigorously shaking it up and down Adriana’s body. It was a bit difficult to watch as I remembered my former pet piggies Patches and Oreo. During the cleaning, we could hear the sloshing of the cuy’s insides; later, Adriana told us it was making little vocal noises as well. Mamá Juanita checked a couple of times to see if  the cuy had died, and after the third time she decided it had passed and let Adriana take a seat as she began to skin the cuy. Turns out Mamá Juanita had judged wrong because once she had removed most of the skin, we heard noises from the cuy and saw his back legs contract; Mamá Juanita looked up at us with a surprised laughsmile and said, “He’s not dead yet!”

Once she had examined all of the organs and musculature, Mamá Juanita told us that Adriana was pretty healthy, but had a bit of lower back pain (the cuy had had black area in his lower back). She added that Adriana’s heart is “muy fuerte!” Claro. We collectively decided that if our group is faced with an armed robber at any point, Adriana gets to protect us since she has a heart that will never perish.

Once we arrived at our rather lavish hotel, ate lunch, and took a little siesta, we had a conference titled Cosmovisión andina y la salud with Enrique Cachinguango. He talked with us about how the idea of an intercultural health system is lovely, but there are still many limitations and ways in which it is not being realized. I found much of what he told us profound—it was a life lessons, ways of living talk with Grandpa. He told us, “Viva fuerte y con amor, con mucho amor.” He stressed that, “No somos parte de la naturaleza. Somos naturaleza.” We took a walk to la cascada Peguche afterwards to take part in a what our syllabus called a “ritual ceremony.” What this ceremony consisted of was standing together in a circle, lighting our neighbor’s candle, telling Peguche our name, why we were here, and te amo. It was lightly raining, Peguche was continuing to fall, and I felt a deep sense of peace.

(Due to the title of this part of our day and religion, there was one individual who chose not to participate. This individual also read her bible the two hours from Quito to Otavalo. She explained later that she didn’t know what to expect and didn’t want it to conflict with her own religious beliefs. This seemed strange to me as Enrique had earlier explained the importance of putting all cultures/beliefs on the same level and not being scared of what is different.)

On Thursday our easily-confused driver got us to Cotocachi where we saw a simulación de parto vertical ancestral. Three women and a blushing man acted out how a traditional indigenous birthing process would happen. This partera told us as well, “We always help the mama.” Maybe I’ll elaborate on the whole process in another post.

Thursday night, two friends and I stayed with our couchsurfing friend Julio. We went out to a bar where I got a free, strong fruity drink topped with two cherries. In the Plaza de Ponchos, we got empanadas and walked back to the flat drinking beers. His two cousins and their two friends came over before we went out to dance the night away. At some point during the night a flaming shot was put in front of me. I almost drank the whole thing :) I’d say we brought my birthday in right.

Friday, the actual anniversary of the day of my birth, I returned to Quito, took a shower, and went with a friend to the museum and house of Guyasamín. SUPER CHÉVERE! Then we went to La Ronda with my parents, had dinner, and drank boiled wine. There was a live band that said, “To the cumpleañera!” after every song, thanks to my dad’s note to them. It was a very enjoyable evening.

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