Summer Wasting

I spent the summer wasting
The time was passed so easily
But if the summer's wasted
How come that I could feel so free
-Belle & Sebastian

I would not call going outside the apartment in Beijing relaxing. Usually we wake up to a smoggy sky, which immediately casts any Californian into a bummer mood. Then travel is by foot, bike, bus, or subway – all of these modes require the utmost alertness. You never know when a taxi will use the bike lane or sidewalk as a passing lane and practically run you over. The rule is simple: Don’t get hit and don’t hit anybody. You can turn wherever, cross the street wherever, and travel whichever direction you like. No problem. 

So how do people with no jobs find a way to relax? Simply, massage and beer.

Something must be understood about Chinese massage—it is nothing like Swedish massage or deep-tissue massage. There is no ambient music, or silent isolation with a lone masseuse who talks in a low a voice and smells like lavender. In China, the massage room is full of masseuses and clients chatting, fans blowing, and TVs blaring.

We returned to a massage place we visited two years ago on our first visit to Beijing. Having no translator, we reviewed the hanzi characters for massage, 按摩 ànmó. Amazingly, we remembered its location, tucked behind a shopping mall in a charming neighborhood where no English is to be found. Somehow, we conveyed to the receptionist we want a two hour foot and body massage.

The massage place -- AMAZING! Two hours for 138 RMB ($20 USD). A must-do for any visitor.

We started with an hour foot massage – absolutely heavenly. Firm and strong, the foot massage involves finding pressure points. Somehow the masseuse can determine if the body is undergoing any problems or conditions. Years ago, a masseuse correctly determined my friend was pregnant before she knew herself.

The Chinese masseuse tends to be chatty during the foot massage; which is understandable because the client and the masseuse face each other. The chitchat is a good opportunity to practice speaking Chinese. Our vocabulary is severely limited, so the conversation involved where we are from and no, we don’t have children. birdMAN’s lady pointed to his pink toenails and laughed. We tried to explain it was our niece’s handiwork, but I didn’t know how to say niece. We are pretty sure we conveyed that a child painted his toenails. 

Pink toes?

After one hour, we moved on to the body massage. No disrobing required. The masseuse laid a white sheet over my prone body on the massage table and went to work. The massage is firm and strong, and sometimes painful. Occasionally, the masseuse would concentrate on a particular area, pressing and rubbing the same spot over and over and I gritted my teeth, aching for an end. Just when I must say something to stop him, he is satisfied that he solved the problem area and moves on. I do not understand the physiology of it all, but afterward, we are sore and elated. birdMAN and I left the massage uttering “They know what they are doing.”

After the massage we walked around looking for something to eat and wandered into an outdoor beer garden. The Beijing beer garden is similar to a German beer garden, except instead of sauerkraut and sausages, we find barbequed squid, duck heads and noodle bowls. We determined our evening snack when we smelled and caught sight of barbequed oysters, birdMAN’s favorite.

Clueless and confused, we wandered over to the cashier. There was an authoritative looking man standing by the cashier who took one look at us and must have determined that we are American. And what thing would two Americans wandering around a beer garden want? The answer was obvious. He said, “啤酒。十八块,” which translates, “Beer. 18 RMB.” birdMAN, immediately recognizing the word for beer, nodded emphatically yes! Then we pointed to the oysters. He brought us each a liter of beer and delicious oysters. We savored the rest of the cool and relaxing evening, euphoric after massage, beer, and oysters.

One more week of summer wasting. Work starts soon.

Chinese word of the blog: 按摩 ànmó (literally, press rub)
                                          English translation: Massage

No. 27 taught me a new word, 痛 tóng, meaning "pain".

B can't remember her number, but she was good
Monster beers
Later, we had real dinner. A nice girl helped us order because the menu was entirely in Chinese.