I love the rain! I never thought I’d say this, but the tropical downpours here are beautiful. Here’s how it happens. During the day, the sky goes dim and the light drops. Then a very chilly wind starts to blow. Softly at first, then then a few strongs gusts, until it’s like a proper storm.
If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see a magnificent rainbow. The cold air gets more and more powerful, and as it does, it brings small droplets of water with it.
This is where you seek shelter. Quickly. In a few seconds, small droplets turn into proper power shower. The sound of the rain, the drops exploding on the ground, the roofs, the road is overwhelming. Conversations stop, motorbikes park, even 4x4s park on a hard surface, and wait.
The Thais are really good at waiting. It looks like they’re doing nothing, but actually they’re waiting. The science of waiting is not as easy one. If you lose your patience, you get soaked! So we wait. In silence. A few smiles.
And then it’s over. As quickly as it finished. All of a sudden the wind stops, the rain stops, and quiet returns. The silence is as deafening as the storm. There is a moment of stillness. People look around, smell the air, interpret the sounds and decide whether the wait is over.
At exactly the same moment, all activities start again. The birds sing, the motorbikes start, so do the cars, the staff at the hotel, the stray dogs… As if nothing has happened, except the 5cm of water covering all surfaces.
The good thing about the rain is that is freshens up everything. That’s why I’m enjoying so much. Feeling cold during the night, sleeping with my sleeping bag with no fan, simple pleasures after having spent the last couple of weeks drenched in my own sweat.
Moreover, all the tourists are deserting the island, as they flee the poor weather. Unfortunately, there is bad weather from Malaysia all the way to Myanmar and Vietnam. Not much hope for those in the middle on the islands of Thailand.
I have even more time with Baaw now. We scheduled two times one hour per day, as we both get tired from the one-on-one, and he needs to have time to massage the people who walk by. So when he does, I sit next to him and watch. Sometimes he’ll explain something to me, or show me a new technique that I’ll practise later. It is great observing him a few hours a day, as I get a sense of the wholeness of his techniques. One English tourist was complaining from her shoulders and neck. So he started with her back, spent 30 minutes on both her shoulders and neck, then worked hard on her arms, buttocks, legs… Then she flipped over and he focused on her abdomen, with special attention to all the important lines around her belly-button.
It was fantastic. She felt better, he gave her a 90-minute treatment to show me more ways of treating and I was glad to witness it all.
He also treated some rather overweight Swedish girls. As they left, he joked with our friend Rong (who I generally practise on) that these two girls were actually Swedish Anacondas. They burst out laughing, so I asked for an explanation as I obviously didn’t understand what they were on about.
“Anaconda, very skinny. But when Anaconda swallow a pig, then very fat! Same same!” They burst out laughing again, me smiling along with them. I inquired about what he thought these girls had eaten to have swollen up so much. “Cow. Them eat cow. No! Wait!” he could hardly talk he was laughing so much “Not one cow! Many cows!”
That’ll be Thai humour for you.
This morning, my teacher asked me for “the works”: a full body Thai massage “Baaw Style”. He said that I was to do it on him, so if I got it wrong, he could redirect me. He looked at me in the eyes and said that if the massage was bad, he would tell me; and if it was good, it would tell me also. I agreed. I haven’t had all that much feedback, so I was looking forward to it.
Over two and half hours later… I finished… Well, the techniques he taught me anyway. There’s a whole load of stretching and manipulation technique we haven’t touched yet.
So I start. I use coconut oil, which is made by his wife from fresh coconuts, and smells like a dream.
During the course of the treatment, I focused on his problem areas which are his left shoulder, the middle of his back and his sacro-iliac joints. Not working in my conventional way, I only used his ways and his methods from the sole of his feet to the top of his skull. “Toug Mai?” I asked when I was unsure of whether I was in the right place, he replies “Toug!” when I am, or he tells me to keep looking. When I find the right point on a line, he sighs in satisfaction.
As he opened his eyes, sat up, took a deep breath, he said “It was good massage”
So that’s the only feedback I was going to get? Don’t get me wrong, that makes me happy, but I need to know more detail what was good, not so good, bad… I’m a beginner, I need to know how to improve myself.
So he continued: “Your hands, they can find the pain. Your brain, it can remember the lines. Your mind, it can be focused on the massage. You can do good massage. If you do like this in your country, you very successful”
Wow. That’s something. Of course I don’t know all the lines, there are hundreds of them, but Baaw has taught be the main ones, and how to deal with each one. How to find the trigger points, how to treat the pain. And starting to learn how to diagnose with the lines. I can now feel something. And yesterday, I even felt a difference in several pulses we were palpating. I can feel I am progressing, and I also know there is still a long way to go.
My goal is not be to become a Thai massage practitioner – don’t tell Baaw this – but to integrate the Thai knowledge, especially of the lines and the holistic side of treatment, to my osteopathic practise. I still believe that my techniques are more efficient for the aches and pains we have in the West, and that people want to consult for. The Thai techniques will help my diagnosis, refine my palpation, treat more globally and think outside the box.
I am looking forward to continuing my path, and discover more about the art of Thai medicine. Soon, it will be time to say my Kop Khun Kahs and leave Baaw and Koh Lanta.