Sunday, August 30, 2009

El Masaje

El Masaje

A new friend of mine, Andrés, was concerned when I had the ear infection, couldn’t sleep, and was a bit stressed out from school. To help me out he bought me a gift certificate to a spa for a massage. He gave it to me on Friday night and said, “La cita es mañana a las 11.” The very next morning I went for my massage. ¡Qué simpatico!

I had wanted to get a massage, because of my sore neck, but I was a little bit afraid to ask about getting one here. Why you ask? Well, when my friend Teacher Ron was in Chile he asked to get a massage and ‘accidentally’ ended up in the whorehouse. Thankfully, this did not happen to me.

I arrived at the spa to find all kinds of cosmetic surgeries, botox injections, etc. available. I think this is actually more common here than in the US, apart from maybe LA. I was asked if I would like a cafecito o aromatica. I chose aromatica and was given a styrafoam thimble of herbal tea inserted in a tiny silver cup holder.

Soon, a woman named Osmi greeted me and took me back to the massage room. Upon entering the room was an empty Jacuzzi, the obligatory new age music playing, and two massage tables – one of them covered in rose petals. Mine was the other one.

Osmi then asked me something about if I wanted to buy some underwear. Being that this was a conversation in Spanish I got a bit confused and told her that I had underwear on. She suggested again that I should get the underwear, so I did. She then produced a little plastic bag with what I assumed was underwear inside, and left the room for me to change. I removed it from the package to find the hospital gown type of paper underwear in two pieces. It took me a minute to figure out what was the bra and which were the panties. I put on the bra, which was a lot like a breast hammock with elastic edges and a tie at the back. The underwear was a thong to be tied at both sides of the waist. This took me a little longer to figure out how to put on. I was tying up the second side when Osmi returned and told me I had put it on backwards. Whoops!

I was a massage therapist when I lived in California and there are all different kinds of ways to drape the sheets over a client. I was glad that I had my paper thong and bra, because here there was no top sheet. In case I haven’t mentioned it, it’s really hot here, so I did not mind the lack of top sheet. She instructed me to lie on the table boca arriba. This is a new Spanish expression for me that means ‘face up’, but literally translates to ‘mouth up’. For some reason this image amuses me.

She worked feet to head applying some refreshing type of cream. It was definitely relaxing, which was good because I was a bit guayabo from the two margaritas the night before. It wasn’t any kind of deep tissue work, but rather a nice little rub a dub dub. It lasted about 1/2 an hour. When I thought she was all done she had me stand up and told me to wait. She then covered the table in plastic wrap. Uh oh, was it time for the Teacher Ron experience?

Thankfully it was not. Osmi then proceeded to cover me in some mud body mask. I now understood the reason for the paper underwear. After that she covered me in another sheet of plastic and then one of those silver emergency blanket things. She also put a different type of mud mask on my face. When I tried to make the slightest movement, I felt like how peanut butter and jelly must feel inside the sandwich when they stick to the bread.

After about 10 minutes of mud mask relaxation, I was then led to the Jacuzzi where I took my first hot shower in Colombia. In my apartment there is only one temperature of water, which is kind of lukewarm to cool. Because it’s always so hot here, I haven’t minded this, but I did enjoy the hot shower so I took my time.

Afterwards I felt very soft, clean, and relaxed. I was given a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice on ice with a straw, and a plate of 3 graham crackers served on a silver platter.

While in SE Asia I received many massages because A) they were extremely cheap and B) traveling there is quite taxing on the body. When there I reflected on how each country’s practitioners had such different approach and how they mirrored my overall impression of the country.

In Thailand, women with the stature of 8 year-old boys would give massages with the power of he-men, and always with a smile. It was as if they were saying, “We’re friendly, and we might be small, but we’re strong. We have our own style and there’s a reason we are the only country in SE Asia that hasn’t been colonized.” In Cambodia I got an excellent massage by a blind man. Sadly, not only was he blind, but he also had no eyes. I imagine this was a casualty of the land mines there though I didn’t ask. Perhaps their country was saying, “Our recent past is so sad it will break your heart, but we are resourceful survivors.” In Vietnam my massage was fast, un-relaxing, and I had to haggle for a decent price. They might have been saying, “OK, you invaded our country, now we want your money.”

Here in Colombia, this is possibly what they are saying, “We’re a little bit sexy, but not rough. We want you to relax and stay a while. Don’t worry, we’re not who you think we are. We will continually surprise you.”

As we all know surprises can be good or bad. The kindness of people – good. The water going off and internet stopping working for no apparent reason – bad. Each day I’m here something surprises and/or amuses me. I guess I can get frustrated or enjoy the differences. Today I will relax and enjoy.


  1. When I visit your blog, I'll keep my comments brief, because you should do the talking.

    But I enjoyed this a lot!