Field School – Students’ Reflections
We inaugurated the year with our second New Year’s course as an intersession seminar, where we worked closely with the organized women’s association of the Community of Shilla to address issues of medicinal herb knowledge and the return to organic native maize agricultural. Our May through August courses emphasized both Field Methods and Quechua Language practice and skills development in context. Undergraduate and graduate students participated from Peru, Canada, Germany and the US, with a wide range of majors that included Latin American Studies, Global Health, Medicine, Biology, International Development Studies, Music, Theatre, Social Justice, Spanish Language and Anthropology.
Andean Culture and Society
“I’ve learned here that Andean society is definitely based on social relationships and kinship ties; these social relations allow people to maintain a strong support system.”
“In my experience, Andeans are incredibly friendly, highly knowledgeable and strongly connected to the land and to one another.”
“The Andean approach to health and wellness is holistic – they prefer to use natural resources of the land to maintain a healthful balance with their bodies. Balance is an important aspect and this is manifested in the way people eat, treat illness, work the land and interact with one another.”
“At almost every level, the culture of the Andes has a unique combination of modern and traditional beliefs. It seems that the people here understand the need to preserve their traditional ways of life while also leaving room for a little change.”
“Andean’s believe in the Earth, body and soul as all being connected into one being, in a circular fashion, which is a much different frame of thought that what we practice in the Western world.”
“I like the things I’ve learned about how people here live their lives – how they relate to the earth, establish and maintain social relationships, grow food, heal themselves and how families and households operate so dynamically.
I was impressed that the women at the watermeeting couldn’t stop laughing because they couldn’t conceptualize the idea of buying and selling lakes/water.
“There is much to learn from Andean culture. Having to work for what you have gives a sense of being; something to live for. It leaves you with a greater sense of responsibility for yourself, others around you, and the Earth who supplies us with all we need for living and breathing.”
“Andean society is very patient; to get over the language barrier I used hand gestures, and got people to speak slower for me. I felt that even knowing a few phrases in Quechua helped people to trust me more.”
“I was surprised by how long local people are willing to talk to you – even when you can only understand and speak the language at a basic level. It was nice that people weren’t in a hurry and many were very accommodating. When I expressed a desire to learn more Quechua, people would quickly convert to on-the-spot teachers, going over Quechua numbers and basic words – often body parts like nose, eyelashes, eyebrows, etc.”
“People were very light-hearted, laughing as I struggled to find words to express myself. The laughter helped put me at ease. It would have been easy to fall into a perpetual frustration trap about the language barrier – but because the local people didn’t seem too concerned about it, I wasn’t either.”
“I was surprised at how much school children know about medicinal herbs.”
“Andean people acknowledge one another when they cross paths. I loved saying “Buenos días and so on to people in the town.”
“After the native potato harvest, I have a renewed respect for those who live off the land. At the same time it was one of the hardest yet most fulfilling experiences of my life. It satisfied a sort of primal urge to see with my own body how part of my food comes to be.”
“The huge bag of gift potatoes we were given for our help with the harvest is the kind of reciprocal mechanism that is sorely missing in a country like Canada. Here, no one will ever go hungry! These giving, reciprocal interactions were the most shocking for me to witness. It is these processes that emphasize the less individualistic nature of Andean culture.”
“The Andean concept of timereally made an impression on me. I love how they see the past as in front of us and the future behind us. Everything is a continuous cycle in which every moment and every choice shapes who we are.”
“Above all I think I’ve come to see that the people here are among the most resilient people anywhere. Despite streams of unending difficulties, the people of the Andes have been able to maintain their unique identity by maintaining their ancestral language, cultivating fields, the practice of traditional and natural medicine, and other life ways.”
“Field work is always evolving in its own way, it NEVER goes how you plan it. Themes, subjects and methods always need to be modified in order to fit a particular situation.”
“I learned that most field work (or in my opinion, the most valuable) is not done by entering a situation with a pen and paper; instead it is the times when you have been allowed to enter within a community as a friend and not simply as an observer.”
“I learned that you have to be culturally sensitive but not timid, and that some of the biggest risks yield the most interesting and informative results.
“One of the main lessons was the understanding that field work does not come to you, you go to field work. Perhaps a common sense lesson, but I think I needed to break down some barriers that inhibited me initially.”
“After spending the personal time with Reyna and her family, I feel closer to Peru than I ever did after walking through the market with my journal in hand. Although I understand the importance of taking notes during certain experiences, I definitely learned more from the experiences in which I was involved and actively participating.”
“Throughout these weeks I’ve grappled with the relationship between knowledge, power and privilege. I think it is an erroneous assumption that humans are entitled to the right to know, and that is entirely connected to power relationships. ”
“It’s important to physically be a part of the community under study. For example, the more often we went to the market, the more people started to recognize us, and the more they interacted with us. Therefore, it’s important to constantly be seen in the community one plans to study.”
“PAR (participatory action research) is not to simply take this insightful knowledge given by locals towards your own scholarly gain, but actually trying to find a way to build off this information and bring it back to the particular community for discussion and implementation.”
“I have learned about PAR with its various methods to have people communicate, like play-acting.”
“PAR is a useful launch pad when evaluating and reflecting on how issues and resolutions can be modified and tweaked in order to attain the goal of whatever group or people you are trying to help.”
“Through my own field work working in the pasture with Sra. Antonia and her herd, it seems that local peoples appreciate when outsiders genuinely want to understand how they live their lives; they will reach out and even make suggestions.”
“I have learned that every single moment, thought and interaction is part of field work.”
“Perhaps the most important knowledge I have gained is of the collective, communal, practical and active foundations of field work.”
“I realized that I can expect to experience frustration and that I will be conducting research less on my own terms and much more on the terms of the people I am working with.”
“Through our discussions of the experiential learning cycle I have realized that personal experiences and growth are interconnected with anthropological research.”
“I have learned that field work requires initiative, open-mindedness, patience and respect for all forms, routes and systems of knowledge, logic and values other than your own.”
“PAR showed me that to make a difference and bring about positivity one has to become part of the group, see each other as a powerful force; this type of dynamic is what empowers people. I believe that when people feel part of something bigger than them – then they realize they are not alone, others share the problems, dreams, needs as them – all of this combined is when words and ideas become action.”
“PAR – it is heartening to know that there is an alternative way to do research, one that employs a more holistic view of what constitutes knowledge, is sensitive to the nature of power relationships, and considers the ethical and moral of the anthropologist.”
“Certain settings are not conducive to honest responses – you must become integrated in such a way that allows you to observe behavior in addition to listening to people describe their lives.”
“The youth at the high school really amazed me with the extent of their knowledge about farming. Their mastery of their agricultural information speaks to their role within their families.”
“The school visit was a good experience in field work and helped show that you don’t necessarily have to guide the entire process. After explaining what we wanted the kids to do, they stared at us hesitantly, but as soon as we turned away they went right to it and came up with something extraordinary.”
“Only by stepping out of your comfort zone can you learn anything truly worth knowing about how you handle certain situations.”
The Andean Environment
“I distinctly perceived how rituals and culture have been influenced by the environment, from traditional stories to health and medicine, local ecology is intimately connected to the people and Andean lifeways.”
“Their concept of land use and the importance that they maintain in regards to the preservation of wild undomesticated plants is in many ways revolutionary, and completely opposite of how western agriculture works. For instance, a mountain isn’t seen as an impediment or non-agricultural soil, rather it is sacred it used to harvest native potatoes up in the highest parts. It was impressive to view the landscape of mountains and all of its divided land that was used for agriculture.”
“This region is so incredibly rich in resources, the amazing climate and agrobiodiversity, the beautiful mountains and delicious water, the relationships of reciprocity people maintain with one another.”
“I have learned a lot about the microclimates and how they allowed the domestication of various important food crops; as well, I’ve learned of the interdependence between human behaviors/actions and the environment.”
“The awareness here of environmental change and its effects is much more pronounced than the average Canadian citizen’s. This may be a symptom of proximity to the glaciers which effectively become a barometer for how quickly the environment is changing. This awareness may be associated with living off the land where minute changes can have drastic effects.”
“People here seem to have a lot of love – for each other and the planet, there is so much we can learn from them.”
“It’s the same battle the world over for the ‘Noble Savage’ to protect the Earth that sustains us. It was hopeful to see a community mobilized and ready to take action for the stewardship of the environment! ”
La Casa de Pocha
When Pocha said, ‘Necessity is the best tool for learning.’ It touched me very deeply.
“Pocha’s home is so incredibly rich in resources – fruits, vegetables, wood is grown; animals are raised; medicines are prepared on the grinding stone; tea is of fresh herbs; neighbors provide labor and knowledge – its all powered by the sun and all the waste water is used to help things grow. It is amazing how simple such a high degree of self-sufficiency is achieved through clearly hard work.”
What impresses me most about La Casa de Pocha is the action that it has inspired in local communities, as well as in visitors from around the world.
A walk through Pocha’s garden among all different kinds of vegetables and fruits is like walking through a magical land of healthy living.
I was amazed by the simplicity of the solar cooking devices. It was impressive how much control there is over the temperature without electricity nor gas.
Being in contact with the beauty of nature, knowing exactly where your food is coming from, understanding how the water system works – where the water comes from, where it goes and being connected to all of these through the power of the sun gives a sense of peace.
The lilies and this method of sewage drainage amazed me because this particular system could be implemented anywhere around the world. If more people/countries used this type of organic waste drainage there would be less pollution of surface water sources and less depletion of groundwater sources.
I think Pocha’s decisions are inspiring to anyone who wants to live a more eco-friendly lifestyle. If everyone just took a few, small simple steps then the world would be a much healthier and longer-lasting place.
“My time in the Andes has been very beneficial. I definitely felt culture shock initially, but I suppose that is to be expected the first time traveling to a new country. In the end, the culture didn’t just shock me – it taught me.”
“The Andes have awakened my consciousness of my own life. It has shown me how I can live in harmony with myself. Hopefully one day I can somehow positively affect Andean life as it has positively affected me.”
“This has overall been a great experience and has opened many mental and physical doors for me, in the way I can conceptualize the Earth and my experience, as well as a new focus to share and spread what I have learned onto others with the attempt to enhance their lives as well.”
“I have had a once in a lifetime experience here, learning about myself and the Andean culture in equal measure. I’m excited to see where life takes me from here, but I know I am, if anything, better prepared for it.”
“I think it took this experience for me to come to the understanding that life is simply one giant learning lesson, and you have to be out of your element, you have to take risks, you have to see another way of life in order to better understand the ways of the world. Because of my time here, a piece of Peru will always be with me.”
“I hope that in the future awareness will spread and the values people have here in the Andes will influence others as they have me. I hope to use what I’ve learned here to spread consciousness and love and I won’t give up on people or the communities around me, it is never too late for change.”
Posted on: September 22, 2017admin