And then the dude said “I want to have a happy new year” (Part I)

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.


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