Coining (“koah kchaol”) is a traditional healing practice in the Cambodian culture that is thought to ‘scrape bad air’ to the surface. The name is deceiving because an actual coin is not used, instead a metal spoon is used. The metal spoon is used to scrape lines on the skin over and over again. As you can see in this video there is an oil used and then continuous scraping to create these red lines.
This practice is typically done when someone is ill or not feeling well. It is thought to bring the bad air to the surface to be expelled.
I had this traditional practice done on me yesterday by my host mom. In all this was a 40 minute process that started on my back. I laid on my belly and talked to my Mai throughout the process and she kept explaining how red my skin was getting because my skin is so light. I told her I wanted of photo of it so I could see what she was talking about. It looks far more painful than it was…the back was quite painless just very ticklish.
I thought we were just doing my back but little did I know that we were doing my chest and arms. I flipped over and prepared myself for the pain. If you think about it- your chest is far more bony than your back so a metal spoon scraping over your bones doesn’t sound very pleasant. It was quite painful but Mai and I talked more which was quite distracting. She kind of shocked me with one question…she asked me if I missed my host family in Kandal province (my PST host family). If you’ve read my older posts you know how much I love that family but that doesn’t mean that I won’t love this family even more. I just moved here and we are getting to know each other. But in that moment I wasn’t sure how to respond or where the question was coming from so I went the honest route and I told her “yes I miss them”. She asked me if I call them to which I responded yes again. Then she asked to see a photo so I showed her a photo of most of my family. I showed her who each person was and then she asked about their house. She wanted to know if it was big and I told her it was about the same size as the house we live in now. My favorite question was “did you know how to speak Khmer to them?” And to that I giggled and said “when I got off the plane I learned how to say ‘hi’ and ‘my name is…’. She laughed and laughed and laughed and then we kind of switched gears and talked about other things. I am still pondering where the questions were coming from. Does she think I’m not happy? Is she worried I am comparing the two families? Are my actions expressing something of discomfort?
I will continue to think about these questions and maybe one day when my language has improved significantly I will ask my Mai why she asked some of those questions. For now I’m incredibly grateful for where I am and the lovely family I was placed with. My Mai showed me her love through this traditional practice and from that I got tiger stripes and a beautiful memory.
From the Eastern Hemisphere,