2005 Reflections

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Jessie Reiss
University of New Mexico
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I found Open Veins of Latin America (Eduardo Galeano) to be an amazing insight to the history of Latin America; it was powerfully written from a perspective, which amply exemplified the raw exploitation of a country…this version of history was not writ by the conqueror. Stepping into a place at a particular time is like picking up a book right in the middle…you know it has a past and a future but there you are right then. To have a deeper understanding of where this country came from helped to take it simply from the immediate and give it context. Obviously I think this book was helpful and I would recommend it. More specific to Peru was The Peru Reader. History, Culture, Politics. Zoning in even more specifically to the regional history was also helpful in gaining insight; No Bells to Toll. Destruction and Creation in the Andes helped to realize the impacts of this not so distant disaster. I think together these readings helped very much in setting the scene for the region we studied.

The rest of the bibliography was slightly intimidating. I wasn’t sure where to start. I later thought this was probably part of the master plan, which was to get us to zone in on what we found intriguing, which turned out to be the nature of the course in general. It appears that there wasn’t a single article or book that wouldn’t have been pertinent to the course. However, had I known that the vast majority of people we would be able to interact with personally were healers, I would have focused my reading there. There most definitely was a wide range of topics which provided ample opportunities and resources for research but events such as the hierbas tradicionales outings and people such as the cuy healers, the flower healers, the midwife, amongst many others gave a wide breadth of opportunities for in depth field research. Especially pertinent to PAR was the meeting of health promoters; this was the kind of experience I was looking for and sadly, I felt slightly unprepared for it. Still, I found it greatly inspiring and beneficial, as I will expand on later. Though medical anthropology isn’t necessarily my subject of interest, I would have preferred to read about these subjects to further understanding and hence my potential in the field with the numerous traditional healers you have become associated with in your time there.

Logistics in travel were well executed as far as my personal experience was concerned. I enjoyed being able to experience Lima freely for the first day to get a feel for the area. The first day we actually sat down as a group was absolutely beneficial in many ways. We were able to get to know a little something about each other first formally, then in socializing afterward in a more casual, natural way. From the get go, we noticed a lot about our group as a whole. We weren’t very vocal and we weren’t immediately engaged. I felt as though we were getting acclimatized and needed a little extra push that you were hesitant to give. Though I can realize the benefits of being the leaders of our own group, similar in ways to PAR philosophy, our group wasn’t quite cut out for it and we needed a bit more guidance. In this way we were young compared to other groups in the past that I’m sure flourished in the less constrained, more open environment that you provide.

I found every reading in the course packet to be relevant and interesting. My only wish was that I had read some of them sooner. I found your article on the different types of Andean knowledge and some basic conceptions of the body to be very insightful and pertinent to our main focus of study. In my opinion, this should have been one of the first articles we read. I think the course packet was helpful, interesting and very necessary.

I came on this excursion with the intent of learning field research methods and to learn something about such an amazing country. I believe I learned a lot just from being in Peru but also from talks, articles and situations where we applied participatory action research. One example was the meeting of health promoters. Here men and women from local villages came together to make maps. These maps were a collaboration of local knowledge that included places that individuals knew, where specific herbs grew and for what medicinal purposes they could be used. A simple task but symbolic of a whole bigger process. I got to see the sharing of real, applicable, important local knowledge and how you acted as a facilitator for that. I was thrilled to see the enthusiasm the group had in actively taking part in building a stronger community. I couldn’t help but think this was the kind of thing I might be doing further down the line in the Peace Corps. However, I cannot limit the application of field methods to an isolated event for the entire experience was an opportunity and I participated in all of it with varying degrees and varieties of intent. I really think one of the most valuable skills that you strongly encouraged was the keeping of a journal; I am absolutely grateful for the time you set-aside specifically for that. Looking back on some of the things I wrote, I can see how rich and unique my perception of the experience really was and still is

 

 

Paul Hood
University of Minnesota, Duluth
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After a ridiculous amount of traveling, I finally returned to the US. The journey home started on an island in Lake Titikaka. From there it took me five days to get home. Traveling to other places in Peru was the perfect way to complement the field school. Everything we learned was beneficial to forming relationships and continuing me research. Obviously there were many differences, especially from the Lake Titikaka area versus the Ancash area. The language was, of course, entirely different. The one word that seemed to be consistent was Pachamama. One thing I found interesting was that the people in the Lake Titikaka area wore a sort of shawl over their heads. When I asked what it was they sometimes called it a “manta” but the real name seems to be “Chucko.”

I asked several questions about the healing practices as well. Cuy rubbing seems to be another constant. Although it seemed that in villages near Colca Canyon natural healing is somewhat looked down upon. This seems understandable especially in the town we stayed, which I think was Yuncay. It seemed to be a very rural, remote village but when I asked about healing practices they didn’t like to talk about it. Then when walking around the village later I came across a very large modern building. This turned out to be a huge hospital. Upon returning and reflection time a few questions come to mind that I thought might promote some discussion. If there were a defined male and female role in the Quechua society, what would it be? In my observation it seemed consistent that the females worked in the fields, sold produce/goods at the market, cooked food for the family, etc. The males sometimes worked in the fields but other than that I really didn’t see them do much.

Another question is why do we call each rural society, in Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia, Quechua or at least the language Quechua? I say this loosely because I know there are places that don’t use the terms Quechua. For those that do, the language difference between areas, even in short distances, is completely different. Yes, there are a few cultural similarities but there are in every other culture in the world.

If there was a recommendation that I could make in regards to the field school, it would be to travel for an extended period of time after the field school. I don’t know what it was like for the people who just went straight home but I think it would be easy to go home and forget everything. I was able to meet up with Erika and Kate for a few weeks. Every time we had an experience we would relate it back to the field school and realize how much we had actually learned. Unfortunately I was not able to make it back to Carhuaz. As you had mentioned before there just wasn’t enough time. From my experience in Peru it seemed that the places less talked about and therefore less visited were the most beautiful and welcoming places to be. I wish that we could have just stayed in the Cordillera Blanca for the entire time.

 

 

Kate Hatchwell
University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada
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I too had an interesting experience travelling through Peru after the field school, and meeting up with Paul later on (as he may have mentioned). While travelling through different areas in the South we both agreed that we didn't realize how much about the Andean culture we had gleaned from the field school until we were out travelling by ourselves. Being surrounded by tourists and fake tourist productions of cultural activities (such as fiestas) was a strange and somewhat disturbing feeling after having been provided the privilege of attending events such as the fiesta in Shilla. It was really interesting to note that at first I found people less open to talking about their culture, and more interested in selling something, or showing you a good time...but once people realized that we knew a little about Peruvian culture and were interested in learning the different forms of Quechua we were treated with a much more friendly and open attitude.

Although I really enjoyed seeing the ruins of Machu Picchu, and the reed islands of Lake Titicaca, I have to say that the area around Carhuaz had a much more magical pull for me. Perhaps because I was given great opportunities to look within the culture and to meet contacts of yours that provided me with a different aspect of the culture that I would never have experienced without the field school. I think it is the little things that I learned that I really appreciated once travelling alone, for instance noticing that I was often called Mama by ladies trying to sell me anything, and being given an extra trinket and understanding the interaction as receiving a yapa. Thanks so much for providing me with such a great experience.

Hope all is well back on the ranch!!! I miss the beautiful weather, yummy food and warm friendly people!!! Hope that Tarumba's pups are doing well!!!
Warmest regards,
Kate

 

 

Stephanie Molina
University of California, Santa Cruz
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How are you doing? Hopefully great in Peru. As for myself, I am having a nice summer at home. My reason for e-mailing you is to Thank You once again for the opportunity you gave me of participating in this years Field School program. I really enjoyed my stay at Pocha's casa. I enjoyed Carhuaz. I enjoyed my learning about Andean culture in the Andean context. I am grateful for the knowledge, experiences, and friends I gained.

Peru was/is everything I didn't expect. From what I have seen and experienced Peru, is a beautiful and amazing country. In my application for the 2005 Field School Program I wrote that I hoped to learn about/from others as well as from myself. I can say with certainty that the experience was and continues to be a learning process. This experience put in perspective many of my values as a human being, as well as my goals in life. I just wanted you to know that my stay and experience in Carhuaz because of your program was very productive and rewarding.

 

 

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