Umm... una manta raya me murdío

Trip Start Jan 20, 2010
Trip End Aug 08, 2010

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Monday, March 22, 2010

Two weeks ago I thought it was cool that a llama bit me during spanish "recess". This past week, I got bit by a manta ray.  I know, I know, que bacan, no?  This part of my blog should be read in some sick surfer accent.  I was out surfing, well attempting to learn to surf, at the beach with my friends last week.  Finally I thought I had found a sport that was immediately addicting and not terrible for these arthritic knees of mine.  Lying on my stomach I start to paddle with a wave, decide it's lame, and slide off the board in a snobby beginner's rejection.  Intense immediate pain gouges into my achilles tendon (I'm really making this dramatic because it's late as I'm writing) and I feel something large and smooth sliding around my other ankle.  Frantically I try to throw my body onto the floating sanctuary of a surfboard.  My legs can't kick from the pain and all I can think is this is what you get for being a vegetarian and eating seafood.  Eventually I hobble back to my friends and the instructor on the beach.  I was unable to speak in full sentences of spanish or english when our instructor asked what was up.  Animal? bit? murdio? yo? Ouch?!  Somehow he figured it out and we lifted the ankle of my wetsuit to see my foot streaked with blood.  After about forty minutes of deduction in two languages, we decided that my unusual event made me the first known person to be bit by a manta ray at this beach.  My family and I took advantage of this event and my friends being around to have a grand asado (bbq) loaded with salads, ribs, and shark.  The shark may not have really been shark, but I think my dad just really wanted to have me take revenge on all cartilaginous sea creatures.

It's ironic.  Students love to study abroad for the change in pace and the new lifestyle, but I'm learning that what I appreciate most is finding the swing of things.  In the hopes of not sounding like a Metamucil commercial, I've done it, I'm regular.  I've started to walk the fifty minutes to and from classes with my friend, Laura, and I am becoming a part of the repetitive heartbeat of this city.  Last week I teared up from walking along side a street poodle dragging her broken leg across the street and this week my calves were practically abraded by her scruffy fur when she sprinted around the corner on three legs.  I love passing the old woman in the park when I walk home for lunch (our first encounter ended with her throwing things at me, but now we just have a mutual understanding) and Patricio, the old man with two canes who I helped walk to the clinic, as he sprint canes in his wool jacket.  We'll be the best of friends by the end of this trip.  In the heat of the midday, I've grown accustomed to wishing the sun were low enough to have a shadow, to smiling at my neighbor's fat beagle who tries to threaten me but can hardly use his legs to move his dragging stomach, and to savoring the breeze the moves off the hills of Las Palmas and barely cools my now balmy skin.  I don't even gag when the wall of fishy smells from the fish processors hit me when I return to class in the afternoon.

It's time for a little Chilean praise now.  Chile has both a public and private health care sector.  As my program is a public health program, we've been exposed to several of the public health clinics and all I can say is wow.  I am endlessly amazed at how integral, integrative, and innovative their system is.  With an emphasis on preventative care and care for women and children, Chile has made primary health care free and easily accessible to everyone.  Not only that, but medical practitioners take such a holistic approach to healing their patients' body, mind, and soul.  For example, if someone who suffers from hypertension comes to the clinic, they visit a nutritionist to remedy their dietary choices, a kinesiologist (physical therapist) to determine their necessary fitness changes, a primary care family doctor, and sometimes a psychologist if their diagnosis is actually stemming from mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.  All this information is kept in one patient file and is given to each provider.  This allows for the psychologist to determine if stomach cramps are actually connected to fear or anxiety and rather than treating a person solely with some pepto bismol or extra drug, the system works to find the root of the problem to stop the stomach cramps from the source.  Ah, I could go on for hours.  Oh one more, treatment also takes into account social factors.  It's not unusual for a matrona, an obstetrician, to evaluate from her monthly meetings with expecting mothers if the home is considered unsafe from drug abuse or domestic violence.  More incredibly, if she has reason to believe the home is unsafe she will personally evaluate it and make recommendations on how to improve the situation.  Okay one more impressive point of praise, I swear.  A non-traditional clinic exists that treats patients using Raiki,  massage, and traditional Aymaran or Quechua treatments.  This clinic works directly with the public health clinics for patients who cannot take medicine (expecting mothers) or are seeking secondary pain treatment (chronic arthritis sufferers).

Tomorrow my group is heading to Putre in the Andean highlands.  We'll have a chance to experience rural medicine and watch the practice of traditional Aymaran medicine in some smaller villages.  We'll be there for four days and I am stoked to see a new part of Chile.  Green. Lush.  Altitude Sickness. Volcanoes. Llamas. Vicuņas. Lakes.  mmm, I think all this excitement is why I'm writing at 1:30 in the morning.  Overloaded excitement insomnia.  My friends and I are taking an excursion to San Pedro de Atacama for the long weekend.  Starry desert nights, I am so ready!
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