In the Heat of the Spa

I wrote as free lance European Correspondent about massage and healing techniques around the world for about a decade. I interviewed therapists. I got (and still get) lots of massages. I drank stinky healing waters and sat in hot mineral waters, cold mineral waters, and peat bog mud (really!). [1]

I was transformed into a human pretzel in Thailand and had my back walked on by a barefoot Hanoi therapist as she held onto ceiling railings.

I wrote the following article not long after I came to Germany…

Spa Mud Mask

My first spa massage: I had exotic visions of a sea algae wrap first, steaming fluffy hot towels wrapped deliciously around my entire body, perhaps a dip in a pool filled with aromatic, green mud. Sea Spa Salt and Mud MaskDon’t ask me where these visions came from. All I know is that when I made my appointment at Das Leuze Spa in Bad Cannstatt, Germany, this was what I hoped to experience.Spa cucumber mud mask

The reality was… well, more realistic. I had to wait a week for a time slot. There wasn’t any possibility of an hour-long or longer massage; half an hour was the time limit. Patients come with a doctor’s prescription and German insurance covers the therapy sessions. But private patients aren’t so unusual, and I had no trouble getting an appointment.

I showed up twenty minutes early as requested. I paid roughly $18 at the appointments window and, taking my receipt, wandered towards the spa massage rooms. I had some time before my massage, so I decided to look around a little bit.

It was the 4th of July in southern Germany and we were having the hottest summer in recorded weather history – which meant the hottest summer in over two hundred years. I looked longingly over the grounds towards a spa pool. The water looked so cool and inviting. But I was here to research European massage methods. Plus my shoulders had been killing me for weeks; I really needed this massage.

I turned back and saw a woman dressed in white with a name tag on her shirt. I showed her my appointment slip and receipt, and asked if I was in the right area. She smiled and answered yes, got a half-sheet from a hallway closet and led me into a treatment room.

“What do I do with the sheet?” I asked. “Climb under it?” It seemed pretty hot for a cover, but what the hey. How was I supposed to know?

“Lay the sheet down on the table and lie on top of it.” She smiled encouragingly as she closed the door behind her.

I looked around the room to see where I could set my clothing. The room had an open window that looked out on a pool, the Mineralbad Berg. I peeked through the doorway: the next room contained a huge tub. I must be in one of the two Quiet Rooms attached to every hydrotherapy room. I knew these Quiet Rooms are sometimes used to give massages, or the patients rest on the massage tables after hydro treatments.

There were hooks on the wall and a handy string bag in which to place clothes and jewelry. I looked over and noticed a wool blanket hanging from a rung. Just looking at it made me itchy. Why didn’t the rest of the world catch on to air conditioning or fans? Germans consider AC umweltunfreundlich (bad for the environment and energy drains to boot) but I longed for a waft of breeze. Anything to make the day less sticky.

There was a knock on the door and in walked my massage therapist. He said hello and began without ceremony on the bottom of my legs with effleurage [2].

“I like deep tissue work,” I said. “And my back and shoulders need special attention.” If he was surprised that I had a special request, he didn’t show it. My calves began to melt. He noticed they were tight. He worked his way along my hamstrings and used an inverted J stroke from my sacrum to my neck. There he somehow screwed his knuckles into my shoulder. It felt wonderful! How was he doing that? I hated to interrupt the massage by asking. I also didn’t want to distract myself from the way my shoulders were finally loosening up, so I gave myself mental requests to shut up and stop analysing the massage. Relax! He worked the right side of my back and then the left, and raked my ribs as I lay there prone.

I could feel my stress slip away. Then I felt something drip. Was he applying more oil? I didn’t feel a break in his massage rhythm. A few more drops came. Then I realized: my massage therapist was dripping sweat on me.

Water Drop Stock Image

Yes, it was hot as hell, he was working hard, there wasn’t any air conditioning… but still. Uggh. I suddenly felt squeamish. This had never happened to me before. Before I could decide what to say, he stopped and asked me to turn over.

He used too much pressure on my quadriceps. I had to tell him it hurt, and he eased up. The massage strokes were mostly a flowing effleurage that was quite penetrating and a deep petrissage [3], plus that same interesting J stroke.

Afterwards I sat up and slowly stretched my limbs. Everything felt good. The crepitus in my shoulders had disappeared.

I left feeling looser, definitely sweatier (and it wasn’t even my sweat), and thoughtful about the difference between massage as a professional medical service versus the tentative situation that still exists in some parts of America.

The things I liked about the spa massage? The massage was extremely competent, did me much physical and emotional good and was everything I could ask from a session with a skilled therapist. The facility is absolutely top-notch even without air conditioning. It has everything you could dream of: Hydrotherapy. Fango mud treatments. Wet and dry saunas. Therapies of a wide range and variety. The spa grounds are in a beautiful natural setting. At no time did I feel awkward, either as a foreigner or wandering around as I found my way to my therapy room.

All in all, my spa massage was a positive experience and one I wouldn’t mind repeating… maybe sometime when the weather’s not so hot.

Water Drop Stock Image

NOTES: [1] The spas of Baden-Baden, Germany; Pammukale, Turkey; Karlovy Vary and Marianske Lazne, Czech Republic, and Bad Kohlgrub, Germany.

[2] Effleurage is a series of long smooth strokes used in Swedish massage to warm up the connective tissues and underlying muscles.

[3] Petrissage may be squeezing, kneading, wringing or skin rolling, and massages more deeply into the muscles.

This article first appeared in slightly different form: Campbell JB. In the Heat of the Spa. Massage Jul/Aug 1995; 56:114, 117-9.

Go to my earlier posts A Massage at Wat Pho, Massage in Indonesia: Java, and Massage in Indonesia: Lombok for more on healing techniques around the world.

Photos courtesy of Drips are © Kirsty Pargeter | Dreamstime Stock Photos.

Write A Revolution

Interview with self-published author Jadi Campbell

Posted by Steve on December 2nd, 2013

This week we are delighted to welcome over talented self-published author Jadi Campbell, the creator of Broken In, the latest collection of stories that we have found extremely hard to put down. Jadi is a well-travelled writer currently residing in Germany who has taken her varied cultural experiences and moulded into her latest offering. We know you’ll love Broken In and our interview with Jadi.

Hi Jadi, congratulations on Broken In, it was a fantastically crafted collection of stories and we thoroughly enjoyed reading through the book.

It is enormously satisfying to be told that you noticed how I crafted the book.

The stories show how you can skilfully develop characters. No lead role is wasted and each has varying dimensions to their persona. What is the secret behind writing such strong characters?

Take the time to get to know them. In Punctured, for example, I knew that Jeremy’s wife Abigail was younger than he and quite shy. But something was missing and the tone (because this story is pretty tragic) felt terribly somber. I set it aside for a while and when I returned to it I had the key: Abby has a wicked sense of humor that only her husband is allowed to see. It gives a needed lightness to their story, and suddenly she became 3-dimensional. If your characters don’t feel real, allow them the time to develop.

Is there any part of the story or side to the characters that is autobiographical or taken from people you know or knew? I like to think that a feisty real life Lisa exists somewhere out there!

Thanks! I want to create realistic characters. One of my strengths (from what my readers tell me) is that as you read, you recognize yourself or people you know. No character is based solely on someone I know in real life… and all my characters are amalgams of who I know and what I witness every day in the real world.

Lisa’s experiences to Bangkok are my own and definitely autobiographical. But I had to express them through the lens of a 20 year old rather than my own adult age. It was fascinating to try and figure out what such an inexperienced young person would make of Bangkok’s chaos and decadence.

You split Broken In into separate, interconnecting stories rather than chapters in a straight-running novel. Why did you decide to approach the book in this manner?

When the Muse started tapping on my shoulder I wasn’t sure if it was she planned to stick around. I took the opportunity to experiment with short stories, a new genre for me. It was great fun and then the idea to base a novel on interconnected tales came from the story Surprises. I realized that I could tell the story of everyone of the characters in it, and the book was born.

Can you explain why you chose to call the book Broken In?

The term is active and passive: you break in new shoes to make them comfortable, and learn the ropes at a new job that way, too. But it’s also what happens to us. It’s the break ins, losses, challenges, and things that intrude on our lives or break our wills. I like the way ‘broken in’ is both ominous and promising.

Do you write elsewhere, like on a personal blog or website where you flesh out ideas and/or connect with readers?

I blog at and belong to 2 writers’ groups. We share works-in-progress and give each other thoughtful, honest criticism and feedback.

As the passage below shows, the dialogue and prose is often raw, direct and uncompromising. Did you write the stories to fit a particular genre or did you just write naturally and leave in, basically, whatever hit the page? Does this extract generally encapsulate your writing style?

“It was Steve, naturally, back with the same old bullshit. How he didn’t want to live life without me, and how he hadn’t slept in weeks. That part was probably true. He looked awful. At first I felt bad for him. But I was pissed. Who the hell did he think he was, sneaking around my yard waiting for me to come home, looking to see if Freddie was downstairs or not? Was he turning into a stalker? The little bubble of emotions I had left for him dried up right then and there. I owed him nothing, as far as I was concerned, nothing. Stalking behavior cancelled out the slate and left it dry. 

“Here Judy’s words took on the cadence of a carefully rehearsed speech.”

This is a great question. I wish I could leave whatever hits the page, but find constant revisions are the way to hone down to the true heart of a story. This particular passage is someone speaking, and dialog has to sound natural. I’ll write conversations and then read them aloud, looking for the rhythms of speech. I hope that the naturalness of this passage does reflect my characters when they are talking. As far as my writing being raw, direct and uncompromising (and thank you for that!), I shape scenes until I find their essence. I love writing descriptive passages, and seek the beauty in a moment or emotion perfectly described.

jadiIn JJ’s, the bartender and a teenaged patron plan exotic trips. JJ’s chef meets several men who’d kill for her. Valuables and peace of mind literally get stolen. Couples celebrate, or split up. In a rainy night accidents happen and people vanish. These are the stories of people whose paths cross – or crash. The tales begin in a bistro and move on to Bangkok, a carnival midway, and the bottom of a lake, among other places. Broken In: whether totally random or according to plan, after tonight life will never be the same.

What are you reading at the moment and what could you recommend to us?

I just finished David Eggers’ book Zeitoun about Hurricane Katrina. For fiction, anything by Geraldine Brooks is a feast. I recently reread all of Ray Bradbury.

What are you currently working on or what can we expect next?

I’m about 3/4s finished writing my next book. I’m at the hardest stage of the writing, and that’s figuring out both what to cut and how to join any still disparate parts together. It’s tentatively titled ThanksGiving. I have a third book in the works as well: a short story collection.

What are the major challenges that you have faced in your writing career?

Marketing. I did the writing first and the self-promotion afterwards. Aspiring writers (and all artists) need a marketing plan, or a manager. Preferably a manager…

What do you advise new writers to do? Best practice, writing tips, etc.

Join a writers’ group! The feedback of your peers is invaluable. And you’ll realize that you aren’t alone with your fears and hopes. Most writers create in isolation, so discovering others who think and feel like you do is a lifesaver in a sea of self-doubt. An added bonus is if you can find a group that likes to write together, the combined creative energies will inspire all of you! I meet every Friday with a group at a café and something wonderful happens when we’re all typing away on our laptops…

What is your background away from the writing desk and how did you get into penning novels?

I earned a B.A. in English Literature but wanted experience working in the real world for a while. I spent time in a San Francisco corporation in Marketing and Underwriting, and then became a massage therapist. I wrote as European Correspondent (great title, little dough) for a massage magazine for a decade. Took some years off from writing after that. Then the Muse returned stronger than before, and I’ve been following where she leads ever since. I still love massage work, so I’ve kept my hand (sorry, couldn’t resist) in a very people-oriented profession. It’s the perfect foil to the isolation writing demands.

Getting a self-published book noticed and into the hands of readers can be tough. Could you offer our readers any tips/hints or advice on promotion or marketing?

Send out emails to everyone you know. Start a blog and find your voice. Join a writers’ group that does public readings. Work to get your book reviewed: those reviews in turn allow you to contact fine websites like this one. AND – take the long view. It requires a year or longer to write a book; don’t expect to experience overnight success. It’s all baby steps and frustratingly slow… but each success builds on the prior ones.

What is your opinion on the power and potential of social media? Do you use the likes of Facebook, Goodreads, Google+ etc to connect with fans and promote your work?

I link my blog posts to Facebook. As for the power of social media, I find it’s a fine line to walk between developing a public presence online and giving away details about my private life. But yes, with the right amount of care the power of the Internet and social media can – and in many cases, do – help me promote my work effectively.

Who did you get to do your cover design, eBook formatting/conversion to Kindle and the like? And editing…was this all outsourced or did you do some yourself?

For the cover artwork I turned to Walter Share, an artist in Seattle. He has a website at I am hoping he’ll agree to do all my covers! My husband did all the formatting work. I edited a guidebook for a trusted friend, and she returned the favor and edited Broken In.

Do you read self-published work yourself and could you recommend any independent authors’ work that we may enjoy reading?

Valerie Davies is a British woman now living in New Zealand and writes a gorgeous blog filled with her meditations on life. Valerie’s stories are collected together in Chasing the Dragon: An Addiction to Living.

Where can readers pick up a copy of your books from and what formats are available?

Broken In: A Novel in Stories is available on Amazon all around the world in paperback and eBook forms. My blog provides a link to the books as well.

Where can readers find out more about you, and/or get in touch?

I invite readers to visit me at I’m also on Facebook.

Many thanks for talking to us Jadi and best of luck with your future projects!

Thank you so much for featuring me. It was a pleasure to answer your questions.

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A Visit to the Food Bank, Part 1

Pablo Neruda Quote FFLC

I’m hard at work on my next novel. You’ll meet a psychotherapist with a fear of flying, cult members, and a woman with strange dreams. One character visits a food bank. It’s a brief scene, one page or maybe two, tops. Easy enough. Nonetheless, the scene matters.

I spent hours trolling the Web for information. The back of my brain always insists, Get it right, Jadi. Then I remembered I actually know several people who work at non-profits… and I’d never visited a food bank. So, in the interests of research (and a wonderful excuse to see what a friend does all day) I made an appointment to interview Beverlee Hughes, Executive Director of Food For Lane County [FFLC] in Eugene, Oregon.

I thought I knew about the reality of hunger. Uwe and I travel to out of the way places, and God knows we’ve seen poverty and malnutrition in countries and regions all around the globe. But the visit to FFLC brings it back home.

  • Fact: 20% of the U.S. population lives in poverty
  • Fact: 46 million Americans are on food stamps
  • Fact: The number of people needing services has tripled in a decade
  • Fact: 1 in every 5 people in Oregon is eligible for food assistance
  • Fact: Oregon State has highest rate of childhood hunger in the country (29.0%)
  • Fact: 30% of children in Oregon are food insecure *
  • Fact: 39% of Lane County residents are eligible for emergency food assistance
  • Fact: In some Lane County schools, 95% of all children are eligible for free or reduced cost lunches

What do you do with these facts? If you’re Beverlee, you get to work. She and her staff of 58 achieve an astonishing range of goals:

  • Emergency & Mobile food pantries (distributing just under 8 million lbs. of food/year)
  • Emergency Meal sites & shelters
  • 3 Child Nutrition Programs
  • Food Rescue Express & Fresh Alliance (distributing 1 million lbs. of food/year)
  • 2 gardens & a 6-acre farm that grow food & build self-esteem. FFLC hires at-risk kids and through internships teaches them teamwork, punctuality, customer services, etc. Daily lunches at the gardens teach people what freshly harvested produce tastes like.
  • Extra Helping, food for low-income housing sites
  • Rural deliveries
  • Delivery of once-a-month food boxes for low-income seniors
  • A farm stand outside PTA meetings where parents can pick up food as they leave
  • The Dining Room, the food bank’s sit-down restaurant in downtown Eugene, offering free 4-5 course meals. They serve up to 300 meals a night.
  • Shopping Matters, classes to teach people on limited budgets how to shop for food
  • Cooking Matters, free cooking & nutrition classes to begin in January 2014


Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.

* Food insecurity—the condition assessed in the food security survey and represented in USDA food security reports—is a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.

Photo Copyright © 2013 Jadi Campbell. (All photographs can be enlarged by simply clicking on the image.)