Our second trip to visit the Asháninka was full of adventure. When we first arrived, the Mercedes (the village shaman), along with her son and one other man, brought us over to the place where we had installed the water filters. I filmed as Mercedes filled a glass with water and drank it down in one long sip. Afterwards she smiled and held up the glass for the camera. I couldn’t help but chuckle – of course she would do something like that. She’s such a charismatic and personable woman yet I can tell that she cares deeply for the health of her village. During my first visit I ended up getting sick and puking… she rushed over to me and explained that the combination of foods that I had eaten that morning had caused my sickness. She started rubbing and squeezing juice from a small piece of orange over my arms and stomach while explaining that it would help cool off my hot skin. Then during this visit, she talked about how important the cleanliness of the water was to the health of her village. She shared how many people in the village didn't understand the importance of boiling their water before drinking it and were suffering from illnesses as a result.
I listened to Mercedes, her son, and the other village leader talk about the filters as I drank my own glass of water. We wanted to know what the community members thought about the filters, whether they had been using them successfully, and whether or not we should go ahead with plans for the bio-sand filter. Afterwards, Paul and I, along with some of the other village men, walked up the mountain to the water collection tanks. This was my first time to walk up the mountain to see these water reservoirs and it really helped me to understand what Paul and Oliver had told me during the last trip.
After walking to the water reservoir, we had time to sit down with the village chiefs and some of the other village members to talk more about the water situation. We also stopped by the home of Mercedes to talk to her about water and her role as the village healer. Mercedes invited us to eat lunch with her family. We sat down on the floor of her home and shared potatoes, boiled plantains, and armadillo meat. Well, actually, I was advised only eat a potato due to my weak stomach, so I watched everyone else eat!
The experience was something I will never forget. I’m not sure how many more times in my life I will be invited to take off my shoes and sit down to in the bungalow of a village shaman and share a meal with her and her family.