Sliding By
Bev Vines-Haines
Hayward Fault Line Winner
Madagascar is a tough country to explore.  Once you get past Antananarivo it is mostly ox wagons and bush taxis.  I went there because I had to. The essential oil game gets meaner every year.  Drums diluted with cheap garbage oils, orders hijacked, and then some clown will decide to drive up prices by faking a run on specific oils. Happened a couple years with oregano oil and I had to spend more than a month in Turkey.
This time it was Ravansara and Tamanu oils in Madagascar.  I never deal with big brokers. They talk a good game but gouge you in the ass once you leave. My method has more to do with finding the little guys, the farmer’s reps, the guys who smell like oil.
I had an appointment with a man named Igor (I swear) at ten o’clock.  I found him exactly where he said he would be, drinking a cognac in a filthy back alley bar.  “Igor?” I asked.
He nodded. He definitely smelled like oil.  And his fingernails were black and broken. I liked that. The brokers have manicures and smell like cologne.  “Follow me,” he said. His English was perfect.
He led me through a maze of narrow streets and alleys. I gave up trying to remember the way. Eventually we came to a house, two-story, and I could tell it looked out on water. Set back and off to the right I saw a building that looked like a shop or warehouse.  He knocked and we were allowed inside.  Drums and drums of oils lined the walls and marched in straight lines down the middle.
He pointed to a short row.  “Ravensara? Tamanu?”
I nodded.
“The best you will find anywhere.” He moved a lid, exposing golden liquid.
I reached in my pocket. “One moment, I want to test this with a probe.”
For the first time he seemed flustered and slid the lid back in place.  “No worry.  I have better. Come with me.”
We headed to the far wall where I saw heavier barrels with tighter bungs. This was the good stuff. I ordered a dozen barrels of each. We made our deal and I watched his workers place my name on each barrel and band them all with metal bands. “Don’t forget, I’ll be ordering every month.”
He actually tipped his hat.
Heading back to my hotel, I smiled. True, I only needed a few barrels.  But this would make the price go up for several weeks and I knew my competitors were flying in tomorrow.
Like I said, oil is a mean game.

First published: November, 2014
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