Chocolate massage

I finally had my long awaited chocolate massage. First there was a ‘gommage du corps,’ a body scrub. I was scrubbed with a mixture of large sugar crystals, honey and lemon. Honey because, according to my masseuse, it is good for the skin, especially la peau mûr (literally: ripe skin), the sugar crystals for the scrubbing and the lemon for ‘dé-tâcher,’ or taking the spots out (what spots?). If I had curled up in a teacup and you added hot water I would have been a nice healthy drink. I was all sticky and smelling like lemon meringue pie. If there had been ants or bees in the room I would have been a lost cause. This was phase one – ending with a shower after which my skin was soft like a baby’s.

Phase two was the chocolate massage itself. I had had some expectation that I would be massaged with cocoa butter but it was so much better than that. At the end, when I looked in the mirror, I had the skin color of a Malgache. The massage oil was mixed with ‘pralines,’ the kind of chocolate that one buys for a loved one on Valentine’s Day. It was a delicious multi-sensory experience. I was sorry to have to wash the chocolate oil of my body. If I had gone out on the street looking as I did people would have thought I had a terrible disease and was drugging myself with chocolate. The final part was a facial cleaning, a face cream – no chocolate on the head – and a head massage. All this for 45 dollars!

And then reality kicked in – paying the bill and finding out that the little snacks I had been eating, the water I had been drinking, were not complementary like they are in most hotels nowadays; they were outrageously priced which dampened my very positive experience of the hotel a bit. I probably should have checked Tripadvisor as I am sure someone else may have posted a warning, and if not, I will.

The taxi that took me to my new hotel was old, very old. I asked the driver who barely spoke French how old his Renault 4 was. He mumbled a very high number. It may have rolled out of the factory around the same time as our R4 in Senegal, nearly 40 years ago, which was already second or third hand by then.

Because the suitcase took the backseat, there is not much of a trunk in a R4, I had to sit in the front with barely a barrier between me and any obstacles we might hit. No safety belts of course and not much of anything, which is why these cars last so long. They are so simple that anything can be repaired with a screwdriver, wire, tape or crazy glue. The liquids to keep the car running, other than gas (which will be bought with the fare I pay), are stacked next to the driver in plastic containers. He had to move them to let me in. There were no adjustments to the seat (anymore). I squeezed in and held my handbag tightly in front of me by way of another useless buffer with the world outside.

And now I am in my tiny room of the Ibis hotel near our office. I can walk to work tomorrow, to start my last assignment of this trip. Here, away from the crowded and narrow up-and-down streets of Tana ville it is calm. Everyone is in church or sleeping off their hangover from the partying last night.

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