Tuesday, February 5, 2008

"Lizzi, What are you doing with your boobs?" Musings on an Ayurvedic Massage

Written from Kandy, Sri Lanka

After contemplating the map of Sri Lanka, we decided to spend a second night in Kandy. Despite the fact that Sri Lanka has a population of nearly 20 million, and is roughly the size of Ohio, the roads are surprisingly, well, shitty. And I know this because we rented a car. And some of you may be reading this and thinking, "you rented a CAR? To DRIVE?! Are you crazy?!" Yes and no. On the crazy, I mean. We DID rent a car.

Our thinking went something like this: we have a lot to see, there are only a few days to see it in, there will be four of us, and recent events in this tiny island country make traveling via public transportation slightly undesirable. So we asked a friend, and he made driving sound do-able, and we asked the internet, which made driving sound affordable, so we went for it. But then there were those aformentioned shitty roads to contend with. And I'm not talking run-of-the-mill they-really-need-to-fix-these-potholes shitty. I mean, full-on ass-roads shitty. These roads are the black diamonds of ass-roads. Which isn't to say that all of them are like that. Some of them are quite nice with paving and enough room for cars to pass each other going the opposite direction. The problem occurs when you add in tuk-tuks, motorbikes, dogs, and pedestrians. THEN the road, even the best road, seems narrow. And when you're doing it while driving on the wrong side of the street, sitting on the wrong side of the car, accidentally turning on the windshield wipers when you meant to turn on your turn signal? Well, it's all very exhausting. So in order to minimize our driving time, we decided to stay in Kandy another night. And because I haven't gotten sidetracked enough in this post (WHY did I mention my boobs in the title?!) I should tell you that the original title for this post was going to be "Sorry Buddha, I Almost Ran Over A Monk" because a day or so ago, when we were driving from Colombo to Dambulla, we DID almost run over a monk who was sitting on the back of a motorbike that cut us off. We decided that would be the ultimate in bad karma. But I digress.

So with another day in Kandy, that meant that we could slow our pace a little bit. It meant that we didn't have to catch the elephant orphanage, the botanical gardens, and the holy site all in one day. No, we could spread the activities out, leaving ourselves time for an ayurvedic massage and a trip to the local fruit market. Of course, this being us, and it being Sri Lanka, we ended up being somewhat pressed for time, as we spent longer than we intended to spend picking out gifts for friends, and then longer than we meant to at the fruit market, and then whoops! a bit longer than we thought we would at the holy site. So we dashed into our spa appointments a wee bit breathless, anxious for some relaxation. And I should really back up here and say that "spa" isn't a totally appropriate title. It's not entirely off, as it's a place where someone does massage and generally works to make you feel more relaxed, but it's not entirely correct either, as the word "spa" typically connotes a clean place, with maybe with a little Enya playing softly in the background. This place was clean enough, but everyone knows there's a difference between spa clean and clean enough. Also? There was no Enya. But I decided I was there for the experience, and I was GOING to have it.

The experience started off by separating guys from girls. Chris and Matt one way, me and Amanda another. Okey-dokey. Then, Amanda and I were instructed to take all of our clothes off right in the middle of the room. WHAT? Yes, take your clothes off, get totally naked, not in that little room that looks suspiciously like a changing room, but right here, where your two massage-ladies are waiting for your nudity with a "sheet" that was roughly 12 inches long. After a deep breath and a measured decision to keep my underwear on, I tugged the sheet across my body, glanced at Amanda, and made my way over to the chair that the massage-lady was gesturing for me to sit in. I tried to relax as she massaged my temples with oil. And I tried to relax as she massaged my earlobes with oil. But then she parted my hair and poured oil on my scalp and that was it, there was no relaxation to be had. A woman just poured oil on my hair. My HAIR! After about 15 minutes my hair was apparently sufficiently oiled and my head sufficiently massaged. Or so I'm guessing, because that's when I was instructed to lie down on the table, first on my stomach, where massage-lady pounded and pulled at my calves and thighs, and then on my back, where she tugged off that sheet. WHAT? Yes, tugged off the sheet. Prompting me to tug the sheet back up. Which prompted her to tug it back down. Me: up. Her: down. Amanda: "Lizzi, what are you doing with your breasts?" Me: finally succumbing to hysterical laughter, pulling up the sheet, gesticulating that I wasn't letting it go, saying, "I'm holding them firmly in place with the sheet on top." "Oh good," she said, "me too."

The rest of the massage was basically uneventful. I'm incredibly ticklish so it tickled, which was embarassing. Amanda and I passed the time in a compromising but amused position. I was rubbed, head to toe, in oil, and I smelled a lot like food. I mostly hated it, counting down the minutes until I could wash the food smell off of myself. But I was also highly entertained by the whole thing -- lying on a massage table in Sri Lanka, smelling of a decent meal, near enough to touch a good friend who I never intended to see naked, while rebels are detonating bombs around this otherwise utterly peaceful and beautiful country. Oh, if my grandmother could see me now! I can't even begin to imagine what she would say, and can only guess that it would begin with "Liz, dear..."

At the very end of the massage experience, Amanda and I were led to (thankfully separate) showers so that we could rinse off. We had the exact same experience. Thinking that our massage-lady had already been a little closer to our lady parts than we intended, we both guessed that the odds of our respective massage-ladies actually staying around to wash us were quite high. Still wearing underwear, I quickly surmised that I could not bathe nor be bathed while wearing cotton panties. So with a deep breath, I took them off. At which point massage-lady respectfully stepped out of the shower and walked down the hall. Um, DUH. Why on EARTH would massage-lady bathe me? I have no idea. At the time, it didn't seem like it was outside the realm of possibility. In retrospect, she must have been thinking, "Now? NOW you're okay with being naked? Weird white girl." Yes, yes indeed.

So here I am, back at the hotel, full off a meal that smelled surprisingly like my face did just a few hours ago. Two showers later, I'm mostly clean and no longer have cardamom oil in my ears. And thank god for that, right? You were worried, I can tell.

Tomorrow we're leaving Kandy and hoping to see some elephants. More elephants! And then it's a quick drive back to Negombo, which is north of Colombo, to hopefully get to the beach. Cross your fingers that the roads will cooperate, that the rebels will stay away from wherever we want to be, and that the next person who asks me to get naked is not a perfect stranger.


Cris said...

1) Lizzi, regarding the oiling of your head: all I can picture is how Michael Jackson looked right before his hair lit on fire on national tv in the 1980s.

2) Will you please take your clothes off? See, it didn't come from a perfect stranger.

Miss you guys. Stay safe.

Julie said...

I'm curious to hear what the boys' experience was like! I can only imagine it'd be the stuff that Geoff's fantasies are made of.

I'm glad, too, that the woman didn't attempt to massage your naked feet with her own. The comfort zone can only be stretched so far.

heather said...

okokok, but i need more details! I am planning dozens of itineraries and need tips!!!

ps I love love love your stories!

Roni Burd said...

Hey, Liz...just relax :)
Keep having fun guys!

Andy said...

Only because no one has made the comment to this point ... what, no happy ending?

Jess said...

Hilarious! I think I shed a tear laughing :) It's great to travel with friends, isn't it? I'm sure it made it twice the fun and a little less scary!

Geoff said...

Ok, to go off Andy's sentiment...not even looking for a happy ending, but did Mr. Stinkfinger make an appearance?