Massage Techniques Explained

The Traveling Therapist

The magical Myrtos Beach in Kefallonia, Greece


I can never turn down a person in need of bodywork, even when I am on vacation. During my recent ten days abroad visiting the land of my ancestors (i.e. Greece), a friend asked me to work on her tense neck and lower back. The many hours spent standing in her salon and cutting hair in various twisted positions had taken a toll on her body. Her boyfriend then piped in that he too had tension in his neck and shoulders from constant lifting of machinery. As I assessed his massive trapezius muscles, a third  friend was volunteered up by the first one for massage since she had never before received one. In the span of one evening spent on a terrace enjoying the oceanic breeze, I garnered myself 3 clients, all willing to pay for therapeutic bodywork despite the pretty widespread economic turmoil.

What came as a surprise was their openness toward massage. Although the ancient Greeks employed massage as a key part of medical practice, modern Greeks have been on a much different page with respect to bodywork. First and foremost, massage therapy is an unregulated profession. This means that the government does not mandate any kind of educational or professional standards. It is up to the individual employer to set up guidelines of professional conduct and experience. That being said, on many major beaches in tourist riddled islands like Mykonos and Santorini, there are women (and sometimes men) who troll the sands offering 10 to 15 minute massages to people reclining on towels and chairs for the equivalent of $15. I witnessed them in action back in ’06, way before the career of massage became a thought in my mind. In the bigger city of Athens, massage is often a front for prostitution. I often had to call myself a massage-slash-physiotherapist in order to avoid that “Oh, reaaaaaallly…” face from some of my relatives and family friends. With respect to spas and resorts offering massage, I remember looking into a hotel spa in Cyprus for possible work last year and seeing that the therapist they sought had to be willing to do up to ten massages per day and be paid a flat fee for the entire Summer season (4 months) of $1500 dollars. Slave labor, anyone?

The US, Canada, Germany and France all regulate massage, demanding a certain amount of hands on hours, education, license examinations and continuing education in order to practice the profession. Outside of these countries, the lines of professionalism can be easily blurred. For instance, in Japan only Shiatsu (acupressure massage) is regulated. In China, massage is completely unregulated. In New Zealand, massage therapists can register at two levels of competency, but the government doesn’t recognize or regulate the profession. Basically you can set up shop and conduct yourself as you see fit without anyone getting to say a thing about it. I pictured myself in a bungalow by the Majorcan, Spanish coast,  massaging many an expat and local while living the Mediterranean life of Riley. But let’s be realistic here. Without regulations, what differentiates me from the young girl on the beach? I have two degrees, close to 3000 hours of experience (and counting) and CPR/First Aid certification. I charge a rate that reflects my skill level and education. She is on the beach, offering up massage for a bargain, which may or may not be effective because you have no clue as to her training. You don’t have to be in an economically stricken country to be attracted to a cheap deal.

I asked my 3 Greek friends how they felt about paying for massage on a regular basis. They all insisted that I could carve out a pretty decent living if I charged something between 40-50 EURO for the hour (55-65 dollars at current conversion rate). Although people’s wallets have been and will continue to hurt, the therapeutic need for stress reduction and balance to the body is strong enough to make the expense a necessity. It’s funny how attitudes change when in the midst of a crisis. Perhaps I should head back over the Atlantic to the land of  my people and do my part in helping them cope with an uncertain future while ironically securing my own.

Illness and Conditions

Lord of the flies

My enemy – the blow fly.

The intense heat and humidity that is August in NYC breeds all kinds of unbearable infestations. The rats in Chinatown seem hungrier, the mosquitoes travel in thicker clouds and the flies are relentless. Recently, I noticed a blow fly in my apartment and immediately swatted it dead. Within a minute, two more flew past me. Killed them too. I walked into my bathroom and about 5 were doing a crazed flight pattern. I freaked and began looking for the source of their entry. I grabbed a bottle of RAID and sprayed the bathroom, shutting the door behind me. In the bedroom there were two in the light fixture and three more on my windowsill. More spraying and shutting of the windows to trap the fumes. I left my home and upon return many hours later, I found them all upside down buzzing their last bits of life on the windowsills of both bathroom and bedroom. When I carefully inspected the windows, I made a shocking discovery. The entire outside screen panel was covered with clinging blow flies waiting for the second I would open up to make their way in. To say I was horrified is not a truly strong enough statement because the blow fly is not your regular little “shoo fly, don’t bother me” house pest. This type of fly is only present when there is freshly rotting flesh, garbage and raw sewage. Yes, blow flies are the ultimate FILTH fly.

The blow fly’s distinct characteristic is its metallic, shiny coloring in hues of green, blue or black. They lay their eggs in carcasses and corpses, which then hatch, burrow out of the body 6 to 11 days later and into the ground. They then emerge as adults 2 weeks after that to repeat the cycle all over again. Blow flies are the first to arrive when something has died. They can smell decomposition in its early stages from over a mile away. Forensic scientists use the presence of their eggs/larvae to determine a time interval of death. Amazing tool for them. Horrific house guest for me.  They feed on anything that smells like rotting meat and obviously rotting flesh itself. They are known carriers of such diseases as dysentery (extreme fever and diarrhea) and salmonellosis (Salmonella bacteria turning your insides out and for some people, death). Don’t let these guys land on any food or drink. Hence, my not really wanting them to hang out in any part of my apartment.

This all being said, why are these creatures in my home and how am I supposed to get rid of them???

Three likely scenarios would bring blow flies into the home. The first is a break and/or crack in a sewage line because the poop attracts their appetites. The second is not taking out the garbage enough, especially in summertime. The heat and presence of rotten vegetables or meat is a perfect environment for the laying of their eggs, which will hatch amongst the refuse and then emerge from the garbage can overtaking your home. The third scenario is a dead animal present in or around the home. Even a small mouse can produce a large number of blow flies. In my case, all three could be very true. The garbage cans containing mine and my landlords’ waste are situated adjacent to one of my windows. Although the lids are on, it is summer and as I mentioned before sultry hot out, which could be hatching up a swarm of these flies right into the easy entry that is my window below. I do not keep any garbage in the apartment and I am always wiping down surfaces with Clorox Cleanup Wipes. Last month, I had a mouse emerge from a hole in the wall. After a lot of cajoling and sleepless nights, the holes were plugged up and the apartment thoroughly cleaned. No sign of a mouse since and no stench of death. However, it is not entirely impossible for a family member of the original mouse to have died somewhere in the wall and through a micro crack, the blow flies are coming in. The final bit is the presence of two drains by each window that filter rain water and other natural materials. When you combine all three of these scenarios, it’s as if I invited them in.

Not wanting to become their Extended Stay America, I bought a bottle of bleach and a monstrous can of spray. I poured the bleach by the drain near the bathroom (the other drain in not accessible to me) and then sprayed the whole area surrounding that window with the insecticide. I noticed three blow flies lodged in the screen facing inwards. They were already dead. I then poured the remaining bleach down the drains in the home and sprayed near the plugged up holes. I was still nervous to open the window and aerate the apartment, lest they come in. So, I STUPIDLY suffered the fumes and barely slept. (WARNING: Inhaling the bug spray can cause respiratory issues (burning eyes, nose, throat, coughing, tightness in chest, etc) and in high concentrations neurological damage. It can cause seizures in children if they have prolonged exposure.)  This morning, I am happy to say, the window is now open sans buzzing.

I am taking this experience as a sign it may be time to find another place to live; blow flies uninvited!

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