Upon returning home from teaching the Ch’ing-shui class, Shu Mei was once again waiting with dinner ready. This time, she was actually outside when I drove up. She appeared excited to see me, which is a rarity with her. She is always so serious. She had prepared a wonderful steak and rice dinner. She apologized that there were no potatoes. (What is it with foreign people thinking we Americans can’t live without potatoes.) I told her that the rice was great, and it was. Actually, it was a mixture of rice, eggs, and vegetables. Frankly, the potatoes here are nothing to write home about. Most of them are no bigger than a cherry tomato, not the kind of spud you’d see in… say… Idaho.
After dinner, Shu Mei wanted to know if I wanted a massage. Thinking she had gone off the deep end, I told her that she better take it easy and not try to recover from her marathon of sick days so quickly. She informed me that she didn’t mean that she wanted to do the massaging, she wanted to know if I wanted to go somewhere with her and get one. Still, it was a great gesture and an offer I couldn’t refuse. We hopped in the van and headed toward Wu-ch’i.
On the way there, I told Shu Mei that I had noticed that the van was having some trouble. I told her that it was cutting in and out, like we had some bad gas in it, or the fuel pump wasn’t working correctly. I am not mechanically inclined, by any means, but my father is. He has told me, time and time again, when a problem is noticed it is best to take care of it immediately, before it becomes worse. I passed that bit of advice on to Shu Mei. She said that it is probably bad gas, that sometimes cars here get bad gas and do what I was describing. So, on we went to a place Shu Mei had seen once. It had a sign shaped like a foot, indicating reflexology to me, hanging outside. Obviously, the Chinese characters indicated what was inside to Shu Mei. We walked in.
What transpired over the next two hours was definitely not a massage. There was a man, in the bottom level of his home, made into a sort of homeopathy shop. He had some boxes of Herbalife products strategically located next to some “before” and “after” snapshots of people hanging on a wall. Also, he had three massage tables in the rear of the shop. He performed what Shu Mei said was the “Chi procedure” on me.
I understand that this is an ancient culture and has many wonderful and insightful things to teach the outside world, but I do not think that their version of massage is one of them. Now, a Thai massage… that is a different story! When I went to Thailand, I got the most wonderful massage I have ever had! It was sheer heaven. I have had massages in many countries of this world and nothing can compare to that one. The girl put her whole body into it. Ah, it was wonderful!
Back to the “torture session”. I call it that, because what the man did was basically stab his thumbs into my stomach repeatedly. After each thrust, he asked me, through Shu Mei the interpreter, if I felt heat. Shu Mei said that he was trying to bring the “Chi” up and down through my legs. I only felt like I had gas. I guess the “Chi” wanted to go somewhere else.
At first, I was stupid and told him the truth. I said I didn’t feel anything. Then, stab! Again, he thrusted his fingers into my stomach. After a few times of that, I told him that I did feel the heat. (Actually, my forehead was sweating from all the pain he was inflicting upon me.) I told Shu Mei that I would definitely feel pain the next day, as I knew he was causing some serious internal bruising. She said that I wouldn’t, that the procedure was ancient and will help me. I wondered how it would help me. I mean, aside from the occasional crick in my neck, I was feeling okay. I just wanted a relaxing massage, not a torture session.
Soon, I found myself telling him that the heat was quickly, very quickly, moving down and out through my feet. Halleluiah! I was cured! He seemed pleased with his efforts. Then, he proceeded to punish the delicate muscles and blood vessels in my neck, while he gave Shu Mei a sales talk about the benefits of Herbalife.
Upon leaving “the dungeon”, Shu Mei asked me if I wanted to sign up for 5 more sessions, that he had a package special. Holding my breath, I laughed. I didn’t want her to feel bad that she had gone to so much effort this evening to make me feel good. She is truly a special woman. I told her that I would think about it.