After Healer2Healer‘s successful multi-day clinic at our Ollantaytambo office, the time had come to journey to Patacancha. We had invited all of our promotoras (community health workers) to an event at which the Healer2Healer practitioners would demonstrate and teach each of their three modalities (massage, acupuncture, and reiki) and the promorotas would in turn demonstrate both traditional weaving and their knowledge of medicinal plants.
The drive up to Patacancha proceeded as usual: terrifying and unspeakably beautiful. Somehow the rainy season has decided to start early this year, so while fog and rain did their best to taint the day they only managed to make the road more ethereal and mysterious.
In Patacancha, we saw the effects of the rain. Trucks were stuck in the mud and the river was far higher than usual. The Healer2Healer volunteers took it all in stride, hiking up the last bit of road to the health posta (government clinic) where our exchange would take place. Inside the posta, we cooked chocolatada (a drink with chocolate, oats, cinnamon, and bananas) and our intrepid driver Wilbur, undaunted by snow, left to drive up to the pass to pick up three promotoras from the high communities of Kelccanka and Yanamayo.
Yes, you read right. Snow.
While we waited for Wilbur to return, the promotoras who were already present began the weaving demonstration. I thanked my lucky stars that I have spent so much time with the lovely folks at Awamaki (our partner organization which runs weaving cooperatives) and was able to share what I learned. No weaving demonstration would have been complete without descriptions of how certain colors of yarn are made with crushed insects (red) or flowers fermented with urine (blue).
After the weaving demonstration, Wilbur still had not returned with the promotoras from Kelccanka and Yanamayo. It turned out that his van had gotten stuck in the snow, and a rescue party of SVH interns hiked up the mountain to help dislodge the van. Meanwhile, the rest of the group in the posta transitioned to Healer2Healer’s presentations and demonstrations. For the next hour and a half, the promotoras rotated in groups through three stations: Acupuncture, Reiki, and Massage. In each station they received the treatment and were taught some basics that they could use in their communities. For instance, each promotora learned about some key acupressure points.
After lunch, the promotoras, assisted by SVH staff, gave presentations on natural medicines. We taught about pomadas (pomades), tinturas (alcohol rubs), jarabes (syrups), and made some mate (tea) from Hierba Buena for everyone to try. The promotoras essentially held a cooking show: each brought a completed version of one of the preparations so that after demonstrating how to make it, they could skip the waiting and allow the Healer2Healer practitioners to try each item right away.
While I heard that the drive down was beautiful and uneventful, I cannot attest to it; I ran down. There is nothing like 16 kilometers downhill through a beautiful valley to capstone the day.