To read this blog chronologically, please scroll to the bottom of the page. The first post is on February 26, called ¡Bienvenidos a Oaxaca!, it often shows up as Page 2 which can be accessed at the bottom of the page. I hope that you are able to feel some of the experience. I would love to hear from anyone with questions about the 2011 trip, the possible 2012 trip or about the work being done to return and offer trainings.
The shift into the next phase of the trip has happened. We are at the coffee plantation Finca El Mamay. We’re in the mountains about 2 hours from Huatulco. It it is a complete shift into another time, another reality.
A German man came to Mexico and created a coffee plantation in a very, very remote area. He married a Mexican woman, they had children and in the following generation Elizabeth was born. She was identified as as being gifted with healing very early on but she (like many with these gifts) did not want to accept it and left the region to live in other places. Eventually she did accept it and came back to the plantation that her grandfather created. She now trains young people, mostly girls who are gifted, in how to accept and use their gifts. The children range in ages, right now the youngest is 7 and oldest is 19. They either live with her or come to her on the weekends. Some of the girls live part time with Claudia and Yves in the city and go to school there, although their schedules are flexible so they can come back here on a regular basis. Two of the girls are beginning a midwifery program in Oaxaca one week each month.
They came to Elizabeth in different manners, some she visioned before they came, others had heard about her. Often with children like these they experience physical or psychological problems before coming here. People, including their family, may think that they are crazy for what they see and feel. In coming here these symptoms are relieved, some as soon as they have arrived.
These young people are beautiful. They dress all in white for protection. They are learning or have learned ceremonies. They have different gifts and what they desire to do with these gifts, a couple of them desire going into alternative medicine, another to be a doctor. Others are too young to know. They are in a supportive environment which is one of the most important things for them.
The plantation house is beautiful. It is a blend of Mexican and German style, the meals prepared for us have been delicious and served in an old dining room with photos of the generations looking down from the walls. It’s so peaceful, no phone, internet or much electricity. The kitchen uses both a gas and wood stove.
Day 2 Plantation
Today was about doing limpias/cleansing of the four directions. We began the morning at the river, first with a demonstration, then we all got in the water and shared the limpia in the cold, fresh water. We dowsed ourselves and each other with water, cleansing, refreshing. Keeping focus and self awareness in order not to shiver (even though it got very cold).
We then went into fire, again, a demonstration and then as a group. Standing close together we held each other as flames were swept around us and herbs caressed us. Burn away any unneeded emotions.
The children participated in different ways in these ceremonies and they were beautiful, serene, supportive.
We had a group sharing later in the day. We have grown so close during this time together, our traveling family, community. Such a short time in linear time…yet the bonding is intensified by the shared experiences and by being together as we have been.
Elizabeth gave some private consultations while others listened to a talk one of the participants gave about using intentions while giving the auricular acupuncture. She also discussed how she used this in Spanish during the clinics.
We were to do the other elements mid afternoon but instead the girls were delivered to us so they could experience acupuncture. Some of them had specific health issues going on, for others it was just for the experience. I treated two of the girls whose issue was mathematics. One of them had a difficult time with the subject…and history too, and the other just had a hard time studying math. It was great treating them, they are so sensitive and can feel so much. I got the 7 year old to try just one needle…she was giving the other, older girls a hard time about how it must hurt and she pretended to be scared of the needles and then after receiving hers she was very proud of it and how it was no big deal for her. Just like so many girls I’ve seen at that age.
Air and Earth were the elements for the afternoon. The young people were fully participating in these ceremonies with Elizabeth’s guidance. They were both powerful ceremonies.
Our trip ended the next morning as people dispersed…some to the beach for a few days, some to Oaxaca City and some went back to their homes. I have stayed on at the plantation for an extra few days to do some work with Elizabeth.
This trip was more than I could have dreamed of. I am very, very grateful for Claudia, Yves and Lauro for all that they have done for the communities that we visited. Again and again we saw what their work has done to benefit these communities. If anyone reading this goes to Oaxaca I will encourage you to take a trip with them, they do 1 day tours and those that last a few days. www.tierraventura.com . Soon they will also have a branch possibly called Tierrasanta which will focus more on the spiritual tours. AWB will definitely be back here, we have lots of ideas right now and we will see how it plays out. There have been many people from the clinics and who we met in other ways who are interested in learning more about how to create these clinics and do this acupuncture technique. This part is very important to have happen, it is how we can have a larger impact. “Give someone a fish and they will eat for a day, teach them how to fish and they will eat for their lifetime”.
A big part of what made this great was the group that we had. Everyone came with an open mind and heart and it went very smoothly. Each person added something special, a perspective, a skill, and we learned from each other.
If anyone reading this wants to comment or has questions for or about AWB or the future of the Oaxaca Project or anything else, please contact AWB www.acuwithoutborders.org or me firstname.lastname@example.org
Gracias! Gracias! Gracias!
It really does keep getting better! We are glowing after tonight.
We started the day with a community clinic in the community of La Luz. La Luz is another Ceciproc success story – with composting toilets, efficient stoves and garden projects, the people in this community have had their lives greatly changed in the past 8 years. They went from the majority of the community (I have to check the stat, I think it was around 80%) having parasites and chronic diarrhea to 2 years ago it was 15%. They also created a women’s baking cooperative for bread.
This was our largest clinic with (I think) almost 50 adults and 28 children. The children all sat in the center of the circle on mats receiving the ear seeds. It was beautiful. There will definitely be photos of that coming out. The adults appreciated what we did and afterwards gave testimonials about how the Ceciproc projects have changed their lives. It was a very positive, upbeat experience with them. They are a mix of indigenous groups as well as some African. Some of the young women, interacted a lot with us and afterwards wanted to take photos with many of us. I’d like to sit with some of them more and learn about who they are and what are their dreams. They invited us to return, they would love more treatments and offered to teach us how to bake bread. Virginia had brought some seeds for plants and herbs and that was greatly appreciated. It’s a great idea of a gift for communities like these. The Australians had enough tiny kuala and kangaroos to give to all of the children, keychain size…another great idea. As well as some soaps and shampoos, some from the hotel that we stayed in Oaxaca. It is all very appreciated.
The afternoon was spent at the Temazcal for some (again very powerful for those participating) and the others relaxed by the pool or went into the beach town of Puerto Escondido.
The night was magical. On the new moon a few times per year at the meeting point of the fresh water and salt water, there are phosphorus plankton. We are fortunate to be here during one of these times. Giselle asked about it this morning and Yves arranged a boat to take us there for the evening. It was incredible! The glow with contact is otherworldly. We dipped our hands in the water and there was glow, and sparkles on our hands as the water dripped off. Some of us dove in the water and with each movement our whole bodies glowed. ¡Que Chida! It was like we were creating the northern lights under water with each movement. Fish jumping were like fireflies on a summer night. The water was warm and wonderful for a late night swim.
Tomorrow we will go to the plantation to visit Elizabeth and the gifted girls she trains to be curanderas. There is no means of contact there – phone or internet. I will be staying there a few days after the group leaves on March 8. On the 10th or 11th I will transfer my “pages” to the blog and you can read more then.
I am again amazed at this journey! Every day! This is really a dream come true and this dream has another part to it. Lauro is excited to continue with us and we think that Ceciproc would make an ideal partner. On Monday he will enter an annual 3 day meeting and have the opportunity to tell his larger organization about us.
One of the things that I have definitely seen in the past few days is how a little can go such a long way in these communities. And how it goes both ways, we receive so much joy from their offerings to us of some fresh juice or tortillas, their smiles, and the appreciation that people don’t leave without saying good-bye to everyone with a handshake, a kiss or a hug. We have felt welcomed and embraced and we have so much gratitude.
Today, amongst other things, we learned that there is a difference between “Mexican Time” And “Mexican Coast Time”.
We had set the clinic time for 10am. We arrived about 10:30 to Lucy’s home. Lucy works with CECIPROC. Ceciproc is the NonGovernmental Organization that Lauro helped found many years ago. With the communities they work with on the coast they are building composting toilets which has significantly decreased parasites, especially in children, and they are working on nutrition and gardening programs. Charco Redondo is a community of people with African ancestry. Their ancestors were most likely involved in a shipwreck during those times. This community is severely marginalized, they have almost no access to healthcare – a medical person comes monthly and they are only allowed access to the hospital on Wednesdays. They only recently received the right to vote. Initially they were resistant to working with Ceciproc but that has changed and there is now a good relationship in which Ceciproc is trusted, so we were able to come in.
Only the family was there when we arrived. After introductions, the place was set up for the clinic but no one was showing up. Sometime after 11 they brought out mango______, frozen mango juice in plastic bags. Yumm!
A little before noon people started showing up and we had a clinic. There were quite a few women with children and the kids all received seeds on the acu points. The Australians had brought tiny stuffed Kualas that could be clipped onto the shirts and they were a hit with the kids. Once again, when the energy got going there was such peace, even with babies crying, roosters crowing and chickens walking through. There is frequently a fear of needles and those who were afraid received them and found relaxation. The grandmother of the home only has one functioning eye and after the treatment she was able to see much better with it.
Lucy brought us tortillas made with Chiya, which is very high in certain minerals. So much generosity! She would like to learn how to do acupuncture. She is already a health care promoter and has skills in healing.
On a personal note, this clinic really affected me. People always ask when we will be back and we would like to come back, like to train their people how to do this but we can’t give any promises at this time. I am promising myself at this time (and whoever may be reading this), that I will be working to make this happen. To fundraise in the states to be able to have people go to Oaxaca and offer a training. To pay the expenses for people like Lucy who could give even more to her community by having this skill. I’m also committed to learn more Spanish so I am better able to communicate.
As we left a beautiful young girl waved to us from the gate. She looked sad, like she might cry. She followed the van down the block by cutting through a neighbors yard so she could continue to wave to us and for us to wave back. What was she thinking? How did our visit affect her?
Our day shifted after that as we went to the beach for an afternoon of sun, waves, fresh fish, and walks along the beach. The water was warm and the waves were very strong. There was a protected area that we were in and then further out was where the big waves and surfers were. This is a surfers area…big waves, palapas on the beach, we took a boat there because it is a small island. If someone wants a beach vacation with nothing other than barely discovered beaches and basic amenities, as well as some restaurants with thatched roofs and Mexican tropical music – Chacahua is the place.
We are rejuvenated. Swimming, sunning, eating and lots of laughing together revived us. We left in motorboats going through mangroves in the lagoon.
After dinner tonight we went around and did a two word check-in. The most used word was relaxed.
We woke this morning at 9000 feet above sea level. We are now back to sea level after a 4 hour drive. At breakfast, many people shared the intensity or depth of their dreams last night. It was so quiet in the cabins, so still and clear. Some people lit fires in the fireplaces last night or in the morning. San Jose del Pacifico was a good stop.
Las Hadas, where we are staying, is beautiful. The rooms are comfortable and the pool is warm. For the afternoon, the group split into two, one half stayed here while the other half joined Lauro for a temazcal, a traditional sweatlodge. Everyone was given individual limpias, spiritual cleansings, then they went into the lodge together to sweat, pray, and be reborn. I was not there but I heard about some of the details and I could see some people looked lighter. After the participants were re-born they assisted baby turtles into the ocean to begin their lives.
The group of us who stayed had a relaxing afternoon by the pool and later the beach. The hotel is across the street and a short walk to the beach. Someone from the hotel walked us there. The waves here are very large. This area near Puerto Escondido attracts surfers internationally. There are some protected coves for swimming, this beach was not one of them. Even walking ankle deep in the water we could feel how strong the undertow is and the force of the waves. We didn’t see another person on the beach during a long walk. Peaceful, content.
San Jose del Pacifico
We are in the clouds tonight. 9000 ft, crisp air, pine forest. The sky cleared and we are in the stars- so bright and clear.
This morning we awoke in the city and had a free morning. Most people went to the artisano market and shopped.
Our first stop into the mountains was at a family home where they make alebrijes These are carved wooded animals which are then painted in intricate detail. They are carved out of copal wood. The place we went is unique in that they use natural paints. We were given a demonstration of how the different resins and plants make the paints, many of them are brilliant colors. The wood carvings there are generally made from one piece of wood, another sign of the high quality of this house. It is mostly a family run business as well as having an apprenticeship program for young people. They move between carving, painting and doing the demonstrations for the tourists. They have talent and steady hands.
We are missing our leader Diana. She is ill and was not in the shape to make the difficult drive to the coast. She will catch up with us on Friday morning. She is staying at the hotel, the staff there is available to bring her food, Marie from Tierraventura will look in on her and and she has the number of another person from the US who will be available if she needs anything. It was hard to leave her. It feels different without her as it would to be without any of our group. We are so fortunate to have such a good group! We’ve been going at a fast pace and it isn’t always easy for everyone to not have much time and space. This will change as we cross the mountain. Everyone has been supportive of each other and is easy to get along with. We are so fortunate!
The views as we climbed the mountain on the twisty road were spectacular. As we rose in elevation we met the clouds. Yves has our admiration (and a lot of trust) as he navigates the roads and Mexican drivers. Tomorrow is they day that the tourbooks write about. There will be 4 hours of twisting roads on cliffs. Dramamine is recommended even for the locals. The reward is arriving at the coast.
Often when I travel I will be excited about going to a new place but want also want to stay where I am at. Right now I am so content to be in this mountain pueblo. It is silent outside, there are few lights visible and the air is so fresh and clear, especially after the city, that I want to stay here. Yesterday Doña Queta and the other curandera spoke a lot about the importance of connecting with nature. Of living with it, having the house made of it. The curandera has a new home on her property that her children built but she and her husband prefer the very small wood and adobe house that is part of nature. As Doña pointed out, if there is an earthquake, these homes will sway with it, they are made from and with the earth. They have earthen floors and any negative energy will be absorbed by the floor. In new houses, the energy stagnates. The negative energy is stuck in the house. We are separate from nature. Before entering a home, they take off their head scarf that they have worn all day. They “wipe off” the energy of the day by doing a small ritual before entering the home and it is easy to maintain a clear home.
I am not sure when I will have wifi again so these next blogs might be coming in clumps as I am writing on “pages” and will transfer to the blog when I can. There will not be much internet access during our time at the coast.
Today we went to the Sierra Norte Zapotec pueblo Cuajimoloyas. Here in the high elevation are The People of the Clouds. We passed through many eco-systems as we rose in elevation, stopping along the way so Lauro and Doña Queta could point out a tree or plant and tell us what it is used for.
On the way there we also saw the huge landslides from last September when the drought was broken by extended heavy rains and landslides caused by the deforestation. We are reminded that natural disasters aren’t really natural, that usually the devestation has to do with something that man has done to alter the natural environment.
It’s been a long day so this will be a short post. Yet I don’t want to minimize the fullness of the day and how much we learned, how much we experienced. We took an herb walk with Lauro and Doña Queta as well as two of the local guides. Some of the plants were familiar and we learned more uses for them. Others were new to the group. There is much similarity in how the acupuncturists and the Mexican Curanderos look at the plants by their energetic nature rather than just how they are used.
AWB offered our second community clinic. As a group it went even more smoothly. We also heard feedback later from our local guides and curanderos about how we can make it even better. It was great to get their perspective and we will discuss it more as a group at the next opportunity.
After the clinic we went to the house of __________ , the Curandera of the Pueblo. We could all just barely fit into her house. It was an opportunity to hear more from her and Doña Queta, we heard stories, asked lots of questions and discussed how things have been and the question of where they are going since not many young people are choosing to learn from them. They have so much knowledge!!! What might happen if there is no one to carry their traditions, their knowledge, their way of healing and helping keep life in balance?
It’s been a full day and I ‘m not able to write too much more. I have so much gratitude to be able to connect with these incredible healers. These incredible People. In many cultures, for many reasons, people like them would not be willing to connect and share with foreigners like us. We are very, very fortunate.
As I am writing this blog I am also learning about ipads…and how things need to be saved while writing since I lost last night’s entry. I am taking the moment to write while the group is in the next room doing qi gong. It is another beatuful morning in Oaxaca. Last night was a free night (looks like I’m working backwards on this). As I walked toward my salsa practice group I went throught Llano Park, 3 blocks from here. The park covers a few blocks and is a mix of cement with large, dry fountains and some grass and trees for shade. There is always activity there, especially in the mornings and evenings. Families are walking, children running around in the fountains, kids kicking soccer balls, throwing a football, Tai Chi, joggers around the perimeter. There are stands of fresh corn on the cob that can be covered in mayonaise, chili powder and crumbled cheese, as well as a spicey corn soup. Sometimes there are tlayudas, a Oaxacan specialty of corn tortillas made on the spot and chargrilled over charcoal with black beans, oaxacan cheese and choices of meat. Delicious! People walk with small wooden pallets on their body with candy and gum. Shoes can be shined at any hour. On sunday morning there is Zumba for hours with people doing dance aerobics together.
Another day of Wow!
Yesterday started with our first clinic within the city of Oaxaca. One of the main aspects of this trip is offering clinics to locals where we go. We are only able to give a one session each place. There is the vision that if there is interest, we would come back and train health care providers how to do this technique. After today, there has already been a lot of interest. We treated about 45 people today and for our first clinic it went very smoothly. Overall, people left feeling good. There were moments of absolute peace pervading the space.
One of the connections that I made was with a woman who is a nurse in a one year acupuncture program. She is already going to some pueblos and giving treatments. She asked me for help in finding inexpensive needeles that she can use for her treatments. People pay her about 30 pesos, about $2.50. Her needles are imported so they are expensive, each patient has their own set so she can use them multiple times. She has my email address and we plan on meeting after I get back from the coast and I will give her my extra needles and any that the group wants to donate to her.
We had time to talk about our experience, we’re learning from each day. Lauro answered more of our questions about the day before, we had witnessed very strong healings of two people in our group and there was so much to learn.
The afternoon was spent with En Vía, a micro finance organization. www.envia.org
It was a great way to go to Teotitlan, an area that is known for it’s weavings. By going through Envia, our tour fees all go to 0% interest loans to women working on their businesses – weavers, crafters, tortilla-makers, venders, etc. Usually for them to receive a loan it is with 50-150% interest. Even at 50% it would bring them down rather than up! So far almost all of the loans given have been paid back and after each loan they can qualify for another larger one. If you watch the video on the webpage you will see an interview with one of the women we happened to visit who is on her 3rd loan. She presented with her sisters and it was wonderful to hear their enthusiasm about what they have done with the loans so far and what they would like to do. We visited 6 people and it was the same with all of them. Each of the weavers shared the process of making the dyes and/or wool and showing us what it takes to create the beautiful rugs. The weavers all wanted to get away from weaving for the “big houses”, those few families who can buy their rugs and then sell the rugs in Oaxaca or at the large showrooms at the edge of town where more tourist buses stop. The weavers only get a fraction of what the rugs are sold for. EnVia also offers English classes to work with the tourists which is Oaxaca’s second largest industry – the largest being the taxes collected on the money sent to families from the US by people working there.
What a full and amazing day! It started with going shopping at the mercado for herbs and medicinals. I always check out the herb section of the mercados and am fascinated by those stands but I don’t recognize most of what is in there. Lauro and Claudia explained a lot…from the fresh and dried herbs to the spiritual medicines, the salt stones and the uses of amulets for protection or to assist in changing one’s path.
The herbs were brought back to the Tierraventura office for the aventura of making things from these herbs. The group made salves (for pain and for the chest for full lungs), a cough syrup, shampoo and cream.
While the preparations were happening, some people received a consultation with Doña Queta. She is a curandera and a partera (midwife). She was giving herbal remedies, tinctures and teas, and doing limpias when needed. A limpia is a cleansing of the body and spirit using herbs, energy, the 4 elements, and other tools with prayers. It can be rather intense sometimes if some energy needs to get moved. There are a few people who feel that they have a bruise from her rubbing herbs on them.
In the afternoon two other curanderas spoke about how they work and gave demonstrations. I have never seen a couple of these techniques before – these are very, very powerful healers. One demonstration was for more of a physical healing and the other was emotonal/spiritual. Although they come from different pueblos and have slightly different traditions and skills, they worked together during the demonstrations. One started the process, and when another “saw” something that needed to happen she stepped in and used her skills. The result was profound, it re-oriented the participant’s life.
A thread that ran through the afternoon was about how a healer protects and takes care of themselves while doing healing. How to stay in balance which is the most important thing. If someone cannot stay in their balance, if they pick up any of the energy of their client – physical or emotional – they have no business doing healing work. (My interpretation of the discussion.) Preparation for a treatment by cleansing oneself and protecting. Cleansing afterwards. Having guides. Not absorbing any energy during a session. The rituals that they each used to do this is unique to the region yet similar. I think that we could spend a week, or lifetime, learning from any of these four Curanderos who we were introduced to today.
Tomorrow is our first clinic offering.
We began the day with Laurencio “Lauro” offering us a welcoming ceremony. In the ceremony he/we used different representations of the four elements – earth fire water wind. Using prayers and the elements our circle was formed, our community. We were cleansed by the water wind and fire, and we made offerings of fruit to the earth. While we were surrounded by the aroma of copal, a resin that is burned, people would occasionally look through the gate and pass by into their day. We are in the city and could hear the sounds of cars passing by, people talking as they walked down the sidewalk…all while we were connecting with the elements of nature which shows how it can be done anywhere, we can always be connected. We ended with a spiral of hugs, giving thanks for the ceremony and for the opportunity to be here together.
Laurencio (aka Lauro) wears a bandanna around his forehead and he gifted each of us one in different colors.
We introduced ourselves. 14 people from AWB, 2 from Tierraventura and one from CECIPROC. Although most are currently living in North America, we have people originally from 9 countries and English is a second language for 5 people (not counting Lauro who does not speak English).
Lauro talked to us about what is Curanderismo – Mexican healing. It takes many forms and people can be called to be healers in different ways – some are identified, some have dreams that guide them, some are taught by elders from when they are young. I think this group of healers looked at ourselves and considered how we were called into this path. All of healing is really the same, just different cultures have manifested it differently and may use different tools.
The late afternoon was spent at Monte Alban, an ancient city not far from Oaxaca.
It was a very full day. Thhere was so much discussion…we could have discussed our group dynamics and intentions for much of the day. Or any of the issues around cultural sensitivity. Or listened to Lauro and asked him to go into detail on many of the subjects he talked about. Maybe we will really have to all move here!
During the break before dinner some of the group was fortunate enough to see the wedding celebration in front of Santo Domingo church. There was a brass band and people in traditional costume dancing and celebrating. Large, 12 foot puppets representing the bride and groom danced in front of a large balloon on which was written the names of the bride and groom. The puppets danced near a group of teenage girls, teasing them by coming after them and making them scream. Then the dancing and music moved to the street, bride and groom leading the way and they took the procession into the city with fireworks lighting the sky.
One of our group slipped on the cobblestone street and injured her foot. A big bruise immediately swelled up. How many options she has for quickly healing it! Immediately she had salve, arnica and chinese herbs. Seeds were placed in her ear and she was given an acupuncture treatment. There were a lot of other remedies being offered by the expereinced healers in this group and tomorrow is when we will meet some more of the local Curanderas. Ojala (hopefully) she will be running again soon!