Archive for tag: nicaragua

Why Are We So Wimpy?

2014-06-10_wimpYes, I said "we." I'm lumping you all in with me and almost everyone else I know. We're wimpy. My sister said it best several years ago in a comment about the "wussification of America." No, I'm not sure how to spell that. She was speaking about the general wussiness of people these days, and I'll see that new word and raise it to another contextual use.

I'm sure you know what I'm talking about. If you have had a baby in the past 10 years, you've certainly had to explain to a grandmother (your kid's or otherwise) why baby has to ride in the car seat for every little trip. "Yes, grandma, I know we're just riding up the street to the corner store. Yes, she still needs to be strapped into her car seat. Just because." Grandma undoubtedly replies, "I never strapped your father into a car seat, and he lived. He would ride all the way to Florida to visit Aunt Ida every year and nothing ever happened to him." Then simply to justify my own wussiness, I make up something about how I'll be arrested if the police see me with my kid riding on my lap.

2014-06-10_signSome of you might not be convinced about the car seats. They're important. Even I strap my kids into those things just to ride up the street, and I don't consider myself a huge wussy. Just start extrapolating this theory, though, and you'll surely jump onto the "wussification of America" bandwagon. We all drink light beer. Every kid gets a trophy. They cancel school when it snows. I'm so hot walking the 10 feet from my air-conditioned car to my air-conditioned office. I have to wait 3 whole seconds for my Facebook page to load on this old phone. Waaaah.

How does this relate to Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine? Well, the wimps don't leave their wimpiness at the door of the clinic. That is for sure. I can write this post without fear of offending anyone, because I, myself, am a needle wuss. That's right. I don't want to feel the needles. I'll needle you, but don't you try to needle me.

Clearly I am not alone. Sure, you have a few patients who never flinch when you insert a needle. They never complain that something hurts or feels weird. These are the lovely "exception" patients, and they are few and far between. Most of us recoil in pain -- pain that is really just an unfulfilled apprehension of pain -- with the insertion of each needle. At first, I liked seeing this reaction from patients, because it justified my own wimpiness. Now, though, I've evolved. As I become less wimpy about needling myself and letting others needle me, I think I subconsciously expect more of my patients, too.

2014-06-10_smokeThe people in Nicaragua never flinched. We would jab those needles right into the sore back or the tired feet, and the patient would hardly notice. Are Nicaraguans simply a stronger people than Americans? Probably, but I didn't stop there. No, what about the Chinese needling? So deep, so hard, so scary for most Americans. Are they inherently stronger than us, too? They want to feel that moxa until it burns a blackened memorial into ST36. I would move to Japan, home of "shallow needling," to avoid those 6-inch needles I've been told so much about from the Chinese professors and clinicians.

2014-06-10_needleNo, I don't think it's that Nicaraguans are freakishly strong or that Chinese people are particularly masochistic. I just think Americans are caught in the throes of the recent trends towards wussification. Be careful, don't get hurt; don't let the sunshine get you! I reject wussification insofar as I legally can, but I am still and will always be one of the wimpy ones in the clinic when I'm on the receiving end of that needle business. So, if you're afraid of needles and therefore have not yet tried acupuncture, this post is for you. If I can do it, you can do it.

Mission in Nicaragua

Nights in Nicaragua were dark. It wasn't just because electricity was on short supply, although that was true. Nights were serious, reflective, and quiet...because days were bright, hot, and characterized by exhausting work in the clinic. During our 10-day program at NDI's integrative medical clinic in Nicaragua, we volunteers maxed and relaxed as we bounced along at the whim of the country, its people, and its water shortage.

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"Are you coming back next year?" is a question that I heard my own voice and those of others asking from Day 1. Because of the earthquakes, the water shortage, the power loss, and the run-of-the-mill "getting to know you" period with the new doctor, many of the responding voices said, "No." By day 10, there was a noticeable shift towards "YES." How did Nicaragua dig into our hearts and pull us towards the Yes end of the spectrum in just a few days?

2014-05-13_nic4Fellow NUHS AOM students Irene Walters, Yvonne Gonzales, and Melissa Espinoza, and our invaluable ND student, Kaley Burns, committed to helping a very poor and very remote community on the island of Ometepe during our trimester break. What we discovered there was how deserving and appreciative the people of Los Angeles, Moyo, Altagracia, and many other nearby towns are of the natural medicine clinic that serves their needs.

Some days went by quickly, as dozens of people were called up from their backyard waiting room chairs, where they had sat patiently for several hours, only to be rewarded with a tincture, a needling session, and a massage as applicable for each condition. Other days seemed to drag on forever as we sat waiting between patients in the stifling 99 degree heat in a 3-room clinic. Either way, we made it back to our homestay families each evening for a hot meal and a cold shower.

Nicaragua leaves me with so many take-aways that each year I've been hard pressed to name the most important thing I learn on this trip. The value of integrative medicine? The versatility of botanicals? The severe need and appreciation of the people on Ometepe? The feeling of being so sure that I am on the right path? Um, all of the above!

The nightly discussions at the Rancho after long workdays, hot dinners, and cold showers provided the missing information that I've been seeking for years. Why are these people unable to receive adequate care in their own country on their own accord? Why do Americans feel a need to travel to Central America and assist? Learning about the history of Nicaragua and its relations with the U.S. is not just enlightening for the volunteers, but it also helps us understand the role that America and other first-world nations have played in pushing Nicaragua to its current state of affairs today. Why do we go there to help? Well, because we were part of the problem in the first place.

2014-05-13_nic 2b

Nights in Nicaragua were dark for a reason. Yes, as everyone pointed out on Facebook, we had access to the Internet...for about 20 minutes per day, at one location, if it even worked at all. The nightly Internet access was a small part of our experience, dwarfed by the gravity of our work during the day. Nightly classes and discussions in the Rancho--our open-air meeting place in town--allowed each weary volunteer to start processing what we did that day in a meaningful way. With each huge, scary gust of end-of-the-dry-season wind, we grabbed at our flying papers and felt the country penetrate further and further into our hearts and minds.

2014-05-13_nic 3a

Will I go back to the NDI clinic on Ometepe island? Yep. I want to see how many of those malnourished children used the toothbrushes that I handed them. I want to see how many of the little kids with a parasite felt better and started eating again. I want to see the woman whose blood sugar was over 400 report that the Berberine was helping manage her diabetes better than the Metformin was(n't). I was relieved that we didn't see any brink-of-death premature babies this year, but there were still many, many people who needed our help. I'll be back. And I hope that next year YOU come with me!

One of Those Kinds of Posts

Ok, I'll do one--one of those kinds of posts. I usually think it's more interesting and relevant to share information about some topic of concern or awe to those of us in alternative medicine, but this time I'm just going to do what the original intention of this AOM blog probably was. I'm going to share what it's like to be an acupuncture student fighting her way towards the end of the trimester.

2014-04-11_tri

Now, I'm not fighting because I'm bored, confused, or frustrated with my classes. On the contrary, I enjoy the nights I get to drive in a car by myself and sit quietly for 4-5 hours learning about something I love. It's the most relaxing part of the day. Hey, I have active young children, a messy husband, and a sometimes too-demanding teaching schedule to juggle all day. Give me a graduate night class any day of the week!

No, I'm not fighting in a bad way. I'm excited to reach the end of this trimester because the day after it ends, I'm getting on the airplane for Nicaragua. Two weeks in Central America is just what the doctor ordered for this stressed out, over-committed student. I'd love to say I'm a good flier, but that wouldn't be true. With that missing Malaysian plane, I'm going to be grinding ear seeds into my PC6 points until they're bleeding. Awesomely inopportune time for that mysterious tragedy. Not to be insensitive, but I barely make it through my flights as it is. Rescue remedy? Yep, I'll be using that heavily.

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The past several months have been leading up to this medical mission trip, and soon I know it will be here, then already--sadly--behind me. Since last year's trip, I haven't been able to get that clinic off my mind--not that I want to! NDI's integrative healthcare clinic serves so many appreciative and needy people, and it's the only medical setting I've ever experienced where providers of several medical fields all circle around and get to take a crack at each patient who walks in the door. I know that when I start my first shift, a middle-aged Nicaraguan farmer will come into the clinic with the chief complaint of back pain. If I used a machete all day, I'd develop back pain, too. Instead of that patient being confined to the limits of one provider's medicine, this patient will reap the benefits of the naturopath, the chiropractor, the acupuncturist, the psychologist, and the massage therapist on staff at the same time. He might get an adjustment, soft tissue work, some needles, and even a tincture for the road. I can't get that sweet deal anywhere in the United States, that's for sure. Did I mention it's free? Sign...me...up.

This is the future of medicine, people.This is it. Integrative medicine is the way. True, I have to get on an airplane to immerse myself in it at this point, but I promise you one thing--I'll bring it back.

Yep, I Make My Own Deodorant

Photo of homemade deodorant in an applicatorWhy would I need or want to do this? Why haven't I purchased a commercial deodorant in about two years? Why haven't I let my husband, either? The bottom line is that I just don't feel comfortable slathering on a toxic armpit cocktail, when I know that what I put on my skin has a good chance of being absorbed into my bloodstream. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: If you wouldn't eat it, don't put it on your skin, either.

I also don't like the idea of blocking off the body's drainage system, so I had already stopped using anti-perspirants years before finally ditching the deodorant, too. (Not sure what you're using? Check the front label. "Deodorant?" Just covering the smell. "Anti-perspirant?" Also preventing your body from releasing the sweat.) My armpits are made for excretion, and that's just what they'll do. One of these days, I'll probably sweat all over you.

Really, though, it's not nice to sweat all over people, and it's particularly rude to have the sweat smell like the noxious fumes that we all know it can. Yet, I feel that primal urge to allow my lymphatic system to do its job and clean out some bodily sludge. Yes, I do think that using a commercially-produced anti-perspirant and deodorant contributes to the development of breast cancer and other ailments. But I guess I have to sit around and wait for a study to prove that sealing in your body's toxins and then layering more on top of that is bad for your health. Seriously, doesn't anybody else wonder why Dove is the breast cancer researcher out there? Really?

Or, I could make the choice that I know is healthier for my body (and my husband's body, too). Thus, one rainy afternoon two years ago, I jumped on Amazon and ordered myself some arrowroot powder (after not being able to find it in local stores). The rest is history. Instead of simply leaving you with the basic recipe I've been using and loving, I'll take you on a pictorial journey afterward. Note that if you do try this at home, the common expectation is that there is approximately a 1-2 week "learning curve" for your body to really have the opportunity to excrete build-ups that you've been holding hostage for most of your adult life with your commercial anti-perspirants. Translation = you might smell worse during this time. This, too, shall pass, and at the end you'll likely find that you don't smell as bad as you used to.

Photo of ingredients laid out on counter

Here are your simple ingredients:

Mix 1/2 cup coconut oil with 1/4 cup arrowroot powder and 1/4 cup baking soda. Add essential oils such as orange, lemongrass, or tea tree, and scoop into an old, cleaned out deodorant container to harden for a few hours. (Don't worry about those bottles of wine in the background. Those are for later, when you can celebrate your accomplishment if all goes well.) Simple, customizable, delightful. Remember, it's more meant to be a deodorant than an anti-perspirant, but my husband finds it does both well. I guess I'm just a sweatier fella. But at least I'm not usually a smellier fella.

That's the normal way. This week, I tried to plan for our upcoming medical mission trip to Nicaragua, where it is oh-so-hot every day, by customizing the usual recipe to prevent it from melting. Yes, coconut oil has a melting point in the 70s, so it would be like trying to use a puddle of deodorant instead of a stick if I took along the usual stuff. So, after googling for a while, I found a suggestion to melt and add beeswax into the usual recipe to raise the melting point (beeswax has a really high melting point, like 170 -- not even Nicaragua can match that). It went...well?

Photo of mixture in bowl

The resulting deodorant was very brown, as a result of using dark brown beeswax the first time. OK, I can live with that. Here's the bowl of leftover brown deodorant that I will scrape with a spoon and use until it's gone before wasting an ounce. Yes, this is the state of affairs of toiletries in my home.

The photo at the beginning of my post is what it looks like in stick form, which is much more socially acceptable, I know. It's almost normal looking...just brown, and bumpy, unlike the usual smooth off-white result for temperate at-home usage. Ah, Nicaragua, the things I do for you.