Thursday, October 3, 2013

Talking Politics and Alternative Medicine

This morning I had the breakfast shift with Julia. She used to live in Ecuador, so she helped me revise my planning. I am probably not going to have enough time to visit the coast in Ecuador, but I am looking forward to visiting the cloud forest in Mindo and riding horses in Cotopaxi National Park!

I know I have talked a lot about food prices, but they really don't make much sense. The normal meals cost 15-20 soles, but if you inquire about the meal of the day, you can have a three course meal for 5 soles, or $1.25.

I was eating my three course meal alone, pretending I knew what was happening on the dubbed in Spanish TV program until an Indian man at the table over heard me speak. When he realized I was American, he asked the question of the hour, "What's wrong with the republicans in your country?" Everyone outside of the US is very curious about the strange events in Washington.

had some interesting insights into why the education system in the US is like the education system in Peru - both countries are run by people who have no interest in empowering the poor because they need the poor to be ignorant of their poverty and equally ignorant about how to escape it. To escape what he called the system of ignorance, this man has spent his life traveling from country to country practicing alternative medicine and learning about different cultures. When I told him about my back, he invited me to his home this weekend to hold a healing ceremony and to rub snake venom on the inflicted area.

This is one of those moments where the cultural divide is just too large. Part of me knew that this man had been following practices like this for decades, but when he said that he could take a live guinea pig and transfer the sickness inside me to the animal (causing immediate death of the animal) by passing it over my heart, my brain just couldn't comprehend. Who am I that I pretend to know more than this wise old man just because I believe in Western medicine?

After dinner, I parted ways with my new Shaman friend, and headed home. On the way, I rediscovered a store I had been to with Ali, but hadn't been able to find again until now! It is a different kind of store - everything is made by a local artist, the sales people are hands off, and all of the items are pre-labeled with fixed prices so that you don't have to ask all of the time, and so that you know you aren't being scammed for being a tourist. I bought lots of presents.

Seven hours after leaving the hostel, I was finally heading home... Until I spotted a parade. I can never miss out on a good parade, especially one with Chinese dragons, kids holding sun and moon lanterns, and the obligatory Jesus casket. As with all of the daily parades, I had no idea what this one was for, but it was particularly pretty since it was taking place at night. I tried to take pictures, but all of the sudden, I realized the parade had moved in around me and I was now a part of the ceremony. Fortunately, they were headed in the direction of my hostel, and I parted ways with the parade close to home.

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