Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My First Foot Massage

Today I got my first-ever foot massage. This entry will be a little different because I'm not sure how foot massages are in the States, so I don't really know what to comment on. All I know is that I was super thankful to know the word for "That hurts."

I laid down on this doctor's-office looking bed, with a diagram of Relaxation Points of the Human Foot. Wow, I had no idea that every single part of your body has a dedicated pressure point in your foot. As I laid there, trying to relax as was insisted, I kept wondering what series events occurred to ever get me to do this. I guess it was all the running. It was beginning to do a number on my feet. But I think I mostly wanted to do something that I could bond on with my mom. She does a lot of that stuff: acupuncture (that was immediately out), facials, bath houses (people stare at me while I'm clothed. Imagine what it would be like naked in front of a bunch of ahjummas.) So "pedicure" seemed like a harmless enough outing.

This woman twisted and poked my feet in ways that I never thought possible. Most of it was quite enjoyable, but there were a few places when I cried, "Mercy." I was a little surprised by how sensitive some of the places were. Not in a naturally-vulnerable way, but in a there-is-an-issue-but-it's-being-worked-out way. Hm. Maybe it'll make a difference in my running... I will definitely check it out tomorrow morning.

The best part of the foot massage was during the "cool-down" period. I was soaking my feet out in the lobby. Let me paint you a picture of this place (like a lot of retail places in Gurye). You enter the building into a small lobby. Then the massage takes place in a smaller room behind the lobby. But the street wall of the lobby is completely glass.

In the 15 minutes I sat there, I had two awkward insa's and three awkward through-the-glass conversations with students. I love small towns. Overall, my feet feel quite happy, and now I'm just that much closer to my students.

Speaking of students. This week one of my lessons is on feelings/emotions. I introduced about 20 feelings (happy, sad, confused, angry, etc.). To encourage retention, I have a goofy face that I make while saying the word. For example, when I'm "bored," I rest my head on my fist, stare up at the sky and say dully, "Bored." For one of our games, I split the students into teams. I would make a face and one student from each group would have to run to the bored and write the word I acted. It's a tremendously fun game, especially when the students are competitive.

Well, the word was "fuming," so I slammed one fist into another and made the most angry face I could muster. Immediately the students started sprinting to the board. Once the cloud of dust cleared, I saw that two teams wrote "fuming" while the third wrote "cute." So much for my acting career.

That particular lesson I had another teacher in the room observing. She came up to me after the lesson and said, "You make a lot of faces. Koreans do not do that. It is very American." That really got me thinking throughout the day. Are my mannerisms really that different? Is that something that people actually notice?

In another activity, the students had to act an emotion and their team had to guess the emotion. I was a little confused by why the students struggled with this. They seemed really resistant to act emotions. My co-teacher's comment came back to me. Facial expressions are just so much more limited than those of Americans. I'm not sure if it's capability or choice, since their so concerned with keeping their eyes big and their faces small. (Smiling makes the face wider and eyes smaller) All I know is that I've seen my students happy, sad and bored, but not much else. Then I got thinking about Korean Americans. Even the ones that I spent orientation with. They make faces, right? I'm sure of it.

Nature versus nurture at it's finest.


  1. "Are my mannerisms really that different? Is that something that people acutally notice?" Yes and yes.

    At least I noticed the huge difference when I came to the states. The hand gestures and the facial expressions as well as the natural ease and informal manner the conversations happen with the professors and sometimes with complete strangers! In some ways, I struggled with that (the "blending" issue) until I decided that there are non-expressive people living in the states too and that I am one of them. Believe it or not, I am much more expressive than I was then. At least I think I am...

    Really young kids may be expressive everywhere and some of the more outgoing ones may retain it, but being expressive was not encouraged and I assume that's still the case. It's the culture. Girls/women are praised for being calm, quiet, and docile (얌전한 여자) and Boys/men are supposed to be reserved and deliberate in manner (점잖은 남 자) to be taken seroiusly. Only comedians used to be (fake) expressive. That's probably part of the reason that the Korean movies were so completely boring until recently, not to mention the predictable story lines. These days, though, the movie/TV drama industry in Korea is doing great in Asia as I saw in Iran. They were all watching Korean mini-series in Iran. I digress.

    That foot massage sounds typical of the things women do in Korea. Oh there were sauna with the green vegetable (쑥갓), trips to hot springs with minerals, and yes the pressure points and acupuncture... I am glad that your host mom is the type to try different things and enjoy life and you get to see/experience it.

  2. Hi Amy,

    Speaking of Korean women leisure activities, hanging out in hot bath or sauna is one of them. 찜질방(Korean Sauna), 목욕탕(public bath) are very popular so I tried a couple of times when I visited Korea. The most awkward thing is "때밀이" who is helping you to clean up(!) in public bath place. I tried it once two years ago when I visited my sister's home. It's difficult to describe it. ^^; One thing is that 때밀이 아줌마 is very aggressive to "pill" off your skin.. I screamed too much (it hurts really & scared a bit) so my 때밀이 아줌마 started to treat me with a gentle love.. My skin turned to all red or so.. Even I cannot say I enjoyed the hot sauna place (찜질방) which is my sister's favorite hang-out place.. Normally I don't like to stay in a small hot place. Maybe I have claustrophobia..

    Anyhow, it is very affordable to get services like that in Korea or in any Asia. If you want to pamper yourself, try it once at least. It will be fun!

    Thanks for sharing your new experience!

  3. Public baths.. Ewe. All I can think of is how uncomfortable it would feel to have someone cleaning you. Now the foot massage sounds interesting.

  4. I had heard foot massages were very painful in Korea. Or maybe it was another Asian country. Young mee, I think you are more Americanized than you think. I have never, ever noticed a lack of expressiveness in you.