środa, 6 września 2017

#18 Go to Scotland (It's cheating!)

Picture: Tatiana Gerus CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Okay, it's cheating, because I wanted to go to Scotland first, then I actually planned the whole trip and then in the end I wrote about it here. But hey, I really wanted to do it, I just thought it's just not big enough to list it here. 

I was always into everything that's Iro Scottish. I have no idea where it came from, I think Terry Deary and his Cut-Throat Celts plus a brief and somewhat weird early-teenage crush on Braveheart may be to blame. I am fearless when it comes to public speaking and  general public appearances and I owe it to Iro Scottish folklore.

When I was a clumsy teenager, I asked my mom to pay for my Irish dance classes. It was crazy, I was training twice a week, stretching, jumping, I don't remember any other thing into which I put so much physical effort. Okay, now that I think about it, last year I raced against my sister to get the last chocolate Easter egg from the basket, and the only thing I got was a bruise (she got the egg), but let's make the Irish dance the second most physically exhausting thing I've ever done. I even participated in a Fèis, Irish dance competition. I practiced like a psycho, only to go to the stage and forget the choreography after first 5 steps. I had to stop and wait on the stage until the end of the song (as two other girls were dancing alongside) and try not to cry in front of a thousand people. 

After such a traumatic event, I realized that nothing worse will ever happen to me on stage, so I can as well go there and do whatever. 

I've been always wanting to go there and say thanks, but there was never a good occassion for that. It's a shame, especially if you take into account how cheap the flights are. But now, I'm going and it's going to be horrible. 

My boyfriend and his friend had a great idea of a ten days hike that starts on a Cape Wrath Trail, and I bet that this name is not a coincidence. It includes staying in a tent with no access to running water, hot wated, mobile network, electricity or anything remotly resembling civilisation. TEN DAYS. I checked the Walking Higlands website and they describe their trails with distance, ascend, time and bog factor. I kid you not, bog factor is a real thing. On the top of it, this is how Google Weather stabs my back:

poniedziałek, 2 stycznia 2017

This is a post about boobs

...you filthy perv. But even more, it's a post about women attached to every pair. 

I happen to be in Azerbaijan. I ended up here, because I'm not very assertive when people ask me if I want to spend New Years Eve in Baku. (I might have the tickets bought before my friend finished the question). Azerbaijan is a bit like Turkey, they share many traditions, one of which is hamam, Turkish bath.

I was lucky. It's not that easy to find a hamam for women in Baku, but today is Monday, and Mondays and Fridays are the days when one of the oldest hamams in İçərişəhər - the old town - is open for women, whereas the rest of the weeks is for men only. The hamam consisted of two parts. When I opened the door, right from the street, I saw a large entrance hall. I opened the door and I closed it immediately, because the first thing I saw was lots of semi-naked ladies, all ages and shapes, sitting at the tables, drinking tea, changing, drying hair, smoking cigarettes. I expected at least some hallway, reception desk, whatever, but it turned out that the hamam begins just behind its doorsteps. I paid, I got my and a glass of tea and a pink sheet, I stripped naked and I followed a young, doe-eyed manager to the main bath hall.

The place was ancient, over 300 years old, made of a limestone, darkened with humidity and age. Behind another door there was a higly vaulted hall, full of steam and more naked ladies. In the middle there was a small fountain, surrounded by three stone massage beds. It was beautiful, but not glamourous at all, not really a Carrie Bradshaw kind of place (more like a Bəsti from Bacanaqlar kind of place) It also had two saunas - dry and wet one and showers. The idea is simple - first you take a shower, then you have a body scrub and a massage and then you can do whatever you want.

My masseuse was a hearty woman, more or less my mom's age. She was sweaty, big, naked (well, wrapped with nothing but a thin wet sheet), with hands like loafs of bread. Forget neat, immaculately white uniforms of discrete spa staff. Forget spas. Forget your argan oils, your hot stones and plinky-plonky music seeping trough. This is a real spa. The masseuse unceremoniausly laid me on one of the beds, and scrubbed every inch of my body, and by every inch I also mean parts that made we think "ouch, really, THERE?".

I was laying on that bed, I was being touched in CERTAIN places. At times, when my masseuse had to bend over me, I had her boobs (wrapped only with a wet sheet) right in my face and, as I already mentioned, the place was full of naked people. Where I come from, one can see naked people only when one is taking a quick shower at the swimming pool, being slightly embarassed, trying not to check other people out. Here everybody was checking people out because no one was really hiding their body. Not a big deal. None of 40+ women there was 100% hot. I saw fat teenagers, thin ladies in their forties, big women, petite girls, I saw brazilian waxing and full 70' bush. I saw moles and c-sections scars. I saw post-pregnancy bellies and muffin tops and hairy legs. I saw big boobs, small boobs, saggy boobs, perky boobs. Boobs like pears and boobs like apples and boobs like a dachshund's ears. And none of the ladies I met there gave a flying fuck about what other people will think about their muffin tops and cellulite. They weren't wrapping themselves tightly in their sheets, they weren't hiding in the corner. They were enjoying each other's company, and taking loving care of what they had, no matter if it was fat or skinny or wrinkled or smooth. 

If I were in charge of schools in my country, or any other country that doesn't have a tradition of a hamam, onsen, sauna or any other kind of a public bath, I would introduce it as an obligatory school subject for girls. An hour of public bath every week. Looking at real, non-sexualized women's bodies, which come in every shape and size, and which eventually get old and wrinked, will do for anxious teenagers more good than any of these affirmative body image projects. You know, the ones aiming to build self-confidence amongst young women in the world where 90% of (semi)naked bodies we see, are photoshopped. It makes no sense to tell girls that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, when most of what they see on billboards is size zero.

Of course there would be no picture from inside, but that's what you see when you leave the place - a majestic sunset over Baku's famous Flame Towers. A cherry on the (muffin) top of the day.