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Violating Sanctions

An American Woman’s Listening Tour Through the Axis of Evil

Archive for the Massage Category

Steaming, Syria-Style

July 1st, 2008 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments 4 Comments »

Slinking behind the heavy carpet curtaining the doorway between Damascus’ blinding, dusty “old city” and a dark, primordial hall with a drizzling fountain in the middle, Sandy, Sally and I hoped to melt away our travel fatigue in one of Syria’s famous hamams.

The Turkish Bathhouse, open to women only before 5:00 pm (after which it becomes men’s domain), is tucked among shops selling intricately beaded and woven scarves, gracefully curved pewter kettles, fragrant zaatar-sprinkled flatbread soaked in olive oil, and cellphone cards.
Blinking, we three women of a certain age crept down the ancient stone stairs into a high-ceilinged, arched room, built in 1027 AD. Carpeted benches on raised platforms lined 3 of the walls. Women in various states of fleshy exposure lounged about, little children in soggy underpants ran amok, and the robust woman who took our money and wore a ratty skirt and a sodden towel that couldn’t even pretend to cover her breasts tried to upsell us to buy the whole spa package, loofah included. Another woman with well-placed tattoos and an unhooked bra cupping just her right breast came over to translate. She turned out to be the massage therapist. (more…)

Unlocking My Muscles at the Women’s Prison

June 5th, 2008 | Username By Kelly Hayes-Raitt | Comments 5 Comments »

Massage places in Thailand are about as ubiquitous as Starbucks in Santa Monica, so choosing to allow a convicted criminal to pummel the daylights out of my muscles may seem like an odd choice – or an inspired one, depending on one’s perspective.

But, I chose the Chiang Mai Women’s Correctional Institution ( because it gives soon-to-be-released women a chance to practice a new commercial skill, to earn some head-start money and to interact with the public in a controlled setting. As the young electrical engineer lying next to me said, “It massages my heart, too.”
Following the narrow streets of the original walled city of Chiang Mai, Thailand’s first capitol and second largest city, I was confused by the ungated, pleasantly tiled patio featuring a sprawling mango tree with purple orchids cascading from its branches.

I was expecting cinderblocks, barbed wire, guns and guards. What I found was an atrium-like restaurant adjacent to a coffee shop serving cappuccinos and homemade pastries. (more…)

Category: , Thailand, Massage
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