Saturday, March 3, 2012
Devil's Breath?!?!?!? Aye Dios Mio!!!
This is my friend Sofia (a member of the BFF trifecta that made me vote). She likes to do really helpful things like email me articles about the most terrifying parts of a place I am about to visit. To provide the optimum amount of helpfulness she always sends these articles either just before I leave or just after I arrive. For example, a few hours after landing on Flores Island in Indonesia last year to see the Komodo Dragons she sent me this:
This article made me feel especially good since not only had I failed to research the dragons before I left, I had totally forgotten that one had nearly bitten off Sharon Stone's X hubby's foot. When I learned that the dragons were all out in the open, could digest bones, and the guides only carried a big stick for protection I felt even better.
Luckily, Sofia also decided to help me prepare for my ten months in Colombia by sending me this a few weeks before I left:
This Vice documentary (which scared the Bejeezuz out of me! Thanks, Sof ;)) looks at the use of a drug known as Devil's Breath, or Burundanga, in Colombia. It's called Devil's Breath because legend has it that this drug steals your soul and was used by ancient Colombian Indian tribes to convince the wives and slaves of fallen chiefs that they would really, really enjoy being buried alive. Some describe it as a form of "chemical hypnotism" because people under the influence of the drug have no free will and can easily be coerced into doing anything that they are told. Criminals sprinkle it on food, blow a powder form in victim's faces, or slip it into people's drinks. They then ask them to do things like take out large sums of cash from ATM machines, hand over their cars, or prostitute themselves for free. One victim reportedly even helped thieves empty out his apartment of all of his worldly possessions. The victims are alert and articulate the entire time, just unable to resist suggestion. Apparently, our free will is less related to any sort of inherent human quality we naturally possess and more related to the work of a neurotransmitter called acetycholine. Burundanga inhibits this neurotransmitter and also blocks the formation of memories, making it impossible for victims to identify their assailants. Yikes.
It comes from the flowers on the Borrachero ("get you drunk") Tree which is native to Colombia, Venezuela, and Ecuador (but, luck for me, it is only widely used as a crime drug in Colombia). Some claim that even sleeping under the tree can give you strange dreams. In addition to using it to turn people into wide awake zombies that can't wait to give thieves all of their money or have sex with large groups of strange men, it is also used to make a drug called Scopolamine. This drug is used to to treat nausea, motion sickness, and Parkinson's Disease. Some doctors think it might also help the symptoms of depression and bipolar disorder. Back in the day it was also used to create "Twilight Sleep" which knocked women out during childbirth like Betty Draper. Both the CIA and Josef "The Angel of Death" Mengele also did some experimenting with it years ago to see how it could aid in interrogations.
After watching the documentary I decided to do a little research since this Burundanga seemed seriously scary. I first decided to forward the documentary to my one Colombian friend, a former student of mine, and ask him if it was real common. He replied: "I don't not". While his reply made me perhaps doubt my talents as an English teacher, it also made me fee like maybe it wasn't such a big thing and that the Vice crew had perhaps been a little bit dramatical in their depiction of how common the drug was. I felt better. If a native Colombian didn't even know about it, that had to be a good sign, right?
Then I decided to see what the Google world had to say, just to play it safe and double check. 500 victims in Bogota each month??? Burundanga is responsible for 1/2 of all Emergency Room admissions??? Aye Caramba! It started to feel as though maybe there was something being lost in translation between my former student and myself and this Devil's Breath actually was a big deal. Did I have another year of complete sobriety and DVD watching to look forward to? I did that last year and it proved to be a touch boring and just not the right fit for any Irish American.
However, then I got some good news. During a meeting about how to be safe in Colombia I was told that the Devil's Breath is usually used by super hot Colombian women to steal from gringos.I took this to mean that the drug was used more commonly for stealing and less for raping or forced prostituting. Apparently, they usually come up and ask some guy if they could buy him a drink. I can't help thinking that this method must be extremely effective.
I think that if a lady who looked this hot(and it's totally possible because I saw several ladies that looked almost this hot at the SUPERMARKET. What they look like when they are all gussied up for a night out on the town I don't even want to know)came up and offered to buy me a drink I would have a pretty hard time telling her to hit the bricks and I don't even like girls that way. I imagine that men must just get sort of discombobulated and forget that sometimes bandits and thieves are really, really sexy.
So, I figured that the only way I could be in any real danger of having any Devil's Breath slipped into my cerveza is if I suddenly became interested in becoming a Drag King (the opposite of a dude that looks like a lady).
Murray Hill, NYC Drag King (Yes, it's a chick)
Luckily, I have never felt even the slightest desire to wear a double breasted suit or sport either a John Waters or Magnum PI style stache, so I would probably not be in too, too much danger. I could focus my fears on the fact that I currently reside in the kidnapping capitol of the world.
Then I had another thought. In very, very itsy bitsy daily doses would it be possible to convince some nice Colombian man that what he really, really wanted was a housewife in her mid 30s who would greet him after a hard day's work by saying something like this:
It was just a thought. If it can make a Colombian diplomat disappear after a function and come to under arrest in Chile for attempting to smuggle drugs, I think it might be possible.