Tuan, whose name is pronounced “do-uhn”, is twenty-four years old at present, though many people apparently think he is older than that. Maybe the sighted community doesn’t see so well, after all! His father, born in 1962, died three years ago, leaving his mother, age fifty-five, his twenty-nine year old brother, and himself as the sole surviving members of the family. All but Tuan have worked for, or continue to work in the military.
Tuan went to public school through the ninth grade and, like any other student, engaged in the normal range of activities. He was particularly interested in biology and history and enjoyed reading the ancient legends coloring Vietnamese history, as well as those of other nations.
It was during his ninth year in school that Tuan suffered a serious eye infection of unknown origins, virtually losing his vision entirely. He is barely able to distinguish night and day, and is unable even to discern simple shapes or distinguish between one or two fingers held up close to his face. Anticipating some sort of dramatic response when I asked him how life changed after he lost his vision, I was completely unprepared for his understated response. “Not much”, he replied without any further elaboration. However that may be, what stood out through the rest of our conversation was that his description of life thereafter remained understated, matter-of-fact, and consistently upbeat. His beautiful mother would occasionally chime in with a comment or two. Her cheerful personality perhaps helps explain why, like a number of other of our staff at Omamori, Tuan seems constantly to be smiling--even when he’s not.
Though he lost his vision in the middle of the year, he continued classes until the end of the year. Unable to read at all, or take notes, he felt as though he was making almost no progress and decided to terminate his formal studies at the end of the school year. He then joined the association for the blind where he was able to undergo training in IT, Braille, and massage therapy. To this day he has continued using Braille and enjoys reading funny stories, books about health and Eastern medicine, and self improvement.
He took his first job as a masseur in a Tam Quat studio at age sixteen, opening his own studio after about five years. He became bored of the same routines after several years of using the same Tam Quat techniques and was experiencing low traffic in his studio. Also, finding it difficult to recruit additional staff, and wishing to expand his knowledge and grow professionally, he leaped at the opportunity to come to Omamori when he learned about its approach from a friend at the Association for the Blind. Here at Omamori, he has learned a whole new approach to massage therapy, but is given the freedom to incorporate some of what he learned in Tam Quat into developing his own personal style. In record time he has achieved the highest level of therapist certification and is now one of our valued Master Therapists. Toan says that, in general, Tam Quat uses more brute strength but misses the harmonious blending of pressure with the soothing, probing and stroking techniques employed by Omamori therapists. He has found beauty in the Omamori approach and is convinced that it promotes better health.
Beyond the opportunities for learning and a better income offered by working at Omamori, Toan has found, so far, that he hasn’t had to cope with some of the more unpleasant aspects of working in a Tam Quat environment that he had encountered during the years of his prior employment and personal ownership of a Tam Quat studio. Prior to coming to Omamori he had had to deal with several instances of people arriving significantly inebriated and behaving inappropriately. He also had begun to fear visits by people of the LGBT community due to having been abused by more than one such person. Fortunately, he became friends with a gay man and realized that part of the problem lay with the environment that was created in other studios, leading to the expectation on the part of some clients that this otherwise unacceptable behavior was okay in this environment. Due to the very different environment, clear signage and specific training of the staff at Omamori, however, incidences of this sort are rare. Toan says he has yet to have to deal with any such problem at Omamori.
A very different sort of learning opportunity has arisen since coming to Omamori. Blind Link Foundation is Omamori’s partner, responsible for many aspects of planning, development and training in support of Omamori. Together with the Ministry of Planning and Investment, Blind Link and Omamori have undertaken to provide training in the use of the white cane so familiar to the blind and to the general public in other parts of the world. Toan has been the beneficiary of this training, as well, and has found that the use of the white cane has made a big difference for him, giving him much greater confidence in moving around, especially after dark. Here, too, his basic attitude that being blind is simply a part of who he is has made it possible for him to use this “public symbol of blindness” as a valuable personal tool, remaining indifferent to, and oblivious of what others might think.
While Tuan has always had an interest in music it is only recently that he has learned to play the traditional Vietnamese bamboo flute. He sometimes plays with another of our therapists, Son and has gotten quite good at it. He wants to learn to play even better, however, and also would like to study some of the other traditional Vietnamese instruments. Other interests include Western chess and games for the blind that can be found on the App Store. One such game, Blind Legend has just recently appeared on the market and he has become an instant fan of the game.
Tuan’s constant smile and relaxed manner are consistent with his statement that, more than anything else, he wants people to understand that he is enthusiastic about life, comfortable and very happy. We believe that you will perceive all of this when you meet him. We also believe that these are some of the very qualities which will enable him to realize his ultimate dream--to one day have a wife and family.
We’re sure, also, that after a session with him you’ll feel happier and healthier, and may even find that your outlook on life has changed for the better.