Po Chai

Morpheus in the form of a 95 pound Indonesian woman sat across from me in a crowded cafe urging me to swallow a clear tube of tiny brown balls that had emerged from an ornately decorated box complete with formal Chinese portraiture that she carried in her purse.


“What if I told you that this will make your tummy better?” She says rolling her r’s in a high voice that I know is insisting that whatever is in this tube is going down my throat in an immediate fashion whether I will it or not.

I was feeling so nauseous  that the smell of fresh bread was enough to make me rush out of a bakery sure that I was going to commit the ultimate cross cultural faux paux and vomit in public. I was ill with a stomach ache that made it impossible to eat, though Yenny was insisting I try. Now.

It seems that I’ve gotten my very own tiny Chinese-Indonesian ibu. Short, sweet, and absolute. Reminding me to get enough sleep, eat well and supplying me with an abundance of vitamins.

I stare down the tube questioning each little ball’s integrity individually. They smell weird. I have no idea what is in them and there’s some Chinese guy on the box who is either dying his hair black or his mustache white because the last time I saw a combination of white and black hair like that it was on Cruella Deville.

Well, I guess if it makes me throw up, I was probably already going to throw up anyway, and a trip down the rabbit hole would be a welcome escape from the way I feel at this point, so…

“When in Indo….”

I toss the whole tube down and wash them away with warm tea. I am rewarded with Yenny’s smile radiating beams of satisfaction, convinced that she has once again saved her little buleh girl from peril. She is literally made of rainbows, fluff and kindness.

“See I tell you, now wait a while, it will take  about 5 minutes”

In five minutes my stomach is settled. I no longer feel like I am at any moment going to break out in a cold sweat and release the contents of my stomach all over innocent bystanders.10 minutes later I am convinced that Po Chai Pills are a medical miracle, and I still am not having any hallucinations of the Chinese box guy chasing down little spotted puppies. Success.

After researching I still don’t know what’s in them. Wikipedia says, “A combination of Chinese herbs that is used to heal stomach ache, fever, diarrhea, vomiting, and hangovers” (someone needs to market these in Isla Vista). Oh and also they’ve been recalled a couple of times because traces of carcinogenic chemicals have been found in occasionally. Meh. I’ll take my chances.

When in Indo…..

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