Monday July 14 2014

Where the competition for customers is stiff

By Samuel Ssebuliba

I have always fancied a trip to a massage parlour - my closest visit to one being through conversations by my colleagues and friends.

From the little information I picked from them, these parlours provide great relief from constant backaches and body aches. So when I was assigned to visit one, I felt very lucky, I sought to get a firsthand experience from one of the parlours in the outskirts of the city centre.

Mid-week, after retiring from work at about 9pm, I set off to a fancy parlour whose signpost I see on my way home and is located about 500 metres off the main road. Outside the gate were a number of cars and they were not your average cars. These had diplomatic registration numbers on their number plates and many were government cars.

Having been dropped off by a boda boda, I started to worry that my wallet may not be commensurate to the services. Oh well, I decided to go in all the same.
At the reception area, I was welcomed by a signpost with Chinese inscriptions.

About two metres from me were a group of nice looking ladies, who approached me. But to my dismay, they spoke in a language that I deciphered was close to Chinese.

Behind the reception was a chocolate skinned African woman, who later introduced herself as Tina.

She guided me through the services available and I opted for a body massage. A full body and foot massage costs Shs150,000; full body massage – rough costs Shs50,000 while a full body massage – smooth, costs Shs30,000. With economics at play, I opted for the last of the options.

Before choosing a girl to massage me, I had to first part with Shs30,000, which I did.

As I waited for further instructions, a quick glance around the reception area showed about 40 attractive ladies, seated at the lounge and sipping on glasses of wine.
I noticed that most of them were skimpily dressed and seemed to be on display.

One of the ladies thereafter led me through a dimly-lit corridor and ushered me into a room where slow music played.

Then came a girl to do the massage. She walked straight up to me led me to a self-contained room. “Undress,” she said to me in soft and sweet tone. Midway the massage, she introduced herself but for anonymity’s sake, I shall call her Sally.

I asked her whether she felt safe being locked up in a room with a total stranger. Her response was a big shock to me; “What can you do to me that am not ready for?” She asked. As you can imagine, I was tongue-tied.

She went further to explain that all the girls I had seen at the reception were not actually massage experts, but they were what she called corporate prostitutes and trained to handle corporate customers.

When I asked how this is done, she explained that beyond massage, services are offered upon request.
“For between Shs60,000 and Shs150,000 one can have good moment with any lady of their choice,” she said. Unfortunately for her, I was not looking for those services.

Realising I was not a potential customer for intimate services, she looked disappointed and the massage was from then on done with less enthusiasm.

Having established a friendly relationship with me however, she had the courtesy to take me through to the end of the session.
Sally explained that the place is owned by two Chinese nationals whose profits are accrued from massage services, but the extra services are purely their business.

Most of the people who visit this place are foreigners mainly of Asian origin and some European diplomats who cannot risk going for street prostitutes.

I later learnt that Sally is a student at Makerere University, and she reports to work at 6pm from where she earns money for both tuition and her upkeep.

She said she was still new at this job but her “mentors” are driving fancy cars and already own nice houses which is her ultimate dream.

I asked her about the safety of services they normally offer.

She smiled sheepishly and said, “If you want unprotected sex, of course you pay Shs200,000 or more, but we usually do that to foreigners. Not only that, if you are gay, this place has a variety of people suitable for all types.”

She told me that much as this is illegal business in Uganda, no one can discover what is done inside the room since from the surface it is a simple massage parlour, and as such she is comfortable with it.

The massage which had to be done in less than 60 minutes finally extended to more than an hour.

Trudes told me that moving forward, she is planning to have her personal business cards, which she will use to deliver her services to clients, since the business is becoming more competitive with the arrival of more beautiful girls.

At around 10:20pm, I had to leave, but as I was moving out, she asked for a tip, a simple personal appreciation. I had to offer what I was left with, Shs10,000 just to please my new friend and maintain a good relationship.