I arrived at the Balinese Airport with a heck of a chest cold, aggravated by the long plane ride, and feeling like day old dung. My plan included ten busy days of writing, relaxing and nosing around the back neighborhoods for the best local shops and places to eat, however at this point I just wanted to lie down. I made a date with Ben. Not my dream date, but I was soon flat on my back with Ben – Ben Gay.
After a few hours of feeling sorry for myself and wistfully staring out at the azure blue sky, I called my friends to let them know I had arrived safe – if not sound. As I was coughing into the phone, my buddy Made (pronounced ma day) told me that he could be at the hotel in about an hour to take me to visit a local healer. Ni Made works at his family’s crane company and is a very busy guy, but typical of the Balinese spirit, he realized my time of need in such a compassionate way. Compassion is one of the traits of the Balinese people that make me feel at ease half-way around the world.
I was ready and waiting at the front door of my little hotel when Made pulled up in his open air Jeep. He took one look at me and greeted me with a broad smile and selamat siang (good afternoon). I smiled back and returned his greeting, although I was not much for conversation after that. Made didn’t seem to take offense as he had a focused purpose. We drove in silence toward Ubud where a well-known and highly respected local healer resided.
It should come as no surprise that the healer Made brought me to was the same woman featured in the book Eat, Pray, Love. Bali is a small island. Since being a central figure in the story, Wayan has become a bit of a local celebrity on the Island, but her good fortune seems to have left her feeling blessed and humble rather than arrogant and big-headed.
Walking into her shop, a sense of well-being enveloped me like a mother’s blanket. The walls were lined with bookshelves and an assortment of jars filled with – only God knows what, were rimming three sides of the room. I instinctively knew I was in good hands.
Wayan is a petite woman about 5’4 who this day was dressed in the traditional Balinese garb of a flowered print skirt, a sash belt and a lacy cotton blouse. She motioned for me to sit at a small table that had an array of dried herbs, small plates of leaves, seeds and medicine packets with Indonesian writing on the outside that I couldn’t begin to decipher.
Soon a young man appeared and sat at the table with me and began to grate turmeric root. It was made into a drink and I was told to sip it as it would cleanse my blood. Figuring that was as good a place as any to start, I happily complied. Next, a diminutive Japanese woman arrived and I was told she was there to read my body. In the meantime, Wayan was doing a little ritual, lighting incense and chanting in front of a small shrine. I watched the two women with fascination.
Eventually a diagnosis came and to no one’s surprise, I was told I had obstructions in my chest. The surprise came when it was revealed that the root of my illness was a dislike for my mother-in-law! (Absurd – but, true). I had apparently left myself open to a chest infection when I closed my heart the week before to an over eager and somewhat overbearing mother-in-law.
Of course, Wayan had no such history of my relationship with family. She busied herself by putting together a bundle of herbs, explained to me how to use them and without any further discourse handed me a bill for 150,000 Rupiah.
I started the herbal protocol right away, as well as drinking lots of lemon water. Within 2 hours of my visit, I began to feel human again. Within 24 hours, while laying on a serene beach, taking in deep, painless breaths of salty sea air, I found my thoughts going to ways of making things right with my mother-in-law. Apparently, Wayan’s healing ways were healing more than my chest cold.
Readers please leave a comment below. Have you had an interesting experience with herbal medicine? I’d love to hear from you