Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Medicina tradicional y la cena final con las familias

Today was my last day with scheduled activities. I can't believe it was three weeks ago that all of us met back home for lunch and to buy gifts for our host families - time has really flown by! Since we didn't have to meet at the university until 10am, Mary and I took Jonathan to our trusty Express Arte Caffe for coffees and breakfast. I feel like I've been there nearly every other day to work on blog posts, eat lunch, have a coffee, etc. and the same server is there EVERY TIME so I really shouldn't have been surprised when he was there yet again this morning. I get kind of embarrassed each time I go there and he sees me - I've never been a regular at a coffee shop in my life and based on how I feel so silly here I don't think I will ever be one at home. Anyway, Mr. Usual waited on us, as usual, and, as usual, did a great job. Yikes, I just might have to go there tomorrow for one last café and bid him farewell...

We walked over to the university to meet all of our students, who were going to spend a few hours with Nanci learning about and making different traditional medicines. While the group got settled in a classroom for a lesson, Mary and I worked out and paid the transportation fees that we incurred during our time in Querétaro. At first it seemed like they were charging more than double what Mary paid last year so she had Antonio, the transportation director for the nursing school, confirm the amounts for each weekend trip. After a few phone calls, the total price was brought down to a more reasonable amount. Hector, one of the drivers, exchanged some dollars for pesos for us and drove us to the university cashier where we paid in full. We walked over to the little university store to browse for a bit and then went back to the nursing department and joined the group in the lab, where they were starting to make some of the medicines. I paired up with Ellie B. while Elli M. and Katie were together, Ryan and Heather paired up, and Hannah and Sarah became a team. We all started off by making some cough syrup out of eucalyptus, garlic, red onion, cinnamon, "bugambilia" flowers, rosemary, and a few other ingredients that I don't remember and soaked it all in water. We then strained the liquid out and added honey and sugar, bringing it to a boil for everything to dissolve together. Once it had cooled, we were each able to try a cup (the recommended amount for ingestion) and were all surprised by how sweet and tasty it was! Nanci gave us some empty bottles and we were also each able to fill them to bring home. 

Moving on, we made tinctures for weight loss, calming the nerves, and lowering blood pressure. This was different in that water was put in a giant glass jar and the ingredients were added until it was all filled up. The bottle was then shaken and placed on the counter to sit for 20 days. Once this time had passed, the liquid could be placed in eyedrop-like bottles and patients are instructed to add 20 drops to cold water and drink in the morning before eating. Additionally, we made "magic ointment" designed for treating burns, bruises, etc. We started by taking globs of vaseline, plopping it into a large pot, and making a water bath over the stove to melt it. Once it became liquid, plants and other ingredients were added to the pot. After mixing thoroughly, the pot was taken off the heat and set on the counter, where like the tinctures it would sit for 20 days. Unfortunately, since these all required sitting before bottling and we're leaving in a couple of days, we were unable to take what we created home. However, Nanci brought out bottles of these medicines that had been prepared earlier for us to take home and try. I'm looking forward to getting a cold and trying out my cough syrup and trying out the tincture before one of my exams, since I grabbed the one for calming nerves and let's face it - I need all the help I can get to control my anxiety before I take tests!

It was such a fun afternoon working in the lab and creating these medicines. It is crazy yet really cool to think that these nursing students take a class on creating traditional medicines for a whole year. Back home at our nursing school, we talk and write a research paper about complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) twice - once in pharmacology and a second time in special topics. Mostly we just discuss the basics of various CAMs to make ourselves aware of the practices. However, we do not learn about incorporating them into patient care, let alone take a lab course to actually create different CAM medications! It was so interesting to read about how each plant helps which part of the body and I'm really looking forward to trying them out once I need them :) 

A few of us walked downtown after we got done with the medicine class and I took them to the candy shop, a little chain called Dulces Bernal, where I bought the "Glorias" dulce de leche de cabra (goat's milk caramel) candy. After buying one to try and giving each of them a sample, several of the students promptly bought some to bring back home as gifts.  After that, I took Ryan to La Mariposa just down the street so he could experience one of the delicious malteadas (milkshakes). When he realized he didn't have enough money, though, I then took him to the bank downtown to get money from the ATM. We returned to La Mariposa and he ordered a malteada de vainilla, which he let me take a sip of and was SO satisfyingly tasty! We walked really far up and down the street in search of this wooden figurine shop where I wanted to buy Mary a present. She and I had run into it on one of our first days in Querétaro exploring the area and there was this cute little nurse wooden figure that she liked. I made a mental note to go back to it but forgot about it until today. It was siesta time (about 2:30pm), though, so a lot of the shops were closed and I couldn't find it. I decided to give up and just go home, shower, and get ready for the final dinner we had tonight at the restaurant El Fin de Siglo. 

I decided to leave early to try to search once again for the shop. It was after nearly an hour walking up and down several streets that I began to get frustrated with the lack of signage for Mexican shop names and their hours. Often stores close between 2-5pm for comida (lunch) and siesta time, closing and locking up doors and windows and not leaving any trace that they exist - no sign above the door, no store hours posted in the window...nada. I really did give up after walking down the same street for several blocks three separate times just to make sure I hadn't missed any clue where the store was located. Sadly, empty handed, I walked to the restaurant to meet up with Mary and Jonathan at 6:30pm to verify everything about the reservation was in order - which it was! Five tables of 8 seats in the large dining room, separate tables for the desserts and drinks, salads, and buffet of entrées...everything was all in order and it was only 6:35pm. 

Mary had a seating plan all figured out based on the number of family members students had reported would come to the dinner. However, she quickly had to throw that out as people arrived, starting around 7:10pm. As they trickled in, I took photos of each family and Mary moved around where everyone would sit. Some had reported fewer than the number that showed up while others said someone in their family couldn't come after all as soon as they walked in the door. I ended up sitting with Montse, Queta, Angel, Ruth, Mary, and Jonathan. Once everyone had arrived, Mary thanked everyone for coming and opened up with a word of prayer (in Spanish! she did a great job). Then the eating began - I was so hungry since I hadn't eaten much of anything since breakfast at Express Arte Caffe that morning it was GREAT the whole thing was a buffet. There was poblano cream soup, spaghetti alfredo, frijoles con arroz, pollo en mole, a huge variety of salads, and much more. I ate two helpings of food along with two pieces of a yummy and refreshing gelatina dessert. The group of students and I surprised Mary with a frame we'd (Ryan) bought and a picture that we'd (Elli M.) printed of us on the day we all took a tour of Hospital General and were wearing our white scrubs for the first time of the trip. The students also handed out gifts to their host students and Mary presented Nanci with a gift. I gave Montse and Nanci each a personal gift, Mary also gave Ruth and Angel personal gifts, and there was just a LOT of gift giving going on all around! Once everyone had finished eating, everyone went outside so we could get a group picture with EVERYONE in it. The poor hostess girl juggled about five or six different cameras and struggled to take a couple of photos on each while we moaned to get it over with. The families slowly trickled off, and before we knew it, Mary and I found ourselves in almost the same position as our first night - sitting inside the restaurant with Ruth and Angel (and Jonathan, this time), chatting about and reflecting on our time in Mexico. Like I said before, I can't believe three weeks have gone by already! It feels like just the other night we were sitting together in Las Monjas discussing our goals and objectives for the month... 

All in all, the whole trip has been absolutely amazing and I cannot believe I was so lucky to have been able to experience it. I'm so grateful I was given the chance to travel to Querétaro and learn about their culture, the health care system, and make lots of friends (both American and Mexican) along the way. It's hard to believe that tomorrow (today? It's already 12:30am!) is our last full day here and then we leave the next morning to head back home. I'm really glad I decided to blog about each day so I can look back on my time spent here. I will forever cherish the memories from these past three weeks! Tomorrow the students will be meeting with Jonathan for both a short class and lead him on a tour of city highlights. Mary and I, on the other hand, will be packing and tying up loose ends before we head off so we'll have to see how interesting (or not) my post is tomorrow (and if the wifi works in the casa!). 

Hasta mañana :) 

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