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Roadside Medicine pt. 1
- Stink your way to Good Health

Twice During my stay in Indonesia I was fortunate enough to have needed to visit a roadside doctor, an event that is exactly as scary as it sounds. Third world medicine is a little suspect at best, but when you can't make it to a hospital, you just hope to leave with the same number of limbs you came with.

At one point I was on Lombok, just east of Bali, when I was stricken by a bad case of food poisoning, or Bali Belly, as it is commonly called. To make things worse, I had to travel that day, a 3-hour trip north to Gili Trawangan. Two local guys I had befriended at the hotel I was staying at, had noticed my discomfort and offered to help. The older one ran off to the kitchen and returned a moment later with a ground-up mixture of garlic, onions and oil."Tribal medicine," he told me.

I stared at the stinky, coagulating mix. "I can't eat that," I said, suddenly imagining cod liver oil.

"Not eating," he assured me, and started rubbing the mixture all over my bare stomach.

Now, it's at a point when people rub things on your stomach that you realize that you are either very good friends with them or you come to the instant conclusion that you don't actually know this person at all. How sick I was and how willing I was to accept this medicine ran in equal measure, so within 10 minutes I had garlic oil smeared across my front and back.

I hopped on the bus and took the crowded 3-hour ride north in 36C (97F) heat with no A/C and sweating profusely. The fatality rate of people sitting around me was at an all-time high, and the driver drove slower than we had hoped. Turns out it's hard to see through a gas mask.

When we finally arrived at the island, I sat down to eat and was immediately stung by a hornet. In the armpit. Hornet stings are nasty little buggers, much stronger than wasp stings, so again, out comes the tribal medicine. This time it was a clear liquid that the waitress had me apply to my armpit. In English, we call this liquid vinegar. So there I am, with garlic and onions all across my torso, and the ol' vinegar armpit… my social life on Gili Trawangan hit an all-time low for some reason that no one would tell me; they wouldn't get close enough for me to hear them.

Note: The garlic & onion oil didn't work, not even remotely, which leaves me to wonder if there are a couple of local teenagers on Lombok still laughing right now…