A long while ago I was terribly sick with a slipped disk or lumbago or very bad back-pain. I suffered for months, got myself hooked on painkillers in booze, and then I lost my job and my friends too. Cause & Effect merged. Things can get so bad; you don’t know where to start repairing your life.
After some inner and outer travel I came to suffer in Bali. A friend recommended a famous local healer. OK, whatever, I’ll try it.
I don’t know about famous but the healer certainly was local, very local. At noon he was in underwear, fresh out of bed. His reception teamed with chicken and the office was an open-air carpet.
Children cried “Foreigner! Foreigner!” and gathered to watch. I was suffering my usual bad day, so I sat down in the mess and surrendered.
The old man studied and squeezed me, and poked my ears and eyes, all the while mumbling stuff in Balinese. He might have called the healing ghosts or just cursed the interruption of his nap I didn’t know, but the birds, children and chickens were dead silent. That made me kind of anxious.
To escape from anything spiritual and because it is common in western medicine, I started complaining about my body, how bad I felt and so on, but he cut me short: “Shush!”
As suddenly as he had begun voodoing he stopped, got up and plucked some leaves from a bush and started to chew them. I thought he was finished, but, oh boy, he just got started.
For appetizers he added some white powder to the chewed leaves, munched them a bit more and then spat the whole slimy mud into my face and on my chest.
The stuff burned on the skin, but I was kept busy with a much stronger sensation: Do you know the point on your elbow that gives you these electricity-like pangs? It turns out you got these points all over the body and when you push them real hard with a stick or something you get electric pangs that last minutes. You squirm and howl. Tears make the chewed leaves in your face burn even more.
Each of these, say, energy points becomes the center of your little universe until the current slowly subsides and that point becomes just a normal point on your body. Gone, no more pain there, good, next point. You squirm and howl and so on.
An hour later he had worked himself from elbows to heels, left to right. I was soaked in sweat, tears and chewed leaves.
Finally he said: “Finished”.
That was the first thing he said to me. The birds, children and chicken started to chatter again. I felt finished too. I could hardly stand.
We did have a long talk thereafter, and he explained to me that in his view the nerve system stores pain in those energy points, and that he “opened” them to release my old pain, like cleaning a hard-drive of old files, old memory of pain. He said I was breathing too shallow and holding my breath too often. That my body was dried up (true, I had only beer and coffee for years), that I needed quietness and massages, air and above all water, water and more water.
Was I healed? No, but I sure felt I had a clean place to start repairing. Which I did.
P.S. When I went again years later he send me away: “No sick. You go home.” No charge.
Despite my do-all-better colonialist mindset let me tell you that there is no better place in the world for children (and mothers) than some South-East-Asian countries, namely Bali and Thailand.
Bali tradition prohibits children to touch the ground or be alone until they get the first teeth. That means babies must always be carried around and are never to be let alone. No children “crying-it-out” in their lonely bedrooms. Especially fathers are held responsible to take care of the very youngest. In dense family compounds children grow up as responsible members of their micro community.
Children represent the gods. Mistreating them is bad luck.
In dog-eat-dog Bangkok one never sees a child being yelled at, let alone hit, never ever. If somebody raises his voice against a kid there is usually a foreigner involved. Whenever a mother with child enters a cramped bus in Thailand adults jump to offer their seats to the child. I think that is just the other way around in Europe.
Taxi drivers love to take pregnant women to hospital hoping for an early birth, because that means good luck for the driver. Police officers have basic skills in child delivery to help if the occasion arises, which is not too rare because of the bad traffic.
In the West, it may be easier to find a flat with pets than with kids. In Bangkok, having kids is a sign of reliability and gets you a much higher score with picky landlords.
Thais are simply wonderful with their kids, tolerant, patient and caring. They take them to work and let them do whatever unless they hurt themselves or others.
And you know what? These kids behave much better than the little blue-eyed expat devils. I can’t say whether that is in the genes or some sort of early conditioning. While Europeans kids kick their nannies to get what they want, the Thai kids smile and achieve the same.