Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Cecilia, You’re Breaking My Back

It’s no secret that one of the reasons I was so keen for The Husband to get an overseas assignment is so that I could take some time off of work to be with The Lads while they still want to be with me (most of the time), travel and pursue creative and other interests in service of my own mind, body and soul. Or, as my friend Joanne would say, it’s all about me!

Imagine my delight, then, at receiving the Christmas gift from The Husband of an in-home massage. I could tell you that because of the tragically depressed economy here, labor is absurdly inexpensive in Egypt. This is true, but this gift still feels outrageously decadent.

Cairo has a large population of Filipino immigrants, especially women, many of whom come to Egypt to find work in domestic jobs like nannies and housekeepers. Cecilia, my masseuse, is one of these women. Recommended by colleagues of The Husband, Cecilia arrived for my first massage mere days after my arrival in Cairo. The body does not lie; about 30 seconds into my massage, Cecilia fairly screamed – “Madame, you are full of stress.” Oh, Cecilia, you have no idea.

The poverty in Cairo is abject, and so, too, is the gap between the super wealthy and the poor. Here, it’s the 99.999999999%. Civil servants earn the equivalent of a few hundred U.S. dollars a month. Some professionals (doctors, lawyers, engineers…) accept domestic work for expats because the salaries are often higher. Many people work multiple jobs to support themselves and their families.

Painfully, I discovered Cecilia works her multiple jobs concurrently. Just as she had finally exposed a deep-rooted “node” in my lower back, her phone rang loudly. Without explanation or excuse, Cecilia took the call. While my throbbing node and I waited for Cecilia the masseuse, Cecilia the real estate agent made several appointments to show an apartment she was listing.

My limited previous experience with massage involves serene spa settings. Dim lights. Warm sheets. Aromatherapy. Pan flutes playing softly in the background. Not hearing about the features of a 3 bedroom, two bathroom flat for sale on a quiet part of Road 23 while waves of stabbing spasms pierced my back.

“Your node is very lucky for me! It is a lucky node,” she told me, alternating between making appointments to show the apartment (with an elevator!) and beating the stress out of me. This node felt anything but lucky to me.

Then it was over. “All done, Madame. You are very stressed. I should come twice a week,” Cecilia told me entrepreneurially. “ I also have maids. You need any maids?" No maids, shokran (thank you). Just a heating pad and some Advil. And maybe a break from the relaxing massages.

/lkm in Cairo

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