Half Thai, half Mauritian, living in China, Jade is mastering her fifth language with the help of her Bolivian boyfriend, and works as a sort of freelance acupuncturist. She basically makes Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) more accessible to foreigners by administering in-home treatments and saving them from the hassle and confusion of a visit to a local hospital. Genius.
What do you like about your job?
“Helping people get better is very a rewarding experience. I like doing in-home treatments because I get an insight into the everyday lives of people from all over the world with so many different lifestyles in so many different situations. I get to know their problems and I learn a lot from them too, their culture and their way of life. I’ve also learnt to deal with those people who have had bad experiences or don’t like it. I accept that it is their choice. I love to help people, and get such a sense of achievement when they are back to optimum health.”
I first met up with her when I needed treatment myself. Acupuncture sounded scary but I had to do something about the nerve inflammation in my feet. Two months of regular treatment later, every trace of pain had disappeared. It was all thanks to her caring and reassuring nature, and all those qualities essential for health care professionals that seem to come so naturally to her – without which I would not have been found anywhere near needles. I like to think of her as Xiamen’s own fairy godmother, sprinkling around good health wherever she goes.
“Yeah, it’s a weird profession to be in because it’s kind of like I work myself out of a job. I work to help people achieve optimum health and when they do, it is a victory for both of us, but it also means I have to look for another client. So it’s a juggling act to keep enough clients, but it keeps me on my toes. Sometimes it can be really tiring as my acupuncture sessions can easily double as therapy sessions. If I feel drained after a session I always give myself things to do that I know will recharge me, like baking or doing crafts at home. I most value being able to organize my own time and be my own boss.”
How did you decide what career you wanted?
“At university, I didn’t think about my career, I just thought Traditional Chinese Medicine would be interesting to study. My father owns a pharmacy so I was exposed to it from an early age and it seemed an obvious choice. Studying in China was an easy decision too as universities here offer scholarships to Thai people, so I could study for free. In the beginning I kind of regretted it because it was very difficult. I was learning in ancient Chinese so it was hell for the first two years. But I had good friends around who supported me and that helped me get through it.”
“After graduation I did an internship in a neighboring province which was a crazy year. It was there that I learnt how a hospital works, got through many scary emergency procedures, and learnt acupuncture first-hand. It was the first time I realized I could do acupuncture on my own.
“When my internship was finished, I just assumed I would go back to Thailand or Mauritius. But my boyfriend convinced me to stay and try to treat foreigners living here in China. I was using him as a guinea pig at that time to practice curing his various ailments. My first real client was a guy who suffered from back pain- a symptom very common for tall people. I was still studying at the time and he wanted to be a guinea pig as well, insisting on paying for it. Becoming responsible for a patient and making my own treatment decisions gave me confidence and I realized “I know this”. My next client was a lady who wanted weight loss treatment in the comfort of her own home. And then a whole family for in-home stress treatments, and slowly, word spread.”
What does a day your life look like?
“I go out around the island giving a few treatments a day, then I come home to clean, cook, bake, etc. I live in a small apartment with my boyfriend who teaches at a kindergarten nearby and we have a good community of friends around us. I love living on my own schedule.
“We enjoy living in Xiamen too, it is safe and a pleasant place to live. I got past the language barrier quite quickly – because not being able to speak but also not looking foreign put me in a bad position and gave me no choice but to learn fast. When I moved to China, I completely moved out of both homes in Mauritius and Thailand and started again, alone. The people I met at the university were very friendly and helpful and I found myself actually struggling to get along with fellow Thais. I felt different from them and ended up having something akin to an identity crisis. “I’m not really Thai anymore. So what am I?” The people I most easily made friends with were also odd-ones-out. People who didn’t fit with any one group anymore, who were more comfortable in the middle, on the boundary line. My 7 years here have been quite an adventure!”
What are your plans for the future?
“I see myself sticking with this career for life. It’s definitely something that interests me. Eventually I’d like to set-up my own practice but if I were to do that it would probably not be in China. China is developing too fast, it is very difficult to buy land and I want a stable place that I can call my own for many years. As for where I will live? So far I have spent a pretty equal portion of my life in each of Thailand, Mauritius and China, but it’s the people you live with that count the most. I can adapt to any environment as long as I am with the ones I love.”
Do you have any life-lessons or advice you’d like to share?
“When you do something right, you know it is right because things start to go smoothly and easily. I read a book called ‘The Alchemist” which helped me make sense of life before I moved to Mauritius. It says it’s like there is an invisible guide helping you to be happy. That is how I live my life.”