So I made it back safe and sound from lovely Granda. The Technical Animal Rescue course was absolutely amazing and a fantastic program for anyone who is interested in animal rescue- but before I go into the water rescue, the ropes course, or all the exciting things World Vets is up to in Nicaragua, I promised Sarah I would share the story of the world’s most awkward massage so my stories are going to be in reverse chronological order.
The last day on our trip was a free day, to wind up loose ends, to take in any sights we missed, or just get packed. A group of us decided to spend the afternoon at the Mombacho Beach Club, a lovely little pool attached to the Choco Museum in Granda (okay, perhaps being part of a chocolate museum did create some impetus to go there.) As we were walking through the lobby, we noticed a little sign advertising the spa services. “A massage,” we thought to ourselves, “would be just the thing after a long week of rescuing stuffed dogs from the brink of death.”
Aside from being pretty inexpensive, the spa offerings at the Choco Museum included a strange but intriguing sounding Choco Therapy, where one would be covered from head to toe in melted chocolate, scrubbed with sugar, and left to solidify into a hollow choco bunny. Unable to bring myself to indulge in such a messy sounding waste of perfectly good chocolate, Sarah and I decided to opt for the regular massage while my new friend Jen went for the gourmet version.
We made our way down to the spa cabanas at our appointed time, and there was some discussion as the staff seemed unsure of which person was to go into which room. The fact that the staff spoke little English and we spoke little Spanish added to the drama, but soon I found myself alone outside Cabana Uno facing a man in a white coat.
“Do I go here?” I asked.
“Yes,” he said- well, he said “Si”, and then he said something along the lines of “I need your voucher,” which we paid for at the front desk. I held it out to him.
“I need your voucher,” he repeated, and I got confused, because I thought that was what I was handing to him.
“Voucher. Si,” I said, holding it up.
“The voucher,” he repeated, sounding annoyed.
“But this is all I have,” I said, which of course he did not understand because I said it in English. I raised it up further. He stared at me blankly. We went through this a few more times, and then it hit me when I realized he wasn’t making any motion to take or inspect the voucher in any way that perhaps I was missing something important.
He was wearing sunglasses. My eyes moved to the left, noticing a cane dangling from his wrist.
“Ah, the voucher,” I said, pressing it into his hand, feeling like the biggest ass in the universe. He took it, sighing to himself I’m sure, and gestured me inside the room. I saw a massage table, towels, the usual massage type stuff. He gestured and said something I didn’t understand, and stepped outside.
I’ve had a few massages in my day; the usual routine is to get down to your skivvies, lay on your stomach, and pull the sheet up to your waist. There were a few changes in this routine:
1. Since I had planned on an afternoon at the pool but not for a massage, I just had a wet bathing suit on with nothing to change into. It’s not unusual or unheard of to have a massage in the buff since the masseuse keeps your bits and pieces covered with a sheet, but I never have done that. I’ll admit for a prude like me I was already a little less than perfectly comfortable with the situation.
2. There was no sheet. Instead, a small hand towel lay on the massage table.
So I had no choice in the matter but to lay down on the table, drape the small piece of toweling over my derriere, and hope for the best. A moment later, my masseuse felt his way back in and we got underway.
Having a massage while completely naked by a blind man who doesn’t speak a lick of the same language that you do is not an experience I recommend for the faint of heart. One, my usual method of communication with someone who doesn’t speak the same language- mime- is completely useless. Two, he had the added challenge of trying to demonstrate what I needed to do- move up, turn over, etc- with no language and hoping he didn’t grab the wrong protruding part by mistake. A task, by the by, he performed admirably given the circumstances.
Generally when one gets a massage, the purpose of the towel is to cover your exposed parts from a professional eye. Since that was a moot point, my masseuse was pretty much using the towel as a barrier to navigate his way around. This meant I spent half the time with the towel either around my shoulders or down by my knees while I tried to relax with the entirely awful sensation of breezes where I would prefer not to have breezes. It was only made worse by the completely unfounded yet persistent voice in the back of my head whispering, “What if he really isn’t blind?” while I lay prone with a hand towel over my face and clavicles.
Having convinced myself that I wasn’t part of some elaborate scheme to manufacture low quality videos for the backwaters of the internet, I had just begun to relax when we entered the reflexology portion of the massage. This is where you are on your back and the masseuse manipulates your joints through a full range of motion.
I dare you to lay down on your bed, butt naked, and throw your leg over your head. Then bend your knee and work your hips through a full range of motion. Make sure to enjoy the breeze. It’s mildly awkward. Now imagine a stranger of the opposite sex standing over you while you’re doing this. Don’t worry, he or she has a blindfold on so it’s TOTALLY not awkward at all.
OK, I lied. It’s still incredibly awkward. This may in fact be the first time I’ve left a massage more stressed than I was before I began, a fact compounded by the fact that neither I nor the professional had any way to improve the circumstances. I don’t want anyone to get the wrong idea. This guy was completely professional and a more than adequate masseuse. I’m sure if I had done due diligence and learned more than “si”, “muy bueno” and “uno momento” it would have been an easier hour.
As I left, I heard “Pssssst!” from behind the bushes, and turned to see Jen, covered head to toe in chocolate. Apparently when you are done with the choco therapy experience, they pretty much turn you loose to do what you will with yourself, which means in order to remove the chocolate you need to find your way to the shower facilities, which are on the opposite side of the pool from the spa cabanas. So we strolled past the poolchairs while lounging tourists chuckled and Jen informed me that at least her chocolate application professional was sighted, which given the circumstances of having molten chocolate slathered on your face is probably for the best.
So I don’t want to turn you off to the spa services in Nicaragua, should you decide to pursue them. They are excellent. Just make sure to pack a Spanish-English dictionary and, should you find yourself face to face with Marcos, extra undies and a large beach towel.