Sunday, December 20, 2015

In Place of Turkey Bowl – November 27, 2015

Right before I left for Ethiopia, I got a text from a friend in Hanover asking if we’d be having Turkey Bowl this year – given that 17RFR is on the market. Well 17RFR hasn’t sold, so no reason for no Turkey Bowl on the Green…except that I’d be in Ethiopia.

One would think that given my love for Turkey Bowl, I would have tried to organize something in Ethiopia. One would be wrong – because I was at a hotel that had a spa option and that seemed like a better use of my time than a futile (American) football effort.

So with the lowest of expectations, I set off down to the Sabana Wellness Center. Let’s just summarize this whole experience by saying that my expectations were met, exceeded, re-set, and exceeded again. From the plush robes to the rainfall shower and the Jacuzzi and mood music – I just didn’t know that such a luxurious spa experience could exist in Ethiopia!

As I struggled to not doze off while enjoying the full body massage, thinking of exactly how I’d capture the full experience in my blog, I remembered…*gasp* I NEVER PUBLISHED MY BLOG ABOUT MY EXPERIENCE WITH THE TURKISH BATHS IN ISTANBUL!

*Flashback to June 19, 2014*

I landed in Istanbul without much planned except for a reservation at a hostel for that evening and a list of ~20 foods to try and ~20 attractions to visit aggregated from Turkish friends and friends of friends. Some things, like the Blue Mosque, felt obligatory and inevitable (note: I ended up never visiting the Blue Mosque) while others – like going to a Haman, or Turkish Bath, sounded a little more interesting.

I tend to like to do interesting things…so after getting settled at #bunk hostel, I set off to Galatasaray Hamam. Everything I knew about the Haman is summed up in the 2-line explanation I received from a friend-of-a-friend: “In Taksim Zone. Open daily 08:00-20:00, prices range from YTL 40-70 (EUR 23-40) according to preference. YTL 70 includes massage, the cleansing, pore opening and bubbles. Women only, women do the massage”

Seemed reasonable to go to a place where women do the massage. Whatever that meant.
By the genius I learned from Cory Hoeferlin in Mozambique that you can access the blue dot on Google Maps even if you’re offline, I was able to navigate my way through the back streets of Taksim to find the Galatasaray Hamam. Well…kinda. I saw a door that said as much and I let myself in.

I feel that I should be excused for missing the Female door for the Galatasarya Hamam
Cue scene from a movie for a room full of naked men all conversing suddenly stop, turn, and stare. Apparently there is also a male-only Galatasaray Hamam – and apparently they are quite exposed because male only means MALE ONLY and women don’t usually wander into the restricted area.
So I tried again at the female Galatasaray Hamam. As I walked up the stairs, I was greeted with some beautiful posters of beautiful women laughing around marble baths while enjoying eating grapes with their friends. It looked beautiful and was nothing like the experience that I walked into.

My only indication of what would be included in my hamam experience before I entered. Maybe I should read up about some things in advance.
*Warning: In an effort to maintain journalistic integrity, the following section is NSFW (aka Not Safe for Work) or for grandparents. I had no idea what I was walking into with a Turkish bath and you might be offended.

So I walked into the hamam. There were about four women sitting around in various states of dress, most of them with some amount of water dripping off of them. Despite the entrance of a clueless white girl, it took them a while to acknowledge me – at which point it became clear that none of them knew English. I pointed to one of the options on the list of services and hoped that it was clear.

The woman didn’t take any money, but she gave me a key and led me to a little room on the side. I use the word “room” very liberally here – it was kind of like an open cubicle, made of glass, and with a door that locked. There was a little chair and a towel in it. I assumed this meant that I was supposed to change into the towel – but it was a little strange because there wasn’t exactly any privacy in the tiny room made of glass. But in my hesitation, I gained privacy – the other four women in the room quickly left to go to side rooms. So I slipped off my clothes and wrapped myself in the tiny little towel. But then I didn’t really know what to do, so I just sat on the little chair for a bit.

A little bit became a long bit. I was confused. Was I supposed to do be doing something? I eventually grew bored enough of sitting and staring at a blank wall, so I decided to venture into the main room to see if anybody paid any attention to me. Maybe because I hadn’t paid anything, they were ignoring me? Was I supposed to have paid?

Finally finally, one of the four women came back into the room and led me to this room full of showers. She mimed that I was supposed to shower and then held her hand out to hold my towel for me. Right. There’s nothing I love more than showering in front of foreign women in foreign countries. (Tried to link to a blog entry about visiting a traditional bath house in Japan here – but apparently I never wrote that blog either! Something has prevented me from writing these NSFW blogs…)

When she felt that I was sufficiently showered, she led me into another room. This room had a huge marble slab in the middle and probably 20 little faucets/sinks on the side with stools. It was also hot and steamy. My guide pointed to me to sit on the marble slab – which was pretty hot. Because if you think I left out the part where I was supposed to say that she gave me my towel back, I didn’t. I was still prancing around naked in front of her.

She turned and left.

Things I did in the time before she came back included: walking 10 laps around the marble slap (a feat given how slippery the floor is), laying back down on the marble slab and counting all the tiles in the ceiling (they were tiny tiles), opening all the doors that led out of the room to see if there was something else I was supposed to be doing, giving up hope and just sitting there…wondering what I’d gotten myself into and if I should’ve gone to one of the fancier hamam’s suggested by the friend-of-a-friend.

Finally finally again, my guide came back to rescue me. She instructed me to sit up on the marble slab and then she stripped down herself, on a stool across from me. Then she started dumping buckets of water on top of me. With the combination of the force of the water and the already slippery surface of the marble, I slid straight off the marble slab with the first dump of water – and straight into my guide. She pushed me back onto the slab and forced me down into her well-endowed chest. 

Ermmmmmm – I hesitated.

But then she poured the next bucketful of water on me and I started to slide again before steadying myself with my head against her chest.

“Fuck it,” I thought, “I need stability” – so I went for it and burrowed myself into her chest, grabbing her sides to further steady myself.

Which was when I remembered the pictures of the ladies enjoying the hamam that were on the stairs as I entered. While nuzzled up in this Turkish woman’s boobs, staring down at her nudity as she slapped my back clean, I thought to myself that this experience definitely was not what was advertised.

Just...not what my hamam experience was like. There are way too many clothes in this picture and those girls are way too not-that-well-endowed.

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