It was the inspiration of Italy’s Center for Instruction of Lady Hairstyles (CIAS) teacher, Eleonora, that its’ most outstanding young students go beyond their normal curriculum boundaries to fully embrace the traditional wellness and beauty philosophies of other countries. As Bali is widely considered to be the spa capital of the world and its unique culture still upholds ancient health techniques for all the body, Eleonora’s first choice was the “Island of the Gods”. The Gods must have listened as shortly after arrangements were all in place for six of her best students, plus herself, to begin a four-week journey of discovery in Sanur, Bali with the Bali International Spa Academy known as Bali BISA.
She choose BISA’s popular Traditional Spa Rituals program as it covers all the techniques, methods and concepts that she wanted her students to understand and become competent at. The other factor was that it had been newly endorsed by CIBTAC, a leading spa and salon awarding organization widely recognized throughout Europe. This additional accreditation would allow the CIAS students to further distinguish themselves when they began seeking employment opportunities in Italy and abroad.
WEEK ONE – BECOMING FAMILIAR WITH THE SCHOOL, THE FOOD AND MASSAGE
Their first week kicked off with traditional Balinese Massage, a form of bodywork used for centuries by the Balinese for its therapeutic benefits. However, today it is quickly becoming one of the world’s favorite massage types due to its ability to thoroughly relax, and heal the body and mind. Given that the Italian teenagers were all new to massage and that there were 12 unique strokes to master, their lead trainer – Weda – was initially concerned about their capacity to master the theory and practical aspects in five days.
She was pleasantly surprised that the in-depth knowledge gained in their hair and make-up classes, along with their dedication to learning, enabled the pace to actually be quicker than the average BISA student. Of course, with their lack of English language proficiency it was initially challenging for Weda and other trainers, but they quickly discovered that these six bright Italian teenagers rapidly understood the universal language of hand gestures and facial impressions. They also diligently studied at night with their teacher to ensure that they fully appreciated the theory behind Balinese Massage and its techniques.
At the end of week one, all the girls were feeling much more confident and settling into the rhythms of Bali. They even adventured out in Sanur over the weekend for more Indonesian food for which they were beginning to fall passionately in love with as only Italians can do. They even become fans of Indonesia’s fiery sambal (chili) sauce which they liberally doused on their regular lunch orders of nasi goring (fried rice).
WEEK TWO – DISCOVERING THE DELICIOUS FLAVOURS OF BALI FOR THE BODY
Although they were all looking forward to learning about body scrubs and wraps, it was a complete surprise on Monday when they were presented with a beautifully prepared plate (called Dulang) of Bali’s fruit and spices. They initially thought it was a breakfast treat until they were told it would all be used to make the skin healthier, fresher, smoother and more vibrant. They quickly learned how to blend and apply them by taking turns being the therapist and the client, so that everyone could experience both perspectives. Che bello or “that’s great” the girls all delightfully exclaimed as they had the cooling scrub rubbed onto them. Even their tutors were beginning to pick up a bit of Italian exclamations by this time!
They were also educated about the theoretical features which was quite interesting for them given their backgrounds in beauty processes. The language barrier was also breaking down, so they passed their exams with flying colors.
With a focus on the natural, the week culminated with a session on how to make traditional Balinese offerings known as Canang Sari. These wonderfully decorative and colorful offerings are a special feature of Balinese culture. It is the simplest form of banten (offering) and is often seen at the front of houses, stores, temples or simply placed on the ground. Canang Sari is a small square or round basket made of palm or coconut leaf, filled with colorful flowers and a small amount of unseen stuffing.
Inspired by the island’s authentic culture, over the weekend they ventured to Ubud, the spiritual capital of Bali. After visiting the historic religious sites in the area, they took time out for amusement at Ubud’s famous Monkey Forest. They recalled how they had just been using bananas for skin care, and yet here there were so many monkeys begging to eat the bananas that they had brought along. They thought that they were adorable, but decided taking one home as a living souvenir would not amuse their parents, even if their diet only consisted of bananas which are inexpensive in Italy.
WEEK THREE – THE FACE AND HEAD BECOME THE FOCUS
Although they were amazed at how nature’s bounty could work wonders on the body, they were thrilled to discover similar ingredients could be applied on the upper parts of the body. They alternated learning how to use these organic ingredients on the face in a traditional Indonesian facial and on the hair in a soothing cream bath. When they were the recipients you could hear them screaming Favoloso ….. which means fantastic.
In addition to learning how to give and receive, they were also taught about the fascinating history of each. As aspiring hair dressers, they were really impressed how a soothing hair cream bath easily translated into the smooth and glossy hair for which Indonesian women are so renowned for.
By this time, they were also convinced that natural ingredients were a very viable option to an exclusively chemical regime. They were all super excited to explore organic possibilities back home in Italy.
It wasn’t just the students who were having fun as the models they practiced on at the end of every week also enjoyed their youthful vivaciousness and strong Italian accents. They found it delightfully amusing that they were all greeted by ‘Good Afternoon’ even though it was still morning. BISA’s regular models were all requesting sessions with the six girls as they were not only meticulous in applying their skills, but so wonderfully enthusiastic when practicing their English.
WEEK FOUR – A TIME FOR REFLECTION AND CELEBRATION
As teenagers they had the capacity to quickly absorb a lot of new information. However, they realized that intensive review was necessary in order to pass their tests, especially given the language challenge. Their main tutor, Weda, came up with the idea of each student creating their own quiz to assess each other with lollipops given for every correct answer. Based on their final test scores, this strategy worked as they all passed with high marks and they had fun revising what they had learned.
Once the finals were completed it was time for a further immersion into Balinese culture. To begin with they learned the pendet dance from the daughter and niece of one of BISA’s senior trainers. These two young ‘BISA trainers’ showed them the pendet dance moves which they effortlessly followed dressed in traditional Balinese attire. You can see by the joy and fascination on their faces that this will be a day they will long remember.
A more traditional ceremony was held later as they held their certificates high as their teacher stood proudly by.
THE VISION COMES TRUE
It was a fulfilling experience for their mentor, Eleonora, as she witnessed them blossom into strong and confident young women. She firmly believes that the extra experience and knowledge gained at Bali BISA will set them apart from other aspiring aestheticians as they seek to fulfill their own dreams. Furthermore, the experience gained by living in a foreign country has boosted their self-esteem, opened their minds and gave them the confidence to go wherever they want in their life and career.
Founder of the Bali International Spa Academy, Penny Ellis, was equally as thrilled. She has always been a proponent of setting young girls on the right track from an early age which led her to sponsor disadvantaged Indonesian females interested in the spa industry. Although this was a different scenario, she felt so proud of what the school had accomplished in such a short time, especially given their initially inadequate English and lack of exposure to the skills BISA delivered. As she is fond of saying… Good on you girls!
For more information on the four week program, please click here.