Tuesday, January 23, 2007

From Purple to Brown

My feet were a lovely shade of violet a few weeks ago. Between uneven sidewalks, not the greatest shoes, lots of walking, and run-ins with other feet and bicycles, they have taken quite a beating. So, I started soaking them in hot water, in an attempt to at least sooth them. It was nice for the moment, but the next day the knot on the balls of my feet had returned, and by the time I walked in the door after work, my feet were often burning. They needed some TLC (Tender Loving Care).
I've been planning on getting a foot massage since I arrived in China. There are a bunch of storefront massage establishments that I pass on a daily basis, and I often think that one day I should join the others after work, reading magazines and newspapers, chatting or sleeping, as a Chinese woman works her magic. Massages here are not just relaxing, they are therapeutic. And they are cheap. The Chinese do a few things very well, and one of them is massage. And so today, on the spur of the moment, I ended up getting a foot massage.
Along with two other Americans I headed out to a relatively nice massage parlor. No storefront for me, this one has private rooms and two floors. And they do more than just feet. I decided to get the feet, to test the waters. We went to a room, and sat in big comfy chairs, sipping tea while we waited for our ladies to come in. Not long after, they arrived with wooden tubs for us to soak our feet in tea. Yup, not hot water, but tea. Sometimes they also have milk or honey, depending on what you ask for. After scrubbing my feet with a stone, the massage began.
This was the real thing, not some perfunctory pedicure massage. Sixty full minutes of foot soaking, scrubbing, and soothing. From my toes to my knees, she kneaded, pulled, hit, poked and massaged my feet into bliss. She even managed to work out the knot that has been on the ball of each foot for about two months. She told me about how a certain spot on my leg was connected to other parts of the body and so massaging it would improve my health.We chatted about how I'm learning Chinese, how my reflexes are quick (she almost got accidentally kicked in the face), and what I was going to do after the massage. And after the second foot soak (where she massages your feet in the water for a few minutes), she finished off and told us to rest for a while, and leave whenever we were ready. This is the way to live.
One of my friends got an upper body massage, and when she came downstairs she looked so well rested, it was amazing. I enjoyed my foot massage so much that I want to go back for an oil massage (full body). I'm going for the gusto.

Yup, my feet. Brown again!

The massage room. There was a flat screen TV on the other wall, so you can bring a DVD if you want. People go and get massages to hang out. They bring food, drinks, DVD's, whatever floats their boat. I think we are going to try that next week, get a DVD and hit the massage parlor for a last hurrah- before two of the American girls leave on Wednesday.

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