Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Blind Leading The...Actually, The Blind Rubbing The Daylights Out Of My Feet

They say that Shanghai is like New York and Beijing is like Washington DC, so I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised when our guide Michelle took us to a delightful French bistro in the middle of downtown Shanghai. Franck is an attractive little place in the middle of a new shopping area (Ferguson Lane, 376 Wukang Lu, near Hunan Lu), with some lovely (although bargaining-not-encouraged) shops.

Franck has a fixed menu for lunch. They brought out a huge French charcuterie platter to start and then big salads. Then we had a choice of 3 entrées. 8 of my group chose Poulet Roti, I went with the fish. (I admit I took few pictures and no notes…but I think it was cod…it was perfectly cooked.) We skipped dessert in favor of coffee, very excellent coffee, before we embarked on a walking tour of the neighborhood.

Our second guide, Spencer, took us around on several occasions. Spencer is an architect, originally from Austin, Texas, specializing in renovating Shanghai buildings while keeping or restoring their original features. His walking tours of various areas were information-packed as he showed and explained the diverse architectural features of different properties and neighborhoods. (Email me for his contact info if you want a rockin' tour of Shanghai.)

Spencer knows every building in the French Concession area of Shanghai and many more besides. He has been living in Shanghai for some time and is fluent in Chinese, so he knows all the cool places to go. I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about one of our stops, but I went with the flow.

I hadn't thought I had led a particularly sheltered life, but I had never heard of Blind Massage. It is exactly what it sounds like...blind people massaging, I suppose for the most part, non-blind people. It really makes sense when you think about it. Of course, blind people have increased sensitivities outside of sight, including, of course, their sense of touch.

6 of us were brave enough to try a blind foot massage, following the tenets of reflexology. We entered with our stalwart leader, Spencer, who knew what was coming and still agreed to have a foot massage.

It was a modest place, more therapeutic than stylish. And the blind people were sitting in a row waiting for us. We each took a comfortable easy chair, draped with towels. We soaked our feet in… water, I guess and then a blind person approached each of us. They motioned for us to put our feet up on an ottoman and they took the first foot in hand. There were no creams or potions or other concoctions used, just hot towels and powerful hands.

It started out okay, but then my person got to the bottom of my foot, which is supremely sensitive. I stuck my fist in my mouth and I couldn’t help laughing in a high-pitched unnatural way. It was my way of letting her know to stop, but she never did.

THEN she started kneading the bottom of my foot (sorry I don’t know the Chinese lingo for all the pressure points…I don’t actually know them in English either.) really hard, really, really hard. Actually, she was killing me. My laughing turned to breathless screams and then my neighbor said something about childbirth, so I moved to panting. It didn’t help.

OMG, it was more than painful. The friend on my right had tears going down her face, the one on my left was stiff upper-lipping it, but admitted it was rather painful. I could only yell. Heck, I'm not even quiet when I find a good deal at the supermarket, so when someone is kneading the soles of my feet up to wazoo, that is certainly no time to fall silent.

Apparently, it means something when they find a particular area knotted up. They said my neighbor and I definitely had trouble sleeping from what they found in our feet. That was spot-on for me (I haven’t slept well for 10 years), but not particularly meaningful to my friend.

We had arrived late, so the usual 70 minute appointment was closer to an hour, THANK GOODNESS!!!

As we left, everyone agreed that while incredibly uncomfortable (I would say excruciating) our feet felt amazing, as if they’d been thoroughly kneaded in all directions (which they were) and were completely supple and flexible. We were leaving Shanghai the next day and I’m not sure my heart could stand another session, but if I ever find myself in Shanghai again, I would certainly give it another try now that I know what to expect.


Emiline said...

Oh my goodness - that does sounds painful! I don't know if I could do that. Did you consider getting up and walking away?

Well, as long as your footsies are feeling great, then that's all that matters.

The Short (dis)Order Cook said...

I used to go to a nail salon where you got a foot massage rather than a back massage when you got a pedicure. I remember thinking at the time of my foot massage, "I know this is supposed to feel good eventually, but I...can't...stand...the...pressure..." I guess I'm not the only one who felt that way because they started just doing the standard back rubs for manicures and pedicures.

Sue said...

They were holding my feet hostage!

Hi S(D)OC,
That must have been the salon where people would run screaming from the place with half-done nails! Good move to go back to just back rubs...

Anonymous said...

Hi, Can I get the e-mail address of the tour guide? How long did the tour last?


Sue said...

Hi Anon,
Absolutely. Email me and I'll send it along.