We were backpacking through Indonesia and I had one of the worst colds I’ve ever had. I had a throat infection, which in my professional opinion had to do with the fact that every man in Indonesia smokes – whether there are windows open, or not!
I had a sore throat for a few weeks and my voice would come and go as it pleased.
I drank my body weight in ginger & honey tea, tried local remedies of soy sauce mixed with garlic and chilis (drank as a shot), sucked on many throat lozenges, gargled with salt water, but nothing worked.
We made our way to Bukit Lawang on the island of Sumatra and I was still voice-impaired. We settled in and sat outside with the owner of the guesthouse, who was a very large Indonesian woman – not commonly seen in Indonesia, or Asia for that matter. We were chatting and she was growing concerned with my throat issues.
Her and another few local women were talking, looking at me…discussing further, looking at me again. All of which I didn’t understand.
The owner started chewing on some herbs and uncooked grains of rice. She stuffed her mouth full, chewing and drooling with chunks of rice and greenery running down her face. She chewed for about 20 minutes and made a gross looking paste in her mouth. It was quite the sight.
Without warning, she grabbed my head and tilted it back. I had no time to react – but no amount of time could prepare me for what was about to happen.
She spat the chewed up concoction all over my neck & throat!
a) Couldn’t she have used her hands to apply the ointment, rather than spitting on me?
b) Couldn’t she have asked if I wanted it?
Stunned, gagging and trying to not throw up, I got up and ran to the bathroom to wash away the spit and mush.
When I returned, cleaned and traumatized, it was translated that I was meant to let the mixture harden on my throat and keep it on for a couple of hours. Doing so would have made my voice return. Ha!
I’m all for natural, herbal remedies for sickness, but this was definitely crossing the line for me. I sucked on a few more Halls lozenges and once we had left Indonesia, my voice returned…and the memory of this fateful day will stick in my mind forever.