For 3 months I have been working with a community in Jayuya, Puerto Rico to restore health and wellness via herbalism and holistic nutrition to the people. There is already much about this topic, including a live interview, posted on Facebook and the Herbalist Without Borders main page. Here, I want to convey a few personal stories, to summarize my experience with a few clients.
I am thinking about an elder. I met her during my second clinic. She's predominantly of Taino heritage. She likes to smoke cigarettes, she's a petite maybe 5ft tall. She looks really dry and I mean that energetically too. Herbalists reading this should know what that means. As she sits in front of me, I already know she has knowledge that many others at the camp don't; she knows about plant medicine spirit. I ask her immediately. Her response, well, let's just say, I can relate. She's miserable that she has no access to her plant medicine, her tobacco, her herbs right outside her house. The hurricane wiped them away. She's chasing her tears back. In serious countenance, she doesn't want to speak about the loss too much. It's too painful to revisit. I give her a remedy for her cough and she's off with much appreciation for me and my work. That's rewarding! At this moment, am thinking money exchange isn't able to give me the joy of giving and receiving a smile from one who hardly does and most importantly from a Taino medicine woman.
Then, there's the teenage boy. His concern is acute acne. His handsome face is covered with acne vulgaris and he's shy to look me in the eye. His mother is with us, and she loves him, cares about him, he's her last born she says. And then, as the consult continues, he holds tears back. His father left a few weeks ago to the USA. He's gone to work and care for his mother who requires medical attention. They're a family that sticks together and I can tell as an only boy child, he's affected by his dad's absence. Well, the acne speaks of his stress and his managing it with sweets, in the pursuit of dad.
I have many stories to share about my clinic experiences. This one is the one that had me in tears on my way back home for 2 hours. A 27 year old woman with three children is married to her first. She complains about the right side of her back being in pain. She's visited the doctor several times and they couldn't find a diagnosis. I can tell upon assessment and interview, she is searching for a diagnosis as a reason to escape. In a way, it's her code language that the doctor didn't seem to decipher. I see her up at night, ruminating, worrying about something. I inquire within. Her husband beats her, he abuses her physically, mentally, emotionally. She was glad to have this moment with me, it was an excuse for him to give her space. He stalks her. She nervously tells me about her relationship, she's strong but very lean. She's tapping her feet throughout the consult. I ask the organizer of our clinic and community, to refer her to an agency that assists women in domestic abuse. In the meantime, I mix up a str