Jamu course

Thursday, June 21, 2012

I really wanted to go on a tour of the erotic temples, however you need 2 people minimum to book them. I consider paying the transport for two anyways but the 3 hour trip each way deters me. Instead I opt for a Jamu class in the morning and a silver course in the evening both arranged with ViaVia. I meet my guide, Titma, in front of ViaVia in the morning and we take off on her motorbike to the Central Market.

Jamu is the traditional medecine of the Javanese and has been practiced for a long time, it’s still practiced by many of the older generations but among the younger generations they opt for Western medecine she tells me. She shows me various roots, herbs, flowers explaining what each one is used for – this one is used for cholestorel, for diabetes, for hypertension, for abortion, for energy….

The next stall looks a little more like a pharmacy, with the ingredients already ground and in individual packages and she tells me the uses of each – Lightening the underarms, tightening the ‘v’, firming thebreasts, breasts enlargement… most of these are used by washing with the mixture on a regular business, some are used by smoking and standing over the smoke.

We move on to a traditional Jamu cafe where you can get any number of drinks for your ailments and health.  These Jamu shops used to be very busy and full but these days most have gone out of business as the younger generation is putting their faith in western medicine (and the ease of popping a pill).  The women in the back grind various herbs on long mortars and rolling the pestles back and forth.   We have a drink, it’s not soooo bad.

As we drive over a bridge my guide tells me that this is the slum area, it’s picturesque, branches arch over the street and it other than the houses being a bit more run down it doesn’t look to bad. Then I realize the next activity is the massage. Why would we be going to the slums for that? When we pull up to a house she tells me that this is on of the ‘seeing hands’ places. The government has a program where they train the blind at a young age to give massages and provide them a house so that they have a way to support themselves. As much as that is a great idea and I’d love to support that concept as I look around this is not the type of place I’d typically choose based purely on cleanliness. The curtained off areas do not exactly have a pristine quality to them and my stomach kind of sinks. I have to tell myself that I can do this. After a quick conversation with some of the people there she asks if I mind a massage by a guy, I guess not, they are blind.

I undress and lay down, for the first time ever hoping a massage doesn’t last too long. The pressure is ok, but all I can wonder is if the sheets and pillow my face is on have been cleaned, and he massages my legs moving up to my sciatic area, um, I keep reminding myself he is blind, but he seems to move back to that area a lot. As he moves on to my back I relax until he moves back down to my sciatic area again. Ok, well, I’m not sure if this is normal, but if it was a female doing the massage it probably wouldn’t seem as weird…? The massage seems to keep going and all I want is it to be over, finally after what seems like a long, long time it’s done, I feel greasy, and gross for two reasons and can’t wait to get back to my place to shower. But first we have to make a face mask, this is done at ViaVia where she grinds rice with a bit of cinnamon bark and applies it to my face. As we do this she mentions that the massage lasted longer than normal… I’m 100% grossed out now! I wash off the face mask and thank her and rush back to my room to shower…

I didn’t say anything to the people at ViaVia, I know that they try to support programs like that, but a little warning on the front-end about the type of place would give me an option.  As for the blind guy, as much as what he did may have been normal, or not, because I’m not sure I don’t want to get him in trouble.  I realize by not saying something it’s not helping either but then I look at his surroundings and his life and feel that he’s probably got it pretty hard anyways.


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