Tuesday, May 08, 2007

First Korean Instalment - Tall and ugly in low heels

It feels rather good to be back from Korea, to tell the truth. I loved being there, don’t take me wrong. And I’ll tell you all about the good stuff. But it is good to be home. You see, I’m not used to feeling all tall, fat and clumsy. Which is basically what I felt like in Korea. The Korean women are tiny, petite and generally incredibly elegant, with at least 10-cm-heels. I was wearing an old pair of black pants and very comfortable but unglamorous slippers. They are so elegant, in fact, that I had to wear a tiny pen skirt and very high heels to work today. I felt quite clumsy for several days, until Malin and I went shopping for lingerie, and I realised what they do to come across as so slim. Slimming underwear. You know the kind that is more or less just a huge rubber band that keeps everything in place and tucked in. Almost impossible to get into. Or out of. Ha! Tall, fat and clumsy isn’t that bad after all. At least I get to wear comfy underwear. And as comfortable shoes as I feel like.

Apart from that, Korea was wonderful. Especially the food. Kimchi – the pickled side dishes that you get with your meal – is the best invention. Yum.

To save money, Patrik, the other wedding witness, and I had decided to share a room. The first thing we did was what you always do when you’ve checked into a hotel; we checked what was on TV. The best channel – Patrik and I totally agreed on this, but Malin and Johan were a little sceptical – was undoubtedly the channel which showed StarCraft tournaments. We were only sorry we couldn’t understand what the very enthusiastic commentators were saying. The second best channel – and we all agreed on the excellence of this one – was the Pentagon Channel. There are a lot of American soldiers posted in South Korea, and it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to us that Pentagon has its own news show. But somehow we just didn’t expect it, I guess.

As I hinted above, the reason I was in Korea was to attend Malin’s and Johan’s wedding. Up until the trip, my duties as the maid of honour had mostly been about aesthetics: ring design advice and wedding dress design advice. And hen night planning, of course. What we did at the hen night was pretty much going to a spa, get pampered and just hang. Malin and I repeated that the day before their wedding. We went to a Korean spa. I’m absolutely convinced that going to a bath house abroad high lights that you are in a new culture, somewhere where you don’t have all the clues to how to behave. The first time I experienced this was a couple of years ago, when I was in California for a summer school. It soon became very clear that I was doing the undressing and showering in the wrong order after swimming. Going to a Korean bath house was slightly more complicated, and we’re sure we got a lot of it wrong. For starters, we started out in the children’s pool. The sign that said “kid pool” and the bear statuettes surrounding it were somehow not sufficient hints… What you do in a Korean spa is that you take a shower, and then you soak in different aroma therapy waters. The waters not only have different scents; they also have different temperatures. I’m not quite certain what the different temperatures are supposed to do to you, exactly, but it’s an interesting experience. To step out of a pool with 42-degree water with mint leaves, into a 43-degree pool with sea water feels like stepping into boiling water. That is weird. Interesting.

I’m sure there’s a special order in which you’re supposed to take the baths, but we didn’t manage to figure it out. The signs were all in Korean.

The spa doesn’t only mean soaking. There’s also the option to get an full body mud pack, an oil massage or a body scrub. The body scrub is intense. The scrubbing is carried out by very strong, small Korean women. If you use scrub gloves in the shower, or a loofah, you scrub. Sure. But it’s like in Crocodile Dundee: “That’s not a knife. This is a knife”. That’s not a scrub. This is a scrub. I’ve never been this clean. Or smooth. Imagine: first a scrub that takes off all the dead layers of skin and leaves it in grey disgusting rolls on the table beside you, followed by a splash of iced milk on your skin and then loads of body oil. Seriously, you don’t get much smoother. Unless maybe, just maybe, you’re a newborn child. We didn’t try out the mud pack this time around. Maybe nest time. The womb cleansing offered among the services, we didn’t feel the least inclined to try, though.

There will be more. Amazing dresses, Zen poetry and ironic manicures. But not today. Soon, though.


Emanuel said...

I really wanna go to korea after reading this!

Johan Sundström said...

Maybe nest time.

Awwww! *nestles, coddles and pampers* If you pardon sudden fwuffy cuteness overload here. Strictly unintentional I'm sure. :-) (Spoiling loved ones rotten is the best!)

Johan Sundström said...

Hangul is the coolest script ever invented, by the way. It's the LISP of human languages. But I should of course not be telling you that. *bows humbly* :-)

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