Eat, Pray, Scrub

by  Laurie McAndish King

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Visiting Ubud, the health capital of Bali, I couldn’t resist tracking down one of the star healers from the book Eat, Pray, Love, and trying her medicinal concoctions.

Wayan Nuriasih’s shop was tucked away on a narrow lane just off Ubud’s main drag. The front of the shop opened directly onto the street; inside, Pepto Bismol-pink walls displayed portraits of minor deities, an illustration of internal organs, and a large photo of Elizabeth Gilbert—the Eat, Pray, Love author.

Wayan had smooth, light-coffee skin, glossy black hair, and full lips. Facing me, she began the exam, observing my fingernails and the lines on my palms. She pulled down the skin in front of each of my eyes and studied them. She lifted my arms skyward and briefly raised my blouse up above my bra, then pulled it down again. This was in full view of the street, and I began to wonder whether some aspect of my “body reading” involved entertaining the neighbors.

Next came a rapid-fire diagnosis:

Wayan: You have small gas, small bloating, yes?

Me: No.

Wayan paused.

Me: Well, maybe once in awhile. (It was a possibility. Perhaps I didn’t need to lose that last ten pounds after all — I just needed to get rid of the “small bloat.” I was beginning to like Wayan.)

Wayan: Do you take high blood pressure medication?

Me: No.

Wayan: Blood pressure low to medium. Need better circulation. Vitamin E low: Eat seaweed, beansprouts. Calcium low: Eat broccoli, long beans.

Next came a rejuvenating massage. I changed into a sarong and took a seat. Wayan’s two handsome assistants began rubbing my bare arms and legs vigorously with warm wet leaves, which quickly disintegrated to resemble soggy brown paper towels—the kind I associate with poorly maintained gas station restrooms.

Wayan handed me a bunch of herbs and told me to rub my face, “Like makeup. Stronger, stronger.” She mimed rubbing under my eyes, and I followed her instructions dubiously, having heard one was always to treat the sensitive under-eye skin with the utmost delicacy.

The next morning I was astounded to find the dark semicircles that had hung below my eyes for years had disappeared. The tender skin had not been harmed by vigorous herbal scrubbing; instead it was pale and glowing, leaving me looking years younger.

There had been many times in my travels where stepping outside my comfort zone had made me feel younger, but this was the first time that I looked it, too.

Laurie McAndish King is an award-winning author and photographer. A longer version of this story appears in the Wanderland Writers anthology Wandering in Bali.

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