Sunday, June 15, 2014

Bro Goes to a Mongolian Folk Healer

Hello friends, after many adventures in Hangzhou and among the Evenki of Inner Mongolia's Hulunbuir region, I've emerged in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, where Blogspot is legal and I don't have to mess with VPNs to so much as read Wikipedia.

I've been getting settled nicely here, but the day before yesterday I was walking down the stairs in my building when the light went off.  Unable to see, I fell down a flight and twisted my ankle.  The next morning it had swollen to the size of a tennis ball, and I couldn't walk without using a stick as a crutch.  I went to my Mongolian class, and my teacher said not to go to a doctor, but rather a folk healer, since they were cheaper and worked better anyway.  I was skeptical, but she swore by it and was nice enough to take me to hers after class.

So anyway, we go into this guy's apartment that has a clinic-type room built into it.  The guy had me sit down on a stool, put some kind of herbal cream on my ankle, and then started kneading/karate chopping it like some kind of deranged masseuse.

It hurt.

My boss said when I arrived in Mongolia, "There's the Western way of doing things, and the Mongolian way.  Take the Western way and imagine the exact opposite.  That's the Mongolian way."  Suppose, for example, I have a car.  Do I a)get in the car and go somewhere, or b)get in the car and go nowhere?

The answer is b, since the traffic in UB downtown is so bad that it takes a half hour to drive ten minutes' walking distance.

Or, in yesterday's case, you have injured your ankle and can't walk.  Do you a) prop the ankle up with an ice pack and keep weight off it, or b) pay a large sweaty man to repeatedly strike the afflicted area and twist it around some more?  Once again, the answer is b.

The best part is, he kept telling me to relax my ankle.  Meanwhile I'm grunting and hollering and punching the wall, and my teacher is laughing so hard she can't stand up straight. 

After about ten minutes of searing agony, he told me to get up and try walking. Clearly, this man was insane.   Nevertheless, I did so, and to my surprise I was able to stand on my own, and even walk by myself.  How about that.

He sat me back down, prodded me around some more, and then put on another ointment.  He wrapped my ankle in cellophane and said to go home and sleep with a potato.  Yes, sleep with a potato.

Clearly this was a mistranslation on my part, but my teacher said yes, I was to go home and sleep with a potato.  He elaborated--when I went to bed that evening, I was to affix a centimeter-thick slice of potato to my ankle.  The potato would draw out the swelling in my ankle and I would be fine the next day.

Well ok then.

I went home, and over an hour or so the swelling went down like magic.  I slept with the potato last night and sure enough, my ankle feels great.  He told me to rest it for two days, but after that I can get back into my exercise routine.  And for all of this I paid 20,000 tugrug, or $11.

Amazing.  I never thought that folk medicine would be so effective.  Had I gone to a western doctor I would've paid 20,000 for the guy to see me, another 20,000 for pain meds, another 20,000 for a crutch, and probably another 10,000 for a brace.  Then I would've had to hobble around for the next week.

Today's lesson: don't doubt folk wisdom.

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