August 2011

After a 30-hour trip we arrive at La Paz.

It is my third trip and it is like coming home. The huge snow-covered mountains, the small airport in El Alto, the thin air that immediately causes palpitation and vertigo. Instantly, there is a helping hand for the heavy baggage, and off we go with the taxi through the bustle of El Alto over the highway down to La Paz.

Upon our arrival at Henry’s Café Luna we are warmly welcomed, familiar faces everywhere, everybody is happy that we are back. We are being greeted with freshly squeezed orange juice, a lot of people wave “Hola Dotoressa” on the way back to the Hostal, and then we directly go to bed with a bottle of water. The headache is already rising.

It is Saturday, the first lesson. The same old story: At 10 a.m. only a handful of students are there, but within the next hour the classroom fills. 20 of the original 36 prospective students are now fully engaged. To be sure that the late-comers don’t miss out on anything important, I start with a game, similar to city-country-river but based on homeopathic remedies. That way we can repeat the remedies, we have a lot of fun, and I can see that during our absence the students studied hard. Then we start with the lesson, I check the homework and I broaden the knowledge of the remedies.

During the week we open the teaching practice every day. It is not always easy to fix appointments with patients, students, and the translator – a difficult task as once in a while time moves at a different pace in Bolivia. The students now carry out the anamnesis themselves. Afterwards, we discuss the positive aspects with them and point out weaknesses. At home they have to elaborate the case and repertorise. After the next lesson on the weekend we discuss their work. 

Friday – we have taken that literally (“free day”) and go on a trip to Tiawanaku, a huge archeological site on the Alti Plano, and we learn that this culture is at least 1000 years older than the Inka culture that is so well-known back home. A wonderful day accompanied by our translator – and for once far away from the noise of the  city.

The second course weekend The key issues today are the nosodes and the Organon. All the participants work very concentrated. Our translator today is Inge, a German doctor who works at a children's cardiac center in La Paz and is very committed. Among other things she has founded a care center for children whose parents are in prison. Her vivid nature helps to convey the sometimes difficult subject matter in a way that everybody can follow.

Wednesday – today we want to visit the children of Inge's project in Achocalla. In doing so, we get to know the different kinds of taxis. There are taxis with little flags which indicate whether they drive only in town or also outside; there are shared taxis, minibuses, and after two transfers we finally find a taxi that takes us to a tributary valley of La Paz to Achocalla. Eventually the driver lets us disembark and points out an unpaved road on which he obviously does not want to drive. So we start walking and after fifteen minutes arrive at the children's center. It is a day care facility for children who otherwise live with their parents in prison. Here they get fresh air, have a nice playing ground and group rooms for all kinds of activities. We learn that all this is not so easy. The parents are often afraid that their children will be taken away from them. This explains why one of the nursery teachers was very reserved and kept emphasizing that she was not allowed to give any information about the children.  

Doris from Switzerland, who is one of our students, has invited us to her home in Coroico. With a minibus it is a 3 ½-hour trip over a pass at 4500 m above sea level down into a subtropical region. For two days we can relax in a gorgeous garden with affectionate care – it's pure recreation.

Together we return for our last course weekend. It deals with the assistance in cases of pregnancy, birth and puerperal, childlessness, and abortion. Initially, I let them tell me about the care structure in Bolivia, about the cultural customs and how sexual education is organized. There is a primary care, pregnant women have the right to a screening once a month. But the national institutions are overrun, people have to wait in line for hours, therefore this offer is often not taken on.

Preventative measures are often rejected, induced abortions are prohibited, on the other hand rapes are not uncommon, and thus desperate deeds are often seen. A sad story.

At the end of the course we have a very moving farewell party and our stay in Bolivia is almost over. Meanwhile we are back home. Our last days have been filled with organizing the practice and purchases for the project. It was a very exciting and beautiful time in La Paz and we were left with a quite satisfied feeling. With the hope in my heart to be able to contribute a little bit for a change to the positive in this place – I will gladly return.

Ursel Lessmann

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