Thursday, May 19, 2011

Massage at the Monas

Atun uncaps a bottle marked Placenta and squirts white on the back of the American lying face down in the park.
We're all spectacles today. An Indonesian, also face down, is having blood sucked from his body through suction cups placed along his bare back and legs. Pedestrians in the park eat candyfloss and pause to watch the procedure before ambling on. It's a public holiday and the mood is light in the grounds around the national monument (Monas) in north central Jakarta.
Atun has a purple plastic clapper. "It's called alat pijat," she says, a massage tool. The American lying on a mat in the shade of the trees is stoic in her hands. A crowd have gathered around to watch; they are mostly local cappuccino sellers. They pedal through the park with hampers full of coffee sachets and tall thermos flasks of hot water.
"I learned how to massage from my parents, before they died," says Atun, who lives near Gambir, the central Jakarta train station. "And I have very strong hands. So strong, that rich people and Muslims don't like my massages. The Chinese do though. Lots of fat Chinese come here in the mornings to run around."

She drives an elbow into the buttocks of the American. The cappuccino boys laugh, their arms over each other's shoulders. "You're my first westerner," she says. "Tourists don't usually stop for me."
Atun sets her mat out in the Monas grounds every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. She's tough in a red bandana and gold hoops in her ears.

"I had a daughter," she says. "My husband hit her." Here she mimes karate chops to the back of her neck, then closes her eyes and presses her palms together as if in prayer. When she opens them again, she is looking at the sky. "My daughter went to the place above."
Atun's massages last an hour and cost Rp 30,000 ($3.00).

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