The Odyssey has brought Kavitha and me here to work with ABA, a community organization working to preserve traditional ways of living such as farming techniques, community organization, and artesanias (the arts). This week we've been traveling to the different villages to gather traditional medicinal plants. Much of the village shows up, with bags of freshly cut plants, to share their knowledge and stories.
Even though I speak very little Quechua or Runasimi, "the mouth of the people," it is soon apparent that for these descendents of the Incas, the spirit world and the material world are interwoven. Pachamama, the Earth Mother, and Apus, the god of the mountains, play leading roles in illnesses and their cures. Pacha, Earth, is a major illness suffered by people in this region. It is contracted from sleeping directly on the ground or from being in a place where vapor rises from the earth. Waspy, another local illness, is contracted by drinking water directly from a stream with your mouth instead of scooping it with your hands or using a cup. I'm told that when people went to the hospital with these illnesses, the doctors could not figure out what was wrong with them and they got worse. Fortunately, in these workshops we've learned about many local herbs that can help treat these and other local illnesses.
For two nights in a row, after Magdelena and I had gone picking llulo (edible greens) from a steep hill, I had horrible nightmares. Thankfully, I'm not taking Larium anymore, so I knew it couldn't be the source of my scary dreams. "You must have angered a spirit!" Magdalena told me. "When we picked the llullo, you must have reached too high and picked some you weren't supposed to! We'll go back and make an offering of coca leaves today, and the dreams should stop." We'll see tonight if the spirits have accepted my offering!
These are just a few examples of how the people of Quispillaccta are challenging my American scientific reality. There are so many little things that permeate daily life here that don't match up with the purely logical reality in which I was raised. But I can't just dismiss them as quaint, unfounded traditions either. For one thing, Magdalena, Valeriano, and Silverio, who take these customs very seriously, are all intelligent, college-educated professionals.
I'm finding out that ancient wisdom and new science do not always contradict each other. Traditions began for a reason, and I think it is wise of these people to hold onto them when faced with the purely scientific explanations that are taking control of the world. And besides, I have yet to see modern science come up with a way to prevent hail.
Kavitha - Development or Detriment?: Government "Improvement" Programs in Quispillaccta
Kevin - Treating Myself Like Royalty
Monica - Here Llama, Llama...
Monica - Shape of...a Puma Head! Form of...an Incan City!
Shawn - Soy Vegetariano
Making a Difference - Constant Threat at Big Mountain
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