I held a hotel brochure confirming the online claims of “Blind Massage” offerings while enjoying my stay at the Ibis Budget Hotel. With an hour to kill before my host arrived, I phoned the front desk to arrange a thirty minute reflexology foot massage. Now waiting in the lobby I spotted a young man in a brightly colored shirt walking slowly behind a larger hotel security guard, hand resting on the big man’s shoulder. The security guard smiled, nodded and motioned for me to join the party. We settled into a small room with two reclining black pleather chairs and one massage table.
The young man introduced himself as Tri (with a trilling R sound) and started massaging my right calf. He asked where I was from, what I was doing in Indonesia and how old I was. I asked if he could tell by the condition of my feet and he chuckled “no.” By my left foot it was my turn to ask questions and I started with an inquiry about his massage training. In Southeast Asia it is a common practice for blind individuals to train in massage therapy as they are skilled with “seeing hands”. I asked if he had been blind since birth and he told me of his seven year battle with glaucoma. He used to work at a very famous hotel in the center of Surabaya, known for its architecture. His daughters were one and five years old when he started to lose his sight. His wife has stayed with him faithfully but it has not been easy.
The doctors told him surgery was not an option and he has made peace with this new life. I asked what he missed seeing the most, what one thing he would love to see again. After a brief pause he answered “My family. My daughters are twelve and eight now and I don’t know what they look like.” I imagine not seeing my beloved family ever again, not knowing what my Niece or Nephew will look like in ten years. In that moment I know that the faces of those we love are the most precious sight to behold.
Tri and I talked a bit more about travel and Indonesia and then sat in comfortable silence for the last five minutes. I walked out of the hotel feeling grateful for this adventure and for my family and friends back home.