Monday, May 21, 2012

Strolling Down Memory Lane

A year ago, I boarded a plane to begin a crazy adventure in China.  I knew at the time that it would be weird and whacky and wonderful, and that I would be forever changed.  I just had no idea at the time just how much changing there would be!  As I prepare now to move on to another crazy adventure, I am reminded of my early days in Nanjing…I look at pictures, and I am taken back...
It began with 6 coworkers.  Plus 2 wives.  Plus 1 little Jack.  All of us took on this assignment without so much as a friend in town.  We six employees met each other for a few lunches beforehand, and some knew each other from past assignments, but for the most part, we were just coworkers.  During the course of those early days in Nanjing, that changed.  Instead of just coworkers, we became friends.  Well, we became more than that… we became a family.
It began with a weekly lunch – a chance to get out of the office and eat normal food, catch up on each other’s work lives, and break free for an hour a week.  From there, we added Saturday evenings.  We explored new restaurants and bars – some winners, and some, well, not quite up to par. 

We shared our stories – from the drivers, to the real estate dramas (OUT!!!), to the random street encounters.  We shared shopping tips, local interactions, and news about who was coming and who was leaving.  We found steak and pizza, and savored it as often as we could.  We shared our precious “American supplies” with each other (I will never forget Angie’s generous deodorant donation when my container was late to arrive), and went on an all-out quest for Doritos and donuts, soup and jam. 

We leaned on each other and laughed with each other, and those Saturday nights became a means of survival.
Gradually, we spread our wings, met new friends, traveled to new places, and expanded our circles, but we always came back to our family for the important times.  We celebrated birthdays, promotions, and holidays together. 
We made it rain fireworks on July 4, and we feasted on turkey and stuffing for Thanksgiving.  We had costume contests for Halloween and watched dragon boats on the lake in June. 
We sang karaoke.  We hung pictures and bought furniture and eyeglasses together.  We explored Nanjing and beyond together, with video proof in some cases!  We swapped rides and floated each other cash.  We organized activities and kept each other entertained and sane on those “China Days”.
We watched little Jack go from teetering and babbling, to running freely and talking in two languages; no longer a baby, but a true toddler.
We welcomed and entertained our natural-born family members from America, and we ensured their introduction and bond with our family in Nanjing.  We showed we were not just survivors, we were thrivers.  They gained comfort in the knowledge we were not alone…we had a family to rely on right here.
We shared secrets and tears, laughter and pain. 

We celebrated LIFE.
In February, we said our first goodbye when Ky flew the nest and moved back to America and an amazing new opportunity. Shortly, Golon will move to Thailand in conjunction with a fabulous promotion.   And for me, as I prepare to say my own farewell to Nanjing to being my new adventure in Shanghai, I can’t help but think back to those first Saturday nights and that group of 8 wide-eyed adults that arrived last spring.  And I smile when I think about just how far we’ve come…and how much better my life in China has been because of them.
So, to Angie, Pete, Gordon, Carol (the other Diva!), Golon, Matt, and Ky, I raise a glass and thank you for embracing me into your lives!  Nanjing would never have been the same without you!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Carms in China

I know it's been a while, but I've been busy! This story has been developing for the past several weeks. 

My mom has been living it up in China.  And I couldn't be prouder.

When she first announced a 3 month visit, everyone wondered, "what will she do all day?!".  I knew I'd be taking some vacation when she was here, but I also assumed she'd be lunching with my non-working friends, shopping with the "wives" in the ex-pat malls, and just relaxing.

Not Carms.


In the 9 weeks since she arrived, we've amassed over 4 weeks of just traveling outside of Nanjing.  Within China, so far, we have toured Beijing, Nanjing, Shanghai, Suzhou, Dong Yang, Yicheng, Chengdu, Ya'an, Le Shan, and Chongqing. 

We also spent 2 weeks in Thailand touring Ayutthaya, Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, and Bangkok. 

Still to come are Yunnan, Xi'An, and Hong Kong.  I'm exhausted, but she keeps on going!

She has climbed every monument, Wall, and mountain in her path.  She's boarded boats, planes, elephants, funiculars, and sky trams.  She's bonded with Buddhas, monkeys, tigers, leopards, pandas,  and of course Harley.

So what is she doing the rest of the time???

Well, in the 4-5 weeks that she's been home in Nanjing, she has managed to:

  • Find a hair salon and explain how to cut and color her hair.  It only took 3 co-workers, my driver, and 2 people at the salon to get the message across, but she did it!
  • Go back for a second haircut and color… no problems!
  • Locate a wet market near my apartment and befriend Vendor #20.  Apparently, her eggplant is the best.
  • Shop for all of the hard-to-find ingredients to make an Italian dinner for 15.
  • Cook said dinner in a table-top oven that is just slightly larger than a toaster oven (2 lasagna pans max!)...while dressed as Julia Child!
  • Befriend Pepe, the owner of the local Italian joint, Ciao Italia.  They lunch together regularly now
  • Take cooking classes in-home and out. 
  • Give cooking classes to Wei Ayi.  I'm eating a lot of eggplant parm!
  • Buy an entire local "Chinese" outfit at prices that make a local proud
  • Test out the medical facilities in Nanjing – excellent gurneys and fluids (it was a LONG first 2 weeks!)
  • Walk around Xinjiekou haggling with street vendors for everything from fruit to scalp massagers
  • Meet me for lunch a few times near work – It's so nice to get out during the day (no offense to the guys at work, but sometimes, I need girl time)!
  • Find a Catholic Church in Nanjing and somehow request a priest to give her Holy Communion outside of Mass
  • Visit a K-TV
  • Buy bras – a story unto itself!
  • Find her way to a nail salon, and get a manicure and pedicure without problem
  • Visit with Pedro!
  • Try street food (crabs on a stick!), camel, Chinese lamb, and Chinese cake
  • Learn to use chopsticks
  • Find her way to a local bakery – another set of new friends – and find her new favourite treats
  • Host my Chinese neighbors for coffee… and never have a lapse in conversation!
  • Fill my freezer with yummy treats for after she leaves!

She really is remarkable.  She didn't need a babysitter, and she is making her own friends everywhere she goes!!!  Her independence is awesome!  I'm so blessed to have those genes from both she and my dad.

Wei Ayi makes sure there are fresh lilies in Mom's room every week, and never lets her leave the house without a jacket.  She is devastated that "Mama" is leaving so soon and not returning for 9 months... 

Zheng Kai, on the other hand, is relieved that come January, he regains his afternoon naps and his command post pushing the grocery cart...

I wish everyone had the chance to get to know Carms and spend time with her in China.  My mom is such a warm, caring, and genuine person.  Almost everyone who met her found themselves smiling just being around her…



She is embracing China and all who live here.  In 2 months, Carms became more "local" than any ex-pat I know!  Truly an inspiration.

Thanks for reading!

I leave you with my personal favorite...
Carms, the Exchange Student!!

Zai Jian...

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Pedro and his Posse… and a Bunch of Other Thoughts

Many of you have been asking me about "Pedro".  I know haven't written about him in a while, but frankly, I haven't written much at all lately - there's been too much going on!

I promise to do better...

As for Pedro, I have not seen much of the man lately, sadly...but I do have a massage story or two for you…

But first, you have to suffer through the background.  I dislocated my shoulder a few weeks back.  I went to take Harley for his morning constitutional, and I threw on a pair of flip flops for the venture.  I unlocked the door and saw that it was raining.  These particular shoes usually skid a little on the ceramic tiles under the awning, but once I hit brick (about 4 feet away), I'm fine.  So, even though it was raining, I saw no need to turn back.

Unfortunately, someone brilliantly decided that dry ceramic needed to be mopped on a rainy day.  So, I opened the door, took a step, and went down like a cartoon cat on a banana peel.  Gracefulness is not a gift I can claim, so I can only imagine what I looked like.  It was especially nice of Harley to not even look back, but head straight for the trees, pulling my beaten body with him.

I went one way, and my arm went another.  Seering pain shot through me.  I managed to get my arm back in place (Mel Gibson has nothing on me), despite the woman who was grabbing it to try to help me up.  How do you say "Don't touch my arm!" in Chinese?  You don't… you scream and slap at the offender.  After putting my arm in my spare sling (sadly, I keep one around for just such an occasion), I went to work. 

A few days later, it was still a little wobbly, so I went to visit my friend Maryann, the international doctor.  I needed a firmer sling, and I wanted her to double check that I put it back in place properly.  She sent me to the Chinese hospital for x-rays.  I was hoping to avoid a hospital during my stay here.  After my mom's emergency surgery in Egypt during our vacation last year, I'm a little jaded on the medical system in developing nations.

The hospital was so depressing.  There was an entire open-air room near the front dedicated to blood transfusions.  Row after row of chairs and gurneys with drips attached.  There were gurneys full of elderly people lined up down the hallways.

The x-ray section was depressing in a different way.  I bypassed all of the locals who were waiting there, simply because I am a foreigner.  Nice for me, but I felt horrible for them.  I was ushered into a state-of-the-art x-ray room, where I was given a lead waist apron to wear.  I felt so exposed everywhere else, but I don't remember if this is normal in the US as well.  I just felt (mentally) the radiation shooting through my chest.  There is NO WAY this could be good!

Afterward, I was given my new sling from one of the nurses dressed like a Chinese Florence Nightingale.  It consisted of a square of fabric, tied in a knot at the elbow and in another knot around my neck.  I felt like an extra from the set of M*A*S*H.  And I looked it too!  But thank God, all was fine and it just needed to heal.

I was aiming for pathetic with
this picture... how'd I do?
So, I took a few weeks off from visiting Pedro to let myself heal.  I had a hard time managing for the week I was slinging – it's really hard to type when your dominant hand is becoming intimately familiar with it's opposite breast.    Eating with chopsticks is not natural to begin with… I was forced to do it with my wrong hand…  I was flicking peanuts everywhere!

Any who… after babying the arm for a while, I decided to go to Shanghai for a weekend to get my hair cut and colored.  I know, it sounds nuts, but I did not trust a salon in Nanjing (NJ), and I had heard horror stories of blue hair and fried ends…

So off I went to spend the weekend with my buddy, Steve, so that another Steve could make me beautiful.  His exact words were "your color is scrumptious, and the texture is delicious!"  But I digress….. 

While in Shanghai, Steve (friend, not colorist) and I opted to get foot massages from a local place.  Enter the obligatory watermelon and tea.  Enter the half barrel full of warm water.  Enter the 2 men to rub our feet. 

Steve's masseuse (we'll just call him Chatty Chang) would not hush.  Steve and I each had our magazines and we really didn't even want to talk to each other.  But Chatty Chang was all about the dialogue.  Non-stop questions…so not relaxing!  Fortunately, I was able to hide behind my magazine while Steve played 20 questions with Chatty.

Steve wanted a woman masseuse, but I insisted that he have a man do the job – they do better work, in my (self-declared) expert opinion.  Unfortunately, Steve's a wimp, and Chatty was apparently inflicting more pain than he could bear.  When Steve advised Chatty of this pain in his foot, Chang replied – "well I have to do this to get rid of your fat belly."

So many thoughts went through my head at that moment. 
·    First, "where do I spit my tea?"  Steve's face was PRICELESS!
·    Second, "WTF is he talking about?  Pedro's been abusing me for weeks and I haven't lost a flipping pound!"
·    Third, "WTF has Pedro been doing wrong that I haven't lost a pound?"
·    Fourth, "OMG – what must this guy think while he's working on my feet?  Tackling my petroleum belly must be like a mission to conquer Everest!"
·    And finally, "Seriously, where the hell do I spit my tea?!?!!?!"

I thought that just might top my massage humiliation …. But no, it's not even close.

The next week, I went back to visit with Pedro but he wasn't there.  So, one of his coworkers, The Replacement, came to do the job.  It was going fine, but he didn't have Pedro's touch.  What can I say?  I grew accustomed to the man!  So, rub this, knead that, blah blah…

Then he flipped me over.

Have you ever tried to open a Snapple bottle by thrusting the heel of your palm upward at the bottom of the bottle, thereby forcing enough pressure to pop the air seal? 

Well, that Snapple bottle was my body.  And that bottom was MY bottom.  And when the heel of his palm met the tail of my bone, the air seal popped completely – I actually burped. 

Heretofore, The Replacement shall be named Sadie.  Because, much like a 1950's housewife, he burped me like a Tupperware.

Steve's probably going to read this and gloat that his belly fat discussion doesn't really look too bad now. 
And if he ever says as much, I might have to stab him with a sharp pencil.  And I think I'd be justified in doing so.

And in case you were wondering…even after THAT move, my belly fat remains intact....


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Drunk Diva

I’m prefacing this blog with two comments: a) I’m drunk.  And b) I apologize that I have so many entertaining blogs to write, yet THIS is what I’m choosing to document now.
In the immortal words of Bugs Bunny:  On with the show, this is it….

Well, it finally happened.  I got drunk in front of Mr Zheng.
When you live in an ex-pat environment where you have a driver, at some point you realize that you are in this vehicle you own with a virtual stranger every single time you get in the car.  And you get over it.
When I lived in NY, I commuted on the 6:59 AM LIRR train from Wantagh to Penn Station every morning.  And every morning, I stood in the same spot on the platform, and I got in the same car, and I sat in the same 5 person seat section.
Also every morning, the nice man I named “Nose Hair” (really, there’s no subtlety here), got in the same car at the Bellmore Station and sat across from me, reading the Wall Street Journal.  To this day, I can no longer read a newspaper without folding it as he taught me.  Curiously, I watched this man every single morning, reading his paper, drinking his coffee.  I started my job in January 1998.  It took until May before we acknowledged each other’s presence despite seeing each other every single morning.  And even then, we would smile, nod, and go back to our tasks – he to his newspaper, me to whatever I was reading, crocheting, or paying.
Fast forward 3 years to when I moved to Michigan.  Strangers did not invade my car; I drove the Southfield in virtual anonymity.  I had whatever emotion I chose, in my car, with my music, and at my control.  Quite different from the days of Nose Hair and me (or I?).
Fast forward 10 MORE years to present day Nanjing.  Here, I live a hybrid of my past lives - I am in a space with a virtual stranger every single day.  Only this time, my life is in the hands of said stranger, and he’s in my vehicle.
Poor Zheng-y….he didn’t know what a nutcase he was getting stuck with!!!
The man has witness me happy, sad, confused, angry, pensive, exhausted, ill, relaxed, anxious, busy, and even gimping with my arm in a sling.  But today, he saw me drunk. There are many phases to “Drunk Rita”…he got the adorable one (thank God!). 
Alcohol seems to be a way of life in China.  I NEVER drank this much in my college or immediately thereafter, and yet’s a norm.  Dinners, nights out, etc. all seems to revolve around the drink. I think it’s because of the lack of movie theaters, live performances, and salty popcorn.  Just a theory….
 As a closet stress manager, I needed wine tonight.  I had what I’ve dubbed, “Circular Logic Tuesday”, and I was done.  Beaten down.  Dragging my tail.  So, I called on Matt, another ex-pat who is amazing at listening on my “wow-I-need-wine” days.  We went to a nice German restaurant, Secco, where we enjoyed a quiet dinner and I consumed a lot of alcohol. 
WHO ARE YOU TO JUDGE ME!!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!
As I said, alcohol seems to be prevalent among the ex-pats here.  In my drunken haze, I find this humorous…  I won’t soak in a tub of the water here.  God help me if I don’t sanitize every piece of fruit before I consume it.  And I keep a bottle of water next to my toothbrush so I don’t wash with tainted water.  Mr. Zheng changes his shirt every afternoon so I am not subjected to second-hand smoke, and yet… I am pickling my liver as a sometimes daily means of survival.
Go figure….
I’ll leave that to the sober brainiacs to debate… I’m too tired and too buzzed right now… but at least I led the horses to water, right!?!
Anywho… back to Zheng-y…
That poor man…. I left work tonight and said to him:  “Jin tian bu hao” – my warped form of “today sucked”.  Then I raspberried like Archie Bunker (you youngsters who don’t get the reference – keep it to yourselves and look it up on Wikipedia!) to emphasize the point.  He knew he was in trouble.
At some point after my bottle of Chilean wine, I vaguely recall asking Matt to translate that I wanted to put Zheng-y in a take home container (da bao) and ship him to America (Mei Guo).    For some reason, Matt couldn’t think of the Chinese for “Crap Ass Day”, so I raspberried again to show Mr Zheng how bad it was.
That poor man!
After Matt left, I also think I told Zheng-y that his lao ban (Boss) is crazy and needs a vacation (jia qi).  And that he needs a vacation from me. 
He told me I was in a ‘Mood’ (from his dian hua translator on his phone) and he promptly deposited me in the parking garage at my apartment, so I didn’t have to stumble home above ground, in front of the guards.
This is a virtual stranger who is welcome in my car ANYTIME.
I just hope I can look him in the eye tomorrow morning!!!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Guilty Pleasures...

Last Sunday, I stayed up late rearranging furniture and cleaning corners.  I made sure cabinets were empty, the doorway was clear, and that Wei Ayi was on schedule for 8AM sharp. 

I went through the preparations again and again, painstakingly identifying each line item with a 1, 2, 3, or 4.  I got Harley's bone ready.  I prepped my clothes.  I took a shower.  Finally, at 12:30AM, I was ready.  I had done all I was in God's hands now....

I collapsed into bed exhausted, but sleep was erratic.  I was too excited; too nervous to sleep.  I had the first-day-of-school jitters.

Monday morning, I jumped out of bed at 6 (that NEVER happens!), I paced and looked out the window every 30 seconds.  Wei Ayi did laundry and randomly cleaned things.  She, too, was trying to contain the excitement.  The suspense was killing us!

Finally the phone rang - it was here!  I locked Harley in the office with a bone and some water.  I ran to the window and started snapping pictures. 

Santa Claus had arrived.... a Chinese Santa, driving, not a sleigh (heavens, in this heat?!!?!?),  but a truck.  A truck with a container.  MY CONTAINER.  The one I packed 8 weeks and 8 million miles ago in Michigan!!! 

See, everyone told me it would be like this, but I didn't believe them.  The day the sea container arrived is truly like Christmas!! 

I grabbed my list - 130 boxes to be placed in Yi (guest room and general box drop off), Er (Rita-mart storage room), San (master bedroom and office items), and Si (everything for the upstairs).  I was a machine.  The box number was called out; I shouted the number of the room, and off the mover went.  At one point there were 4 men inside the apartment and 3 more running hand carts up and down the elevator.  For 2 hours this went on - Yi! San! Yi! Si! Er! Si! Er!   It was a work of art...a well orchestrated OCD dream...

After 2 hours of moving the boxes and furniture into the room, the unwrapping began.  Seven workers went room to room, ripping open the paper around things, slicing open the boxes, throwing the now empty boxes back into the hall and down the elevator.  For the next 2 hours, they opened every box, and I looked inside at every treasure.  I laughed at some, cried over others, and was puzzled by a few things (I really packed THAT?!).

The dog food boxes came in, as did the "kitty litter" - Anu's genius idea.  Immediately, they were unpacked and placed in the tubs that awaited them.  Enough soap to survive the apocolypse was put in the empty cabinets under the sinks.  Everything had a place, and Wei Ayi seemed hell-bent on finding it!

The workers assembled the shoe rack (yes, I packed the rack!), and Wei Ayi found a box of shoes and began filling it.  They opened the mirror box, and it was immediately placed on the easel in the living room.  The trunks were unwrapped and stacked, and my bed was assembled.  I found sheets and a dust ruffle and the comforter and immediately put the bed together.  It didn't matter that the room was floor to ceiling in boxes, I wanted to have a made bed (it helped that I was able to eliminate 3 pillow boxes in the process!) to have some sense of stability.

At 12 o'clock, all that remained for the workers was to bring the couch upstairs.  The loveseat had already gone up...only the sofa was left.  They were reluctant, so they added it to my living room instead.  Clearly, this was against the carefully organized plans.  I looked at the one in charge, Arnold, my former trainer, and advised him - "This is a moving company - it's time to get creative and start moving! I don't care if you hoist it up over the railing and bring it in through the deck -- that couch is going upstairs!" 

I was less pleasant the second time when I explained exactly where the couch would go if he chose not to have the workers bring it up the stairs.  He hemmed, he hawwed, he tried to save face.  I was sore, sweaty, and tired of his crap.  I stopped being my rational pleasant self and went a little New York on him. 

Guess who won the battle of the couch? 

(Fiesty b**ch 1; Lazy movers 0)

After the movers left, Wei Ayi and I went to town.  We unloaded 100 boxes the first day.  A worker in the building paid us 45 RMB for the empty boxes.  During the week and the next weekend, we finished the rest.  Another 25RMB was given to me to rid my home of all remaining cardboard memories of the move...Not bad - I didn't have to deal with the boxes, and $11 pays for a massage!

Now that everything is here and I'm settled in, I think back on the 2 months (!) since I moved.  I went 3 nights without a sheet and 2 weeks without a blanket or real pillows.  I lived 2 months without a television in my bedroom.  I did without pots for 2 weeks, and I lasted 8 weeks without needing a converter. 

And really, it wasn't a sacrifice.  And I really didn't miss anything that much. 

So many of the things I thought "essential" to my survival turned out to be luxuries.  I didn't need a collection of DVDs - I still haven't gotten through the ones I bought during my first week here.  I didn't need a full set of pots, dishes, etc.  Most went straight into storage.  And I didn't need to pack 15 boxes (!!!) of clothes.  I packed over 40 pair of black socks and 35 sweaters!  Not to mention the sheets, towels and canned goods I just HAD to bring with me...

I see what I was able to do without and not miss, and I think about what the people here have never even contemplated.  40 pair of socks to a local is not a luxury, it's stupid and wasteful; a squandering of money.  Even Wei Ayi laughed and shook her head at the box-o-briefs she unpacked... 75 pair of underwear for 1 person.  But in the US, I don't have Wei Ayi.  I have a basement floor where laundry accumulates.  And a blatent dislike of doing anything about it.

So, I guess I may have overpacked just a bit - I don't really need wine glasses for 20.  Or 30 pieces of tupperware. Or 11 boxes of ziplocs.

But, despite my excess in other areas, I somehow managed to pack EXACTLY the right number of shoes....
At least I got something right!

The dual function room - Rita-Mart and Imelda's Closet
Hey, a girl needs some luxuries in her life!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

An even happier ending?

So, last week I vowed to return to the scene of the overly-enthusiastic massage. I figured that now that I'm used to it, I might enjoy it more this time.  Logical, right?

I went into the room, declined the PJs, laid down and began reading my latest book (Sidebar: I love China...I have so much freedom since I don't drive, cook, or clean, that I've finished 11 books since I've been here!).  The masseuse (different from last time), started talking to me in Chinese as he began to work.

Apparently, my blank stare has lost it's edge... so I advised him, "I'm sorry, I've got nothing."  To which he replied with more Mandarin.  I then gave him my shrugged shoulders, raised eyebrow, neck twist to symbolize, "Really, dude, I don't have a flipping clue what you're saying, and I just want to pay you to rub my feet."  Sidebar: I know I sound  like a queen B*TCH right there, but fighting the language barrier is exhausting...and sometimes, you just want silence.

He then started "writing" in his hand with his finger.  I started to pay attention, thinking perhaps it was foot related.  Ah... a little more focus was all it took.  He was upselling me!  For an extra 10 RMB (~$1.60), I could have so much more done.

So, I took one for you, dear readers, I agreed to the extra 10 RMB.  I hope you're happy with what happened next.

The work was going along as usual - wash, rub, wrap.  When the calf/thigh work began, I was prepared for the kneading, and this time I likened it to the scarecrow's re-stuffing upon entry into Oz.  I didn't even flinch when he came too close to the hoo-hah... I was doing great so far.

Once he finished the kneading, it was stretching time.  I guess this is what I paid 10 RMB extra for!  So, my legs were bent in every which way -- like a horizontal Irish jig (inside, outside, outside, inside, kick, kick!).  It felt great -- like having a chiropractor or physical therapist working on me. 

Then it was apparently time to see if I've ever danced on a pole.  While lying on my back, he took one of my legs (mind you, I'm wearing capris, not PJs), and stretched it over my head.  I literally lost sight of my foot, but I felt a breeze next to my ear as my toes went by.  The cramp in the back of my thigh undid all of his handiwork, but I stayed there holding the stretch... mainly because there was a 160 lb Chinese man holding my legs apart like a wishbone....

When he finished with both legs, it was time for the flip.  I could ride a horse without repercussions now, but ok... at least I can go back to napping. 

Well...not quite.  He began my rear, not with 4 loud whacks, but rather, with 4 fingers inserted into my butt-crack.  My butt snapped shut like a venus flytrap.  I'm surprised he didn't lose a fingertip in the process.  So much for napping!  So, I asked: "Uh... whatcha doin' down there, Pedro?"  His response was to push my head down into the table and go back to work.  Apparently, this, too, was part of the add-on package. 

He finished his anal-exploration, and moved down to the back of the legs...I unclenched my ass, and began to breathe normally. 

Aah.... rest.  Then the lower back... mmmmm...relaxation.  Visions of beaches and palm trees filled my brain.....sigh.  This is heaven.  Until.....

Uh, Pedro, you're supposed to stay outside the clothing.  Ummm.... Pedro?  Yoo hoo?  Whatcha doin with my bra? 

Yo! China-dude! Why is my bra no longer securely snug on my body!?!?!?!?!?!?

I lift up, again, to see what's happening, and he pushes my head back down.  He put my shirt back down and started his above-the clothing work again.  Ok... back to relaxing.  The bra was just in his way.  Whew.

Palm trees, coconuts, warm breezes.... I'm back in the groove.

Uh, Pedro?  Why are you I pulling my shirt over my head?  Uh, no...I'm really good with the straps ON my shoulders.  Pedro? Pedro?  My shirt is wrapped around my head and you left the room?  PEDRO!?!?!? 

About 5 minutes later, the masseuse returns.  I hear the door open, then close.  Then I feel a bag of what feels like warm peas being rubbed all over my now fully-exposed back and shoulders.  After the pea-party, he re-hooked my bra (I've never had a man do THAT before...and I'm pretty sure, he's never fought a 5 hook boulder-holder before either...educational and entertaining for all, I guess!).  All this for the value price of 10 RMB!

He finished with the warm knee mud soak, and I was on my way.

I guess I should trust a little more... But if he's going to get that personal again, I probably should learn his name...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Happy Endings?

One of the many perks of living in China is the inexpensive massage.  For about $15, you can have all of the kinks worked out on a weekly basis. There are so many kinds, it's an adventure to choose which one each week.  Today, I let Mr. Zheng decide where I went.

Prior to today's massage, I've ventured to a few different places.  In all places I've been, your clothes remain on, and no oil is used.  And watermelon and hot tea is complimentary.  Usually there is a television in the room, tuned to a Chinese nature channel...because watching eels and insects while having a massage is apparently soothing and relaxing.

In one place, a blind masseuse rubbed me down (or up, I guess) from foot to head, using his sense of touch to guide him along the way.  In another I've gone to, he did what Angie calls the "thumb massage".  He poked and pressed me repeatedly with his thumbs until I bruised.  In another foot massage place, they use long black (highly suspect!) vibrating tools on your calves after they knead them like dough.  In that same place, the masseuse shoved her knee into my back and spread my arms like Leo DeCaprio in that scene from Titanic.  Ironically, after all of the pain and torture, you feel great.  And you forget the torture and are ready to go back a week later.

So, today, Mr Zheng selected the place I went.  For 78 RMB (~$12), I was supposed to have a foot massage.   I was taken to a room where I was sat on a bed, not a chair...odd for a foot massage, but, ok, why not?...and was served my obligatory tea and watermelon.  Today's TV featured eels, so I turned to my e-reader for company.

The man began by scrubbing my feet with his hands for about 10 minutes.  When he finished, he advised me to lie back, and began oiling my feet.  Once they were oiled, he began the pressing.  He pressed each toe between his vice-like grip until I wanted to cry.  Then he did the thumbing on my soles.  Agony, but for a good cause!

The foot massage went on for another 60 minutes.  After one and a quarter hours, he finished with the feet.  So I thought.  As I sat up to get my shoes on, he came back with another bucket of water - presumably to wash off the oils. 

He then handed me a pair of hospital-like pajamas.  Shorts and a tee.  If I haven't mentioned yet, Chinese clothes don't really fit my body-type, and well, I wasn't really there for anything but a foot massage, so why was I getting undressed now that it was over?????

He left me pondering this for what he thought was an appropriate amount of time.  He came back, and I was still in my capris and top...holding his scrubs. When he realized I would not wear the PJs, he agreed to give me a massage while I wore my own clothes.  I had no idea this was part of the drill, but it must be a 2 for 1 sale! 

He had me lay on my back, and this is where it got a little funky.  He kneaded my outer thighs, my inner thighs and got a smidge too close to the hoo-hah for my expectations.  To quote Chandler Bing, there was definite... cupping.  I was on guard with my proverbial "no entry" sign and my (now very pliable and clean) foot at the ready.  At some point, this was supposed to be relaxing, right?!

After finishing with my front, he then flipped me over onto my stomach.  If I didn't have enough humiliation already, he began the treatment on my back by taking a hand to each butt cheek and smacking them 3 times.  HARD.  First the cupping, now he thinks he's Sir Mix-A-Lot!

It was too hard to control myself -  I was so mortified that I started to laugh until I snorted.  He responded by playing chiropractor, pressing me into the bed until my spine cracked.  He finished the rubdown on my back and told me to flip over again. 

Thinking my humiliation was over, I gladly obliged.  I had no dignity left, but at least I could leave without further eye-contact.  Oh no.  He wasn't through.  He then rolled my capris up until there was thigh skin pinched into each fold of the pants.  Again, I'm staring at the ceiling wondering what was next.  He left again, and came back with a bucket of mud.  He slathered my knees (KNEES!) with mud and covered them with a hot compress.  He then laid his body weight on top of them.  Five highly uncomfortable minutes later (after all, this man was inadvertently hitting every zone in reverse order!!), he got up and peeled the knee-mask off. 

He then unrolled my thighs and pronounced me done.  After only 2 hours and heaping amounts of humiliation.  He left to take his mud bucket away, and I got the hell out of there as fast as I could, with my hands protecting my behind the whole way.

Sadly, as this is the most action I've had in a while, I'll be back next week.