the Long's Strange Trip
into the unknown...
Medicine, Coincidence, and a Hole in the Head
(wpl) One of the couples in Palenque were Jamie and Amanda. They are British Royalty of some sort. Jamie always wore a nice long-sleeve white shirt, even while at the pool, with gold cuff-links from the Queen.
Amanda's big passion is trepanation. It's apparently a very old practice in which a hole is drilled into one's head in order to raise consciousness and intelligence. Amanda's theory is that this allows a release of pressure within the skull so that the blood vessels in the brain can "pulse". The result, according to Amanda, is increased blood flow to the brain. Until now, people who wanted this surgery had to do it to themselves, which is what Amanda did 30 years ago. She said that she thinks she has now found a doctor in Mexico who is willing to do this operation, which opens up the future possibility of controlled experiments to prove whether or not it really works.
Our first day at our Spanish school we went on a field trip to a 500 year old Inka medicinal plant garden. It was a terraced, irrigated structure that stretched up the mountain, offering several different microclimates for all the various plants. Different species were brought from as far away as the jungle, and fertilizer (bird droppings) was brought from the coast. The plants were then processed into medicine, and I suppose distributed throughout the empire.
A few days later they showed us a video about traditional medicine in Peru. The video was in Spanish, so we didn't get a whole lot out of it. It involved some traditional doctors being treated by a Shaman. The Shaman would check their pulses, kind of like Chinese medicine. We saw the doctors drinking San Pedro cactus soup, and doing tobacco snuffs. The healing seemed to be energy based, with some Catholic ritual mixed in.
The last day of school our teacher Sandra took us to the poor people's hospital in Cusco to see their medicinal plant garden. This herbal medicine program is held at that hospital because only the poor will accept herbal medicine, and that's all they can afford, to boot. The director was unavailable, so her 10 year old son took us on a tour, giving us the name of each plant, what disease it is used for, and how it is prepared.
Sandra used to be a pharmacist but got bored with that, so started working with an organization that works to save old knowledge from being lost, such as information about the medicinal use of plants that is known by many of the Indians still living in the jungle. Unfortunately, a lot of this information is being lost as even the Indians are preferring to use faster acting, though often less effective modern pharmaceutical medicines.
We only made it to one museum in Cusco, the Inka Museum. Though mostly in Spanish, it was still quite an interesting place, chronicling South American cultures before and up to Inka times. One of the most fascinating exhibits was the skulls where the Inka's had performed trepanation. I'm not sure if the reason for doing so was the same as Amanda's or not....
A Peruvian woman (that she'd never seen before) came up to Christie one night saying "Christie, Christie..." but was shewed away by Christie's new Tandem partner, Nury (who was practicing speaking Spanish with her). Christie asked what she wanted. "Oh, she thought you were Christie," said Nury.
There's a sign in Aguas Calientes that says "The Inkas Dreamed You Were Coming".
On one of our last cab rides before heading to the Inka trail the driver struck up a conversation with us. He asked if we were going to Puno, as that's where they did trepanation....
There was only one other family in our group at the Amazon Lodge. Mark Smith, '79 graduate of the University of Alabama, is a doctor at West Point. His wife Stephanie is a nurse, an herbalist, a Reiki Master, and a meditation teacher, among other things. Their son Bryant is, of course, named after the Bear.
Its weird how we keep running into people and situations having to do with health and medicine, as I think of this trip as somewhat of a vision quest for us.
We had some interesting discussions about the practice of medicine, and the education (and lack of education) that one gets at med school. For instance, Mark said he got a whopping eight hours of nutrition instruction, all given by a very overweight woman.
Their trip to Peru was instigated by Stephanie's business importing and marketing Maca, a Peruvian herb that is reported to be good for menopause, and sexual functioning (male and female). Another Peruvian herb she's looking into is Camu camu, reportedly an anti-viral.
Norma Panduro calls herself a Medico Naturista. She uses medicinal plants of the Amazon, along with ceremonies she learned from the Shipibo Indians, in her practice. As a child Norma had gotten cancer, which had been declared uncurable by the traditional doctors of Iquitos, so her mother took her to see the shaman of the Shipibo tribe. There the Shaman drank ayahuasca with her, in order to see if she could be cured. After determining that yes, she could be cured, he spent the next 3 months treating her with plants, as she lived alone in the jungle. She later came back for a year to train with the Shaman. Today she is trying to set up a natural healing clinic in Iquitos. She was the leader for our Ayahuasca ceremony.
Details, including visions, prophecies, and any insights into universal truth that we had will follow (At Home in the Amazon). One thing I will tell you now - the day before we left the jungle Christie dreamed she was flying kites. In Iquitos the next day we went to the market (where the picture at the top of this page came from) and little kids were flying kites among the tables of fruits, vegetables, medicinal herbs, hand rolled cigarettes, and other products. Stay tuned...
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