Last summer, during my last week in Taipei, I went out to the 西門丁 district to get a foot massage. My experience of Taiwan foot massages is that they are meant to be painful, and they will work you until they see you squirming and pulling away in the chair. When it’s over, you think “guh, I’ll never get a foot massage ever again!” but then a few days later, you find yourself missing… craving… the pain. What is that?
Anyway, if you’re in the Chinese speaking world, you should be able to get a foot massage at all hours of the night. I could never find the same place twice in 西門丁, it was a confusing place. Otherwise I would have gone back to the bright 2nd floor place that Squirmy E took Aussie L and I after sushi that one night. But alas, I couldn’t find it, so I ended up in a big dark cave of a place. There was a Korean couple next to me, very serious. The woman was surfing through the Korean channels, (there are flat screens mounted on the walls for customers to watch) because apparently the Korean variety shows with singing segments, game show segments, candid camera segments… apparently these shows are all different. These shows always have twelve famous guests on at a time, and all twelve are holding wireless remote microphones… these shows make me sad for the sound engineers.
Here’s the deal; my massage lady was digging into my foot with her monster strong fingers, and she tells me, you can look at the card if you want to know what spot I’m hitting.
There are two major reasons I get foot massages; one is for the brilliant pleasure of relief that it brings my poor foot muscles; the second reason is for the Chinese practice. There are only a handful of categories where my Chinese has developed, and one of the categories is massage. At one point I knew all the internal organs because my massage people would tell me the points they were hitting over the course of the conversation.
So I was a little reluctant to reach for the foot map, because truth be told, I just wanted her to tell me what spot she was hitting, and then describe the spot to me. But she kind of insisted I look at the foot map.
The foot map was in several languages. I could see that the spot she was hitting at that moment was “prostate/uterus.” Yes, I said, I know what spot that is. Then I looked at the Chinese, which said “前列腺／子宮.” Obviously I knew that it was the “prostate/uterus” spot, but I didn’t know how to pronounce the characters for prostate (after the fact: qián liè xiàn).
Happily, I did know how to pronounce 子宮–long story*– so when my massage lady look up at me to see what I had found on the foot map, I said “子宮！ Zǐgōng! UTERUS!”
I started laughing hysterically, and then she started laughing hysterically, and we laughed HARD, as if we were cousins. I should state explicitly; I am a dude, I do not have a uterus, and that’s why it was funny. Also, when you say it fast, 子宮 kind of sounds like the cha-ching sound of a cash register. Zǐgōng! Also, 子宮 is made of two characters; 子 “child” and “宮“ palace… “Child palace” is kind of a grand name for the uterus, don’t you think?
I laughed so hard that I started seeing spots. And every so often, when the laughter started to fade, I’d make another comment to start it all over again:
- 哎呦，我的子宮喔！ Oh dear, my uterus!
- 我的子宮有一點不舒服。My uterus has a little bit of discomfort.
- 沒有年輕人的子宮了。 It’s not a young person’s uterus anymore.
Stop! said my massage lady, you don’t have a uterus! And then we’d start laughing again. Who cares?
The uptight Korean couple cares, that’s who cares. We were obviously killing their enjoyment of Gangnam Sábado Gigante, The lady pouted at me. I don’t care.
Later the manager came by, to scold us for making so much noise. When she came over, massage lady and I started laughing harder. What’s going on? she asks my massage lady.
I didn’t want to get my massage lady in trouble so I cut in: 不好意思，就是我的子宮比較累。Apologies, it’s just that my uterus is rather tired.
We started laughing again, and manager lady shook her head and left us alone.
* Why did I know the word for uterus? When I went to Shanghai, I wanted to tell the story of Chen Guangcheng to my teacher. I ended up learning the words for forced abortion, forced sterilization, exile, etc.
Funnily enough, my Shanghai teacher actually knew the whole story; she had seen it on a made for TV movie. What she didn’t know was that the lawyer’s name was Chen Guangcheng, that the events were REAL, and that he had sought exile at NYU, and was currently living in Greenwich Village.