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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Shower of Shame

I never believed that I could have a more embarrassing moment than accidentally flashing the beach over Waikiki when my top flew up over my face while skydiving in Hawaii - but alas, I was wrong! I now have a new chapter in Lindy’s Most Embarrassing Moments.

While teaching at an English camp in Sichuan, China, (where I apparently was the only American foreigner ever to grace that part of the countryside) I found a new source of shame…the public shower. This was an earthquake affected area with no running water, no toilet facilities, and only one public shower spot for the entire surrounding area. As a privacy conscious American, I had been resisting the idea of showering with a bunch of Chinese strangers. For two days I had held my ground, but by the end of the third day of 90 degree humidity, I couldn’t stand my own stench. I decided to sneak down to the showering area at 5:30 pm when I knew most everyone would be eating. The first day, I met with success and I welcomed the cold water on an extremely hot, sweaty day. I thought I had found a way to beat the system and avoid curious onlookers, so I decided to do the same the following day.

Just as I was getting my long hair into a bubbly lather, I heard the blood curdling screams coming from the other side of the shower room. “Waiguoren! Waiguoren! Lai ba! Lai ba!” Which loosely translated means, “Hey ya’ll! Come! Come and see the foreigner!” I started freaking out, washing the shampoo out of my hair as quickly as I could knowing that I was slated to be the naked evening entertainment for whoever was in earshot of the invitation. I was just as horrified to be standing there naked in front of 6 women who had hurried into the shower room to see what the commotion was all about, as they were to get the full on view of my full moon over Miami! It was bad enough that I could understand parts of what they were saying about my extremely white skin and my fat behind, but when they started stripping off their clothes and beckoning me to come back into the shower with them so they could wash my back, I just about lost it.

Granted, this kind of invitation and showering practice is common, (especially, in rural China) but all I wanted to do at that moment was close my eyes, click my wet heels together and chant, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home….” Unfortunately, I am not equipped with those kinds of magical red shower slippers and the reality of laughing Chinese women around me, poking my flab was all too real. I threw on my clothes and fled the scene, wet hair flying as I bolted out the door just yards away to my room. I could still hear the playful women having fun in the shower and probably wondering why the foreigner was so rude and acting so strangely. All I wanted to do was sit on my bed in fetal position and rock until the memory went away. As I write, no such luck yet. I am confident that I will never again have the guts to go into a public shower- no matter how rank I get. I am also confident that those Chinese village women will have many stories to tell their families, their grandchildren and great grandchildren about the fat, white, naked foreigner… for years to come. Please tell me it can’t get any more embarrassing than that!

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8 comments:

Anonymous said...

What an experience! I agree that this beats your previous experience in Hawaii! Glad you can chuckle about it now...

Barb said...

Hilarious and nightmarish all at the same time! Wonder what this does to a person's psyche?

Joel said...

"...all I wanted to do at that moment was close my eyes, click my wet heels together and chant, “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home…."

aahhahaha! that's so horrible but so funny. you're a trooper. and I'm linking to this...

Jrfudy said...

Ha ha ha! Oh no! I have both reactions at the same time. I'm so glad to "see" you again! (oops. no pun intended. really)

Anonymous said...

I had the EXACT same experience in Shanxi my first time in China. It was humbling, embarrassing and altogether unpleasant. I got used to it though and now have no shame. Part of the charm/horrific experience of living in China. You're not alone!!

Fili said...

ROTFL

Priceless.

BeverlyMundyWeable said...

Lindy - Trent's wife here. I had a public bath experience in Japan, but I let the old grandmotherly woman scrub my back because I'm a sucker for a free back scratch, foot rub, etc. Well, she was completely disgusted at the amount of dead skin that she got off of my back, so I'm sure that the stories about the American's poor hygiene went all around my little town. Alas.

mjd said...

You could always counter their judgements by politely enquiring why Chinese women all have chests as flat as an airfield... It's 航空母舰(aircraft carrier == flat chested) vs 战舰 (battleship == "chimneys").

Most Chinese women I've met are envious of western women in this department.