Chica en Arica: Packing

A month has passed, and I am amazed at just how much can happen in such little time. I’ve met another wonderful, loving, and interesting host family, made more friends, learned a montón about this country, my country, and myself. As I always seem to do on trips, I’m going to leave with an overflowing suitcase. That’s a metaphor, but actually I bought a new suitcase for my extra stuff and I’m still struggling to find space for everything (not a metaphor, that’s real).

I guess I’ll start with a bit about my family in the South. For three great weeks, I lived with a Mapuche Machi and her family. If you haven’t been reading the blog, the Mapuche are the largest group of indigenous peoples in Chile, making up about 6% of the total population of the country. In the town I was in, Nueva Imperial, they make up about 50% of the population. A Machi is sort of like a shaman, a spiritual leader and also spiritual and physical healers. My host mom has hosted students from all over the world, and is very open to interacting with foreigners. She told me many Machis are much more reserved.

Every weekend, Machi Rosita, her daughter and her granddaughter and I would go to her house in the country, where we’d spend time planting the garden, taking care of the animals, playing with the puppies. While living with her, I was able to observe her working with patients. When I had the misfortune to have a migraine one afternoon, I was lucky enough to have a host mom trained in the 2,000 year old art of herbal remedies. I ate extremely well, always getting my fill of Sopaipillas, Tortilla, and Matecito. There was always a group of people over–neighbors, friends, cousins–so I met a ton of genuine, nice, great, and interesting people. I made friends with a medical anthropology student who was an old patient of the Machi’s.

I did my work, too. We didn’t have internet in the house, so I’d go to a near-by cafe to use their wifi and have some real coffee (all you really can get anywhere else is NESCAFE or, “No es Cafe” as my friends like to say). This place was owned by a guy who had lived in the US for a while, and brought back the idea of an “American” cafe: real coffee, wifi, comfy sofas, music. It was a little slice of something familiar, which was nice to have, as I was the only gringa in the area. I didn’t see any of my friends from the program for the past 3 weeks, and spoke only Spanish the whole time. An accomplishment in terms of gaining a little independence, a little confidence in myself.

My independent study is probably going to sound boring to most of you. I looked at the relationship between Mapuche patients and Law 20.584, the law of Patient Rights and Responsibilities. I studied their general knowledge and understanding of their rights and responsibilities and what sources of information are available to them for learning about these rights. I now have a 28 page report (60 pages with the references and annexes) to brag about, completely in Spanish (except for the abstract, which had to be in English, but that was one page).

And, to finish up, a photo from the past month: a statue in the center of Nueva Imperial