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Tassarin of Many Talents

By: Stephen Carr

Date Posted: 2000-08-25

Tassarin Nemeth has an unusual resume. She is a qualified Thai masseuse, has been in the hotel trade, owned a restaurant, and worked for a medical charity near the war zones on both sides of her country. She also trained in making and fitting prosthetics and has worked in this field near the Cambodian and Burmese borders where there are many landmine victims.

Until recently she ran a well regarded Thai restaurant in Ishikawa, Bangkok Kitchen. Although the restaurant is now closed she still runs a take-out Thai food service from her home and does catering at parties and company events. At the moment her energies are mostly taken up teaching Thai seven hours a day at the Army Education Center at Torii Station.

When this commitment is over at the end of the month, she aims to open another restaurant, as long as she can find a suitable site. A possibility she is considering is to open a massage service as well as a school imparting its techniques next month.

Tassarin qualified in Thai massage at Wat Po, one of Bangkok’s main temples. She also knows the northern style and this is what she practices on her customers. Massage is seen as a preventative treatment in Thailand. A regular vigorous session by an expert practitioner is believed to be able to ward off illness.

In 1976 she was near the Cambodian border working as a translator in refugee camps, Khao I Dang near Sakeo and Panat Nikhom, outside Chonburi, for UNBRO an agency under the auspices of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees. These places were holding centers which transferred patients too ill to be treated there either to the nearest towns with suitable hospital facilities, or to Bangkok. Malaria infection was endemic in the region, though it was treatable. There was also cholera, which needed more sophisticated drugs and most who had it died.

Tassarin worked closely with the Thai military and enjoyed her job but in 1985 moved to the other side of the country, to Chieng Rai, in the Golden Triangle area where the borders of Thailand, Laos and Burma meet. Here she worked in customer relations on the staff of a big hotel in Chieng Rai, The Wancome, and several others in Thailand and Laos until 1993.

The next year she trained for six months in the making and fitting prosthetics for landmine victims. For the next four years she worked for Handicapped International, a French non-profit making organization. Her base was in Mae Sot and she moved all along the Burmese border. Getting them through Trat province, an area covered in jungle, was difficult and dangerous. Often the only way to carry them through this terrain was in a blanket slung from two ends of a pole.

Their horrific injuries were divided into “above the knee and below the knee. They were treated for infection and swelling and after six months, when both had subsided, patients could be taught to walk or hop on their stumps. In Cambodia and Burma crutches and false limbs tended to be made of bamboo and wood. Tassarin and her French medical colleagues used more sophisticated polyester resin creations,

A widow for 16 years, Tassarin remarried in 1998. She says she met her husband, a retired marine, at 7 am and he proposed at 9 am. She has been in Okinawa ever since.

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