When I travel to Asia I will take advantage of the incredibly inexpensive foot massage parlors that are ubiquitous in the larger cities. Outside most of the big chain hotels there may be a half dozen or so catering to the tourists in that area.
By western standards, they are a bargain, mostly costing $7 - $8 per hour relaxing in a comfortable chair while your feet are washed and massaged. There is always a large window for people watching as they walk by. But often I just fall asleep because it is so relaxing. So, in a way, the experience can be wasted on me.
When you enter, you are assigned the next masseuse in the queue. It could be a man or a woman (but most are women). Well, although I don't judge the lifestyle of others, for me, I don't like men touching me unless they're a doctor (and not even then, really). If I'm assigned a man, I request a change.
If I don't fall asleep during the massage, I will engage in conversation if anyone speaks English well enough, and if there are no other patrons. I do not want to disturb others who would prefer to relax and they often play calming music to promote relaxation.
On one occasion, I was in Cambodia staying at a Hyatt brand hotel. Outside were several foot massage establishments and I randomly chose one. The owner of the place spoke English well, and I was the only one in there, so we struck up a conversation.
She had the normal curiosity of where I was from and what I was doing there, but I diverted the conversation. I'm more interested in the stories of other people when I travel. Although my blog is kirkstravelstories.com, the stories I like to tell most here are those of others. And she gave me a good one.
She talked about the poverty in Cambodia and how people struggle to get by. But that's a story I had heard many times. Nothing surprising here. But, as she continued she did tell a personal and surprising story.
She told me her husband had recently left her. They had been married for 10 years and he suddenly left her for another man. A rich man. She said her husband was not gay, but the rich man approached him with an offer of travel and a good lifestyle and he took him up on it!
Well that blew my mind. Now, I'm not homophobic, how two consenting adults choose to live is their business. I don't judge how others live, as long as they're not hurting others with their lifestyle. That's actually much different than the small town view I had growing up. But I say live and let live today.
Regardless, being a person who doesn't like to be touched by men, as I explained earlier, I couldn't help but be repulsed by this story. I mean, if the guy is not gay or bi-sexual and chooses a contrary lifestyle to his nature for money, that just seems despicable to me. How could anyone choose an alternative lifestyle against their nature for money?
Maybe I just don't understand poverty enough, but this story stuck with me. His wife owned the parlor I was in, how poor could they be? I expect it just wasn't enough for him. Covetousness and greed can lead people to some strange behaviors, but to gay lifestyle when you're not gay or bi-sexual? Beyond my imagination.
I really felt for the woman. I could see both the anger and the agony she suffered as she told the story. A story that seems unbelievable to many of us living in the western world.
Anyway, that's an example of parlor talk I've engaged in on my travels. Having heard many stories in these settings, I've actually written a short fictional story about the life of one such person working in this setting. It's too long for a post and I've never shared it. Perhaps in the future, if I run out of material to post, I can share it in small portions here.