Last week, one of my Chilean acquaintances posted on Facebook. She has a six-month old baby and she is a nursing mom.
In her post, she said that she went to the fería, the farmer’s market, and an elderly man approached her and begged her for some breast milk.
What?! He told her he wasn’t planning to drink it. He explained that he had a severe earache and needed it for that. He claimed that putting warm breast milk into his ear would cure his earache.
She felt sorry for him, but didn’t know whether he was really in pain or was just a perverted weirdo.
Her story reminded me of when I was teaching here in Santiago. For conversation classes, I often used a book called “True Stories.” The stories were good for beginning English learners because they were short and written in the present tense. They were also good conversation starters because, like that newspaper column, “News of the Weird,” they were attention-getters.
One of the stories was about a farmer who, one day, picked up a pig. This set off hiccups that would not go away. In addition to visiting the doctor, the man tried a variety of home remedies to alleviate his hiccups, without success. He hiccuped for 68 years. Then, they stopped just as mysteriously as they’d started.
Most of my students didn’t believe the story, but it launched a discussion of hiccups and other maladies and their causes and cures. I have no personal experience with any of these Chilean cures, but my students swore by them.
Here are some of them:
1. To stop hiccups, you have to start with dish ware. Someone (other than the hiccuper) turns over a plate and the hiccups magically stop. Too bad that farmer didn’t know about this one.
2. Someone (not the hiccuper) fills a plate with water and then turns a cup upside down in the water. Hasta la vista, hiccups.
3. My friend’s Chilean boyfriend likes this one. To cure hiccups, someone (not the hiccuper) tears a piece of newspaper, licks it, and then sticks it to the hiccuper’s forehead. I’m not sure how effective this is, but my friend’s four-year old niece had fun trying it.
4. To cure a headache, take a raw potato and slice it crosswise into circular pieces. Rub the pieces on your forehead and your headache will disappear.
5. For nausea, you can suck on a lemon or a dill pickle. You can also take two band-aids and put them in the shape of an “X” over your navel. No more nausea.
6. If you have a child who gets car sick, you can put newspaper on the seat of the car before the child sits down. This will prevent car sickness. And as one student wryly pointed out, if it doesn’t, your child can use the newspaper as a barf bag.
7. When you have a cold and have trouble breathing, put mentholatum on your chest. Of course, everyone knows that. But did you know that you’re supposed to iron a newspaper until it’s warm and place it on top of the mentholatum?
8. Have a earache? Take a clove of garlic and heat it up in the microwave. When hot, wrap it in cotton and put it in your ear.
9. Of course, if you have an earache and you know a lactating woman, you can ask her for some breast milk.
10. To say bye-bye to a stye, rub a gold ring on your pants until it gets warm. Then touch it to your stye which will immediately stop growing. Ouch! This cure might be worse than the problem.
11. Vivi, my Spanish teacher, swears by this one. If you have a wart, ask someone to cut a little of your hair while you are asleep. Then, they should put it in a secret place and never tell you where it is. Your wart will disappear.
I am not a doctor, nor do I play one when I write. These remedies are for amusement only. Though most of them are innocuous, I am not recommending that you try them at home.