i went back for more soakin' and scrubbin' today. i decided to try out a public bathhouse in my neighborhood. royal hawaii. i walked in to find mass chaos in the locker room. a korean drama blasting on the television and naked little kids running around everywhere....moms, aunts, grandmothers all either yelling or chasing after them while at the same time trying to focus on the tv. sheesh. luckily, i made it to my locker safely and got undressed. one little girl kept peeking around the wall at me and as soon as i looked at her she hid and shreeked "meguk!! meguk!!" ("american, american!") i don't blame her really, westerners are not a common sight around gyeongsan, let alone naked ones....i'm sure i looked to her like a very strange, pale creature.
upon entering the bathing area, the vibe was much more calm. the kids had their separate shallow pools to play in....it was really sweet to see so many women of all ages sitting on the edges of the baths scrubbing each other down...strutting around or lounging naked is absolutely no big deal. as i was soaking i tried to imagine what it must be like to grow up in such a physical community of women who bathe together regularly....who relate with such ease to the body, scrubbing every inch of each other while chattering away....it was easy to notice how different my upbringing was....and i vividly remembered the first time i visited the baths at esalen in big sur, california, five years ago...the first time i got naked and bathed in community with others...it was the beginning of a profound liberation.i signed up for a full body scrub with the head agima who was about 65 years old and fit as a fiddle....once again wearing the uniform black lace bra and undies. this woman was serious business...no holds barred. she slapped me on the butt to turn me over, had me spread eagle, and didn't use any oil on my body - so the skin was coming off in sheets. by the end i was one big tingle. i have to admit, it hurt so good! and then to jump into the baths afterward.....oooohhhhh sooo THIS is part of the ecstacy of being in a human body!! my skin felt so alive.
after two hours of soaking, steaming and scrubbing i decided i better get home. having brought no hairdryer, i put my stocking cap over my wet hair, bundled up and caught the bus home...i had some dol sot bibimbap (with extra red hot pepper paste) at a nearby restaurant and then fell asleep for the entire afternoon on my couch! it was divine. when i woke up i felt so unlike doing ANYTHING at all that i put in miyazaki's film "spirited away" and relaxed for a couple of more hours! why haven't i had more days like this in my lifetime?!