Monday, April 27, 2009

turkish baths

Marisa wanted us to go to a Turkish bath.  She'd been to one when she was in Istanbul before and thought it was a good experience.  I'd never been, but we'd previously gone to Japanese baths   In Japanese baths you get completely naked (sexes are separated), and in the one we went to there was a pool that had an electric current in it that would cause your muscles to twitch if you weren't completely relaxed.  Marisa assured me that there's no nudity allowed in Turkish baths, and they'd have no crazy electrical pools, so it didn't seem like the Turkish baths would be too challenging.

I thought it was an interesting experience, but I wouldn't do it regularly.  One of the features is that you can get a massage, which we paid for.  The inner sanctum of the bath is incredibly hot, very humid, and results in me becoming uncomfortably sweaty.  After about 10 minutes of waiting for the masseur I wanted to leave because I felt sick from the heat.  (Maybe I was dehydrated.)  I kept going to the cold water faucet and dumping pans of it over myself, which cooled me down a little.

Eventually the masseur did come and proceeded to beat the crap out of me.  We were both wearing nothing but towels, so it was a sweaty-fisted shared experience.  He was very considerate in that whenever I had to move, he'd arrange my towel prior to movement so no inappropriate portions of my body would be shared with the rest of the room.  At one point I was lying on my stomach, and he told me (in pidgin English) to turn over.  Unfortunately for him, I don't roll to my right.  I naturally rolled over to my left away from the enclosing towel, exposing my genitals to his startled, blanching face.  He quickly fixed the towel and no one seemed to notice, so it was no big deal.

The massage was OK, albeit a little brutal for my taste.  (Maybe that's why I don't get massages very frequently.)  The unique feature of the Turkish bath massage, which I didn't know beforehand, is the scraping off of all your outer skin with sandpaper and something that looked to me like steel wool.  I insisted he use only the sandpaper.  Surprisingly, this process did not hurt all that much, but I was not too satisfied with it because I got sunburnt in India and was already peeling.  I have this theory that if you don't touch sunburnt skin and try to prevent peeling it will serve as a protective layer against further sunburns.  Ungrounded in any scientific knowledge as this theory is, I was nevertheless very annoyed and completely unable to communicate to my nearly naked and sweaty friend that I didn't want all my sunburnt skin ripped off.

The skin came off in small rolls of flesh that looked a little like rolled up cigarette paper.  It was a dark grey color, so evidently I am a very dirty boy.

Through this last stage of my massage my mustachioed masseur kept asking me "ok?  ok?", to which I would politely reply "yes, ok."  He invariably followed this exchange confirming his customer satisfaction by saying, "after, you tip.  i come outside.  I am Ahmet (pointing finger to his chest)"

With his limited English and my limited Turkish, and given that I remained in his sweaty, strong, and fairly hairy embrace while still being scraped by sandpaper, I did not think it wise to try to explain to him that we had specifically selected this bathhouse because the tip was included in the already paid price of the massage.  I was annoyed he kept trying to tell me to tip but just said, "ok" in response.

After the massage I showered, dressed, and went out to the main lobby where I reunited with Marisa.  I was hoping I'd be able to slip out without encountering my new friend, Ahmet, but he emerged through the thick wooden doors of the bath area, still clad in only his towel, at exactly the right moment.  Marisa tried to talk to me about the bath, but I said quickly, "I'll meet you outside."  I caught his look out of the corner of my eye as I scurried out the front door, and he didn't look too happy.  I would say he actually looked a little hurt.  I figured he wouldn't follow me outside in just his towel, though, and I was right.

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