Monday, December 7, 2009

Ragdoll and Baby

Ragdoll and Baby Simultaneously

Fellow blog patriots,

Sorry I haven’t written in awhile. I have been very busy here in Korea. I’ve picked up several hobbies: rock climbing(very big sport in Korea), learning to play the ukulele' yoga' Taekwondo(Soon I’ll be able to break wooden boards with my hands and fists),and trip preparing(I’m taking a much needed four day vacation to Japan for skiing in February).

Along with these very dangerous hobbies, I have also been assimilating to the Korean lifestyle:

1.Kimchi Maniac. If I don’t have kimchi at least once a day, I immediately contract a cold.

2.Workaholic. Vacations are a thought of the past. The longest vacation I will have all year will be four days, that’s including the weekend.

3.Pushy Spitter. I enjoy spitting on the street and pushing random strangers, as long as they are younger than me.

4.OCD. I have grown accustomed to peeling every fruit and vegetable I eat. Koreans overload their fruits/vegetables with pesticides.

5.Bower. Occasionally I bow to people, but I’ve recently been having some neck issues, so that Korean custom is on hold.

6.Naked enthusiast. I have taken a liking to Korean public baths.

Korean public baths vary tremendously. I actually went to the largest public bath in Asia (although I’m sure Japan also has claim to the largest public bath). The largest bath in Asia compared to the other public baths I’ve gone to is more closely aligned to a spa, thus it is named The Spa.

The Spa had dozens of hot saunas that were for both sexes. Mind you, we all had to wear loose fitting cotton clothes that looked similar to Taekwondo drab, except that they were an off-set maroon color. The Spa was equipped with a TV room(you could watch your favorite TV shows while overlooking the skyline of the second largest city in Korea, Busan), a smoking room, high-end massages and a workout facility.
And, of course, The Spa had the baths. Bathes are a place where women and men separate into their various sexes, get naked, rub each other raw and glee with delight. This is really where the story begins…

Now, being detail oriented and not wanting your imagination to run to wild: "The Bath," or should I say, baths, are wonderful and composed of a series of rooms with hot and cold tubs. The tubs have multiple water temperatures and switching from the extremely hot ones to the icy cold help with health problems and prevent future ailments. The pangs of going from hot to cold so drastically reminded me of jumping into the snow after soaking in a warm hot tub: the feeling is exhilarating, frightening and nippy.

If you have already forgotten this detail, I will remind you again: Everyone is naked and everyone shares the same large baths. It is imperative that you shower before you get in. On my trip to The Spa, an old woman actually grabbed my arm and began rubbing it to ensure I showered properly; the more she rubbed, the more she realized that my arm was a little oily from my massage earlier that day. A sneer crossed her face as she called me Russian.

Oh, I didn’t mention my massage earlier that day? Well, let me indulge.
First, Koreans are insane about their skin. They spend tons of money on cosmetic treatments for their skin and judge people’s beauty by the glow of the skin and the white porcelain perfection of it. Women and men exfoliate once a week with very rough cloths; they’ve done this routine since childhood and thus the cloth no longer hurts their skin. When you go to a public bath and get a massage you are being scrubbed with this catlike-tongue cloth.

In a public bath there are three ways you can receive a massage/skin scrub:

1.Scrub yourself: Public baths have small "stations of beauty" for this type of activity. I like to call them this because the stations are not beautiful, nor are the women at these stations. The stations consist of a mirror, a small white stool (again everyone is naked and women switch without sanitizing the seat),and a woman scrubbing herself to oblivion.

2.Ask a friend: Many women do this and if I actually had friends here I might do the same. I could just imagine myself requesting, “Natalie, scrub hard in-between the cracks,” or, “Vita, really put some grease in my scrub this time. Last time you went half-ass on my feet." Sadly, I don’t really have friends here that would do such a thing.

3.Buy a friend: I find this scenario to be the most glamorous of them all. Imagine a woman in lingerie taking you(remember you are naked)to a room full of other naked women. The room is reminiscent of a high school gym’s physical therapy room with a ton of rickety old massage benches and the smell of musk. They sanitize your personal massage table by throwing hot water on it.

They then push you down onto the bench like a rag doll and the scrubbing begins. Korean women love being scrubbed by these lingerie women or as I like to call them prima scrubbers. But, I had a little different experience at ‘The Spa’…

After being thrown on this unsanitized plastic bench they began rubbing me with soapy water and by rubbing, I mean they actually threw the soapy water on me. And then they scrubbed. It hurt. In fact, I’ve never felt so much hurt before.

The prima scrubber who was scrubbing me that day was a little ornery. She kept screaming, “You are dirty” to me in Korean and laughing with her fellow prima scrubber at my lack of scrubbing knowledge.

In between the scrubbing of my skin, my faux friend thought it would be nice to help me lose some weight. Some Koreans lose weight by hitting the fat on their body. So while this woman was screaming, “You’re dirty,” she was also slapping my butt, because it’s huge here. All of the anger she had ever felt in her life went straight into my butt. After I thought she was done due to the exhaustion of her voice, she began on my thighs with the persistence of Gandhi and the strength of her great, great, great ,great grandfather Attila the Hun. She colored my thighs crimson. This wasn’t entirely bad because at least I was on my stomach and no one could see me cry, but this sensational slapping didn’t last long.

Eventually, the woman threw me over to my back and began punching my stomach harder than Ali. At this point I started screaming “Ow, Ow, Ow!!!” Instead of stopping she merely mocked me and screamed back “Ow, Ow, Ow” and punched harder.
What a true friend.

After this humiliating and disturbing exfoliation was over, my faux friend changed her personality completely. She threw a bucket of water on me and then began to rub oil all over my body, massaging all the pain away and whipping my tears with an avocado mask. She was as tender as a mother giving a bath to her newborn.

To say the least, I went back, and I do so twice a month. Yes, you may call me masochistic (minus the entire sexual aspect of that word), but the extremes of rag doll and baby are just as thrilling as hot and cold water, confusion and understanding, and life in America and life in Korea.