On occasion, I write about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following (Part II) is about the conclusion of a trip I took with a friend several years ago. It is intentionally vague about what countries we visited:
(CONTINUED FROM PART I)
During one of our stays with friends, Emma had fallen in love with their beautiful 4 foot tall metal silhouette of an African woman carrying water with a cattle horn as her dress. She managed to find a less expensive replica in the next city we visited, and insisted on buying it. I thought she was insane, since we were only 2/3 done with our trip and were constantly on the move. In defiance, I purchased a gorgeous hand-carved mahogany chair (No, not one of those silly ones with safari animals on it) in the next city. I was not going to be the only one of us with incredibly inconvenient, fragile, and cumbersome cargo.
By the grace of God, Emma’s horn statue and my carved chair made it – undamaged, through multiple flight legs – to our final destination on the continent, where we proceeded to prepare them to be checked baggage on our long journeys home. All the skirts, pants, t-shirts, etc that we’d been wearing for the past 3 weeks created a protective patchwork between our artwork and the layers of brown paper and tape that we’d purchased at the grocery. When we’d finished, our elaborately wrapped packages were impenetrable.
So we arrive at the airport and put the damn things through the x-ray machine at the entrance… but the security guard says he can’t see through all the packaging and we have to take everything apart. Not being the brightest crayon in the box, I completely fail to see what’s going on, so I stand up there, questioning how an x-ray machine could be unable to penetrate layers of paper, tape, and well, undergarments. The situation devolves into me arguing that the security guard is being illogical, and this diminutive guard insisting that we have to unpack the statue and the chair right there at the entrance to this airport. We reach an impasse, and I retreat to a corner to cool off while Emma tries her hand at resolving this conflict. After the haggling and the drama of the previous 3 weeks, I was done being pushed around.
A few minutes later, the guard comes back, smiling, and tells me everything’s okay. I ask Emma what happened, but she hustles us past the entrance and won’t speak of it until we’ve checked in for our flight, checked our precious cargo, and passed through another round of security.
Me: Why did that dude end up letting us go?
Emma: I gave him ten bucks.
Me: You did WHAT?!? (I’m against paying someone off purely based on our status as foreigners.)
Emma: Yeah, he said he ‘wanted to have a happy new year’ and I wanted to make our flight, so we went in the corner away from the cameras and I gave him ten bucks.
And there was I thinking my logic had worn down this guy’s resolve. Lesson learned, my friends.
On occasion, I write about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following (Part I) is about the conclusion of a trip I took with a friend several years ago. It is intentionally vague about what countries we visited:
Several years back, I rang in the new year in an African capital city, running for cover to protect myself from the fireworks that rained down on us from the top of the Western chain hotel where we’d opted to ring in the new year. My travel companion, Emma, and I had originally planned to spend a less pampered New Years’ Eve with a friend, but those plans were abandoned when he had to go “upcountry” to care for a sick relative.
We were coming to the end of a pretty intense 3 week-long multi-country trip which had included the following highlights:
- Emma getting hit by a wave runner in one country, and then involved in a near-miss motorbike collision while zipping through rush hour traffic in another country
- Both of us failing to come up with the requisite “payment” to obtain a “day pass” to hop over the border into a neighboring country just to see what it was like over there
- Having carnivorous ants crawling up my pants and not being able to do much about it at the time
- Narrowly avoiding a head-on collision between our bus (aka vehicular deathtrap) and an 18-wheeler not 20 minutes into one of our 8 hour journeys
Aside from these minor incidents, many flavors of drama preceded our visits and infected our stays. In one country, sensitive correspondence had just been leaked to the press, creating a tense security environment at our host’s residence for the duration of our stay. In another country, our host was implicated in what may have been a politically motivated international incident that became public as our plane was touching down on that country’s soil.
With my DC-oriented security studies background, I was able to take most of this in stride, all the while concocting contingency plans and exit strategies – in case we needed them. Emma, on the other hand, thought all of this was shady as (insert expletive here). I tried to calm her down, saying “It’s not that weird for a drunk policeman to come beat the crap out of our driver and haul him away while we’re at dinner.”
All of this is to emphasize that by the time we got to the airport to catch our flights back to the U.S., we’d had our fill of drama. But wait – I haven’t yet told you about Emma’s goddamn horn statue and the carved chair I purchased in an act of protest.
(TO BE CONTINUED)