Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Living in Korea (Part IV)

One of my favorite memories of being in Korea was of our New Years Eve that year. Lauren had fallen asleep early and the night was still young. The husband suggested that we go upstairs to play around in the snow on the roof, so we did. The roof had a ledge that ran all the way around that was about 5 feet high so we could see over the sides. We were having snowball fights but were feeling more adventurous. I'm not sure whose bright idea it was but we thought it would be much more fun to throw snowballs at the passing taxi's and cars on the street down below, so we did. After getting nailed they would pull over and the angry drivers would get out looking all around yelling, but it never dawned on any of them to look up. Just like when I was a kid doing something wrong (as recalled in a previous entry about my brother’s childhood pranks) I was so scared I could hardly move. I kept visualizing myself in a Korean jail and was paralyzed from that fear alone. Even if they had seen the tops of our heads peaking over the railing we still would’ve had plenty of time to make a safe escape back down and into our apartment. The door to our building lobby was locked and they would’ve first had to open the metal like garage door that covered it. Plus, we also had another locked door at the hallway leading to our apartment door. Regardless, I was still having fun but petrified at the same time and that's such a good combination. At first I’d watched their reactions but then it just got to be too much of an adrenaline rush for me to handle. I really was afraid of that Korean jail and fighting a serious urge to wet my pants every time a mad Korean man got out of his car screaming in anger. When I couldn’t take much more of the excitement I started throwing my snowballs over the ledge then sliding down with my back up against the wall, sitting there frozen on the roof while my husband gave me play by plays of what was happening down below in between his hysterical laughter. It was a night we'll both never forget unless one of us is cursed with dementia.

Judy was the volunteer coordinator who ran the cottage on base and this wasn’t her first rodeo. She’d been to Korea a few times before and was experienced and wise about her surroundings. One day she invited me to go to a Korean bathhouse for a "girl’s day. It was supposed to be like a day at the spa with massages and facials but the cost would be near nothing compared to what it would've been back in the states. It sounded like a great idea to me so I accepted her offer. Upon our arrival, I was shy and embarrassed once I realized that everyone was walking around nude and no one was even batting an eye. At that time in my life I’d never been to a spa or even had a massage so I didn’t quite know what to expect. Actually, I’ve only had one massage since then and still haven’t ever spent a day at the spa, except for a pedicure or manicure, and the spas here aren’t like they are over there. They weren’t as serene and definitely not as clean. Of course when you’re paying $10-$20 for “the works” then who can really complain if the facility isn’t a five star, right? We were instructed to undress and then to sit down in this big hot tub, completely nude, which was slightly traumatic for me at that point in life. We were then led to some tables where we would lie down, again still completely nude, before being rubbed down with a gritty green mask like substance. All was going fairly well, although I felt very awkward, until I saw the Korean lady who'd been working on Judy climb up on the table and then stand on Judy’s back. She started doing what appeared to be an Indian like dance on Judy’s back and Judy was making grunting noises with each movement like the wind was being knocked right out of her body. I was starting to panic as I watched but the lady working on me continued pounding on my back without missing a beat. The massage felt good at times but it was more painful and rough. There wasn't any gentleness to it. When the lady working on me started to get up on the table I stopped her and in my best sign language motioned to her that I didn’t want the dance work up like Judy had just gotten. Before my move over there I’d suffered some back pain issues didn’t want anything (like a 160 pound Korean woman) dancing on my back to make it worse. I was gracious but made it clear that wasn’t something I was interested in having done.

During our massages we were flipped from front to back for a full work up and Judy was a few steps ahead of me along the way, so I was able to prepare myself for what I could expect next. After the massage we were scrubbed down and exfoliated or whatever you might call it. This was when the green gritty stuff was scrubbed off of us with what appeared to be a flat, green, square shaped scouring pad that felt similar to a brillo pad or what you might find on the backside of some sponges. I’ve used something very similar to scrub my pots and pans. They were using this to scrub down our bodies from head to toe. I know there were no dead skin cells left on my body after this lady was through with me. I had no issues with the process until one of the ladies on another table got up to leave and another woman took her spot and they started scrubbing her down with the same rag that had just been used on the previous lady. They stuck it in a bowl of water and wrung it out and used it on the lady that followed. I cringed and tried not to think about it but in reality was thoroughly grossed out that I was about to be scrubbed down by a rag that had been used on countless others before me. When it was my turn for the full body scrub down I was somewhat ticklish and tried not to wiggle and laugh. As the lady started scrubbing me she moved her way up and got closer and closer to my rear end and to areas where I just knew she would soon stop going. Wrong! She kept right on scrubbing, higher and higher into places that I never even knew existed. This only made matters worse regarding thoughts of the reusable scouring pad, which had obviously been used on the previous person’s same hidden cracks and crevices (ICK!). I was literally frozen in place, unable to move, feeling slightly violated. We were then lead to the showers where I again scrubbed myself down before we dressed and left from our special day at the spa. In reality, that’s just the way they do things over there and that doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It’s just different. That would be my last visit to the spa during my stint in Korea.


teedee said...

I am laughing so hard I'm about to pee my pants. I can see your mouth open in amazement right now! The only thing that would've made this story better would be if a roach had climbed on your back to do the Indian dance. I am cracking up (no pun intended, crackgirl!)

Carri said...

Bahahahahaha! Yes, that would've been just my luck, too. Those things love me and always find me.
Korea did have roaches but they weren't riding size like the ones in Texas or Hawaii.