A Travellerspoint blog

Thailand

Pink Granola

Helping and healing in Chiang Mai

sunny 90 °F

It's amazing how quickly 5 weeks of your life can pass you by. It seems like just yesterday that I was whisked away to the bus station on the back of motorbike, streaming tears as I waved good-bye to Micah. Now, I'm excitedly awaiting our reunion in India! There has been a bit of a problem getting my visa so I'm actually meeting him a week later than originally planned. In the meantime, I'm spending my time in Chiang Mai with a completely open schedule and nothing but rejuvenating, "me" time to kill. I woke up this morning and proclaimed to my roommates that I think I'll go meditate with the monks today. Chiang Mai is a "Pink Granola" girls dream. (The alternative is brown, dirty, hippy granola. Micah is borderline brown, I'm pink...with a few sparkles.) The city has a surplus of yoga studios, body and energy workers, temples to meditate in, vegetarian restaurants, and an endless number of shops to fully stock your fisherman pant wardrobe. I now own 3 pairs when I swore to Micah that I would NOT become that traveler! It's seriously like living in a dream world. I can fully understand how people pick up their entire lives and thrive on the expat energy here. It's magical.

I officially graduated from the 150hr Thai Massage course at TMC last Friday. Our last few days were spent practicing for our final exam and completing an internship at the Children with Special Needs Center. The experience at the children's center is one I'll forever hold in my heart. We started the morning studying different types of cases and discussing what massage techniques would be most beneficial. All the while, the children were peaking their heads in and out of the doorway, peering at us with excited anticipation. We were each assigned a child and informed of their specific conditions. I was given a 7yr old boy with Autism and ADHD. He was by far the most active and rambunctious child of the group- the karmic repercussion of the endless amount of energy I had at his age, I'm certain. He didn't stay on the mat for more than 30 seconds at a time. I had the help of an aid to keep his curious mind occupied while I worked on his restless feet and legs. Her novelty soon wore off and he was wanting to run all over the center. I attempted to pour as much love and calming energy as possible into his body's perpetual state of fidgety motion. At one point, we both became frustrated as the aid was practically holding his squirming body down. I felt so much sadness for his tireless, agitated spirit. I asked her to let him go for a few moments and he quickly scooted to the front of the mat with his back facing away from us. I watched as he sat completely still for 2 min and then suddenly crawled into my lap with the most loving hug I've ever received. As he sat nestled in my lap with his head on my shoulder, I worked down the energy lines on his back. In all, I probably only got in about 10 minutes of massage, but it's amazing what 10 minutes of having love poured into your body can do for the soul. I knew it made a difference when his tiny hand wouldn't let go of mine as he led me around the center to curiously gaze at the rest of the relaxed children as they received body work from my classmates.

Lunch time brought on a new world of excitement. We returned from the cafeteria to discover the children all dancing to popular Thai songs. My "Miss Joanie" instincts took over and I soon had a small group off followers. It felt amazing to be dancing in a group of children with such a wide range of mental and physical disabilities. We're all human and share the same love of body movement. It's so deeply ingrained and instinctual. It becomes therapeutic when we're able to turn off our sensors and let it out. Our frustrations, stress and worries manifest themselves into our posture, gestures and daily movements. It shows up in the form of tight muscles, tension, headaches, diseases, etc. You can visibly see the healing transformation of movement when you witness a child with a disability dancing. It's as if their troubled, earthly body is able to match their loving, soaring spirit for a brief moment in time. It's a shame we can't all let our self consciousness go and cut lose. It would save $1000's of dollars in therapy!

The entire day was full of successes for my classmates, the children and myself. I went home and was forced to have good cry because my heart was exploding with so much love and happiness.

I'm making the most of my last few days in Chiang Mai. I've had many wonderful, life changing experiences here. I'm excited to carry them with me and see how it enhances and changes the rest of this bucket bath.

To book your discounted "Pink Granola" Thai Massage click the Pay Pal link below.

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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My TMC diploma at graduation!

My TMC diploma at graduation!

Some new friends at the Children with Special Needs Center

Some new friends at the Children with Special Needs Center

Lunch time dance party!

Lunch time dance party!

Posted by bucketbath 23:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged children life love dancing thai changing energy special yoga journey body massage movement soul therapy needs cry adhd karma autism tmc instict restless Comments (2)

Sore thumbs

Week four at TMC intensifies

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This week, I completed week 4 of my 5 week Thai massage course at TMC in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It was the most challenging week yet! Learning Thai massage is much more involved than I ever imagined.

Every day, we're exposed to new techniques, new information, and new ways of adapting a massage to meet a client's specific needs. I have accumulated 4 textbooks and have a long list of others that I am going to purchase when I get settled back home. In addition to practicing daily, 2 hr massages on one another at the school, we completed an internship at the Piyamal Elderly Service Center.

My thumbs started swelling on Wednesday and I had to muscle through the rest of the week. Thai Massage isn't always done for relaxation. It's about using pressure points to release energy blockages in order to generate a healthy flow through the Sen Sib, or energy lines, in the body. That requires quite a lot of body weight and pressure. There is a different way to sit for every position in order to save your thumbs and have the maximum effect. I haven't yet mastered these techniques and sometimes forget if I should be: sitting up, sitting down, kneeling, working with one leg over the body, pressing with straight arms, keeping my back straight, pressing my weight over the recipients body, or simply just relaxing and focusing calm energy into a gentle massage.

As if the technique alone isn't enough to remember, we spent numerous lecture hours studying anatomy, pathology and learning how to locate and clear blockages within the body. I imagine this is a mini taste of what med school must be like. I had to learn the major Sen Sib lines that flow throughout the body, including their pathways, exit points and the body symptoms that occur when there is a blockage. There are 72,000 lines in all, but they are (thankfully) contained within 10 needed for Thai Massage purposes.

The internship was the highlight of the week and made the near mental breakdown worth it. We offered free massages at the Piyamal Elderly Center. When the clients arrived, they first received a mandatory health screening. In Thai Massage, it's important to know the client's blood pressure, temperature and body ailments or conditions. If someone has high blood pressure, it's necessary to eliminate many of the positions. The temperature is important because receiving, or giving a massage while running a fever can inhibit the body's natural healing process and also disrupt the energy flow. It's also important to know about ailments such as back problems, varicose veins, pregnancy, etc. I can't remember the last time I had a massage and was asked all of these important questions. At TMC, the giver and the receiver both weigh in before and after the massage because there is an ongoing study in the field of Thai massage and weight loss. On average, the receivers consistently lose weight following a Thai massage. I've seen the results, it's incredible!

After the screening was done, we were each given a clip board with an informational sheet written in Thai. We had to wait for our teachers to translate the ailments and precautionary sites of the body and then we were given a few minutes to consult our textbooks and plan for a 2 hr massage.

My first client was 62 and had high blood pressure along with chronic knee and leg pain. I surprised myself by remembering the knee pressure points and sequences for the massage. She spent a majority of the time snoring as the 82 yr old man beside her laughed and imitated her. I took it all as a compliment. Anyone that knows me, knows I have a love for the elderly and very young. I was in all my glory sitting in a room full of 60+'ers as they snored, moaned, farted and burped with sheer pleasure. To think of it, I may just have a soft spot for anyone that will shamelessly fart in public. :) (Don't get any ideas, Micah! This doesn't apply to you.) Upon taking her blood pressure at the end of the massage, she was estaic to discover that it had dropped from 154 down to 123. My healing hands had done their magic!

My second client of the day was only 32 and just wanted a general, relaxing massage. Our teachers informed us that the afternoon crowd would be much younger as the older people stay home in the afternoon to watch the Thai soap operas. While she didn't snore, she was very appreciative and lingered around to pay me numerous thanks afterwards.

After such a busy week, I've been thankful for a lazy weekend. Today, I had breakfast and watched the Chang Mai Flower festival parade with my adopted "grandfather"- a 74 yr old man that rode the bus with me from Cambodia when I arrived a month ago. My roommate, Elyse, returned from a week long stay in Cambodia. I happily awoke to her smiling face this morning. I enjoyed a fun, girls night dinner this evening at a local vegetarian restaurant and also forced myself to pick up a book for pleasure and not touch my Thai Massage textbooks!

It's back to work on Monday to finish off my final week, but for now, my brain and thumbs are on vacation.

To book your discounted Thai Massage click the Pay Pal link below.

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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Posted by bucketbath 07:38 Archived in Thailand Tagged flower vacation bus cambodia thailand school chiang mai opera festival thai relax energy block elderly massage disease pain soap sen lecture anatomy symptoms pathology sib tmc pathways knee ailments Comments (4)

Life outside the bucket

Going to school 6 hrs/day while I "vacation" in Chang Mai

sunny 75 °F

I've been practicing and studying hard these last 3 weeks. The Thai Massage School of Chang Mai is teaching me how to master using my hands, fingers, heels, elbows, arms, knees and feet to work on the energy, or Sen Sib, lines of the body. It's a full body workout for the masseur and the recipient!

WIth all that daily physical exertion, living life in Chang Mai has been a welcome change of pace. I have enjoyed waking up to an alarm and having a set schedule everyday. I even unpacked my trusty backpack and stored it out of sight under my bed. I'm not forced to wear dirty clothing that has been rolled up into a ball and jammed into the bottom of my bag. I've had the luxury of a cup of coffee and a hot shower every day. I've even snuck the afternoon power nap back into my life. Slowing down has made me a little homesick and anxious (in a good way) to return to NYC. I'm ready to jump back into over scheduled business mode! It's going to be difficult to prep myself mentally to hit the road with my overzealous, I don't need to eat or sleep, run around for 10hrs a day, sidekick, Micah. I'm going to have to put myself through a mini boot camp to get my brain and body back into shape so I can rejoin the whirlpool we call our Bucketbath. I'm also feeling a little anxiety over trekking through India and Nepal now that my big toenail has officially fallen off (remember that trek at Kawah Ijen, Indonesia?). Stay tuned for another Joanie breakdown video. It's an emotional masterpiece waiting to happen.

No sense in worrying over that now. I'm too busy geeking out over my studies at the moment. In addition to learning how to give relaxing 2 hr massages, I'm also learning how to treat chronic ailments, aches and pains such as: constipation, headaches, neck stiffness, menstrual cramps, anxiety and a long list of others. I had no idea Thai Massage had such healing properties. My roommate, and fellow NY'er, is also studying here with a master in Chang Mai. It's been fun to work on one another, exchange information, and swap "guess what I did at school today?" stories. We're also working on a new business venture once we get back to NYC. Sparkes Wellness meets Motivated Nutrition!

I can't wait to get home and share all of this new knowledge and test out my skills on each and every one of you! Chronic constipation anyone? I got this! Book your massage now!

$30/ 30min, $50/1hr, $75/1.5hrs

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I'm going to continue to enjoy my clean clothes, hot showers and afternoon naps as Micah sprints his way through Bangladesh over the next two weeks. (He's scheduled to fly out of Myanmar tomorrow.) I'm cheering him on. Perhaps he'll wear himself out and I'll be able to talk him into afternoon naps by the time we reunite!

Here are a few photos from my "vacation".

Sporting my Thai Massage scrubs

Sporting my Thai Massage scrubs

Wat in the old city of Chang Mai

Wat in the old city of Chang Mai

Thai Cooking class

Thai Cooking class

Elephant trek

Elephant trek

Sparkes Wellness and Motivated Nutrition

Sparkes Wellness and Motivated Nutrition

Posted by bucketbath 08:05 Archived in Thailand Tagged food indonesia travel india trekking thailand backpack new york bed house fun life school mai packing nyc neck bath relaxation hot dirt power chang thai nepal clean pictures energy breakdown showers bangladesh business massage rescue bucket exercise running clothing prep masterpiece wellness ijen nap study sen workout masseur healing whirlpool anxiety bootcamp mental jogging sprinting cheering geek heartaches stiffness cramps roommate sib masterthai Comments (6)

New Years Resolution: Magic Hands

Buckets splitting up? A Thai Masseuse? The intrigue continues.

We have gotten so good at bucket bathing that we’ve decided to temporarily split up and cover more ground. That means we are about to have 2 half full buckets for all you optimists out there.

Micah is itching to navigate the tough infrastructure of Burma (Myanmar) and Bangladesh and I’ve found the distraction of a 5-week Thai Massage certification in Chang Mai, Thailand. I can’t pass up the opportunity to advance my holistic knowledge and get a certification directly from the source.

The next leg of our trip is Cambodia. From there, Micah will fly onto Yangon, Burma and I’ll bus it back to Thailand. My course goes from Jan 9-Feb 10. Our buckets will reunite in New Delhi, India around mid February. That’s double the adventures and double the blog posts. Micah will rough n tough it through 2 countries while I study (giving and getting massages) for 5 weeks. This bucket split will allow him to take some amazing photos without me impatiently waiting under the shade of an over sized Buddha and it’ll provide me with the skills to come back to the states and dish out some kickin' souvenirs from Thailand!

I’ll be taking levels 1-5 at the Thai Massage School of Chang Mai. It includes 90 hours of comprehensive study and a 60-hour internship working with special needs children and the senior community. On top of that, I’ll have an additional 2 months to practice on Micah (a tough critic), which means you are sure to be putty in my hands come April.

To help defray some of the cost of the course and living in Chang Mai for a month, I’m preselling massages that I’ll give upon my return in April. Buy ‘em up while I’m selling at Thai prices. As soon as we get back to NYC, I’ll have to switch back into competitive business survival mode!

Buy a few for yourself and while you’re at it, buy a few as gifts! I’ll travel to any of the boroughs in NYC. (Sorry Staten Island and NJ-you don’t count). I’ll be in Meyersdale sometime in April to see family, so PA isn’t left out either. And, (for all you massage newbies out there) Thai massage is done in comfortable clothes, you don’t even have to go through the unsettling experience of getting naked. I’ll meet you at the park, or sit behind you at the movies, or stroll into your office on your lunch hour. You name the place. (Ok. Maybe not the movies, but you catch my drift.)

I’ll offer these prices until April 1. You can pay through the PayPal link (below) and then I’ll reach out to you via email. Help me love you up…Thailand style!

$30 for 30min
$50 for 1hr
$75 for 1.5hrs

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Have a happy and healthy New Year!

Posted by bucketbath 09:29 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand new year up burma mai chang myanmar bangladesh break massage bucket Comments (6)

A Very Merry (Ladyboy) Christmas

It was a cave of lust. Past touts hustling massages and ping pong shows. Past crowds of men - Western, Middle Eastern, Asian – with arms snaked around Thai dancer’s bodies. Down a dark corridor on the third floor of a nondescript building in Bangkok’s Patapong Red Light District it waited.

Thailand sweats sex. From beautiful Thai women to condom vending machines in public bathrooms, sexuality churns through Bangkok’s musky air.

Women in skimpy bikinis with subtlety arousing or garish makeup beckon. Pouty red lips, hourglass curves, swollen breasts and long legs that reach heavenward like Babel’s tower.

A place where night’s shadow blurs the boundaries of sexuality into a sticky haze.

Cascade. The lady-boy bar.

Venturing inside, the Madam, a woman with a powdered pale face, severe bangs and prominent Adam’s apple escorted us to our seats. Joanie, myself, Shannon (our friend from New York), Scott (an old friend of mine from Ohio who now lives and works in Bangkok), and a few of his friends watched the 15 or so bikini-clad dancers undulating on stage.

Travel is a place to push boundaries (not necessarily physically, but psychologically and philosophically) as this night would prove.

A gamut of beauty presented itself: some tall with long flowing hair, others short and chestless, some buxom. Despite the diversity, all had one shared characteristic: at some point in their lives, all were men.

I watched the club’s other patrons and wondered if they also knew this.

Gender lines seem blurred in Asia. Men are often effeminate and much more affectionate and comfortable with the [platonic] physical touch of other men than Westerners.

A middle aged Asian man sat a few feet away and glowed as 2 dancers talked and entertained him. He was smitten by Aphrodite’s elixir, but did he know Aphrodite was a man?

Origin seemed unimportant and antiquated at Cascade. The now mattered, the rare immersion into the moment. A luxury our frenetic lives rarely permit or allow us to afford – who knows at what cost?

Travel forces us into moments of introspection and (often) to grope to understand ourselves as individuals and as a reflection of our environment.

There is no comfort zone for retreat, only the slight refuge of a hotel room where the sounds and smells of the exotic world outside still penetrate.

A loud bell rang and the club’s lights went on. The dancers left the stage for the dressing room (that was on the way to the bathroom and had no door).

A few remained on stage and I thought of Chery Tiegs, and her iconic poster the 70s, a tantalizing icon of beauty and perfection.

It wasn’t Cheryl standing 10 feet from us but a tall, Asian woman with dark, blown-out hair and welcoming smile. It was something different: something in the grey area between assumption and expectation.

It was Christmas and she was like a beautifully wrapped present. It might be the perfect gift or the surprise you’ll never forget.

Happy holidays from Bangkok.

Posted by bucketbath 11:31 Archived in Thailand Tagged night thailand club bangkok life light red dancing boy lady asia district alcohol sex nightclub pattapong Comments (4)

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