I’ve been in FB jail for about three weeks now, serving a 30-day suspension. I won’t bother you with the details, but it’s utter bullshit, both on the part of FB and on the part of whomever reported my post as offensive. It wasn’t, and my appeal didn’t matter.
I’m spending my time with dozens of dogs, and at both orphanages. I also cut added sugar out of my diet, completely, and I’m loving how the inches are slowly coming off everywhere, especially my waist. It’s now back down to 34, but it was 30″ before Covid, so that’s my goal.
Friday is the only day of the week that I’m not committed to doing something with or for someone else. It’s the one day a week that’s just for me and I truly love this day.
I decided to start off this latest Friday with a massage. I’ve been having a niggling problem in my right, lower back, and my Yoga and stretching hasn’t been able to get rid of it. I need one of those small balls folks use for this sort of thing. I don’t know where I can find sports equipment here but I thought I could probably find various balls at Shoprite — except they’re starting to put out all the cheap, Chinese crap masquerading as Christmas toys, so my search for small balls failed.
Back to the massage. I have LOTS of options for massages here. The high-end would be at the Baobab Tree Hotel & Spa, a 4-star hotel, with a spa like every other high end spa you find in the States. I LOVE their spa, and their prices, by u.s. standards, are quite reasonable, especially for a 4-star hotel (around 100,000 ariary, which is about $40 USD for a one-hour massage). The low end massage would consist of going to someone’s house, and laying down on a grass mat on the living room floor (where most of the family sleeps at night – in fact, you’re probably laying on someone’s bed right now), and a crazy old woman starts “massaging” you like she’s trying to puncture and/or rearrange your internal organs from the outside. Oh, man, this experience left me sore for DAYS, and the worst part of it wasn’t the IMMENSE pain (this old lady obviously hated my guts – literally – the way she was jamming her fingers down into my torso), it was that she laughed at me each time I yelled out in pain. See, the Malagasy are known for their stoicism, never audibly expressing pain, even during childbirth, so when this American woman showed up at this old woman’s home (highly recommended to me by a friend), and actually had the nerve to wince, cry out, and exhale loudly during my massage? Well, I’ll give her something to wince about!
After about 20 minutes, I couldn’t take anymore, and this was supposed to be the first of two one-hour massages that day. Needless to say, I never returned. So that’s the low end.
In between the very high and very low ends, we still have lots of options for a massage here. There are decent massage parlors designed to relax and pamper you, with dimmed lights, plushy decorations, comfy tables with lots of fresh towels, meditation music playing in the background – just like the kind of unique massage parlors in the u.s. My favorite massage parlor, Dety Body Nature, is one of these, located in Mahajanga Be (sounds like BAY).
Just last month, for my 64th birthday, my friend, Jemima (juh-MEE-muh), gifted me with a massage, so we met outside my favorite massage parlor, Dety, but like many businesses who close each day at 11:30 for siesta, on this particular day, they didn’t reopen. That’s yet another thing you have to get used to. In general, whenever I have banking or anything else important to do, I try to get there in the morning, because there’s a good chance they’ll reopen late in the afternoon – if at all.
When my parlor didn’t reopen, we went next door to Lilai, the place where I used to go, before I discovered Dety Body Nature. Lilai is where Frenchmen go to get happy endings. It’s that simple, and though I’d had massages there, months ago, the day Jemima and I went, it certainly had that sleazy feel to it. There was one too-small towel for the massage table, so I had to pull the towel up over the pillow (which had no case). It was not a great experience, contrasting this with a Facebook post I wrote in March 2020 about these two parlors, below.
Casual Quest #1: Mahajanga’s Massage Parlours — I continued this quest yesterday when, on a whim, I decided to go have another massage. The first salon I’d visited last week (Lilali Massage) was nice enough, cost me 20,000 Ariary (about $8 USD) but I decided to try a different one, just down the street from Lilali, named Dety Body Nature (odd name, I know). The moment I walked in, I noticed the difference between the two salons. This one, on the ground floor, looks, feels, smells, and sounds like a massage studio should, and though their price was 50% more (30,000 Ariary, which is about $10 USD), I splurged. The actual massage room (sorry I didn’t get a better picture) had dimmed wall sconces, and the massage table was padded with about 4” of foam, making for a VERY comfortable experience. My masseuse, Lala is her name, left the room while I undressed (yippee) and put on some relaxing meditation music. Okay. So this is starting of pretty good.
When she came back into my room, she started on my feet. My FEET!!! Do you have ANY idea how many years it’s been since someone massaged my feet? When I released an audible moan of utter delight, she chuckled because, as you know, the stoic Malagasy don’t express sounds of pleasure or pain in situations like this. My feet … oooohhhhhhhhhhhhhh yyyyeeeessssss. Don’t stop. Never. Ever. Stop. I have no idea who she is, but I’m in love with her, I tell you that. From there, my right calf, where she continued to work her magic, releasing every stress, every kink, using only her hands and forearm, no elbow. I hate it when masseuses use their elbows to dig into our flesh, trying to break a bone. It’s the lazy way to massage, in my opinion. May be quicker for them, but an elbow used in a massage means only two things: pain now, and pain later. Thankfully, my masseuse knew this and spared me pain. The left foot was even better than the right, if that’s possible, and I’m thinking, this feels so good, I never want to walk again, and spoil this groove. She worked magic all over my body, and when she asked if she could massage my face, I opted instead for a scalp massage, but this was out of her comfort zone. She didn’t really know what to do with my scalp, so after a few minutes, I asked her to spend the last bit of my massage — on my feet! I’m no fool. Oh. This place. Clean, well appointed, great location near Bazar Be (sounds like BAY), totally affordable, soothing atmosphere, and a phenomenal massage. I may have to rent a room there. At this rate, I may not bother to check out more massage parlours (they are quite plentiful, catering to the huge number of visitors Mahajanga gets all year long). On a 10-point scale, a solid 7.3. My room even had a shower stall, which is used for other procedures including body wraps and such. The lady sitting at the reception desk was my masseuse. I highly recommend this place. Phone 032-046-6780.
It’s funny, the things you used to do all your life that now you’ve forgotten about. Little things, things that we normal and commonplace in your old life – before you moved abroad. I’ve been living outside the u.s. just over three years and most of that time, I lived without running water, a flush toilet, and for about a year, no electricity, either. And my life is wonderful, despite losing all these conveniences, I have experienced such joy, witnessed so many magical things, and had the opportunity to touch the lives of countless people, giving of myself to help them live their best lives.
When you live your life from the focus of helping others improve their lives, it’s really easy letting go of all the “stuff” that used to define our lives. For instance, I eat lunch with my Peace Corps host family every Saturday and I always bring fish or chicken with me. It’s the one day a week I eat fish, because if I don’t, they’ll be offended. They know I don’t do chicken, but I’m not willing to go through the hassle, each week, explaining, again, why I don’t eat fish. So, I just eat a small amount of fish and everybody’s happy. In the States, I’d have just stood my ground, and if they didn’t understand that, too bad.
Aside from that, the cooking is all done outside, food prep is done inside. They have a large kitchen with running water, but they cook with wood, the pans resting on a triangle of large stones, so that has to be outside. My host father, Felix, has hinted that he’d love for Jacklyn (his wife, whom he adores) to be able to cook inside. I’ve already looked at propane stoves and have already added it to my December budget — a Christmas present for the family, and smaller gifts for each family member, too.
With the food cooked outside, and even with the food prep inside, there isn’t a lot of hand washing going on, and that’s true all over Madagascar. If nothing else, Covid got the government to require hand washing stations EVERYWHERE, and it’s a nice convenience to be able to wash my hands anywhere I want. But in private homes, most people don’t have running water, and even those that do, hand washing isn’t stressed like it is in the u.s. I had to learn to overlook a lot of things I would never have accepted in the States, and surprisingly, I lived to tell the tale. I have had food poisoning lots of times here, and I dread the next time, because it will most assuredly happen again. Walking around the open markets and seeing slaughtered fish, cow and chicken parts on wooden tables, covered with flies, it doesn’t faze me in the least. Nobody is gonna eat any of that raw, so when you cook it, the germs will be toast. It’s just the way things are, and it’s another way living abroad had changed me.
Running water is such a wonderful thing. I was without it for over two years, and now that I’m living in an “American style” apartment (their term, not mine), I have noticed that I’m still living as though I don’t have running water. When I did the dishes in Madagascar, I had to fill two cuvettas (wide, shallow, plastic pails) with water, one for wash, one for rinse. I’d used water from a Jerry can, which had to be refilled daily, and lifting those heavy plastic cans of water injured my right shoulder, tore my intercostal muscle, and I ended up in the hospital for four days. Wasting water wasn’t even a thing.
So, washing dishes meant using as little water as possible and reusing dirty water because you didn’t want to waste the water washing just a few things. I’d end up squirting a small amount of the liquid dishwashing liquid on each item as I washed it, so regardless of if the water was brand new or had been used a few times, this was my routine to ensure my stuff was clean. And just today it dawned on me that I’m still washing dishes that same, way, even though I have running water, and two sinks. I had to laugh at myself, then I filled up my plastic wash tub I use in my larger sink, and squirted a bunch of dishwashing liquid into it and watched all those lovely suds sprout up. I’d forgotten how to do this. Isn’t that crazy?
And it got me thinking about other ways I’ve changed since I escaped America. Eating in establishments that would have been condemned by the health department in ANY American city is something I frequently do. Once you get over a couple of food poisonings, your body starts to adjust to the input of all those new, strange bugs, and though you don’t get sick anymore, you often have very soft bowels, which tells you that you ate something your body struggled with, but you emerged victorious and you never even knew a battle was going on.
Living without TV has actually been pretty wonderful, especially since many of the stations here are in French, and I don’t understand most of the Malagasy stations because they speak so fast. So I haven’t missed TV. On Saturdays, Felix will turn on the news while we’re eating, and that’s always fascinating for me, but that’s all the TV I get. And I don’t miss it.
I have wifi, so I can watch everything on Netflix without using a VPN, and some things on Amazon Prime. I don’t want to use a VPN unless I have to because they eat up my data and I’m on a fixed plan, only 50 gb/month, and VPNs eat up data like crazy. My carrier, Orange, doesn’t offer an unlimited plan. I’ve begged them to just let me pay for more data, but they won’t do it. Instead, I have to pay overage charges every month, which is a total ripoff. It’s already expensive, $60 USD/month, which, when you consider that I pay less than $1.50 USD for water/month and about $13 USD for electric/month, so $60 for wifi is just stupidly expensive. I pay more for wifi than many Malagasy people make in a month. It is so bizarre. But I gotta have Internet access, and without wifi, my only option is to buy data for my iPad and use the SIM card for access, but then I won’t have the Internet on my 13-year-old Mac Mini, which is where I do a large part of my work.
I am so hopeful about Madagascar. I meet so many of these young kids, many with degrees, English speakers, brilliant people, with few prospects because there just aren’t a lot of jobs here. So, I’m spending a lot of my time updating resumés, helping them rework their cover letters, and rooting around looking for jobs, then finding the right candidates to apply for the job. The Malagasy way of creating a resumé or CV just doesn’t work well with American or European employers, and if it’s a job for an English speaker, their resumés need to have flawless English. Whenever I hear about a job, I post all the details EXCEPT how to apply. Then I tell them to send me their CVs, and only AFTER I’ve updated it (with their help and input), will I send it in. I’m working with one NGO right now, and I’m hoping to liaise with others and become the go-to person to fill their jobs. Doing what I can to help the people of Madagascar.
I served nearly two years with the Peace Corps in Madagascar (2017-2019), volunteering as an English teacher, and along the way, meeting the kindest, funniest, cleverest, and most generous people on the planet. Each one working to make their lives better and the lives of others around them.
Along the way, many of my FB friends have generously donated to help me help people, and critters, and here are some of the projects and ways we have helped those in need.
I am ever grateful for the kindness and generosity of my friends. Thank you.
Below: “The Green Dogs”
This family lives down the road from me, and unlike many Malagasy, they love their dogs, but with no form of birth control, the number of dogs has gotten out of control, with eight adult dogs, six of whom are female of breeding age, and eight puppies, from two females. Due to the costs, I work with a couple of Malagasy veterinarians who provide Depo Provera shots to about a dozen female dogs I’ve encountered here, in Mahajanga. It’s really my own option as birth control options in Madagascar are:
Spay/neuter – 300,000 Ariary ($80 USD)
Depo Provera shots, for the females, every six months – 8,000 Ariary ($2.10 USD)
If you would like to support me as I traipse around the globe, I am always in need of the following:
Origami paper (any size, pattern, style)
Dentek interdental brushes, normal size (can’t find these here)
Nutritional yeast – since I’m vegan, I used this a lot, and it’s very light, so it’s cheap to ship.
Crayons, markers, and pens.
Shipping to Madagascar is REALLY expensive (we’re an island hundreds of miles off the East coast of Africa), and I also have to pay a fee to receive all packages. I’m happy to pay the receiving fee if you don’t mind paying to get stuff here.
Quarterly shipments of school supplies (Origami paper, crayons, etc.) would be SO very helpful. Thank you, in advance.
OR, if you prefer to just donate a few bucks to my cause, ANY amount of money will help countless people (and a few needy dogs): email@example.com.
Lisa B. Lee Lot 205AF-0272 Secteur 6, FKY Mangarivotra Mahajanga, Madagascar Africa