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Initial Impressions Ban Toon Ting School

By Emily Halliday and Naomi Shapiro

After a four-hour van ride from Chiang Mai, all 29 of us hopped in the back of back of four-wheel drive pickup trucks for the last 45 minutes up the muddy, potholed, mountain road.  Upon arriving, Han and Peter mentioned how much the school has changed since their first trip here, 5 years ago. Many new buildings, such as the girl’s dormitory, have been built, and new roofing has been installed on many of the classrooms. Since this is Westminster students’ last year here, we were told to think about what we expected the school to be like. In reality, it was much better than many of us would have thought. The school looked to be in good shape and because of that a lot of us were unsure about what work we would actually be able to do there. The digs were very comfortable.  We all slept in dormitory like quarters which we called the “Gum Drop Villages”, because it was two large rooms with gum drop looking bug nets over all of the beds.  We were very excited to get settled in for our next 5 days at the school.

Gumdrop Village

In order to accommodate families living in more remote areas, Ban Toon Ting School is pretty isolated.  Although the school’s location is designed to serve the largest number of people possible, accessibility is still an issue because there isn’t organized transportation for the students.  Those who live the farthest away board at the school during the week, but others make the journey there and back each day.  One afternoon while we were staying at Ban Toon Ting, we walked with the kids to one of the villages that the school serves (about 1.5 miles away).  Just like in the U.S., once the bell marking the end of school rings, a mass of kids head for home.  A few get picked up by parents or siblings on motorbikes, but most are part of the horde walking.  All of the students were between kindergarten and 6th grade.  I was a little bit surprised by how small some of them looked.  They seemed far too young to be walking by themselves, but then I realized that the older kids were all looking out for the little ones.  As we walked with them, I was grabbed by the hand by a pair of second graders.  We picked flowers and jumped in puddles as we made the trek to the village.  As we passed different houses, kids peeled off and waved goodbye.  It was kind of like a big walking school bus.

Ban Toon Ting

 

Thai Massages

The techniques of healing-massage practiced in Thailand have evolved since the earliest roots of Thai massage, which coincidentally lie not in Thailand but in India. Jivaka Kumar Bhaccha was a contemporary of the Buddha and personal physician to the Magadha King Bimbisara over 2,500 years ago. This doctor from northern India is believed to be the founder of the art of Thai massage. He is also referred to as the “Father Doctor” and the Thai healers practice the ethics of giving thanks to the Father Doctor before and after massage. His teachings probably reached what is now Thailand as early as the 2nd or 3rd century B.C., which is around the same time as when Buddhism was introduced to Thailand.

Researchers report that Thai medicine is believed to have “Rural” and “Royal” Traditions. The rural traditions seem non-scholarly and rely on informal methods of education. The “Rural” tradition of healing seems to be passed down through generations with some secret code transmitted orally from the teacher to students. The “Royal” tradition of Thai medicine is believed to be developed at the royal court and shows influence from India, China, and the Muslim world. It seems to have a great influence from the Auravedic tradition from India.

It is very clear that the tradition of Thai massage was never seen merely as a job when looking back on its history. It was always considered to be a spiritual practice closely connected to the teachings of the Buddha. Massage was taught and practiced in the Buddhist temple until fairly recently; the establishment of legitimate massage facilities outside of the temples is a recent development.

“Metta” is the Pali (and Thai) word used in Theravada Buddhism to denote “loving kindness”. The giving of massage was understood to be a physical application of Metta and devoted masseurs still work in such a spirit today. A truly good masseur performs his art in a meditative mood. He starts with a Puja, a meditative prayer, to fully center himself on the work and the healing he is about to perform. He works with full awareness, mindfulness, and concentration. A massage performed in a meditative mood and a massage just done as a job are completely different. Only a masseur working in a meditative mood can develop an intuition for the energy flow in the body and for the Prana lines.

The limits of Western style medicine became apparent, bringing about a revival of interest in alternative health care in the West and to a certain extent also in Thailand and other countries of the East. Suddenly, in the late 1980s, Westerners discovered Thai massage in their search of traditional ways of treatment. Many people, including doctors, nurses, physical therapists, masseurs, and yoga/meditation therapists, came to Thailand to supplement their knowledge with a training in traditional Thai massage. Additionally, people in thailand seemed to realize that for certain ailments like asthma, constipation, or frozen shoulders along with recovery after a heart attack or to regain mobility of the limbs after a stroke, Thai massage treatment is far superior to conventional medicine and therapy.

Furthermore, Thai massage differs from other massages because it focuses on major pathways of energy lines in the body called Sen lines. Thai culture teaches that if an energy line is blocked it will damage one’s mental and/or physical health. Below are pictures of Sen lines in the body, where energy is found. There are thousands of Sen lines in the body, and a few major lines. In order to unblock Sen lines, deep massaging and stretching techniques are applied to the troubled areas. The stretching done in Thai massage looks very similar to yoga. Traditionally, therapists have worked on unblocking Sen Lines with their thumbs because they are precise and can find Sen lines very easily. However, thumb injuries are very common when used too often so modern culture has adapted to use other parts of the body to massage as well. Thai massage therapists now commonly use the palms of their hands, elbows, and forearms because it is sustainable for a long period of time.

Sen LinesSen-Lines 2

Sen lines do not have a universal location on all bodies so Thai massage therapists have to locate the energy lines in the body for every person before working to their unblock energy lines. Thai massage is said to have major health benefits as a result of Sen lines being unblocked.

Working on Sen lines in the body through Thai massage is meant to speed up the healing of the body. Many health benefits of Thai massages include alleviation of muscle pains and fatigue, and mental and physical relaxation. Muscles that are in pain can be relaxed and stretched out by Thai massage stretches in combination with slight kneading. Stretching and massaging muscles at the same time also makes muscles more flexible and increases joint movement. Joint movement is increased because fluids are released into them through the unblocking of lymph nodes and spinal fluid throughout the body. A larger amount of fluid in the joints allows for more comfortable and swift movements. When Sen lines are unblocked this also creates increased blood circulation throughout the body. Blood circulation allows the body to become healthier and more immune to diseases because toxins can be released more quickly . Thai massages aid in relaxing the mind and increasing overall energy, and aids regular sleeping patterns. The Sen lines used in Thai Massage to target an individual’s energy are very beneficial for an individual’s overall health and wellbeing.

– Emily Riforgiate and Taylor Fuchs

thai massage man

Sources:

Kathy, et al. “Thai Massage and Traditional Sen Lines.” Thai Healing Massage Academy | Thai Massage Online Courses, 2018, thaihealingmassage.com/thai-massage-and-traditional-sen-lines/.

TFFS. “The Untold History and Benefits of Traditional Thai Massage.” Thefourfountainsspa, The Four Fountains Spa, 11 Apr. 2017, www.thefourfountainsspa.in/the-untold-history-and-benefits-of-traditional-thai-massage/.

Kitchen, the SimpleDifferent. “History and Origins of Traditional Thai Massage.” History and Origins of Traditional Thai Massage, http://www.sunshine-massage-school.com/history_of_traditional_thai_massage.html.

 

Sex Work in Thailand

History and Prominence

Prostitution has been common in Thailand and its predecessor states for centuries. From 1351–1767, prostitution was legal and taxed. It became illegal in 1960.

There are three acts governing prostitution in Thailand.

  • Prevention and Suppression of Prostitution Act
  • Penal Code Amendment Act
  • Entertainment Places Act of 1966

Sex work is a prominent component of contemporary Thai culture and the national economy, but as is true of virtually every culture, there’s a multi-faceted ethical, human rights based controversy surrounding the practice. Like many other nations, Thailand struggles to control sex trafficking, and some believe that finally putting a stop to the illegal yet prevalent industry is a key component of doing so.

Solicitation of sex has been illegal in Thailand since the 1960s. However, upon the onset of the Vietnam War and the subsequent influx of U.S. soldiers throughout Southeast Asia, the industry thrived. When the military left, tourists began to fill the void in the market that they’d left. Since then, Thailand’s sex industry has been openly, if reluctantly, tolerated by authorities.

In 2017, tourism minister Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul commented that she wants the country’s sex industry “gone.” Since then, Thai police have launched a series of raids on bars and clubs, the aim of which is to find and put a stop to trafficking and licensing breaches. While the raids are well intentioned, many fear the most immediate effect will be that, without a system in place to help women who prevented from doing sex work, thousands of families who depend on income from sex work will be forced deeper into poverty.

Anecdotal evidence suggests that over 80% of Thailand’s sex workers are single mothers, and that avast majority are supporting a combination of parents, grandparents, and sometimes siblings. The national wage is currently 300 Thai baht (approximately $8) per day, but even the lowest-paid sex workers can bring home twice that much, making it one of the few options for a economically and socially disempowered woman to support herself and her family. (https://www.newsdeeply.com/womenandgirls/articles/2017/02/09/sex-workers-face-poverty-thailand-announces-image-makeover)

Sex Worker Power

The push to enforce the illegal state of sex work in Thailand is motivated by desire to cease and prevent the abuse of sex workers, but simply enforcing the illegality of the practice would likely have a detrimental effect on those who the policy change seeks to assist. As is the case globally, Thai sex workers advocate for decriminalization of sex work in order to regulate the practice, like any other work environment. Currently the lack of regulation due to sex work being illegal and yet such a strong component of the Thai economy allows, and in fact incentivises, disempowerment and abuse of sexworkers. Among those pushing for regulation of sex work is The Empowerment Foundation, which is an organization that provides educational (law, human rights, medical) & legal resources to sex workers.

(http://www.chiangmaicitylife.com/citylife-articles/what-sex-workers-want-you-to-know/)

Chiang Mai’s Can-Do bar is entirely run by sex workers in The Empowerment Foundation, which publishes research, personal experiences, and creative media about sexwork in Thailand, emphasizing personal empowerment and the importance of sex work to disempowered women.  (http://www.empowerfoundation.org/barcando_en.html) As Empower spokeswoman Liz Hilton described, “This is a group of women who are refusing the poverty they are supposed to live in. They want to take that chance, not just for themselves, but so they can bring their families, generationally, up out of poverty. So they’re the women buying the land, buying the tractor, sending kids to university, sending their brothers to the monkhood. They’re carrying the bulk of the family dream.” (https://www.newsdeeply.com/womenandgirls/articles/2017/02/09/sex-workers-face-poverty-thailand-announces-image-makeover) Through their work, Empower ultimately hopes to decriminalize sex work in order to achive regulation of labor for the protection of sex workers, much of which hinges on official legal seperation of sex work from sex trafficking. In this way, the national goal of stopping sex trafficking and protecting the rights & safety of sex workers can be achieved while maintaining the livelihoods of the thousands of sex workers thier and families who rely on the industry. (http://www.chiangmaicitylife.com/citylife-articles/what-sex-workers-want-you-to-know/)

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https://www.facebook.com/sweetsmartstrongsexy/photos/a.1914129032168904.1073741827.1914127395502401/1914128955502245/?type=3&theater

 

 

Lila Weller, Manon Maurer, Mary Grace Lewis

 

Global Citizenship and Tolerance

By: Liz Behrens

When asked to consider the most important thing I have learned from my May Term Thailand trip the potential answers were endless as the trip has been a learning experience from start to finish. However, two of the more poignant and underlying themes of this trip were that of global citizenship as well as tolerance. I had some idea of what these things meant prior to going on this trip – but it was so much clearer after seeing both in practice. Continue reading Global Citizenship and Tolerance

Thai Kindness

By: Mariah Hartle

Going to a different country always has its expectations but mostly big unknowns. Thailand is no exception and as I expected my expectations were blown away by the Thai culture. As I sit in the United States, I notice the little things that can’t quite compare to what I have lived. With all that we did in Thailand and all the people we shared our lives with, one thing always comes back to me. It’s the thing when talking about Thailand I always over emphasis and want people to understand. Continue reading Thai Kindness

Final Reflection

By: Chloe Withers

Before leaving for Thailand Han and Peter kept saying the moments that will have the greatest impact on you will be some of the hardest moments of the trip but that these would also be the moments that we learn and grow the most from. They were right. Thailand honestly changed my life in more ways than one. I’ve never been pushed so far outside of my comfort zone. It was a challenge but one I’m glad I didn’t shy from. I took my first little step outside my comfort zone as I walked onto the plan leaving San Francisco headed for Taipei. I was working my way out of my comfort zone while sweating more than I had ever done in my life all while watching children shoot off home made rockets towards the sky. Continue reading Final Reflection

Final Reflection

By: Lacy Carter

What did I learn on my trip to Thailand? Well the most important thing that I learned is that life can be very simple. You don’t need a lot to be happy or worth something. Family is very important whether they are your family by blood or they are just the ones that are always with you and helping you and you should always keep them close. I feel here in the U.S. we take a lot for granted and we think we are always owed something. Continue reading Final Reflection

HIV/AIDS Hospice 

By: Lacy Carter & Chloe Withers

Before coming on the Mayterm Thailand trip Lacy and I wrote a blog post on HIV/AIDS in Thailand so we felt well prepared for our visit to the HIV/AIDS Hospice. Little did we know what an emotional impact it would have on the both of us. Thailand is known as the “land of smiles” and the hospice was no exception. When we first walked into the treatment room all of the patients were so welcoming. It was incredible to see that even though these people were in pain and didn’t feel good, they could still manage to have a positive outlook on life. Everyone was so willing to share their stories with us. Continue reading HIV/AIDS Hospice 

Parade Day

By:  Joe Caesar & Cera Cantu

Preparation for the parade started early in the morning around 6. The theme of the day was patience. We had to wait to be called for makeup and hair to be done by some of the villagers. Once we were dressed we had to wait for the parade. All of us crowded into a house in the village to get our makeup done. There were village children there that wanted to play with us. They stole a lot of cellphones and took a lot of pictures. When we got our phones back we all had hundreds of pictures of the kids and all of us that the kids had taken. Continue reading Parade Day

Reflections on Ban Toong Ting

By: Olivia Start & Dagny Helander

Thai and English: two completely different languages with two completely different manuscripts. Despite the barrier, we discovered that no matter what language you speak, you can build bonds and relationships with nearly anyone. Upon arrival we expected to be greeted without hesitation or reservations from the students. As it turns out, not only were many of us out of our comfort zone, but the students were as well. That led to a dramatic increase in the difficulty of forming connections. It appeared that the kids were absolutely terrified of us and some of our group even thought they were disrespectful. However, the two of us among other students quickly learned that if there’s a will to get to know the kids, there is a way. Continue reading Reflections on Ban Toong Ting