Just Another Travel Oops


By guest blogger Heather Lea

On a fall evening when the leaves were turning in Canada, I was getting my bare ass slapped by a woman with a mustache in Istanbul.

Fresh from 72 days of bike-touring, where five friends and I had cycled from Paris to Istanbul, a Turkish bath seemed like a great idea.

It wasn’t.

The owner of my hostel divulged the location of a non-touristy bath in the area. His directions led through secret streets and eventually to the building itself, which looked seedy and unimpressive. I thought about leaving but was committed by curiosity and walked in.

An old woman with attached eyebrows approached and showed me to a changing area, where some well-worn flip-flops and a tattered towel awaited.

In the main bathing area, steamy shafts of light came through cracks in the steeple above. The room was muggy and claustrophobic with its wetness. A steady dripping came from the urinal-like urns mounted to the walls. The old woman turned and revealed a beard, which reminded me of burned trees in a sparse forest. She suddenly barked “VASH!” and gestured to the urns then left.

I took a plastic bowl from beside the urn and began to splash water over myself assuming this was what VASH! meant. A good ten minutes passed. I modestly tried to cover myself with my hands while watching a local woman across the room. She seemed to be overly enjoying herself and hardly noticed me until, unsure about what to do next, I headed for the door. She looked up and said, “Finish?”

Sparsely wrapped in the thin towel I went back out into the foyer, feeling the flip-flops flicking grit up my legs.

There was a shocked murmuring in the foyer when I emerged. The old lady waddled over and more or less pushed me back into the bath room growling, “VASH!

Maybe this was a Turkish prison…

Back in the wash room, I splashed bowl after bowl of water over myself, feeling utterly uncomfortable.

Finally, the old lady came in but I wasn’t relieved. She was naked, except for a black pair of bikini underwear.

Please don’t be my massage lady!

She summoned me by slapping her hand on a giant slab of marble and aggressively forced me down onto my back beginning a vigorous rub-down with a sponge that looked like a wire pot-scrubbing pad.

With a martial arts-like manuver, I was suddenly flipped over and positioned face-down on the watery marble.

Another vigorous rub-down and a slap—this time on the ass. What was with all the slapping? Did people normally drift off in pleasure around here?

I returned to VASH! sitting where others and their ‘parts’ had sat before. I thought of how quickly I might get a proper shower before diseases started to settle in.

A familiar slap on the marble—my cue.

I went over and was relieved to see a bar of soap. The old lady went hard at scrubbing my arms, and I watched embarrassed as my limp hands slapped against her long, sagging breasts while she worked. Averting my attention, I was astonished to see gloppy gray balls of dead skin all over my arms. Disgusting! But somehow fascinating…

There was so much lather now that her attempts to VASH! me were akin to using bare hands to catch a fish. I reached a breaking point though and laughed in great, gulping sobs. She slapped my ass, VASH!

There was a shampoo session next: my face between her breasts as she scrubbed my scalp. I couldn’t breathe until she pulled my head back and, with a resounding shhhlock, the seal was broken and air filled my lungs.

Then—by the grace of God—it was over. In the changing room, I crawled raw and stinging into my clothes, which felt like sandpaper. At the cash, register the woman came over sporting a smile around her hairy mouth. Hovering at my shoulders, she gestured to my wallet. I was still coherent enough to understand it to mean that I should give her a tip. I did, because I was terrified of what torture she reserves for non-tippers…

Heather Lea is the  Owner and Creative Director of Riding Full Circle.

Last modified: June 14, 2018

One Response to :
Just Another Travel Oops

  1. Rona Frye says:


    I was taking a road trip to Wisconsin from Arizona. My car, perfect for my love of hiking, is an old ’86 Four Runner. I was all lost in singing along with Michael Buble on my IPOD- totally in the flow. As I motored up a hill on the interstate, oblivious to where I was, the car just clunked to a stop. I looked down at the gas gauge and saw it was flat-out empty. I don’t know anyone to call and don’t really know where the heck I am! I looked over the edge of the embankment and saw that there were no fences, deep gullies or big rocks to block me from coasting down it. As I coasted down the hill I noticed that there was a frontage road up the other side.

    I had to start the car, a stick shift, a lot to inch my way down that road to a driveway just a ways away. I was successful and got entirely into the yard of a farm house. I got out, nervously scanning for the usual farm dog but none appeared. I knocked on the house door and waited. No one came at first so I began walking around the yard thinking that every farmer I knew always had an extra can of gas around. I began to believe that I would have to ‘borrow’ some gas if no one came to the door. Just then a woman peeked her head out the door asking if she could help me. I told her of my dilemma, that I had run out of gas, and she was dumbfounded to think I could have actually run out of gas IN HER YARD!!! I explained how I got to her yard and when she began to get the picture she told me to get in my car, that she was going to let her dogs out and then get dressed and take me to town for gas. I did as she advised and as time crept by I began to wonder what if…….what if she left me out there with those dogs and an empty gas tank and no where to go. That thought creeped me out and just then the woman appeared, called in her dogs and motioned me to climb into her truck (a big new crew cab style truck). I jumped in feeling tremendous relief and we were off for the neighboring little town. As she drove out of her yard she began to pour out her sad story to me. She told me how, 31 years ago,, she had given up her first born son for adoption because she was too young, going to school and wanted him to have a better life. The adoption was closed so she did not have access to the records. Every Christmas she said she went into a deep depression worrying about how he was and where he was and whether he would ever find her. She was told by her co-workers that they believed he would not try to find her. Her heart was so sad. Her soul was deeply wounded. I thought that since we just met moments ago and since she bared her soul to me before we got out of her yard, I would give her hope and all the empathy I was feeling at that moment. I said that absolutely her son WOULD hunt her down one day. Every adopted child I knew of had a hole in their heart until they knew where they came from, whether their parents loved them, why they gave the baby up. I advised her to go online and on Facebook and hunt him down. As we drove into town she first pulled up to a drive-up and ordered me a large soda. Next she took me to a local hardware store where we went in and looked over the gas can assortment. We tested each one and I picked one out. She said she wanted to buy it for me. I couldn’t let her do it. Next we went to the gas station and as I filled up the can she went inside and paid for my gas and brought out a bag of snacks for me for the road. She directed me out to the interstate and I hugged her and told her she was my angel. She thought I was hers. I asked for her email so I could thank her and gave her mine. I emailed her once I arrived in Wis. and never heard back from her. As I went over that incredibly rich experience I came to believe that I had taken her away from her pain with my own dilemma. However brief was our connection we touched each other woman to woman on a soul level.

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