Saturday, March 26, 2005

Batam Weekend and Massage Ramblings

No, it's not what you think.

What were you thinking anyway?!

A quick glance and sniff at the coastal tides convinced us that watersports at Waterfront were indeed to be buried deep in the bowels of Batam history.

Batam has that ubiquitous look of developing countries: dusty sandy roads, skeletal remains of half-constructed buildings, kampung houses with TV antennae, garish new tiled buildings jostling with scruffy old rundowns, age-old slums at the feet of symbols of conspicious consumption, stray dogs sniffing around cab drivers in old caps hailing you as you walk down in street,"Teksi? Teksi?". We could have been in Phnom Penh, Ho Chi Minh City or Johor Bahru. (The Hawaiian shirts on the backs of Batam teksi drivers, however, are a local marker.)

Contributed to the economy by going for a massage at Tea Tree Spa; that which was voted "Best Indonesian Spa" by SpaAsia last year. Generally known to be of a ticklish nature, I almost relinquished the title of "Kicker of Masseurs". Think I might have actually liked the ambient music, the gliding and kneading and the soak in the jacuzzi after.

The history of massage is intriguing. First documented accounts of massage date back to 3,000BC in China. Japanese shiatsu is an offshoot of the Chinese art. Independently or not, massage was also part of Ayurvedic medicine 1,700BC India. A hop over a big pond, American Indians, those genetic cousins of the Chinese, used to rubdown their warriors, pregnant women and infants. Similarly, the ancient Greeks (and their cultural ape-ers, the Romans) took to massage in a big way, made easier no doubt by those togas and many times, the lack thereof.

In their attempt to beef up the credibility of this seemingly hedonistic practice, some massage manuals have suggested that the term "lay on hands" was used in the Bible to denote the practice of massage. That makes for really interesting reading: in the account of Joseph (of the Multi-coloured Coat fame), one brother would have actually said to the rest of the nasties,"Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not massage him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." (Genesis 37:27). The instructions in Numbers would actually have meant "After the Levites massaged the heads of the bulls, use the one for a sin offering to the LORD and the other for a burnt offering, to make atonement for the Levites." (Numbers 8:12). In Mark 6:5, Jesus really massaged a few people and so healed them (what better testimony to the benefits of massage?). In the early church, the apostles and elders of churches didn't just wimpily place their hands on the person they were commissioning...they gave them a deep-body massage.

Right.

What utter hogwash. We all know of course that what really happened in a real Early Church commissioning was: once the potential commissionee walked into the commissioning room, Peter would gleefully yell "TAUPOK!" from his shadowy corner and the apostles and elders would pile their unwashed bodies on the unsuspecting victim.

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