Massaged by a Steamroller

This weekend marks our one-month-in-Chengdu anniversary.  What better way to celebrate it than with a three-day weekend! It just happens to be Dragon Boat Festival here in China, which means Friday, Saturday and Sunday have been ours to do what we please. Since Thad is the duty-officer for the consular section this week (which also means I get to call him “Doodie!” for a few more days) we were not able to go out of town for the long weekend, but instead enjoyed some rather warm and humid days here in the ‘Du.

After a rather crazy first week on the job, where I am quickly learning not only my role within the consulate, but also a lot about State Department culture, we decided that a massage might be a fabulous way to kick off the weekend. Now, as we’ve traveled around Southeast Asia over the years, Thad has often taken advantage of the inexpensive massage options available, but until this weekend, I bowed out of each offering. It all just seems too awkward and uncomfortable to me. But, with a new city and a new job, why not add a new experience to the trifecta of newness? So, along with friends here in the city, we scheduled a two-hour foot-massage, which is really a full-body massage with a rather extensive foot bath included.

I was leery going in to this massage. I didn’t really know what to expect, nor was I overly comfortable with the idea, but I tried to go with an open mind. Granted, there were a few misgivings when we were brought these cotton pajama-like outfits to wear. They were hideous, but oh-so-comfortable! My brain couldn’t decide whether to rebel at the ugliness (and slight cult-like nature of the four of us in matching PJs) or to find a way to shove them in my purse to take home to enjoy on a nightly basis.  In the end, I donned my prescribed outfit, enjoyed it while I could, and then left it folded neatly on the end of the bed upon leaving. As comfortable as it was, I just don’t think I could manage to wear it outside the realm of the massage parlor. Sometimes appearance trumps coziness, no matter how glorious the coziness is.

I must admit, during the massage, I was pretty okay. The foot massage was great- I’d go for that anytime. The shoulder/neck kneading that occurred while my feet were marinating in what I can only assume was tea prepared on the surface of the sun was a different matter. Let’s just say that deep-tissue doesn’t begin to describe the depth of this massage. While it was slightly painful at the time, I stuck it out, as Thad told me that while it might be a bit uncomfortable at the time, the next morning I would feel fabulous. (Apparently fabulous means “crushed by a steamroller, but more on that later…)

All was going fine, by feet were fully boiled and scrubbed, when it all took a turn towards ridiculousness. Now, throughout the foot massage, I didn’t utter a single giggle. My feet tend toward the ticklish side, but I was able to endure the various implements which must have been purposely designed to make the foreigner titter. My maturity and togetherness quickly came apart though when after a decent back massage moved south and became a butt massage. Luckily, I had been forewarned of this part of the routine, so I wasn’t shocked by the occurrence, but I was forced to bury my head in the pillow as I stifled a laugh as my rear-end received a short, but strange massage. Thank goodness this was towards the end of the evening, otherwise I may not have been able to keep my composure until the masseuses left the room.

After paying what amounted to about $20 for a two-hour working over, we headed home. I mentioned to Thad that my dude was really into the neck and shoulder part of the process and that I felt a little sore. He told me to stop being a baby, which I assumed I probably was being, as this was my first ever massage.  That assumption only lasted until morning, when I tried to roll out of bed and became paralyzed by muscled that not only did I not know I have, but ones that I would rather not ever know I had! My upper back/shoulders/neck hurt so much that I had to do the old-man stumble in to the bathroom to check in the mirror to make sure I wasn’t sporting a full-body bruise! While my skin was as pasty-white as ever, it felt like it should be the raging purple and black of a blossoming bruise.

Needless to say, I spent a good deal of my Dragon Boat Saturday laying on the couch, moaning about how maybe a “foot massage” was not the best way to start the long weekend!

With my initial massage experience officially in the books, I am sure I will be making a few more visits to the parlor, as it is a favorite amongst people at the consulate and organizing a gathering or two there all directly under my job description. Next time though, I’ll be prepared. There will be no silent acceptance of the way-too-deep tissue massage! Call it being a baby, but that just hurt!

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