Friday, August 10, 2007


I've finished my first week of Spanish lessons, and it's gone pretty well. It's been entirely in Spanish, and my ability to just hear Spanish and comprehend without translating is already greatly improved. One thing that's been good is that the content, aside from the grammar instruction (which is great for me, though I question its usefulness for the average person who doesn't have a background as a language teacher,) has been lots of information about Ecuadorian history and culture.

We watched a video about the widespread practice of traditional medicine here. I was imagining them prescribing herbal remedies, which I can imagine having some effectiveness. Instead, I saw healers rubbing guinea pigs over the sick person's body, to absorb the illness, all the while shaking it violently until it died. They then cut it open to diagnose the person's problem. Remedies involved lots of rubbing of eggs and stones over the body, shaking of herbs, and spitting of liquids. All the while, the healer intently smokes a cigarette to prevent the bad energy from invading his or her body.

My tutor and I talked about this, and she admitted that it might strain credibility, but most people can't afford western medicine. Although educated people might not believe that disease is caused by "bad energy", she said most people, including many doctors, do believe in one illness not recognized by modern medicine: "espanto."

Ecuadorians believe that when a child--or sometimes a woman--is particularly startled, it can scare their spirit right out of them. (It doesn't happen to men because they have stronger personalities.) Children lose their energy, don't eat, and cry, even though there's nothing physically wrong with them. A healer has to call their spirit back into them or they will die. It sounds a bit to me like Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, making me wonder what horrible things are really happening in the lives of kids here. And like the Spanish belief that your heart will stop if you take a shower after eating, I wonder why no one bothers to question how it doesn't happen to anybody in other parts of the world.

Even if something about whipping around the earth so fast here on the equator spins the souls right out of people, at least I can rest easy, since I'm a man, and don't have to worry about being affected!

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