Feb 24, 2007

An Afternoon in the Garden of Eden

The Lord God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and to keep it.
--Genesis 2:15

I’ve found the garden of Eden and it’s going by the name “The Mandi Asian Spa”!

Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking that nature “as is” is as God intended it to be. The untamed wilds, the dense jungles, the deserted beaches, the craggy mountain tops—indeed, these are beautiful and awe inspiring. But there is another kind of beauty, that I believe is also of God—the beauty that comes when man and nature work hand in hand. While it was God’s plan to create those wild places which no man can tame, he also gave us the responsibility and the privilege to tinker about with his creation and see what we might make of it. Made in His image, we are “makers” too just as he is.
The Mandi is one such place where the beauty of God’s creation and that of His children come together in pretty close to perfect harmony.

After Keisha’s birthday party, Barbara and I drove out to the Mandi. It was 4:30 in the afternoon when we left the beach, and I was secretly hoping “we” would decide not to go. It was late and I knew we’d only have maybe two hours at the Mandi before we went on to dinner at Coffee Care. This was to have been our “Valentines Day” date since we didn’t do anything last week. It was so busy with the REAL dinner show, Valentines Banquet, and fundraising seminar all weekend, that we decided to postpone our day of romance to the 18th. But then, we found out about Keisha’s debut and we spent more time there then we planned. And now it seemed like a waste of $15 for each of us, to spend just two hours there.

Fortunately, Barbara knew better and insisted that we go anyway. How glad I am that she did.
The Mandi Asian Spa is on the premises of the Marianas Resort—a low slung resort hotel that holds the distinction for being the northernmost hotel on the island of Saipan. The next stop after the Marianas Resort is the heights of Suicide Cliff, the wilds of Cowtown, Bird Island, Kalabera Cave and all the other highlights of uninhabited Saipan. The Marianas Resort is unassuming, giving little hint to the treasure it holds. The entrance to the Mandi is a humble gate off to the side of the main entrance to the hotel.

Babs at the main entrance to the Mandi Asian Spa

You walk down a winding landscaped path until you reach a second gate, an Asian style doorway, and when you step through you have arrived in paradise. There is quiet music playing, the furniture in the waiting area is all heavy, tropical hardwood. To your left is a locker area and a basket of complimentary straw sandals. In the Mandi, no one wears their own shoes. We stow our shoes in a locker, pay our entrance fee, are presented with freshly laundered towels, and then enter the spa area proper.

Gateway to Paradise: The second entrance to the Mandi Asian Spa
The first thing that struck me was the luxury of the appointments. Everything is clean, beautifully decorated, artfully appointed. I’m used to Saipan, the Brokedown Paradise, where even the nicest of places often has a vaguely musty air and streaks of mold running up the walls if you look carefully. The Mandi seemed to have none of this.

Babs and I separated to shower before going into the pools. This is a Japanese cultural practice—it’s considered really gross to go swimming if you haven’t showered first. I always hate doing it—I expected a pole with a couple of showerheads jutting out and a chain that I’d yank on to douse myself with icy cold water. I headed towards the men’s locker area. A vase sat in recessed display space in the wall dividing the entranceway to the men’s locker room—the kind of gratuitous use of space one expects to find in a five star hotel. I glanced into the shower area—not a shower pole in sight. Instead, massive marble private showers with large frosted glass doors, and inside each one dispensers with shampoo, conditioner, and body lotion. I continued on to the locker area—everything was wood—the lockers and the benches, and something about wooden lockers in place of the usual harsh, dented metal made the place feel richer somehow. Just being amidst all that warm wood, I could feel myself relaxing—my breathing slowing, and deepening, the tension in my muscles that I didn’t even know was there easing, my pace slowing.

I undressed and padded down to the showers in my towel, found an empty shower and entered. The water was mercifully warm, the pressure nice and strong. This was not a hurry-up-and-rinse-off-before-the-fun-begins—this was part of the Mandi experience! The shower alone was worth the price of admission!

After a luxurious hot shower, I pulled on my bathing suit and left the locker area and went out to wait for Barbara. This is the site that greeted me:

I sat on one of the wooden benches, listening to the splash of the water falling into the pool and the unobtrusive music, and watching a couple frolic happily in the pool. Eventually Barbara joined me and she set out to show me all her favorite spots. First we went out to one of the deck areas, facing the Philippine Sea.

The view of the Mandi looking back from the deck

Kicking back at the Mandi
We lay out in the late afternoon sun for a bit, talking some, reading our magazines, and looking out at the waves, before heading over to the infinity pool. It’s heated and feels just like a giant bathtub. We sat in the shallow water of the pool for awhile, watching the infinity edge merge with the blue of the water beyond. When the water got too warm for me, I sat on the edge of the pool with my back against the sheer wall the water ran down to enter the pool and let it bathe my head and back.

As sunset neared we considered swimming in the main pool, but then opted for the flower bath instead—another heated pool located in a secluded area and brimming with tropical flowers that provide a subtle aroma. Sunset came while we lounged in the flower bath, and we came out and found a place on yet another deck to catch the final glory of the sunset before night fell.

The "regular" pool at the Mandi at twilight

As I settled on of the wooden deck chairs (The Mandi loves wood. I don’t think I saw a piece of plastic or metal the whole time I was there), I remarked to Barbara that the temperature was perfect. Here I was, having just toweled off and still wearing nothing but a wet bathing suit, and I was completely comfortable. There was not the slightest hint of a chill, not even remotely hot—just comfortable in way that air conditioning can never be. We sat talking for about 45 minutes and not once did I begin to feel chilled or start to sweat. It was then, as I watched the sun disappear and a sliver of moon appear with a single brilliant star above it, and a sprinkling of stars beginning to dust the darkening sky, that I thought of the Garden of Eden.

Sunset at the Mandi
This is what the garden must have been like--all of God’s natural beauty lovingly cultivated and cared for by His children. And then of course, it wasn’t long before we were talking about heaven, and for a moment we imagined that we were there and the Philippine Sea was the Sea of Glass, and the glow on the horizon was not from the setting sun, but that of the Holy City, and behind us was not man-made resort, but a home built especially for us by our Savior and Friend. We talked about what it would be like to no longer be bound by the limits of time and mortality, to work hard without ever growing weary, to play and relax without feeling that time would run out on us.

We don’t really know what heaven will be like. The Bible tells us “eye has not seen nor ear heard” what God has in store for us there. Whatever we can imagine, heaven will be that much better. Sadly as result, the failure of our imagination, perhaps leads us to place a low value on paradise. We can’t imagine a life without stress, without pain, without the ever-looming Clock inexorably counting down the minutes left in our lives, and we find it easy to assume a life without these constants would be “boring” or “lacking in meaning.” Or we assume that God will take away whatever are our dearest pleasures in this life and replace them with long white robes, and a lot of harp music and cloud-sitting. People argue that there won’t be marriage in heaven, that there won’t be sex, that our pets are ineligible for salvation, and I sometimes think that insisting on these questionably “Scriptural” truths unintentionally detracts from what eternity has to offer. We may not mean to, but we are essentially suggesting that heaven won’t be that great. Wouldn’t it be so much easier to just expect that all those things—every joy and every pleasure found on this earth—will be found in heaven. Even if they aren’t it’s not like any of us would be disappointed since whatever will take their place will be so much better. But in the meantime, I like to think of heaven having the very best of life on this earth with none of the bad to mar it. It’s hard to imagine, or appreciate I know, but if you’re having a hard time picturing heaven, I suggest a day at the Mandi. Paradise won’t seem so hard to picture there.

"Adam & Eve" living it up in the Garden.
Putting the “Man” in the Mandi Asian Spa

For a long time I wasn’t really interested in going to the Mandi. Barbara had been raving about it ever since her first visit more than a year ago, but for some reason I just never felt like it was for me. I guess it just didn’t seem like a very masculine place. And while, I’m pretty at ease in my masculinity and was sure I’d have a “nice” time if I eve went, it didn’t seem like the sort of place I’d seek out. I guess I pictured a lot of women in mud masks and cucumbers on their eyes getting massages and doing yoga.

Of course I was wrong, and for my fellow men who may be reading this blog a few suggestions for putting the “Man” in the Mandi.

1. First, take a hard ride on your mountain bike out on the northern end of the island first. Let the Mandi be your reward. Arrive at her gates sweating, dirty, exhausted but triumphant.

2. Take a long cool shower.

3. Settle on one of the decks chairs for a good long read. I recommend “The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” or a good Steven Ambrose title.

4. Be sure to take a bracing dip in the cold pool. A guest while I was there said he was in that pool to “remind him of home” (I guess the water was that cold. I chose not to be reminded).

5. Move on to the infinity pool. (Bringing your book for more reading is optional).

6. Take a few laps in the main pool.

7. Do a little writing on one of the decks or kick back with some Hemingway in the relaxation room.

8. SKIP the flower bath and the hot tub (unless you’re with your girlfriend or wife).

9. End up the day with long and lazy hot shower.

10. Go back to your life, refreshed and energized.

1 comment:

Bev said...

Your addicted!!!! Welcome to paradise! We just got our yearly passes too=) See ya at the infinite pool.