Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Ancient Chinese Secret to Group Harmony

Posted by She Said

When Greg and I first got information on where we were going to stay in Beijing, we received some pictures and a link to the hotel/apartment where we’d be staying. After memorizing the apartment’s website about amenities, I told everyone I could, while showing off my crazy happy dance, that we were going to have maid service and have access to a pool and let the kids burn off energy in a kids’ play area.

Maid service!

(Insert Sound of Music soundtrack here.)

For THREE months.

I joked with Greg about seeing if we could stay longer. I mean, MAID SERVICE!!

(Insert the sad, sad sound of my bubble bursting here.)

Sadly, the truth came to us about a week before we left the States. The apartment we are staying in is a section of the hotel that has been turned into individually owned apartments, and are therefore not privy to the hotel’s amenities.

No maid service. Boo-hoo!

No pool. Wah!

No kids’ play area. Oh, what to do!

Before we left for Beijing, I was telling my tale of utter dismay to our friend, Andrew, who suggested that I get set up with massages while I was here. Greg piped in that he heard they were like 12 bucks each.

(Insert happy, happy, joy, joy music again.)

Oh, I was ALL over that. At home, I get a massage maybe once a year as a Valentine’s gift or birthday gift. But for $12 a pop, I was going to become so relaxed, the kids’ behavior in public couldn’t possibly get me to rock the collective harmony

My friend, Lilian, bought tickets online for a spa. Two of us for 134 RMB – that’s two, one-hour massages for $20.10! After a quick dinner, we headed over for our treat. I was very pleasantly surprised when we walked in to one of the most squeaky clean places I have seen since my arrival. Large, sparkly chandeliers adorned the ceiling, and a soothing water feature was prominently displayed in the waiting area. As with many businesses around here (other than the grocery market), there were far more employees than there were patrons. This translates to very attentive service, almost uncomfortably so.

First, we were directed to a set of comfy chairs and asked to take off our shoes by one employee. Then a different employee came and whisked our shoes away. After putting on our plastic flip-flops, we were directed down a long hallway to our room. Two massage tables, a clothing rack, a bench, and a table with hot water and cups made up this very spacious room.

Another employee brought in the hospital-like scrubs for us to put on, marking one of the first differences between my experiences in the States with massages and the one here. In the States, I always just left on my undies. In all honesty, I was happy we were going to get to wear something. I’m not overly modest, but hey, I’m like three times the size of the average person here. This doesn’t exactly bode well for my self-esteem level.

Two small-framed women walked in and directed us to lie down on the massage tables. I started face up with a hot pad under my lower back. And then as if she were trying to exorcise a demon out of my scalp, she started the massage at the tip of my head.

Prior to a massage in the states, I am always politely asked if I would like a deep tissue massage, a light massage, or something in between. I always want to try the deep tissue massage but it slightly scares and intimidates me, so I always relent with “something in between”.

Um, I don’t know how to say “something in between” or “not so freakin’ hard” in Chinese.

Sure, there is an instant translator getting her own demons exorcised on the table next to me, but I didn’t want to be the whiny American. So, I kept my mouth shut and used all of my will power not to grimace at the pressure being put on my head.

And that was just the beginning.

My masseuse then stuck her fingers in my ears. IN. MY. EARS. (Thankfully, they weren’t wet.) She lifted and pulled and massaged – yes, a very curious sensation.

Before we left Reno, I was regularly visiting a chiropractor for a curved spine and tilted hip bones. If I had known I would soon be lying on this table, I would have saved my time and money. Why? Because the masseuse did everything – E V E R Y T H I N G – in her power to get that kink out of my back.

This included yanking on my legs, a very thorough deep tissue massage around every disc in my spine, pushing my heels into my backside, and kneeling between my legs to massage all the fatty areas (ahem, my butt) around my hip bones. I was grateful to have my face stuck into the massage table for that part so she couldn’t see the grimace on my face.

You may be asking yourself why grimace? Why not just make some universal mad charade move for not so rough? Oh, because it hurt so good. You know what I am talking about, right? Where the pain is high, but the payoff is higher? Yeah. HURTS. SO. GOOD.

As we left, I tried to explain what Jello was to Lilian as a way of describing how I felt. See it wiggle. See it jiggle. At the time I didn’t think I would ever need another massage, especially of the deep tissue variety.

But then yesterday, leave it to the kids to make me break group harmony in public. I guess I’ll be going back after all.

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