A Visit with a local Healer

July 21

This morning we stopped at the local Thursday market in Los Rios. We arrived close to 10am so many of the stalls had already closed or were closing up. There was an interesting selection of fruits, vegetables, handicrafts, clothes, shoes and other things useful for the house. After listening to a few of the tracks, we bought a CD of Kichwa pop music recommended by our build site coordinator, Ismael, ostensibly based on her appearance on the cover.

Then we headed back to Bellavista. The kids played a long game of soccer with the local kids. Unfortunately, the North American kids were wearing rubber boots, which resulted in a couple of nasty blisters for Erez. The adults got right to work, Koren carrying bags and wheelbarrows of sand, Aubrey trying almost all of the jobs. Rebar was cut, bent, tied, then the rebar pillars were cemented into place for the foundation. We have all gotten a bit of a rhythm going and look forward to the work. After the soccer game, the kids joined the work team once again. It was hot, and we all felt as though we had earned our showers and lunch.

Today was a bit of a rough day for Teva, who was feeling under the weather almost the entire day. He took a shower and a nap over lunch hour, and luckily was able to join the group for our afternoon activities. Water and sleep seemed to help him back to himself by dinner.

We took a short canoe ride down river to visit the home of Jose, a local community member who serves as a part-time traditional healer. He was chosen to succeed his father-in-law, who was a healer and a Shaman. He was very reluctant, but at thirty-five finally committed to studying the ancient knowledge of traditional plants in the jungle so it would not be lost completely. For forty years, he was a reluctant healer and only treated his family. Three years ago he healed two ill village children and word got out that he possessed this knowledge. He then began to function as a healer for the community. He also shared his knowledge with tourists who visit two of the local lodges, including Minga where we staying.

Jose is very soft spoken and patiently answered all of our questions. He then did a cleansing ceremony for everyone in our group, in small groups. He lit a tube made of dried banana leaves stuffed with dried tobacco leaves, puffed on it, and blew the smoke all over the person he was “treating”. Then he blew some smoke into a bunch of two types of fresh leaves and waved them methodically around the head and body of each person. When he was finished, he shook the “bad air” away from the person before he moved on to the next patient. Each person took around 4-5 minutes.

It was mesmerizing. Our four boys went first, and we were amazed by how still and calm they were throughout the whole ceremony, sitting upright, eyes closed, palms up, for a full 20 minutes while the whole group was treated. It was a very interesting experience. After his treatment, Teva whispered to me that he no longer felt even a little bit sick.

After the ceremony, we went to Jose’s backyard, and Sandra explained some of the hunting methods used in the Amazon rainforest, including letting us use a blow gun. Chicken and a rooster crowed and raced around the yard.Only one person in our whole group, Mike, managed to hit the target (a small papaya), but everyone did a great job blowing the “curare” blow darts.

The Minga and Free the Children (involving a fair bit of our own child labour) portion of our trip is nearly over. The three families are getting along great and break time is now spent socializing as a group. Tomorrow is our last day in the Amazon.

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