Her hands pummeled all my cares away

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Her hands pummeled all my cares away

Are you sick and tired of reading about the North Korean nuclear crisis? And how “upbeat” diplomats describe the latest round of talks as “useful,” when you know they’re hopeless?
Tell Aweeka Yothee about it. She won’t understand you, because she hardly speaks any English. But her hands will comprehend, and they’ll try to heal what ails you ― as they, like, open up your meridians.
Ms. Yothee, 26, is an expert in Thai traditional massage. In Korea for about a year, she’s now working her magic at Chez Vous, the chill-out teahouse that the local art and entertainment impresario Vincent Sung opened last year on the second floor of a small residential building just behind and west of the Hamilton Hotel.
Chez Vous has been much busier, Mr. Sung says, since he hired Ms. Yothee three months ago. She came to Korea as an industrial worker, and was assembling handphones at a factory in Bucheon before Mr. Sung lured her away.
While Ms. Yothee has the sweetest and sunniest visage you’ll ever see, be warned: She can be brutal when she gets you on the mat. A Thai massage, you should know, is no caress on the beach. Midway through one, you may begin to wonder just how far it is from “deep, therapeutic pressure” to “crushed ribcage.” Or from “assisted yogic stretching” to “something’s gotta give.”
After a foot-washing and an oil-slapdown, your massage will begin with you lying prostrate and Ms. Yothee kneeling on the backs of your thighs. Then she’ll go at the pressure points that parallel your upper spine by pressing down with, then balancing all her 50 kilos (110 pounds) on, a thumb or two. After every few reps, she’ll utter one of the few English expressions she knows: “You O.K.?” Out of breath, you’ll respond with a feeble grunt, which she’ll take for a “yes.”
Over the rest of the 60- or 90- minute session she will press, lift and twist you in ways you thought impossible. You’ll go from pain and strain to blissful oblivion and back again more times than you can count. At the end, you’ll be sad it’s over, then emerge from the private room and sit down to a cup of masala tea a completely new man.
At that point, if you’re refreshed enough to talk about geopolitical snafus again, you can strike up a conversation with another Thai national that Mr. Sung just hired, one who speaks excellent English, Yotsaphat Pradasri. But the 23-year-old isn’t likely to be interested. He’ll want to talk about the abundance of nightlife in Bangkok and the lack of it in Seoul, or his mother and father back home, or the final season of “Sex and the City,” or his ambition to go to North America to attend law school.
You can get more information about Chez Vous, and see a picture of Ms. Yothee, by going to Mr. Sung’s nicely-designed Web site, chezvous.co.kr.
And you needn’t worry ― the site never even mentions North Korea.

by Mike Ferrin
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