“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” -Franklin D. Roosevelt
This morning (Friday), we hopped on a 9:30am bus that took us from Trujillo to Huaraz. As we drove eight hours north into the capital of the Ancash region, we came across beautiful sites, and snow-covered mountain tops.
Today (still Friday) is the start of The Fiestas Patrias, or Peruvian National Holidays, which are celebrations of Peru’s independence from the Spanish Empire. The celebrations continue from Friday until Saturday, so tonight, we stopped by Huaraz’s Plaza de Armas, where a rock concert celebrating rock bands from all across Peru was taking place. It was great being able to celebrate such a joyous occasion with great company, and of course seeing such a strong sense of patriotism among the locals.
This afternoon (Monday), we had our weekly meeting with a group of local women and family members in El Porvenir that I spoke about in prior posts. Each week, two students from the program are responsible for teaching the group members relaxation and emotional regulation techniques for them to utilize at any given moment and teach others in their community. This week focused on psychoeducation regarding anger and ways that anger can manifest and build up if not properly released.
Due to gender roles and societal expectations, in many cases, women are not “supposed” to experience any other feelings aside from sadness (because of course men can only be angry and women can only be sad). For this reason, it’s so important to discuss and normalize feelings of anger because without doing so, it would likely continue to remain an unspoken topic that women “should not” discuss. Throughout the next week, we’ll place more of a focus on how to release such feelings in a positive and healthy manner, now that these feelings have been normalized and accepted.
After the group, we drove into Trujillo for our Psychology in Peru class. During the class, we each participated in Biodanza, “a system of self-development that uses music, movement and positive feelings to deepen self-awareness. Biodanza seeks to promote the ability to make a holistic link to oneself and one’s emotions and to express them.” Biodanza, originating from the Greek word bio (life) and danza (dance in Spanish), translates to the dance of life. The purpose of Biodanza is to focus on human integration, organic renewal, affective re-education and relearning of the original functions of life. Its methodology is to induce integrative experiences through music, singing, movement, and situations of group encounter.
Biodanza has five main tenants including: 1) Vitality: Increased joy of life, vital momentum (energy available for action), motor integration, neurovegetative balance. 2) Sexuality: Awakening the source of desire, increased pleasure, connection with sexual identity, and decreased sexual repression. 3) Creativity: Ability to express, innovate, and construct. 4) Activity: Ability to make connections with other people through love, friendship, altruism, and empathy. 5) Transcendence: Connection with nature and feeling of belonging to the universe.
Participating in Biodanza was truly an eye-opening and enlightening experience. Seeing as not everyone may be able to verbally express themselves the way they may like, being able to express oneself through natural and fluid movements in a safe and accepting group environment may be a beneficial alternative—especially when “talk” therapy is considered taboo in many cultures.
“How do we nuture the soul? By revering our own life. By learning to love it all, not only the joys and the victories, but also the pain and the struggles.” -Nathaniel Branden
After we walked along Las Ramblas, we turned on one of the side streets, which led us to Plaça Reial. Plaça Reial is a historic square, which translates to “Royal Plaza” from Catalan.
Around 1835, religious buildings were confiscated throughout the city, which was the case of a Capuchin convent where Plaça Royal was later built. At the time, the square was meant to praise King Ferdinand VII with a statue of him in the center of the plaza. When this idea didn’t come to fruition, a beautiful fountain of the Three Graces was built instead, representing beauty, charm, and joy. There are two street lamps beside the fountain, both designed by Antoni Gaudí (http://www.barcelonaturisme.com/wv3/en/page/1248/placa-reial.html).
Since this was the last of Gaudi of artwork we would see
After walking around Plaça Reial, it was time for us to enter Los Tarantos, a flamenco show in the plaza. This thirty minute show was absolutely incredible, and it gave us a great appreciation for this beautiful dance. After the show, my sister and I ate dinner in the plaza at a restaurant that serves traditional Spanish food. We ordered croquetas de pollo, or chicken croquets, gazpacho (a cold, tomato-based soup), sangria (of course), paella negra (which is really called arròs negre in Catalan). This meal is made with cuttlefish or squid, which is how it gets its black color. The food was delicious, and it was truly the perfect way to conclude our trip to Barcelona. Now it was time for us to head to the airport and arrive at our final destination—Israel.
To conclude my story-telling from my trip to Guatemala for a medical mission this past summer, I’ll leave you with this story. A mother sat down at my triage table with her twelve-year-old daughter and two-year old baby. Upon inquiring into her medical needs and what we could do for the three of them, the mother explained that she had been experiencing depression for quite some time now. Her twelve-year-old daughter had severe asthma, and her mother could not afford to purchase the necessary medication for her. Seeing her daughter so sick and constantly suffering from asthma attacks led the mother into a state of depression. Feeling as though there was nothing she could do for her daughter, the mother had been experiencing feelings of hopelessness and despair on behalf of her daughter. She could not bear seeing her daughter in such a terrible state.
I promised the mother that the doctors would take good care of her daughter, and provide her with the medication needed to help better her asthma. She continuously thanked me, as I walked them over to the room where the pediatricians were working. Later in the day, the mother approached me with a bag of medication and thanked me for my help. She explained that she, as well as her newborn and twelve-year-old daughter had each been seen by a doctor, and that her daughter had received asthma medication to last for four months. She was so appreciative, but she asked if we happened to have any more medicine, seeing as our mission would not be returning for a total of six months.
I walked into the makeshift pharmacy, and the pharmacist said there were only three boxes of asthma medications remaining, but they were not the same kind as the young girl received from the doctor. The mother asked if there was anything I could do, because she didn’t want her daughter to experience such awful asthma attacks again once the medication ran out four months later. I took the new box of asthma medicine and asked the pediatrician if it would be okay to give to the young girl, and he mentioned it was fine; it was just a different brand of medicine. I gave the mother the last three boxes of asthma medication for her daughter, and she actually jumped for joy.
I am not able to understand what it is like to be a parent who has to see his or her child suffer from such severe asthma attacks, but I was able witness firsthand how excited this mother was to receive just enough medicine to last a few extra months for her little girl. Something so simple such as asthma medication is not something I would typically think too much of. But unfortunately, this happens to be a given of life: we often take things for granted without realizing that somewhere in the world, someone would be beyond appreciate of such a possession—especially this particular medication. Seeing the joy in this mother’s eyes was most definitely a beautiful sight to see, and there is no other story I would have wanted to use to conclude the sharing of my experiences on a medical mission to Guatemala this past June.
It’s important to make time to partake in activities and events that bring us joy. For these will be some of the greatest memories we remember and look back on years from now.