“A what?!” I exclaimed, stopping in my tracks and turning to Edwin at my side.
“A little stone,” he repeated calmly.
We were walking in the centre of Bogota from the Flea Market in the Museo de Arte Moderno de Bogota carpark along the Carrera 7 in search of pan de bono to snack on when I started complaining of having a stitch in my side. I’m not really sure how it got there, because I wasn’t exerting myself any more than a slow stroll through a shopping centre, but it was grabbing at me below my ribs.
It was then that I learned the word for a stitch is vaso and along with that new tidbit came a ridiculous-sounding home remedy. Edwin had just told me that to cure myself of the stitch I needed to put a pebble under my tongue.
I looked at him disbelievingly. How could putting a pebble under your tongue fade the pain of a stitch? I also wondered how I hadn’t heard this before, but Colombia is such a hotbed of superstitions and home remedies you could never claim to learn them all.
Edwin asked D to corroborate his story, and after a bit more feeding of parts of the story, D acknowledged that yes, if he had a stitch he knew that putting a little stone under his tongue would cure him.
I’ve gotten much better at just accepting some things since moving to Colombia, so my challenge back to Edwin was where was I supposed to find a pebble that I would be able to put in my mouth. We were walking along dirty streets that no one in their right mind would dare to stoop down, pick something up and put in their mouth after only a cursory wipe down with their own saliva. It’s the kind of street where a mum would just throw the baby’s dummy out if it fell on the ground, there would be no picking up, sucking on it and stuffing it back into baby’s mouth.
He shrugged, and I said meanly “So I’m just supposed to carry a pebble with me in case I get a stitch?”
The stitch eventually passed and so did my memory of the remedy until I was talking to colleagues over lunch and I remembered to ask them if they’d ever heard of a home remedy involving a pebble under the tongue. They hadn’t, nor had they ever heard anything about a cure for stitches. I figured that it was a costeño home remedy, not one shared by the rolos of Bogota.
I got the chance to test out the pebble under the tongue theory yesterday as we hiked to some waterfalls outside of Bogota. On our way back to the car we had to climb a punishingly steep hill, and at the top I felt the sharp pang of a stitch. Being on a gravel road there were lots of pebbles available, so I bent over to pick up a small stone.
As I was trying to give it a little spit wash, Edwin opened the water bottle and poured it over my hand, providing a much better wash for the stone that while I could feel the dirt crunch in my teeth was a more palatable type of dirty than the streets of Bogota.
I expected it to work instantly, of course. Perhaps more strange was that I actually believed that it would work. Edwin is quite a persuasive orator and I had come to believe that in the face of a stitch, all I needed was a pebble.
“It’s not working, I can still feel the stitch,” I stated, disappointed.
“Just give it some time,” Edwin responded, keen to keep moving and not have all the other passing walkers stare and wonder what his weirdo foreigner was on about. I forced him to take a photo of the stone under my tongue so I could post it here, but lucky for all of us, it didn’t show the stone, so there is no gaping dentist’s-view of my mouth for you to be grossed out by, because really, that would have been stretching the relationship.
I started walking again, this time downhill and over time the stitch faded. I think it faded mostly because that’s the normal course of these things, not because I was sucking on a rock under my tongue.
So the pebble under the tongue cure for stitches has been debunked, but if you want to give it a try, I’m not about to stop you from looking like an even stranger foreigner.
Have you heard of any other Colombian home remedies for common ailments? I’d love to hear about them.