A while back J. had a sinus cold that went down into his chest—not a pretty sight. We really don’t have any sick leave to speak of, so he had to go to work and just cough and hack his way through the day. We had thought to bring NyQuil (or Night Nurse) from Canada but our stock had been depleted except for one fuzzy capsule that had been rolling around in my purse for…well who knows how long. We’d also been to the pharmacy (all white and western looking) to find a Kazakh equivalent but how does one say Phenylephrine HCl or Doxylamine Succinate in Russian? There is a certain amount of healthy fear when one throws back a few pills but has no idea what he or she is taking. I can state for certain that desperation makes one throw caution to the wind.
While at work, one of J.’s Kazakh colleagues, T., takes pity on him and prescribes a Kazakh home remedy—Pepper Vodka. J. being as desperate as he is, is willing to try it. After school we make a beeline to GalMart and with T.’s “prescription” we seek help from a clerk, and he points us towards two bottles. J. chooses the one that looks like it will be the hottest. (Our brand of logic tells us that the heat from the peppers will clear J.’s sinuses and let him get some much needed sleep. Really, at the time, it made perfect sense and with the idea of alcohol as an antiseptic, well…).
We get home and J. takes a shot of the Pepper Vodka and sits back to wait for the relief…yeah…not so much. This Kazakh myth is busted!
The next day, poor, sick J. heads back into school and when T. asks if he tried the remedy, J.’s replies, “Yeah, but it didn’t work.”
Apparently, one is to drink a tumbler full of the Pepper Vodka. It doesn’t cure what ails you, instead it gets you drunk enough that you forget you are sick at all – Amnesia in a bottle.