Thang, age thirty-five, is married and has two daughters, aged 7 and 2. His wife, age thirty, and he, along with their children live in Thang’s family home in Huang Mai district of Hanoi along with his parents. His father, 64 years old, and his mother, 66, are both retired from the Vietnamese military.
Thang is one of only two fully sighted therapists working at Omamori Spa and is also one of our three Master Teachers. To be sure, there are many times when being sighted has its advantages. However, it has, if anything, been a disadvantage when it comes to teaching massage techniques to the blind and visually impaired. In fact, Thang tells of having had to blindfold himself--or simply close his eyes--to try to better understand the difficulties his students are experiencing and to think through better methods of teaching them. It is this dedication to and empathy for others that makes him especially well suited to his position as a teacher.
One of the first things that struck me when I first met Thang was the look of sincerity and concern in his eyes. Throughout the time I have known him and continuing through the course of our conversation in preparation for writing this story, that feeling has prevailed. It comes as no surprise, then, that he has ultimately chosen healing and teaching as his profession. As a child and during the course of his primary and secondary schooling, he tells of first being drawn to military service, admiring the notion of serving his country in this capacity. Later, admiring his own teachers in school, he was drawn to the notion of becoming a teacher. Ultimately, however, it was in observing the work of doctors while visiting the hospital that he became passionate about medicine and healing.
Upon graduation from high school he decided to apply to a private college of traditional medicine founded by an acupuncturist. Unable to gain admission on his first attempt, he applied to, and was accepted at a military college where he majored in IT, graduating in 2004. Though he worked in that field for a number of years he never felt that the work really suited him and once again, he applied to medical school in the field of traditional medicine. This time he was successful.
Thang’s particular interests while in school were herbal medicine and acupuncture (requiring a deep knowledge of human anatomy). He learned while in school, however, that to establish a successful practice as a physician specializing in herbal treatments it would be necessary to have a long family history in the business. It seems that the specialized preparations prescribed by the practitioners of traditional medicine are, in essence, closely guarded family secrets. Thus, one’s reputation rests largely with a successful family history in the business. Frustrated by this knowledge, Thang went to work in a clinic specializing in acupuncture and acupressure for a short time, believing that he, at last, would be able to work healing people. Once again, however, he was destined to be disappointed. He soon noticed that female clients seemed to be focused mainly on finding a male clinician and the male clients were looking to be treated only by females. Disillusioned by what he observed, Thang left the field altogether, finding employment in a completely different sector.
It was in 2016 that Thang, a friend of Nham, another of our Master Teachers, was convinced by her to come to work at Omamori Spa. He was deeply impressed by both the commitment of the organization to the training and support of its own visually impaired staff and by the professionalism evident throughout the business. Seeing this as an opportunity to build a future in both healing and teaching, combining two of his three childhood interests, Thang came to work with us in October of that year. He rose quickly in the organization, mastering all of the techniques offered at Omamori while sharing freely his own expertise in acupressure. Beloved by all the staff, he is like an uncle to many and even almost a father figure to at least one of our youngest recruits. He spoke affectionately of his experiences when trying to teach blindfolded, at times being tickled by one or more of his students or teased in other ways.
It is easy to imagine him in his fatherly role as he also talks affectionately of playing at home with his daughters, teaching them, and even other children in the neighborhood how to play some of the many games that he himself likes to play. These include Chinese chess, western chess, Top Eleven, a football management game, Othello and more. While sharing these interests with me, Thang once again demonstrated his affection and admiration for those he works with. He explained admiringly that one of the blind therapists who formerly worked at Omamori, now a well paid professional chess player, is capable of memorizing the chessboard and the position of all of the pieces, never having once had the advantage of seeing the board. He loved being taught by her.
It is said that the greatest teachers are those who learn from their students. If this is true then it is yet another mark of his maturity and potential as a teacher. His devotion to learning and teaching is further manifested by another of his uses of leisure time. He loves to read, but his consistent choice of reading material is medical literature. He showed me with great pride a book on chiropractic medicine given to him by one of his clients.
Thang’s dream is to become successful as both teacher and therapist so that he will one day earn enough to be able to use his money to help others. Though he speaks of doing this by establishing a clinic in his own home, we hope that he will change his mind and one day become one of the directors of Blind Link, assisting with teaching and training a growing network of younger teachers who will, in turn, train visually impaired and blind therapists for a growing network of leading spas all over the country.