After the hot and tiring walk on the Great Wall of China we went for a Chinese foot massage. I had been looking for an opportunity for a massage ever since we arrived at the airport in Shanghai and saw a gigantic advertisement for massages. The Family had even found a masseuse who was willing to come to the hotel and give her a massage; it was only the thought of the INR 2000 which she was going to charge which kept the plan from turning to reality.
We sat down in an intimidating waiting room for a while. The walls were full of stern writing in Chinese, of which I could read only one character. There were charts which explained the esoterica of acupuncture and the divination of your entrails from how you respond to a foot massage. I was beginning to consider running away. I was not very happy with the thought that my pedimasseuse would know the intimate details of my bowels and kidneys, especially since I myself had only vague suspicions about their states.
Before I could escape, an attendant had brought in a steaming bowl of water with a tea bag floating in it. The first time I had gone to a restaurant in Japan I did not know what one has to do with the steaming bowl of miso soup: should I eat it up or wash my hands in it? Only by observing my fellow diners did I figure this out. The bowl of tea was not at all confusing. When a bowl as large as this placed on the floor, the only course of action could be to dip my toes into it. I did. Soaking tired feet in warm water is always pleasant, and it was this time too. Eventually I was told the bag was full of chinese medicinal herbs like saffron, not tea. Whatever.
The rest of the massage was farcical. I’m extremely ticklish. So I spent the next fifteen minutes stifling giggling fits. I’m not sure what my pedimasseuse thought of my liver, but I think I successfully kept her from guessing how ticklish I am. My first Chinese foot massage did nothing special for me. The Family claimed that Indian massages are no different, and last longer. Maybe Chinese traditional medicine is about to lose two potential clients.