When it comes to taking health advice from Indonesians, I have to admit, I have been a little skeptical. This comes from Indonesian friends telling me that Indonesian cigarettes are really healthy because they are made from herbs (not tar and nicotine), and from the constant cracking of bones every time an Indonesian stands up (spine, arms, fingers, toes, neck – crack, crack, crack – AYO PERGI), from the love of everything deep fried, and the belief that KFC is a kind of health food.
As well as this, while I have heard that the Indonesian national sport is badminton, (once a friend told me that he used to be an athlete in school – I asked in an amazed way watching him suck down a lucky strike, “wow – what kind of athletics?”, and to my great amusement he replied, “badminton”), I wouldn’t describe Indonesians as a nation of athletes. In fact, it is a nation of using anything but your feet to get to a destination. If you have to go more than about 30 metres, you need a car, or an angkot, kopaja, or preferably, a motorbike.
Anyway, so many times with Indonesian friends, I would overhear a conversation about “masuk angin” where the sufferer of this affliction would show their backs which were covered in what looked like bruises from being whipped. I looked at these wounds in shock, and asked what the hell happened to them, to which they would respond calmy in English, “I am windy in – I have masuk angin”, as though this was an answer that would make any sense to me. I tried to make sense of this illness, asked many questions but could only make out that the sufferer had wind inside and maybe wanted to burp and fart a lot, and to cure this illness you needed some kind of oil and a coin and the coin was used to rub these bruises into your back which would help the wind escape. Bingung? Yes, I was.
To protect themselves against this affliction, Indonesians don’t sit under air conditioners or open the window on a bus. Wind is dangerous. Inwardly I scoffed at masuk angin, outwardly any time anyone burped (and people burp a lot here) I would say, “masuk angin?” half jokingly and they would often reply seriously in the affirmative.
This inward mocking came to a grinding halt one day after I spent the day feeling not quite right. My stomach was rumbling, I felt the need to burp a lot, and I kind of just wanted to vomit. My sweety pacar suggested that I may have masuk angin so I consented to receiving the treatment, known as kerokan, for sociological purposes of course, thinking that I may as well give it a go. So he got the oil and the coin and scratched my back, and it kind of tickled and sometimes hurt, and when it was all finished I fell into a deep sleep. When I woke and looked at my back, it was covered in those scratchy bruises, and I felt great. My health felt normal and I wanted to wear a singlet to show off my bruises to say, “Hey everybody, I had masuk angin too, check it out”.
So now I can’t scoff about masuk angin.
But I am still skeptical about panas dalam (hot inside). Let’s see.