Monday, September 29, 2008

Flashback: Korea

Byline: The Masseuse Who Tried to Kill Me, and the One I Love

So, since coming home, i've called upon my parents to take me to "Super King Sauna" twice including today.

It's as close to a Korean 찜질방 as I've found in the States. Actually, it was one of the destinations that I NEVER missed out on during my trips from home during college. It was the only place I insisted on going. Even the restaurants stopped mattering, but the sauna did not. Let me tell you why.

Not only is this modeled after Korean-style public bathhouses, but it's also home to the "DDEH massage". A fundamental part of this experience. Basically you're lying naked while an ajumma scrubs/exfoliates all the dead skin off your body. AMAAAAAAAZING. You have NO idea until you've tried it and seriously leave the place feeling light as a feather.

Anyway, this is the main topic of today's post.

But first, a short aside - I had my "Flashback: Korea" moment with an overly friendly stranger in the hottest of the whirlpool tubs. So I'm sitting in there talking to my mom about my weekend (PHILLY W/COLLEGE FRIENDS!!!) when a random Korean woman at least as old as my mom joins us and after looking at me for a minute or two, the following takes place (in Korean):

Strange Woman: Is this your daughter? (to my mom)
Mommy: Yes
SW: She has such beautiful breasts
M: Oh... um, thanks
SW: They're so perky and well-shaped, isn't she lucky? Although, if she were in Korea, she wouldn't want them that big ...

And it only got more ... for the lack of a better word, invasive(?)/interesting(?)/uncomfortable(?) ...

My mom is like me and is not a huge fan of talking to strangers or of fairly intrusive strangers w/no bounds.. so as soon as we could politely end the conversation, she turns to me and is like, WOW IT'S BOILING HOT IN HERE, LET'S GO TO THE STEAM SAUNA... (which makes no sense - if cooling off is the goal...)

Anyway, that was my Korea flashback b/c of the rudeness, and bluntness, and obsession w/others' appearances, and lack of propriety, etc etc etc.

Okay, today's main event, the two different ajummas...

After a few weeks of law school (ok, really just Legal Methods) my parents decided I was too tired and stressed out and took me to the sauna for a ddeh massage. This entails the sloughing off of the skin as previously described PLUS an actual full-body massage at the end.

THE woman who called my number was a new woman who I hadn't seen before. She assured me I would feel 1,000x better after the massage. She started off with the sloughing and it was SO ROUGH that I swear she was tearing off the skin underneath that hadn't even formed yet and some of that fat underneath my skin... NORMALLY gentle but repetitive rubbing does the trick of peeling off only the dead, dull skin and leaving the healthy young skin intact. Anyway, she kept asking me, "Oh, isn't this SO refreshing and relaxing?" with such enthusiasm and confidence I idiotically decided not to hurt her feelings by agreeing as best as I could through gritted teeth.

NEXT, the massage. SO, after ripping off all my skin, she starts to MASSAGE my raw skin. And I kid you not, this is the best way to describe her method of massage. It felt like, she had watched a couple VIDEO tutorials on massaging, knew what the moves LOOKED like, and then decided, confidently, that the key to a good massage was BRUTE STRENGTH. So she gave me horrible towel burn by ripping into my skin w/o taking into account that the towel covering me was supposed to move WITH me, not against me. And she continued to pretty much PUMMEL me and KNEAD me as though I were some dough she were ALLERGIC to and HATED with all her might. All the while, continuing to ask me brightly, "Oh, isn't this SOOOO wonderful?" and I had not the wherewithal to answer because I was concentrating all my might on gritting my teeth, tensing my body, and NOT squealing. It got to the point that any time she took her hands off me, I would exhale and relax for a split second until I felt her hands again and tensed up to defend against the onslaught of pain ...

FLASH FORWARD 3 weeks or so to tonight. Since tomorrow's Rosh Hashanah and two of my profs are Jewish, I only have CivPro in the morning. So I called my mom to ask if I could do dinner w/my parents in NJ, buy some groceries, and we could go to the sauna. I've been on the brink of a cold for a week and my dad's been on my case that a trip to the sauna will fix it.

So, we arrive in the sauna and my mom asks me if I want a DDEH massage. And thinking of what happened last time I'm all like, UM NO. But then she insists and as we near the appointment desk I see it's the woman I love love love!!! So I say yes please and then the receptionist asks if any of the massage ladies is ok and my mom started to say YES when I blurt out, NO, I want THIS ajumma (and thrust my chin shyly at the woman behind her who was smiling at me). So, they're like laughing and like umm ok sure ... and I'm like NO NO she's the best!!

And she is! She was the first ajumma I had here when the place first opened way back when (def at LEAST 2003, I forget if it was even before that ...) and she is SO wonderful. It never hurts, she's so effective, and she does all these little things that make a big difference. After booking for an appt 20 minutes later, I spent the next 20 minutes in expectant happiness (minus the awkward experience w/the lady commenting on my chest).

Long story short, one of my BEST ddeh massages ever!!! So gentle, and the massage was simultaneously soothing and relaxing yet to the point. She did all the little things that matter, remembering to keep me warm, putting my head at the most comfortable angle, tying my hair every time it got loose, covering my eyes securely so water wouldn't get in, etc. She's so great. I heart her. I feel so relaxed and wonderful that I've actually been writing this whilst fighting my droopy eyelids for the past - since I got back ...

So, good night. I will try try TRY to update more often. Just as dedicated as I was in Korea.
Will have to make this my new procrastination/break hobby instead of
hehe - good luck to all in school/new jobs right now =)

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