My Ketut Liyer

I went to a Tukang Kusuk today.

I actually have no intention of visiting one but after telling stories to people that I slipped in the bathroom this morning and the side of my butt and my back hurt because they hit the toilet bowl on my fall, everybody was saying, Miss, mau yang kusuk? (Miss, do you want a massage?).

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I told the story again of my ungraceful fall to our Chief Accountant and he said the same thing. “You have to see one to put everything back in order. Or else, 5 years from now you will feel the effect of that fall.”

Ok. Sounds scary. So I finally got convinced that maybe that is the way to go. I asked somebody to look for one and invite the Tukang Kusuk to come over. The person said, “Miss, tidak bisa. Banyak anak anak.” (Miss, she can’t. She has a lot of kids.)

Ok. It seems I have to do my own courtesy call.

Come 5 PM and I was on the road going to the kampong (village) of the said expert.

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I was asking the driver if all Indonesians go to a Tukang Kusuk. He said only those who don’t want to see a real doctor and take tablets or injections for their illness. Sounds very much like the Philippines. So I am going to an albularyo or a faith healer, it seems.

We stopped in front of a normal house we usually pass on my way to the city. Men were sitting on the roadside while kids were playing some games with makeshift toys. I, together with a colleague who personally knows the Tukang Kusuk, came inside the house. The driver left us and did some errands as it will probably take an hour before my kusut finishes.

It was my first time to enter an Indonesian house, I realized. It was cool. It looks like any modern house made of bricks and cement except there are no tables and chairs! They only have mats on the floor. Even the kitchen, where I had my massage, only has a mat in it.

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It must be cheap maintaining a house in Indonesia. There is no need for all those fixture and what-have-yous. It’s like a robber came into the house and finished all the belongings.

Anyway, so a middle-aged lady came out and shook my hand the Indonesian way. The Indonesian way is shaking hands, releasing, and bringing that hand you shook the others to your heart. I think it is a kind of respect for them. I still have to remember this. I tend to forget it all the time and people might think I am snooty, rude and all especially if they don’t know that I am not Indonesian as I look like them.

Anyway, the lady went back in. I was asking my colleague where she went. She said the lady is probably praying. She came back and ushered me to the kitchen where a mat who has seen maybe a hundred coats of oil and a sullen-looking pillow who has seen 200 heads are stationed. OMG.

And then the lady asked me to undress. What? There were 4 people in the kitchen that time. She said “Tak apa apa. Jangan malu.” (It’s nothing. Don’t be shy.) Seeing my reluctance, she asked me if I brought a sarong. No, I did not. She took one from a nearby room and gave it to me. Undressing inside a sarong was still a feat. Anyway, I made it. She asked me to lie down, face down, on the mat and the pillow. I can feel the grease sticking to my body. And I was holding my breath not to smell the pillow.

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And then she started. She took some oil, whispered something into it, and started her magic. OMG. It was a pleasurable pain through and through. My feet were constantly up in the air, involuntarily, because her hands were just kneading all the air she found in my body.

Not my legs.
Not my legs.

Before the massage, she never asked what kind of treatment I need. She just started without consultation. But as she tries to acquaint herself with my body, I don’t need to say anything anymore. It was like she knows me just with her touch. Scary!

As she was laboriously fighting an air in one side of my back, she asked me if I take hot showers regularly. I said everyday. I will die if the water is not hot. It is just so cold here. She told me to stop. All the air in my body is caused by the hot shower. I tried to defend a usual habit which I think is very normal and she said, “Air dingin labih sehat!” (Cold water is healthier!) Ok, I rest my case.

Then she said most probably I fell down. She can feel it from my muscles. And that I am battling sakit perut for days. She can feel it in my stomach. Which is actually correct!

Who is this woman? OMG.

The gentle hands, the painful pleasure she gives, the diagnosis she can gather just from grazing her hands to my body, I AM AMAZED.

As I finished my session, there was a queue of other people who wants a treatment as well. Some were actually watching my naked body as the lady wrapped up. She said that sometimes, she can only eat dinner at 2 AM because her house gets so full with people.

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I dressed up, gathered my things and thanked her. I also dropped an amount in her donation basket that is in another room. I was warned not to give money to the Tukang Kusuk directly as it is considered impolite.

As I was preparing to leave, she asked me how I feel, “Enak?” (Good?). I smiled and said I wish to come back again.

I was on my wait out where the driver was waiting for me when I heard her from the kitchen, “Ingat! Jangan air panas mandi. Air dingin!” (Remember! Don’t take hot shower! Take a cold one!)

I am really not sure about that one. I will probably have another visit with her soon if I take a cold shower as I will be jumping up and down the bathroom just to prevent the body from feeling the cold. And then I will slip again in the bathroom and probably break my bones this time around.

I shouted “Saya coba!” (I will try!). And then I was gone.


Sayur Assam

So maybe I was not telling the whole truth on why I am OOO (Out of Order) today.

Last Saturday, a colleague brought me to the market. I love markets despite being a little bit chaotic. It reminded me so much of the ones we have in the Philippines. The problem was the heat. It was like I was punched in the face. It was a sweltering 32 degrees Celsius there in the city.


I lived in a tropical country all my life but since I migrated to one of the hills in North Sumatra, it doesn’t feel so tropical at all. We have 18-24 degrees Celsius everyday, sometimes lower.


So I think that one set me back. And then I had to attend a travel fair which could have survived the light of day without me. I have to remember not to attend such things again unless I need to buy a trip for a cheaper price.

And then I went to Cemara, the biggest Buddhist temple in Medan. It has become a local attraction. People of all kinds are there. The rows of street kitchen and restaurants probably also added to the appeal.




So dinner time and we decided to have our feast there. The colleague has been dying to let me try Sayur Assam since she learned that I like sour taste. She caught me picking green mangoes from the tree in the city office one time and that sealed it. Anything that is sour, Leslee will like.

I was curious what this Sayur Assam is. Sayur means vegetable and Assam means sour in Indonesia. From the picture I saw it looks like the Filipino version of Sinigang. If it is, I won’t have a problem with it.

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I checked the ingredients: shrimp, beans, cabbage, eggplant, tamarind, fish stock, turmeric, almond, shallots, garlic and dried shrimp paste. Sounds like Sinigang to me except for the shrimp paste.

The dish came. A soupy dish. I tried it. The sour taste is overpowering. Then there is the sweet taste. But the killer was the shrimp paste. I almost puked. It was horrible.

When asked if I like it, I said it is interesting.


I finished one whole bowl without breathing but promised to the self that I will not touch that dish ever again in this lifetime.

Until now, I can still taste it on my tongue. It has that lingering effect which makes me cringe my nose.

I hope I learned my lesson. Just say no.

But the problem with me is I always find it hard to say no. Haaaayyyy.

The Tree Feller


I am demolished in my bed. I don’t want to get up. I am actually feeling a little bit better than yesterday but I don’t want to take the risk (Read:I just want to be lazy today.)

I knew something was wrong when I woke up yesterday morning. The whole body was in pain. I was silently cursing that lady who massaged me the night before. The expat colleague has been raving about this spa next to the hotel in the city where I always stay when I go down from the hills. He said the price is cheap and the service is good. He got that all wrong.

One, I think the price was exorbitantly high. I paid Rp200,000 for a 2 hour massage. Ok, so maybe that is not so expensive. But I was trying to compare it with the massage I had in a 4-star hotel recently which only costed me Rp70,000. But yeah, that’s an hour. Ok never mind. I just want a massage that time and I will pay whatever it costs. But it has to be good.

Two, the service is horrible.

So the masseuse led me to the room. They have this stainless palanggana to wash my feet. So cheap, I was rolling my eyes as I was telling this to the self. Anyway, I was busy BBMing so I just let the matter go.My BB is alive again! But that’s another story.

Then I was led to a room where 4 massage beds separated by curtains are. And I can hear people talking. What the heck?! So much for a relaxing massage. The masseuse started rattling and my Baby Bahasa Indonesia cannot keep up. I have to say hold on, saya tidak orang Indonesia (I am not Indonesian.) And that made her blabber more wanting to find out where I am from. After 3 failed attempts, she has been repeating three countries again and again like those are the only countries in this world with this kind of face, I gave in and said I am Filipino.

Then the massage started. OMG. The lady must be a tree feller in her past life. Her hands were so strong and tough. Grazing them to my body was torture. But the Asian in me did not speak up. When asked if I was ok, I just gave a grunt hoping she’ll get it. She didn’t. And that’s 2 hours of wincing. Ok, maybe one and a half hours as she tends to go out from the room from time to time for I don’t know reason. I felt like I am being cheated for my hours but it gave me respite from her ax hands.

What I hate the most about people in the service industry is when they blatantly ask for a tip. This one is that kind. I have barely recovered from my self-inflicted punishment and was fumbling down the stairs in a heady state when she said, “Miss, tips.”

I could have been mean right there and then but I did not (which I regret). I fished through my pocket and gave her more than necessary. I just promised the self I will never be back in that spa ever again.

So, long story, when I woke up the following day (that was yesterday), the expected happened. The whole body was aching and the worst part is I have to pack and check out from the hotel. I have to go up to the hills that morning and endure that 4-hour semi-bumpy ride.

I knew something was wrong when I was having breakfast in the hotel resto and the food makes me want to puke. I eat those food all the time. But that time, I only had a few spoonfuls. I thought it will go away when the body realizes it is awake. It didn’t.

The driver picked me up and the pain just worsened with that uphill climb. I was dragging myself to my room when I arrived in the hills.

So yes, I am still in my bed. Today is supposed to be a workday for me. I have tons of things to do. But what the heck. I am going to laze around eating my bubur ayam (porridge) until the sun goes up again tomorrow.

The story of my life.


When Sales is Male and Marketing is Female


I found myself this morning having coffee with the GM of one of the big airlines here in Indonesia (as if it is the most normal Saturday morning event in my world).

I have to scramble out of bed when I read the SMS from my boss. “Leslee, let me know if you understand this…” and he continued with a Bahasa Indonesia message which he left me to figure out on my own. He has so much confidence in my baby Indonesian that he should feel lucky everytime I get what he means without cheating and using Google translate.

So anyway, I found myself driving to one cafe to have a morning chit chat with this person I barely know save for his name and what he does for a living.

The GM and his son decided to drop by the area where I live because the son wants to take some nature shots he wish to use as an entry to a photo competition hosted by the airline.

As we sip our coffee and start some small talk while the son wanders around to take his shots, the conversation ventured into arts and technology, the subjects all his children are into now.

The GM said he supports whatever his sons are doing for the moment but expects them to be more focused in a few years time. And he said that whatever his sons decide to do in the future, they must all learn marketing.

So I carried the conversation along until he shared to me a theory he coined which he is not so sure if is really very original. I was game for it anyway.

He said Sales and Marketing are two very different things.

I have to listen clearly as this is coming from a man wisened by experience and age.

He has always viewed Sales as a male and Marketing as a female.

Sales is aggressive, is doing the rounds for prey, is ready with techniques to lure and get what it wants, is always ready for the kill.

Marketing is like a female, it just stays put but is always prettifying itself, coming up with ways to lure predators, is a beautiful trap.

From a person who did not take a single business or management course in my entire life, what he said somehow makes sense.

He continued, “Some people are made for sales. Some people are made for marketing. I cannot do sales but I know I can do marketing.”

And we continued on and on. So much for a lazy Saturday morning talk. I was just prepared to talk about the weather, really.

Well, I guess that starts my very first lesson in Sales and Marketing. My other boss wants me to trail him every week to the city as he does his consultancy on the subject. I really don’t know what will be my purpose there but these are free lessons for life so I am very much in.

I am at a loss on how to call what I do for a living now. I sip coffee with people I don’t know, I play golf even when I don’t know a single thing about the game, I have to learn fishing, the list of weird things I do is endless.

But I love this job. Seriously. Now I wonder what I have to do tomorrow. I remember the other boss mentioning that I should list down nice spots to take wedding photos.

What a life.