Baptism By Hot Water: Another Failed Conversion


There are a lot of places where I don’t want to undergo a religious conversion. Actually, scratch that, I can’t think of a place where I’d want to undergo a religious conversion. Even if I could, I’m pretty sure a public bathhouse would be a long way off that list.

And yet there seems to be a gaggle of people around the world who disagree with me. In particular, there was a lady at the jimjilbang who thought while I was sitting naked in the bath completely minding my own business (which at the time included the crucial task of not dripping candy apple red hair dye runoff onto the snowy white towels provided) was an excellent time to ask me if I believed in Jesus.

Normally, I have a number of replies (ranging in depth, severity, and plain old manners) up my sleeve for just this sort of occasion. Though I’ll admit that usually I’m wearing sleeves, or for that matter any stitch of clothing whatsoever. Sue me, I prefer my religious discussions at least partially clothed.

Since I got to Korea though, my ability to use any of my carefully cultivated responses has been hamstrung by the fact that for most of the earnest (normally) suit-wearing, Bible-toting missionaries I’ve encountered, the phrase “Do you believe in Jesus?” pretty much exhausts their English, and given that I can only sometimes remember how to ask where the bathroom is in Korean, it’s safe to say abstract philosophical discussions are well outside my range of abilities at the moment.

Thankfully, most of these folks realize the limitations of not sharing a language, and I manage to get away with a pamphlet, flyer, or business card after lots of awkwardness all around.

Unfortunately, the missionary in the jimjilbang, having already established that I was Canadian, an English teacher, and unmarried, was determined to continue the discussion- in French.

This is one of those things that I’m giggling uncontrollably at the absurdity of right now, however at the time I was stupendously uncomfortable. This woman managed to follow me through four different baths (even after I said what I thought to be a very firm goodbye in several languages before leaving each one) before I finally left the soaking area and headed for the common areas.

Everybody has their golden rules of traveling and I think I’m about to add one to my list: It is usually not a good idea to talk to naked strangers.



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