Sunday, March 28, 2010

Ibu Fatima

*Picture copyright by FF, taken in March 2010

Meet Ibu Fatima. She has been a masseuse in Ocean Queen Resort, Pelabuhan Ratu, West Java, Indonesia for more than twelve years. She's not an employee at the resort, but you can ask the resort for a massage session and ask for Ibu Fatima. You could have your massage inside your hotel room or at the mini bungalows by the beach. The beach would be preferable because the sound of the waves are very soothing and adds a special effect for your comfort.

Despite her skinny figure and bony fingers, she can loosen the tensest of muscles and straighten out your curled nerves. In my case, it was an afro because I never take massages. Even twice a year would be a record from me. The result: I squirmed and screamed most of the time. When I asked whether I was the loudest customer she ever massaged, she didn't replied. It's either that she's concentrating on her piece of work me or it was a silent, polite yes.

She uses her own handmade coconut oil which takes her 5 hours to make for just a small bottle because you burn it over firewood in order to separate it from the coconut milk. If you use gas it doesn't have the same effect and aroma unlike using firewood, that's why it takes so long. The coconut oil is a good moisturizer for your skin, and I do smell like coconut afterwards (d'uh). If you put me in a soup with vegetables I would be very savory for cannibals.

Anyways. She learned massage from her father, her father learned from his father, and basically it's traditional knowledge that has been given from generation to generation. Her daughter, was also a masseuse at the resort.

Although she is very skilled at what she does, I sense that faint smile and tiredness in her eyes. She mentioned that she wanted to get away and have some new opportunity, because for each massage she only charges IDR 40.000 (USD 4). It's not much. Especially if there are few tourists around, it's really, really, really not much. For the consumer it's good, but I gave her a bit more than that because I feel guilty about paying good service with mediocre compensation.

I asked whether she can market her coconut oil, but she tried and it didn't work because if you don't have the capital for making it as a mass product, you won't get much either.

In the end, I promised her that I will now take frequent massages. Once a month, at least. Not only that it'll be good for my muscles, but it's also an economic opportunity for those who need them, just like Ibu Fatima.

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