Sunday, July 8, 2007
Spa Resort in Jermuk
After hearing from my friend Marci about her long weekend with girlfriends at an Arizona spa, I decided to pack the kids up and go to Jermuk, a small resort town in central southern Armenia that is known for its healing waters and "sanatoriums". Jermuk became famous during Soviet times when people would book 18 day treatments. I booked a hotel that would not only feed and house all of us, but would also provide a doctor who would determine what needed to be fixed, prescribe "treatments", and order time in the healing mineral baths. The sanatoriums can supposedly treat dental diseases, diabetes, gallbladder, gastroenteric, gynaecological, kidney, liver, and nervous system diseases not to mention obesity, rhumatism, and salt deposits, disturbance of metaboloism and skin and allergetic problems. I was hooked although my boss, Sonya, who is from California and knows good spas, warned me not to get my hopes up too high.
We arrive and the hotel is a 2 story huge stone building that is still being constructed. It is new with lovely marble floors and strategically placed stain glass windows. I immediately panicked seeing all the things the kids could break. We go for dinner - lots of fresh salads and fruits, fresh bread, and delicious cherries and apricots. Heaven....
The first full day is when I see the doctor. As there is obviously a language barrier, a manager who knows rudimentary English accompanies me - and the kids because where else will they go- to the consultation. We go into a clean room with 2 empty chairs and a examination bed. The doctor sits behind a desk that looks out over the hotel grounds. An ashtray sits on his desk. I take the chair next to the desk. As the kids fight over who will sit in the other chair and Austin wanders around the room jumping on and off the examination table, the doctor asks me - through the barely English proficient manager- why I am there. I tell him that except for the self-imposed stress of taking care of three kids by myself, I am pretty healthy. Then I figure I better tell him something or I won't get treated. Hoping that he will determine that my medical status requires frequent massages and long, peaceful immersions in the famous Jermuk mineral water baths, I tell him my upper back, feet and heels hurt. He takes my blood pressure, pronounces it good, asks if I have any stomache, heart or allergy problems, and determines my course of treatment. So, the only "examination" is a series of questions and a blood pressure reading. He didn't even weigh me. He recorded his findings in a small pocket size book that I carried with me to take to my treatments.
Here's what he prescribed: mineral water bath, paraffin wax foot treatment, shoulder stimulation, and heel rub. I am ready for pampering....
I go for the heel treatment. I lay on my stomach, have to take my watch off (my sense is that if I didn't, I might get electrocuted), and the "nurse" turns on this Soviet looking machine that must be 30 years' old and rubs some kind of ointment on my heels with a warm metal probe. When the timer goes off, she moves to the next heel. For the shoulder treatment....warm pads are applied to my shoulders while I lay on my stomach. A similar looking machine to the heel machine has two pads which are placed on top of the warm pads. The nurse keeps asking when I feel "prickling". I finally feel something, but it is not even remotely helpful or soothing - just weird. The paraffin foot treatment was the best although it only focuses on the top part of my feet ignoring my toes, arches, and heels all of which felt quite neglected. The nurse puts paraffin wax paper on the tops of my feet, covers them in plastic, and then covers the plastic with a wool blanket. As with the heel and shoulder treatments, once the timer goes off, it is time to get up.
The following day was my first medically supervised mineral water immersion bath. After bribing the kids with ice cream, time at the playground, and threats of dire consequences should they misbehave, I go down to the baths with my bathing suit and book dreaming of the privacy, solitide, and hot soothing water. I was greeted by a stern looking 30ish woman who took my treatment book and told me to wait while she started my bath. About 5 minutes later, she motions for me to come into a white tiled room containing a clawfoot tub minus the clawfeet. After feeling the water several times, she pulls out a themomenter that must be 12 inches long to test the temperature of the water. According to the doctor, my condition dictates 36 degree C water. It must be 36 because she lets me get in while it continues to fill. I slide down so the water is over my shoulders, she looks horrified and motions for me to come back up - apparently full immersion is not part of the medical treatment. After about 4 minutes, she shuts off the water, places a sand hourglass in front of me, says "5 minutes then must get out" and leaves. The doctor had only given me 5 minutes in water that was slightly more than than lukewarm and the nurse enforced this with a "5 minute" glass that constantly taunted me that I didn't have much time to relax much less read. At least the kids are gone and it is quiet....After the 5 minutes are up (and I am stressed because I am counting them down by the second), I motion for a towel and she is suprised I didn't bring one. She hands me 3 dishtowels to dry myself off.
The next day, I skipped the treatments and bath and took the kids to the river and waterfall. It was far more relaxing watching them swim and sit in the natural hot springs than stressing over my treatments.