About once a year I catch a cold. It starts with a fuzzy-dull feeling in my head then spreads to a tight chest heaviness. In cold climates the first snow used to bring it on without fail. Here in Bali, I chalk it up to walking in the rain, and from December through February, if I want to leave my house at all, chances are I WILL encounter rain.
So check out this picture: It’s approaching 90 degrees and 100% humidity. I’m walking to the grocery store for feta cheese, something Ketut can’t buy at the morning market. Sweat covers my body head to toe and drips from my eyebrows into my eyes. Out of nowhere, the sky darkens and thunder grumbles. The temperature drops to the 70’s, and down comes the rain. I’m prepared. My umbrella flops open. But within moments the sidewalks are a rushing torrent of sludge water. My feet are slipping around in my flip-flops and I’ve had to move my umbrella so many times to avoid a low-hanging tree or another human that I’m soaked.
My Balinese friends seem much more susceptible to sniffles, coughs, and fever than I am and they have a cause always at the ready: masuk angin – wind comes in. I’ve learned to accept that explanation because to query further, one gets into murky territory where I’ve ventured unwittingly in the past. There are hints at Black Magic or Angry Spirits and once we’ve gone there, much dialogue around all the imagined possibilities ensues. An acceptance of the wind as culprit is a good thing.
So I recently had a run-in with the wind and currently have that yearly cold. But where I may avoid getting too much local input about the origins of sickness, I’m all for the traditional practices to regain health. One of the no-fail remedies in Bali is soto ayam, chicken soup, a cold cure that is quite possibly universal. Yesterday I had soto ayam, young coconut water (which is chock-a-block full of electrolytes) and enough teh adas (fennel tea) to sink a very large vessel.
This morning I felt better. But I’d heard of a jamu shop on Andong Street and neighbor Nina suggested the red ginger elixir to kick congestion. About that time Ketut appeared with another young coconut water. We jumped on the motorbike even though in my altered state I didn’t feel completely bikeworthy, and found Jamu Sehat.
A smiling man stood behind the counter. One of the things I love about Ubud is the lack of too many choices, although there is much more available now than there was when I arrived five years ago. There were four jamu options. I pointed and he ladled the thick juice from the red ginger pot into two recycled water bottles. I had him fill a third with Kunyit Asem as well. I’ve had turmeric jamu many times. It’s more readily available. But with the red ginger I was breaking new ground.
Let me tell you something about red ginger jamu. If you think brandy burns all the way down try red ginger ala Jamu Sehat! I drank one bottle and my nose has not quit running. It’s far and away the strongest drink I’ve ever had. It stung, burned, brought tears to my eyes, and felt so good! I’ll do the turmeric before bed, another red ginger for breakfast, and I guarantee by noon I’ll be healed. I may also be hooked.