Sunday, April 19, 2009
I am America's Gypsy and my gypsy spirit has taken me around the world only to find there are many hidden gems of culture in our own back yard of America. These small countries with in our major cities bring unique adventures to the curious soul.
Today we are exploring Korea in America! It was another day of hustle and bustle in Los Angeles and I needed to relax! I’ve heard of these so-called Women's Day Spas, but in this city of luxury, it comes at a high price. Driving down Wilshire Blvd. I pulled into the Grand Spa (www.grandspala.com), which is right in the middle of Korea town. Korea town is considered one of the most diverse neighborhoods in America with a Korean population of some 160-thousand people, making it the largest concentration of Koreans outside of Korea. It is under 5 square miles and is rich with brownstones, high-end Asian boutiques, food markets and spas. For under a hundred dollars you can spend all day in a Korean spa or as they call it, Jimjilbang, and receive an assortment of ancient healing treatments such as the famous Korean Scrub. Ajumas (older Korean women only wearing black underwear) or Ajoshis for the gentlemen (yes, men get scrubs too), will scrub you from head to toe with a special exfoliating glove. "Anyong Haseo" is the greeting and "Kamsamnida" is thank you in Korean.
As the doors open to the Grand Spa, an array of Korean women all dressed in white greeted me with joy “Anyong haseo!” As I undressed into my white robe and towel, I entered into a mermaid’s oasis filled with showers, soaking tubs, dry saunas, and an array of steam rooms. I opted for the cold tub first. As I inched my way into the freezing water I couldn't help but laugh and scream at the same time. All the naked Korean women looked at me with a slight grin on their face.... as I said with great articulation "C O L D!" They nodded in agreement. After about an hour of circulating between hot and cold tubs, it was time for my scrub. On my way to my treatment, I passed naked women lying on wet beds and heard the sounds of wet flesh hitting wet flesh and then realized that not only was I naked and wet, but so was my Ajuma.
The scrub began! She poured hot water all over me like a dog being washed in the sink. She then flopped me onto my tummy and with brisk movements wearing lime green exfoliating gloves; she salted and scrubbed me like a piece of meat being seasoned for the BBQ. Even though she was small, she was extremely strong. She then poured hot oil all over and rubbed me like a potter loosens his clay. Then came my favorite part...she washed my hair! With vigor, she lathered, brushed and rinsed just like my mom used to do when I was a kid. She then rinsed me off and poured this warm, white liquid over me. Milk! She was pouring warm milk all over my body. I let a little drizzle into my mouth and had a faint memory of my mother yet again. She gently slapped my back to tell me to get up and shower. I said "Kom sam nee da" on my way out and felt so relaxed and clean. The only sound in the whole room was water splashing and hands smacking wet thighs.
Los Angeles is filled with many different Korean Spas; The Olympic Spa (www.olympicspala.com) where you can rotate between the Oxygen stone sauna, cold plunge, Mugwart hot tub, Himalayan rock salt sauna and an infrared sauna. After all that circulation one gets hungry. They have a wonderful little café where you can sip seaweed soup, nibble on fermented kimchi and drink Pumpkin tea. Gypsy Health Secret: Kimchi is rich in vitamins and aids digestion. And Pumpkin tea helps you to sweat and urinate so as to support the detoxification in your body.
The Beverly Hot Springs (http://www.beverlyhotsprings.com/)
is a natural mineral thermal spa in Los Angeles. The water comes from a natural artesian well 2,200 feet beneath the earth's surface. Hot springs contain various minerals and elements such as alkaline, radium, sulfur, sodium and alkaline sodium chloride, which have healing properties and health benefits.
One can experience all these ancient Korean rituals right here in America. Other cities that have Korea Town are Manhattan, Orange County, Seattle, Atlanta, Doraville, Chicago, Boston, Baltimore, Dallas, and Kansas City. The gypsy enjoys every cultural experience fully and finds the best deals, the best services and creates the best stories to tell to others.
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
Saturday, April 4, 2009
American Gypsy: Rego Park, New York’s Bukhari Community
My gypsy spirit has taken me around the world only to discover there are cultural gems hidden in our own backyard. Think of them as tiny countries tucked into our most cosmopolitan cities, where one can uncover an entire culture without having to travel very far.
Today we are headed to Rego Park. For more 2,000 years, Central Asia was home to the Bukhari—one of the most isolated Jewish communities in the world. After the fall of the Soviet Empire, the Silk Road came to Queens, bringing tens of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet republics of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, as well as Afghanistan and western China.
Rego Park (or Regostan), located in the borough of Queens just minutes from Manhattan, is known as Bukharian Broadway. It is a cultural commercial strip along 108th Street and has several kosher restaurants and stores stocked with imports from the Silk Road: Iranian nuts, Turkish coffee, Hungarian spices, Russian samovars for brewing tea, and fine china (probably from China.)
I found myself standing on the corner of 108th street convinced that I was not in New York anymore. The long street was filled with little old ladies wearing babushkas as loud Russian voices echoed from the local produce stand. Down the road, the light strains of a violin spilled from a restaurant that seemed to be getting quite busy. It was time to dine.
Every table in Restaurant Fortuna was packed with families speaking Russian, Uzbek, Hebrew, Farsi, and Tajik languages. I had no idea how to greet the host so I simply said, “Shalom” and he “Shalom-d” me back.
I felt like I was sitting in the middle of 10 countries and the menu was literally the Silk Road on paper. My options were chebureki (deep-fried lamb dumplings from the country of Georgia), manti (Turkish steamed dumplings), borsch (Russian beet soup), a warm samsa (like an Indian samosa), shish kebobs (from the Middle East and Turkey) and shurpa (hearty spiced lamb soup from Central Asia), which is noted in an old Kazakh proverb “Meat brings strength, shurpa brings beauty.” Of course I ordered the shurpa!
While waiters passed around dishes of warm plov, (Uzbekistan's national rice dish), live musicians played Russian music on the small dance floor, and vodka took the place of water. As I always say, “When in Bukharian Broadway, do as the Bukharians do!” So for this one night I became a Bukhari kid, stuffed with plov, drunk on vodka, and dancing with the best of the babushkas.
Throughout the celebration I noticed that the kitchen was all women and the waiters were all men. I discovered that it’s a Bukhari requirement that a woman must know how to cook for at least 500 people.
As I danced and chatted with a young Bukhari couple from Uzbekistan, who had emigrated to the U.S. in search of the proverbial better life, I asked and I learned. I learned that Bukharians observe an Orthodox form of Judaism and New York's Bukharian community consists of about 15 percent of the Russian-speaking Jews in the city. But their customs are different, their religion is different, and their food is different. Discovering the differences is what the gypsy does.
Bukharian Broadway is a joy for anyone with a whisper of a gypsy spirit. The people, the food, the music, the shopping, the language, the religion were all new to me but for that one night, the people became like family. I went home with a new tea set, a Russian samovar, Hungarian paprika to sprinkle over my kabob, Russian vodka, Turkish coffee, and a whole new understanding of a culture that resides practically next door.
(In Tajik and Uzbek one can say: Salom)
Georgian: didi madloba
Russian: Do svidanja
Ukranian: Do pobachennya
(In Uzbek, Tajik and Afghan one can say: Khair)
every tale in The Thousand and One Nights begins with an 'appearance of destiny' which manifests itself through an anomaly, and one anomaly always generates another. The end of every tale in the The One Thousand and One Nights consists of a 'disappearance' of destiny, which sinks back to the somnolence of daily life ... The protagonist of the stories is in fact destiny itself.
What is destiny?
What is love?
Why do women suffer the pains of love more so then men? and why does a woman have the power to live for 1001 nights by speaking, opening up her heart, and loving...while the king of the man still resists even though he wants to let in.
Om Kalthoum - You are My Life
Oh you who is more precious than my days
Oh you who is sweeter than my dreams
Take me to your longing take me
Pull me away from the universe
Far, far away you and I
From the love that awakens our days
From the desire than sleeps our nights
I've reconciled time my days with you
I've reconciled time with you
I forgot my pains with you
And I forgot with you my woes
Your eyes called me to the days that have passed
They taught me to regret the past and its wounds
That which I experienced before my eyes saw you
What is the wasted life to me?"
"Love - which is God - will consider our sighs and tears as incense burned at His altar and He will reward us with fortitude. Good-bye, my beloved; I must leave before the heartening moon vanishes."
A pure voice, combined of the consuming flame of love, and the hopeless bitterness of longing and the resolved sweetness of patience, said, "Good-bye, my beloved."
They separated, and the elegy to their union was smothered by the wails of my crying heart.
I looked upon slumbering Nature, and with deep reflection discovered the reality of a vast and infinite thing -- something no power could demand, influence acquire, nor riches purchase. Nor could it be effaced by the tears of time or deadened by sorrow; a thing which cannot be discovered by the blue lakes of Switzerland or the beautiful edifices of Italy.
It is something that gathers strength with patience, grows despite obstacles, warms in winter, flourishes in spring, casts a breeze in summer, and bears fruit in autumn -- I found Love.
It still hurts when I see the pictures of him, hear the sounds of him , or even simply have a memory pop into my mind of him. But that hurt is birthing itself into a space that is open for my choice...my choice of sorrow over the past or my choice of trust about the immense love that is already here with in me, for me, by me...which will be complimented in due time by my divine man when he and i are ready for eachother.
I am the sky...not yearning or fearing the clouds that will come. And they will bring rain but that rain is a process in the atmosphere of life. Circulating the energies and all I am is the space that stays steady and true despite the temporary gloom. I am still the space. I hold the space still.
! I am