2012 Report

FIELD SCHOOL – Students’ Reflections


We inaugurated the year with our third New Year’s course as an intersession seminar where we worked with communities within the Province of Carhuaz of Shumay, Pariacaca and Shilla to address diverse issues such as corruption in government nutrition programs, first birth experiences, and the erosion and proposed recovery of native tree species at high altitudes and agrobiodiversity. Our June and July courses emphasized Field Methods, as well as Spanish and Quechua Language practice and skills development in context. Undergraduate and graduate students participated from Canada, Portugal, Colombia, Puerto Rico and the US, with a wide range of majors that included Environmental Studies, Sociology, Global Health, Biology, International Development, English, History, Music, and Anthropology.

“I have learned that Quechua, indigenous, local ways of viewing the world are still very present in the daily lives of Andean people, regardless of how modernization and cosmopolitan manifestations and lifestyles shape the interactions of new generations.” “Andean culture emphasizes an economy based on reciprocity. Each localized community has a way of making sure that no one goes hungry. The community network functions as a support system.”

Andean Culture and Society

  • “I have learned that Quechua, indigenous, local ways of viewing the world are still very present in the daily lives of Andean people, regardless of how modernization and cosmopolitan manifestations and lifestyles shape the interactions of new generations.”
  • “Andean culture emphasizes an economy based on reciprocity. Each localized community has a way of making sure that no one goes hungry. The community network functions as a support system.
  • “Life here is very different from my own. In most ways, life here is so much more beautiful and rich. The earth provides you with all that you need. Community seems strong, and although it has been hard to maintain that bond, it seems that people insist on holding tight to community to preserve their culture and way of life.”
  • “The degree to which people of the Andes are aware of water and food security greatly impresses me. The daily preparation, sowing and harvesting of the land coincides with the Quechua notion of “Patsa” – both time and space. If global trading systems were to shut down, the Andean communities would be able to sustain themselves, without question.
  • “What I have learned about the Andean culture and society is that the people are what makes the place. Through their customs, values and beliefs they have built a place that is unique in every way.”
  • “Some may say that the people of the Andes are living in the past, however they have chosen to preserve cultural practices which have been proven to work throughout generations.”
  • “The sense of community here is something I have never before experienced. Locals understand that time is cyclical, that there needs to be constant flow and exchange, and that community is central to survive, to depend on one another in times of both hardship and abundance.”
  • “One of my most memorable moments was when one of the women in the Community of Shilla asked us if we knew how to eat! This question seemed very odd to me…but she was asking because the way people learn to eat is through a shared practice that has been passed down and certain foods are meant to be prepared in certain ways in order for us to properly consume.”
  • “In the market, you can see and feel the sense of appreciation and welcome towards one another. It is wonderful to experience a place like this where things are not taken for granted, but productively used and cared for.”
  • “I have learned that there is greater connection to, and respect for, community and the earth – Patsa Mama – here. It is lived and breathed here. I have yet to see such awareness anywhere else in the world.”
  • “Andean people have this huge wealth of knowledge that has been accumulated from years of trial and error and passed down from generation to generation. I think this should be valued and treasured.”
  • “The sense of community here is astonishing. Everyone seems to know and help one another. It’s awesome that people are so readily able to mobilize and organize themselves to demand change.”
  • “By being able to immerse myself and experience activities such as harvesting quinua and kiwicha or attending a local festival, I have begun to understand not only what a day in the Andes can consist of, but respectable traditions of reciprocity, community, and the sense of cultural pride that exist here.”

Field Work

  • “Exploring a new culture and place has been fun, interesting, sometimes frustrating, informative, and exhausting all at the same time.”
  • “In the field, simply showing up is not enough. You have to make a conscious effort to connect to people, to understand and be understood. There must be certain plans and strategies to the work, but most importantly, there must be openness to the moment and any unexpected opportunities that may arise.
  • “I have definitely seen what it is like to do field work as an anthropologist. I have gone to community meetings, peoples’ homes, health posts, etc. to ask questions, build rapport and gather data. I have learned what it means to be a facilitator for the community, and how important it is to involve the community in making positive change.”
  • “Field notes are hard! It was relatively easy to record shorthand notes of daily activities but a more detailed, holistic reflection is another story entirely.”
  • “Field work in cultural anthropology necessitates participation. The field worker cannot be afraid to ask for clarification seven times for a single statement. Neither can they be afraid to be wrong. The only failure is failure to participate – failure to try.”
  • “Field work requires exhaustive in-situ participatory action as well as ex-situ reflection and learning. The cornerstone of participatory research is the taking of notes, filming, recording, breathing, eating, sleeping and drinking the culture being studied.”
  • “I have learned that field work is more than just talking and interacting with the people, it’s eating the FOOD! Cooking is an important social context for women in the Andes, and as a researcher it is essential to be as involved as possible in the process. Surprisingly, the best part is finding out that the food you have helped prepare is actually really good! Comprehending this can help us to gain a cultural understanding of how significant the social setting of eating really is. ”
  • “I’ve learned that field work is timeless and endless. Unexpectedly, sometimes your key source is right in front of you without you noticing and sometimes they will talk without you asking them. I think that when this happens, real Participatory Action Research (PAR) takes place.”
  • “I have been humbled, challenged, and pushed out of my comfort zone, all of which I was hoping would happen. I also experienced hospitality at the nurturing sides of people as they sat patiently as I phrased my questions. People go out of their way for you when you make an effort, when you show them that you are here because you want to learn from them, not change them.”
  • “Rapport can take weeks and months to build, but eventually you will gain their trust and prove that your intentions are pure.”
  • “What I really like about Participatory Action Research (PAR) is that you have the opportunity to help create change when it might be needed. I liked knowing that it’s involving the community.”
  • “It is important to invite community members to reflect and analyze to get a sense of the social context based on members’ perceptions. At the end of the day, to question the experience, sleep on it, and always remember that the community members themselves are really the true researchers; keeping an open dialogue is one of the most important aspects of doing field work.”
  • “By being thrown immediately into new situations, such as the market on our first field activity, one has to learn and learn fast. This method was greatly effective and allowed for reflection, lessons on how to approach and interact with people, as well as an interesting 1st experience.”
  • “I feel that our particular group dynamic has allowed for great discussions on current issues in Peru and the methodology that is used to analyze the situations.”
  • “More than anything at the Center for Social Well Being, I’ve learned to be aware of time and its relation to field work. One cannot take a single minute for granted. I must always be in action (talking, writing, experiencing, being) in order to fully appreciate and make use of my days. It is important to remember faces, places, people, names, but more so, it is important to not only to step back to gain perspective, but take time to give back. Say thank you and then say thank you some more. Rather than seeing time as a limit during field work, view it as cyclical and an opportunity to return.”

The Andean Environment

  • “I learned about the simplicity and intricacy of the local irrigation systems and how they are maintained by community with a strong sense of cooperation and reciprocity. I learned the importance of mountains such as Hualcan and Huascaran in the lives of the people in Shilla and how if global warming continues their lifestyle is going to be hampered and threatened.”
  • “I learned about simple ways to use natural energy through environmentally friendly mechanisms that help us to produce and consume food that is actually good for our bodies.”
  • “The environment is a concern for every person I encountered. Climate and culture change is greatly impacting the way of life in every aspect.”
    This environment is nothing quite like anything I´ve ever known before. I’ve always considered myself as an environmentalist but I now have been able to see environmental consciousness in FULL action and am completely enamored with its sustainability.”
  • “Locals don’t use the environment, it is how they survive, they realize that humans and nature are one in the same.”
  • “There is a strong sense of community that extends beyond people and reaches out to the environment and every natural organism within it. There is an overwhelming sense of belonging here, just as everything has a place in Pocha’s garden.”
    Water is believed to be the blood of the earth and if we continue to contaminate it, then we are literally and figuratively, poisoning ourselves.”
  • “What is striking to me is the irrigation systems that are literally and figuratively embedded into the local and social landscapesand that have been sustained for thousands of years. These vein-like systems of the earth represent the centrality of agricultural production and community, a product of hard work and awareness of the land and fundamental needs.
  • “The indigenous trees return water to the earth. They are the naturally occurring trees in this region that clean the water and supply humidity during the dry season.”
  • “I’ve learned most about the living in balanced harmony with the earth. I’ve loved visiting peoples’ farms and seeing what they plant and all the agrobiodiversity here. I´ve never heard of nor seen half the plants I´ve gotten to know at the market or in various farm fields. People really know the land, they’re always experimenting with it, and the outcomes are so rich and amazing.”
  • “The knowledge people have of native plants and their uses is incredible. I´ve learned a lot about different plants and their uses for healing and cures for just about every ailment. It is so cool how Don Pancho could just walk around the ranch showing us plants growing all over and their applications. And, Prof. Martín, too on the hike to his village and the hotsprings showed us so many vital aspects of the local environment.”

Experiential Learning

  • “I have gained unbelievable insight into medicinal plants, holistic healing, reciprocity, community, sustainable living, and the Andean way of life. I have become a better person because of the people I have talked to and the lectures I have been given. I admire the Quechua perspective on time and nature. I believe the future of the world lies in the wisdom that is within this community. The model of their way of life should be the model the rest of us follow.”
  • “I think one of the most interesting things that Prof. Martín said was that school can actually result in a lack of knowledge, because when children are in school they aren’t learning about farming or the environment around them, rather they are learning about what external people deem is important for them to know.”
  • “I have found that many healing agents can be found in someone’s backyard and that preventive measures, such as eating well and drinking plenty of water, can keep one from needing any medicines.”
    My experience here has created an enormous amount of admiration and respect for the individuals that continue to preserve, reinvent and adapt their way of life.”
  • “The environment plays an enormous role in the health of all humanity. I think this is the one most important thing I’ve learned at Casa de Pocha. When the environment is exploited, the more health issues we seem to have and the more people tend to become marginalized. This setting has shown me what it is like to be at harmony with the earth and what it is like when that harmony is out of sync.”


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Posted on: September 22, 2017admin
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