Work in Progress

“In the best travel, disconnection is a necessity. Concentrate on where you are; do no back-home business; take no assignments; remain incommunicado; be scarce. It is a good thing that people don’t know where you are or how to find you. Keep in mind the country you are in. That’s the theory.”
–Paul Theroux

A human who loves the world, finds beauty in the unknown, and can't keep her feet on the ground. I like finding unique (and cheap) ways of making my way around the globe. Interacting with people while living, learning, and loving the culture I'm surrounded by.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Give me more JIMJIL

When my Korean coworkers invited me to a Jimjilbang with them, I was a little hesitant. I've always wanted to visit one, but with the people I work? Do I want to hang out naked with them, I have to look them in the eyes almost everyday. But, what the hell - right?

I didn't know what to expect going to a public bathhouse with my coworkers AND boss. So I decided to expect nothing. Except for being noody, that I knew was unavoidable. We drove an hour and a half outside of Ulsan to a Jimjilbang that wasn't in a mass building structure. Instead we pulled up to a quaint building across from a garden and a lotus field. Worth it. Especially because for the first 30 minutes we had the spa completely to ourselves.

You start by washing off your body and hair. No one wants to share a bath with a dirty ajumma. Or waygook for that matter. And the whole being naked thing? Got over that real quick. The whole environment was too perfect to not relax. After we hopped between to two spas (one hot and one cold) we rinsed off again and changed into our orange Jimjilbang outfits and went to meet our two male coworkers in the common area. 

They were already drenched in sweat from being in the massive hot sauna while waiting for us. We ducked our heads down to walk through the tiny door (yes, even I had to croch down a bit) and immediately broke into a sweat. Sitting in a circle and chatting it up while sweating a storm and making silly traditional Jimjilbang headwear was a highlight of the afternoon. 

To be honest, the whole afternoon was one big highlight for me... and for everyone else I think. Several times each of us exclaimed how happy we were. How relaxed we felt. How awesome our job is. HaeJoo, the boss man, brought us all sikhye while we were sitting outside cooling off. It's a transitional Korean rice drink. It's sweet and delicious and really hits the spot after being depleted of a mass amount of body water via the sauna. 

Then our group of lucky little ducklings were hearded through a "secret passage" connecting the Jimjilbang to a Korean BBQ joint - specializing in DUCK MEAT. Holy crap. I was in heaven. We didn't even have to change out of our cool attire or put shoes on. Eating is so much fun in this country. It's so interactive and fun to share and try new things. My chopstick skills, however, vary. Sometimes I'm a pro, other times I drop kimchi into my water. Hit or miss. I'm a firm believer that metal chopsticks makes it more difficult. Cop out. 

We waddled back to the spa and explored all the things they had to offer. A few sleeping rooms, where I took a quick but efficient power nap. They had massage chairs that felt like I was being pulverized. My legs and feet were at one point constrained and I couldn't remove myself from the chair. It was like a boa constrictor. Not gonna lie, it felt amazing. They also had lower tempurate saunas, or "burning rooms" as my cute Korean coworkers refer to them as. After another session of sauna and outside patio chat, we returned to the spa to shower and sit in the tub and shower some more. 

And then our perfect boss took us to dinner. Naengmeyong. Cold noodles. Perfect meal choice for the post Jimjilbang stomach. Even though I may have still been full from lunch - I did a pretty decent job keeping up with the Koreans eating pace. Their little stomachs sure can hold mass amounts of food, and they get it in there so fast! They were finished with theirs waaaay before most of us even made a dent in our massive pile of noodles. 

So, moral of the story? Get naked around the people you have to see everyday. 

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