In one of my previous blogs I mentioned how the majority of Chinese live in very poor conditions. Many live in their shops or in apartments that don’t provide a place for them to shower. So about once a week the Chinese will go to a bath house to take a proper shower. So being in China and wanting to get the full Chinese experience, I went to the local bath house.
As I write this blog, I realize that this might sound pretty awkward. Please try to understand that this is a part of the Chinese culture. It is a totally acceptable thing to do and something that most Chinese people do do.
I went to the bath house with two other teachers, James and Matt. As we entered the bath house, it looked like a typical locker room with lockers and showers. We undressed, put our clothes in a locker, and went into the shower room.
Now part of the deal about going to a bath house is that someone can wash you, and why do anything when you can pay someone to do if for you. So we paid them to clean us, but instead of have beautiful women clean us, we had three small Chinese dudes. (Remember, part of the culture).
Before we were scrubbed down we had to wash ourselves, sort of like taking a shower before going into a pool. One guy told me to clean off all the dirt that was on my body. At first I was confused because I wasn’t dirty, but then I realized he was talking about my chest hair. They don’t really see a lot of people with chest hair.
We then had to lie down on these tables to be cleaned. They put this weird plastic sheet down on top of the table, sort of like a saran wrap, so when we laid down we were slipping all over the place. I almost fell of the table.
The washers then put on these gloves to scrub us. It felt like the bristly part of a sponge. We made sure that we went out and bought our own because apparently they use a communal glove if you don’t have your own. When they scrubbed us, they weren’t soft and gentle; they got in there and scrubbed hard. It really hurt.
My cleaner was thorough (remember not in a weird way), the most awkward part was when he was cleaning my butt. I’ve never tightened up so quick in my life. It was also really awkward when I turned over and he was cleaning my beitzim, it made me pretty jumpy, but I got through it. But my cleaner was a total gentleman and a true professional. After scrubbing me he put this honey oil all over me, my skin had never smelled so good. (I know, this sounds super inappropriate but it’s what they do here).
Being in a Chinese bath house you can’t help but look around. Let me just say that there is no greater confidence booster for a western male than to walk around a bath house and know that what your packing is ten times larger than everyone else’s. Compared to the Chinese I’m hung like a horse.
I must say I had never felt so clean in my life. Was it one of the more awkward experiences of my life? Hell yes. But it was a new experience none the less and that is what my year in China has been all about, trying new things.