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The Kirwan Twins Adventures We've finally graduated, so we're setting off for three months to backpack around India, Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand before entering the "real world."

Cleaning My Body

ECUADOR | Wednesday, 30 January 2008 | Views [1786]

I apologize in advance, but this will not be a step-by-step description of my shower routine, nor will this be an account of the various raw food cleansings and liquid fasts I have performed.  Also omitted from this segment is my vegan epoca, which climaxed with an ayahuasca ceremony tucked in the Peruvian Amazon.  No friends this is quite unique, though you have the advantage of knowing what not to expect, whereas I plunged in like a baby head first, wide-eyed, and drooling.

Sara, Ana, Paola, and I cruised out of Quito in Paola's Rodeo at seven in the morning.  We were destined for Santo Domingo, located between the mountains and the coast.  My ears rationed "lowest you have been in Ecuador" and left me quite deaf, and therefore dumb, for the first few hours following our arrival.  We met our friend Luis (a Quiteno with family from Santo Domingo) at his grandmother's restaurant where we were treated to a hearty almuerzo with jugo de naranjilla, a rich soup followed by a heaping platter of rice and lentils, generously greased meat, and patacones.  Though a bit challenged by the fact that this meal would be followed by a limpia, our crew set off with groaning bellies.

Luis's uncle, Fernando, led us through town to the local and popular bruja.  We followed our guide up a precarious wooden staircase plastered between storefronts.  The second floor was a simple platform with an ancient sofa and austerely painted portraits.  Our witch beckoned us inside, and one by one, my friends disappeared into a suspicious room lit by candles casting shadows onto the walls.  One by one, they stumbled back into the waiting room, mildly dazed and reeking with curious fumes.  Having agreed not to disclose the events that passed behind closed doors, I stepped forward and took my turn.

Seated in a wooden chair, the bruja wrapped a ribbon about my chest marking where the two ends met.  She neatly folded the red satin and passed it over my wrists and temples in rhythm with a whispered prayer.  Slowly, she unfolded the ribbon and revealed that it had stretched about five inches, indicating that I was "espantada."  When I asked why I was scared, the bruja explained that it was a general condition perhaps regarding specific events in my life or my apprehension at the moment (I later discovered that our entire crew was quite "scared," some more than others though I am happy to report I was on the lower end of the spectrum).  

The witch proceeded to pass an egg over various points of my body, again chanting a prayer.  The egg was then cracked into a glass.  That it was in perfect condition for making an omelette signified that I had a healthy diagnosis.  If it had rendered a black tint or other peculiarity, I would be suffering internally and would most likely need to follow-up with a western doctor.  

My fear factor and health were followed by a pleasant head massage by the bruja's assistant.  He lathered my head with a liquid that reminded me of canelazo and fermented fruit.  I closed my eyes and succumbed to the man's gentle prodding along my scalp and neck.  My head flopped about like a daisy blowing in the wind when SNAP!  The bastard had twisted my neck 180 degrees emitting a resounding series of cracks.  Frightened that he was going to snap the whole stem off, I resisted his command to loosen up again; "Sueltalo! Sueltalo!" He insisted.
"No, por favor, no!"  I cried, but alas was convinced by these brutal doctors and SNAP!  
I strolled into the waiting room mildly confused and commiserated with my equally naïve amigos.  

I must confess, this business of neck-cracking released a significant amount of tension from my body and mind.  The neck hoards most of the body's stress and is rarely treated for such relief.  My friends and I followed our Fernando back to the restaurant, giddy with release though pondering the question of our "fear."  

Our cleansing was followed with idler cleansing of the mind.  We retreated to the house of Luis's grandmother where each of us found a nook to crawl in and dream for the remainder of the afternoon.  I craftily conquered the hammock on the veranda while others disappeared into the various bedrooms upstairs.  Unfortunately, a light rain interrupted my siesta.  Did I mention that Santo Domingo is cursed with permanent overcast?  Apparently, the humid region sees just a month of sunlight, resulting in a brilliantly green landscape though a seemingly depressing atmosphere.  However, Luis's three cousins (all under the age of seven) hardly noted this malady; contrarily, they were bursting with laughter and imagination for the entire weekend, dawn until dusk.  Luis toured me about the land, flattered with fruit trees, animals, and a grand variety of flowers.  

For solidarity, I joined Sara in the grandmother's room where she was entertaining the children.  The abuela walked in, appropriately, as the children ran off to another corner of the house, and frightened of the consequences for lying on her bed, under her covers, Sara and I crawled out ever so obviously.  Grabbing my arm, the grandmother literally threw me back into bed, insisting that she had no intentions of sleeping right now and to please relax.  So we did, though rather stiffly until finally calls for a second meal ensued.

Fish stewed with aromatic spices, vegetables and pleasantly sticky rice accompanied by patacones.

At 8pm on schedule, we departed for a nearby sachila community to perform the second limpia.  The sachila are an indigenous tribe of unknown descent; they are slowly being squashed between emerging developments and agro industrial plots of land.  The foggy evening and constant rain was appropriate for this ominous encounter.  We arrived at the shaman's house, unnerved by the possibility that we might vomit dinner if administered some kind of oral anecdote, such as ayahuasca.  Though in reality, we were once again clueless.

We huddled under the roof of a cement gazebo, chattering with anxiety.  Paola was the first to enter the shaman's special quarters.  We watched her disappear mysteriously, and anticipated her return.  After what seemed like eternity, she emerged shivering and bee lined for the warm seclusion of her car where she poured over blank pages.  Luis was second.  During his session, Ana, Sara, and I played "guess a number between 1 and 5" to see in what order we would follow.  I was next.

Bursting with suspense, I peered into the room where the sachila doctor was waiting for me.  I crept inside and reeled at the scent of camphor which resulted in a greeting muddled with coughs.  The man's hairstyle was rather impressive; shaved bald except for the top cap which was thick with red paint and combed forward into an arrow-like form shading his forehead.  We conversed about why I was in Ecuador and about his community and their festivities featuring food.  He then asked me if I wished him to read my future and perform a cleansing, to which I responded that I would like the same treatment as those who had gone before me.  Thus he began to read my future.

Hector doused my palm with black liquid over which he hovered a crystal ball.  He lowered the ball gently into my palm, altering its angle and peering deeply within, then transferred it in front of a burning candle that bore my name in pencil and proceeded to share my future.  The four cardinal points would open for me, yielding pathways and travels bearing triumph, success, and positive energy; stars and flowers adorned his visions and with my intelligent mind and charged vibes I would work with others, help others.  I would be content.  Despite my notorious 2007 of poor health, the following months would bear minimal health problems, though nothing grave requiring a health center (…that explains this damn cold I have had for two months, and ah yes, my skin is not in its usually impeccable condition, though that may be the meat or the pollution…).  Alas, would I like to know about my campo del amor.  You're damn right I want to know my love story!  Ah ha…now that is as far as I go divulging my future.

This was followed by an order to take my shirt off, yes all of your layers, no, no, the bra can stay.  Hector poured a camphor infused liquid over my head and repeated several times for me to rub it all over my body.  Lost in translation, I failed to understand and began to rub it into my hair like shampoo until he had to demonstrate that I needed to spread it over my skin, and no, this was not a sex show.  I was mildly reminded of the ayahuasca ceremony I participated in; hallucinating wildly on a bench in the middle of the jungle, the shaman appeared above me and cooed "sientate" several times to which I replied "yes" (big smile) until finally he pushed me upright into a seated position.  What followed resembled the sachila's subsequent actions.  I lathered myself thoroughly with camphor and he began to beat me with a branch and whistle a tune.  This was short-lived and I was encouraged to dress again, despite being soaked with his infusion.  I emerged from the room and followed Paola's suit.  I rushed to the car to seek warmth, for the camphor had lit my body on fire with an icy illusion.

One by one, we piled into the car and shared our fears and inspirations, debated the accuracy of his accounts, and passed from a hypothermic to sweaty state.  To complete the weekend's ambiguous cleansing, the night was capped with beers at a local bar where we stuck out like sore thumbs, rancid with fermented juice and camphor.

Tags: Doctors, hospitals & health

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