One of the secretaries in the English Department (Lestari) invited me to go to a spa/salon with her last Sunday for a cream bath, which I had been dying to try. This mis-named extravagance is basically a head and neck treatment in which your hair is loaded with conditioner/cream and then massaged for 30-60 minutes.
First, they shampooed our hair. Then, I selected a scented cream (candle nut), which was applied to sections of my hair and massaged into my scalp. They then piled my hair on top of my head, and proceeded to give me a neck and shoulder massage. Next came an arm and hand massage. Then I was placed under one of those helmet-style hair dryers, except this one steamed my head instead of drying it. Finally, they washed the cream out and blow dried and styled my hair. The whole process lasted about an hour. The grand total for all this luxury? About $2.60. I’m so doing this on a regular basis! But in the future I’ll change a couple things:
1) Try to go without my coworker’s 4-year-old girl. I’m guessing it might make for a more relaxing atmosphere without having a kiddo running around the salon chattering and climbing on things.
2) Choose a different cream fragrance. Turns out “candle nut” is kind of a masculine scent.
After Lestari and I were finished with our cream baths, she and her husband wanted to stop by his parents’ place to wish his sister a happy birthday, and they asked if I wanted to go along. Sure. So they took me to his family’s house where his siblings and parents were completely welcoming and gracious and made me drink tea and eat cookies and visit. They also wanted me to attend the birthday party later that afternoon. Okay!
After the family visit, Lestari, hubby, the 4-year-old and I went for lunch. Because I said I like gado-gado (an Indonesian vegetable salad covered with peanut sauce), they took me to the place that made the best gado-gado in Semarang. It was delicious.
After lunch, we toured Lawang Sewu, or the “house of a thousand doors.” This historical landmark in Semarang was originally a train station built by the Dutch. Now it’s an old empty building that’s supposedly haunted (Indonesians are big believers in ghosts and attribute a lot of problems to spirits). It was interesting to visit although I didn’t understand much of the tour. Took some nice architectural photos though.
After the haunted building, it was time to get ready for the birthday party, which, it turns out, was not actually IN Semarang. Instead, we were going to Bandungan, a town about an hour away. Okay. We stopped at a bank for money, at their house for the gift, at a convenience store for water, and a gas station for gas. THEN we were ready to go to the birthday party. By this point I was ready to take a nap, and did just that during our drive to the hilltop restaurant.
After arriving in Bandungan, I enjoyed a lovely evening with the same family members I had met earlier in the day. They were all so welcoming and friendly. Most of them spoke English, some being very eager to practice with me and learn more about my background. The matriarch of the bunch didn’t speak any English (and kept apologizing for it!) but she still really wanted to include me – luckily she spoke simple enough Indonesian to accomplish that. The family even had the two grandchildren calling me auntie, and everyone wants me to join in future family gatherings. I’m bummed when I miss out on my own family events by living so far away from home, so I’m particularly thankful to be included in others’ celebrations. It’s not quite the same, but it certainly helps. So what began as a trip to a salon ended as a full-day excursion and the beginnings of a cross-cultural adoption of sorts.