The Remedy to Pain

I promised I would reveal the answer to the poll in the upper left hand corner of my blog. In case you didn't get a chance to be a part of it or see it, (or you just forget since its been SOOOOO long) here it is:

In Yemli, how do people cure headaches?
a. Go see the local doctor
b. Borrow a friend's drugs
c. Cut their head to let the bad blood out
d. Drink a herbal mix that works as a pain reliever

Here's a picture of Yemli village right outside our front porch. Yep - that's where I grew up and what i looked at every day - minus the rainbow. But we had rainbows a lot too.

There were three votes for "Cut their head to let the bad blood out" and one vote for "Drink a herbal mix that works as a pain reliever."
Good job you smart people you. The number one way to relieve headache pain in Yemli (that I've seen) is to make small cuts in the head to let the "bad blood" out. Sounds crazy huh? Yeah, it kind of is, but that's what they do. I remember the first time I saw my friend cut her head. She took out her knife, and just started slitting her head - really small slits. Her kid was sitting right there! I was thinking... um.... isn't this something you don't want your innocent little boy seeing?
Here's my best friend, Diana, who also plays the role of "head cutter" in my stories today. She's carrying her son in the bilum on her head. She's actually protecting him from the sun and wind by covering the bilum with a green blanket. But - more about that later when I have a baby that I can show you with. :)
I asked her what she was doing, and she said she had a really bad headache, and she had to cut her head to let the bad blood out so she could feel better. Interesting.... I think that cutting my head would give me a BIGGER head ache!
Now, as I am sure you know, there are many more pains that a person encounters than just headaches. There are stomach aches, tooth aches, muscle aches, back aches and so on. People in Yemli are no different. Now, all answers to the poll are used in Yemli when it comes to curing pain. I will explain.
In Yemli, there actually was a local doctor who lived down the mountain. It was about a thirty minute hike from where our house was located to the doctor's clinic. When I was really young, he used to be there more often. As I got older, he would leave for the city and would be gone for months. I think he might return for about a month out of the year. I'm not sure what he was doing in the city, but I can't imagine it was getting medical training or buying supplies. Anyways - so when the doctor was in, then people would go to see him, but more often than not, Dr. Nowhere was nowhere to be found, so they had to revert to different remedies.
One of the biggest killers in Papua New Guinea is malaria. Well - actually the mosquito who carries malaria and then bites you, and then you get malaria and die, unless you can get some drugs to kill the malaria parasite. Whenever a Yemli village would start to feel sick, they would immediate suspect malaria and would come up to our house and ask for malaria medicine.
Now malaria medicine is so disgusting and terrible and bitter and gross.So bad to the point where I would gag on the bitter taste when the pill was going down with water. So bad that I used to not TAKE my pills. I was sneaky, I was. I would put the pill in my fingers, put it up to my mouth, open my mouth and "throw the pill in" and take a swig of water. In reality, I would put the pill in my underwear. GENIUS huh? Then, I'd excuse myself from the table and go to the bathroom, flush my pills down the toilet and go back to eating my delicious dinner. I HATED the taste of these pills. I say all of this to help you understand how NASTY these malaria pills were.
Yes - that innocent little white girl really did hide gross pills in her underwear and then flush them down the toilet. Makes you wonder why I got a BAD case of malaria when I was in 2nd grade. But that's another story for another time...
One day, an elderly gentleman came up to our house and said he had malaria and needed medicine. No problem, right? So dad went into our medicine cabinet and found some malaria pills. He handed them to the guy who promptly put them into his mouth and began chewing them. Not just moving his jaw to get the pill in the right place so he could swallow it. NO, he was chewing these pills like they were candy. Smashing them up, letting all the nasty white bitter terrible disgusting stuff spread all over his mouth. I don't know how he did it - but he never made a face and only took a drink of water after he had swallowed it all down. All I could do was stare. I am pretty sure his taste buds were fried from years and years of eating buai (the Yemli version of gum, except it also is an addictive drug.)
Here's Kikingai - the fabulous grandpa who burned the image of chewing malaria medicine into my mind. :)
Not only would the villagers come up to our house for help with their ailments, they would go to each other. It was usually common knowledge whenever someone got medicine from the doctor. Think about it. If you saw a friend hiking out of the village with a sick baby and a diaper back attached to their back, and then a few weeks later saw them hiking back with the now healthy baby - you would know that they got special medicine from the town doctors. So, next time your baby got sick, you would just go borrow some of that other baby's medicine. Obviously since it made her better, it will make you better. I've seen this happen mainly with amoxicillin, but I am sure it happened with whatever medicine was left over after a taken prescription.
The last option was to drink a herbal mix. This seems like the most logical for a village group who lives in the bush their whole lives. I can't say that I've seen that many people drink herbal mixes to cure pain. What they do, however, is to take some type of stinging bush and rub it on their pained area. The main plant used is called "selat." Selat looks very similar to itch weed, but selat has bumps all over the leaves. The pain is also different. Itch weed itches and hurts, but selat just kind of shoots stinging needles through your body. So, wherever the hurt is, rub selat all over and soon enough, you'll forget about that original pain! Huzzah! Instant Ibuprofen.
Well - there you have it. Next time you reach in the cupboard for some Tums or Aspirin, think about how easy it is for you to get helpful care and be thankful.