Today was a good day in China.
No, actually today was great. The sky was blue (!!) after four days of rain apparently most of the nasties in the sky got washed away. The clear sky continued into tonight when I was able to count three stars and see the moon.
This was also the first day that I had a “Hell yeah, I’m in China!” moment. After class this afternoon, Alex and I met up with our new American friend Jen for foot massages.
I had heard about these illusive foot massages before coming here, all I knew is that they were cheap and wonderful. Jen has a massage place she’s a regular at, but she had heard of a different place and decided to test it out with us.
We walked into a lush gold and mahogany faux-pagoda style building. After climbing a marble staircase, the concierge showed us to our room. It had four loungers, each with a pillow and a soft blanket.
Within minutes we had plates of fresh fruit and green tea delivered to us. Then our three 20-something male masseuses came in with vats of hot water for our feet. They were very somber looking and got straight to business rubbing out our shoulders as our feet soaked.
Jen had heard that this place gave a full body massage as our feet were soaking. Well, it turned out to be a bit more involved than that.
After the most glorious 45+ minute foot massage, things got interesting. They started with our arms, rubbing, wiggling, cracking and slapping each muscle into a loose, untangled form.
Then the same routine moved to our calves, then our kneecaps, and then our thighs. (Mind you, this whole process was taking at least 15 minutes on each leg). I had muscles rubbed out that I didn’t realize even existed – it tickled. A lot.
There we were, three silly American girls crying from laughing so hard and our poor masseuses, who couldn’t speak much English, stared at us not knowing what we were doing. They kept pausing and asking, “You ok?” We nodded and kept laughing.
Things got increasingly uncomfortable as they crept upwards. We didn’t have any idea what they were doing or how far they’d go. Thankfully, we were fully clothed so things couldn’t actually get creepy. At one point, they were adjusting our hip alignment and from the side view, it looked like they were delivering our babies.
Don’t worry, mom, their hands weren’t anywhere they shouldn’t have been, but the scene looked rather odd.
Meanwhile in the background, the flat screen TV was showing a Chinese cartoon show with English subtitles that was explaining the history of Zhejiang province.
What a quintessentially Chinese moment; it was the first time since I’ve been here that I just basked in the absurdity of it all.
After our legs were fully tenderized, they started stretching us. Legs over our head, knees into our chest, hips opening and twisting – it was like déjà vu to my yoga routine earlier this morning.
Then we had to flip over. I think we all thought that the awkward phase of the massage was over and it was time for a nice back rub. Ha – we were mistaken. Once we were all settled on our tummies the patting and kneading began…
…On our asses. We all kept looking back and forth at each other making comments, laughing and wondering if we had actually gotten into a brothel disguising itself as a massage house
The kneading changed to pushing pressure points – still on our booties. We were laughing uncontrollably and Jen’s masseuse looked like he wanted to punch us. I mean, I guess it felt good – it was just weird to have a perfect stranger prodding around on my butt.
The second they finally moved on up to a more orthodox location – our backs, we fell silent. Ahhh, this felt good. I don’t know how long they rubbed, jiggled, pounded and slapped our backs but it was a beautiful thing.
When all was said and done, it cost us around $9 and my feet have never been so soft. I think it needs to become a weekly ritual, maybe not at that particular massage place, but a massage somewhere for sure.
Then Jen showed us around her neighborhood, which is very close to our university. We bought sweet potato chips and she showed us her favorite snack, a Chinese savory crepe.
The cook poured a thick batter over a crepe grill and spread it out paper-thin. Then she cracked an egg on top and quickly smoothed it over the dough. Within seconds she sprinkled hot pepper, lettuce, bean sprouts, cilantro and some golden brown sauce. She quickly folded it up and in the span of less than two minutes, we had tasty little Chinese crepes to snack on for $0.50.
To wash it down, Jen took us to one of her favorite tea spots where we got 20 oz fresh, cold Jasmine tea for approximately $0.20.
Jen showed us the bus to take back downtown and we said goodbye to our fantastic new friend. The city bus was dark on the inside, but the lights of the city were bright at the street level – a happy change to the inky sky out of our apartment windows.
Both Alex and I realized that China is a little less scary now on the bus ride home. It’s odd to think we’ve been here a week already, it feels like an eternity.
Tomorrow, two of our students are giving us a city tour and tomorrow night we’re going to be treated to one of the world’s largest fireworks shows over the lake upon which all other lakes modeled themselves after (according to ancient Chinese history).
Maybe Hangzhou and I will be friends after all.