My best friend is one of the smartest people I know. The reason I am in Addis Ababa is because she has recently moved here to work for UNECA on a joint project with the UN and the African Union. Oh and by the way, she is also about to publish her second book. Point being: she’s smart. Yet somehow she seemed to have some sort of temporary brain damage that lead us into the following situation.

The sign on the street read “Hilary Massage”, the store front looked like it was run out of a house, but that isn’t necessarily a cause for alarm here in Addis Ababa. –I am sure by now you have some sort of idea where this is going- We enter the living room/waiting room and red flags are popping up all over. The female staff is all scantily clad, and the beauty products on the desk are covered in dust as if no one has, or probably ever will, buy them. A woman hands my friend a flyer, which was professionally made with pictures of white women enjoying warm stone massages on it –internet pictures, clearly not pictures taken in this dump- It lists: Swedish Massage, Tai Massage, Sport Oil Massage, Hot Stone, Aroma Therapy, Morocco Bath, Steam Bath, Sauna Bath… then it says in the corner of the flyer “24hr” -major red flag- This place doesn’t look like it could provide any sort of “bath,” nor would you want one.


Putting two and two together I say to the women, who are looking at us expectantly, “We will come back, another time.” I am ready to turn and leave when my friend says “Oh you don’t want a massage now? I love Tai Massage.” I am wondering if her post-night out headache has impaired her judgment, but she is usually just so damn smart I start to wonder if I am just being unreasonable –lesson learned-

We head into the back part of the house, which has no lights and multiple rooms, one being a very crusty bathroom –think bathrooms in horror films where girls get chained to the sink and wait in fear to be chopped up in the tub- the women direct us into two separate rooms, of which both have filthy mattresses on the floor and crusty, matted faux-fur pillows. Panic sets in. I run to the closed-door of my friend’s room and bang on it feverishly. She opens the door, and with her prospective “masseuse” standing next to her, looks at me with an expression of overwhelmed confusion. “We need to leave,” I plead, she looks around and says, “yah, Je ne suis pas sure que cet endroit est- ” “No, we need to go.” I cut her off. As we turn the woman says, “What wrong? Maybe you want man?” –yeah, we NEED to go- “Another time! We will come back!” I say hastily as I almost jog out of the place. I barely take a breath out the door as I am met with a very abrupt, angry grunt from a goat, startling me nearly to cardiac arrest – just another reason why this would haven’t been an ideal place to receive a massage- I turn around waiting with my teeth clenched for my friend to gather herself and come out of the brothel.

“I think that was a prostitute place….” “Um yeah you think?” We both laugh loudly gasping for breath, while the working girls seem to take almost an equal amount of pleasure watching us squirm. We giggle and revel in the ridiculousness of it all –lovely moments to share with our grandkids one day-