Monday, September 27, 2010

Korean Bath House

Posted by PicasaIt's that time again, time for a body scrub. I always have one before a competition as the spray tan will adhere more evenly, with better tone and a smoother overall look. The ultimate exfoliation!
Here is the front door of the Lawrence Health Center in Santa Clara.  I made an appointment with Sue, she is very strong and knows me.
I am having the "full body care" which is one hour and 10 minutes, a scrub and a massage. I got there early enough to soak a bit first.
I walked through the doors, left my shoes in the cubby, found my locker and took off my clothes.  I slipped into the thin robe they gave me and wandered through more swinging doors to the bathroom.
I then walked through the large rest area, and many of the workers were sitting on the huge, heated marble resting platform, chatting, laughing and folding small towels.
One woman looks up, smiles and shouts "You have a ticket?!" It was Sue. I smiled and handed her my ticket showing what services I paid for.  She said "It's been a long time!" I told her it has only been less than three months.

She asks how my tournament was, I tell her I came in 2nd, she said "that's pretty good I guess" "when is your next one?", I tell her it is Saturday.
I walked back into the communal bathing area and took off my robe and put that into another cubby and went to shower. There are three western standing shower stalls, and 9 seated scrubbing areas, with hand held shower heads.
I then went into the warm jacuzzi, to soak a bit, it felt good. I decided to take a very short steam bath, it isn't a good idea now, I want to hold onto all my water, but this steam is amazing, not to be missed.
The steam room walls and ceiling are covered with big river rocks. The seating areas are wide and large enough to lay down lengthwise and sideways, anyway!
The room has a fantastic aroma, they have a huge tray of wormwood over the steam vent, it is not very steamy yet, but soon it starts pouring out, so much steam I can barely see my hand in front of my face. The water is dripping off my body in rivers, better get out!
I go to the cold pool, and pour icy cold water all over myself and then Sue pops her head over the divider and shouts for me. Sue, as all of the ladies there do, wears a black lace bra and panties, it's the uniform.

She splashes hot water on the linoleum covered massage table, and motions me to lay down. I am completely naked and she dons bright green mitts and starts scrubbing all over with a rough substance.
First my back, then the right side, then the front, then the left side. She scrubs everywhere, my stomach, neck, between my toes,  every inch of my body is being scrubbed and all of the dried, dead skin is being removed.
She scrubs for 30 minutes, and in between throws buckets of hot water all over me to wash away the skin. It stings, she has removed so much skin that just water touching parts of it makes me tingle.

Next, she puts a strong smelling soap on her mitts and scrubs me all over yet again. Not as long, only to clean away all the skin.
She props me up, and using a  hand held shower, washes me all over and hands me a small towel to dry off. Back onto the table I go and now she  stars rubbing copious amounts of baby oil all over my body, I am slippery like a seal, she has to place a towel under me to stop me from sliding off the table.
Now, steaming hot towels are placed all over and she starts a mini facial. My hair is up and she alternates hot towels with cool rowels, washes my face and gently scrubs it. A cool potion is painted all over, then a light muslin gauze is set over and more potion painted on, it is cool and refreshing. 
The massage starts, she is rough, and pity the body part that Sue decides is tight or has a knot. Today, she seems to think it is my poor feet, calves and glutes. Thanks goodness! Someone who will massage my poor glutes!
She pushes, squeezes, even pounds with her fists.  Hot towels are applied, they feel so good, more kneading and pounding.
She removes the gauze from my face, gently washes it again and now washes my hair, taking her time, lather and rinse, lather and rinse.

She stands me up again, hands me the shower handle and I rinse off, she gives me a towel and with her signature slap on my behind, tells me "You will do great at your tournament Saturday!"
I walk to my robe, get a tip for her and then off to lay on the heated marble slap and rest or a while. I listen to the chatter of all the women in the baths, scrubbing each other, laughing, not a care in the world.

I love the Korean bath house, yet it always holds just a bit of sadness for me. I brought my mother here for her 70th birthday, we laughed and joked that we had to lie about her age because she was over the age limit for the baths.

I remember as we both lay on the massage tables, she was being "slapped" as part of the massage, and she had a look of horror on her face, until I was slapped too! Then we both broke out in laughter.
Maybe that's why I love this place so much. I have my mother with me each time I go.
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