Published: June 22nd 2006June 22nd 2006
I hope you're all doing super. I am here in my hotel room in Niamey, Niger and it's been a pretty good trip so far. I'm a little grumpy due to frustrations with this continent, but in general things have gone well. I will elaborate, cuz that's what I do best! :)
So last night I took the dreaded trip through the Ouagadougou airport to get on my flight to Niamey. I hate the Ouagadougou airport for several reasons. First of all, it's too small so it's always crowded and people's idea of personal space here is not the same as mine (LK, you would die, or maybe just start punching people) so that's bad. It's worse when compounded by the fact that people here sorta... well... smell funny. I've heard it described by other expats as African Tang. I think that's a pretty good way to describe it. It's not meant to be perjorative (although I guess it sounds like it), but if you got one whif of the highly musky scent of the men here (all natural, I guarantee it) you'd understand what I'm talking about. Anyway, being in close quarters with people such as this, waiting in an endless line is not my idea of a good time. The airport lost power while I was there, so their x-ray machine didn't work. This meant more waiting as they went through people's carry-on by hand. They needn't have bothered, though, because they do that again later right before you get on the plane, just in case the x-ray machine missed that machete you had in your purse...
So as I'm going through the last of the many stages of security, the part where you get patted down right after they rummage through your stuff (I seriously wish I were kidding), my phone goes off! I didn't know what to do, so I did what anyone would do: I answered it. So I'm standing there getting waived down with that metal-detector wand they have while talking on the phone, and then turning around so the security guy can scan my rear. Then I had to collect my bags and get on the bus to the plane, all while taking this call. It was hilarious and awkward and I shook my head afterward thinking "God, now I'm one of those people I make fun of for being totally addicted to their phone". Now, in my defense, I couldn't call this person back because they were in the bush and had to go to a village to use a pay phone to call me. I just wanted to point that out.
Anyway, the flight to Niamey was short, only about 45 mins, so I arrived in good time. There was someone there right away to pick me up. I have never been asked for my passport so many times as I have in the Niamey airport. Honestly. They asked me even as I as LEAVING the building. It's like, "uh, see those guys back there with the guns? They already let me through, so I think it's probably fine". I'm sure they do it just to exercise power over you, like bureaucrats making you go through a jungle of red tape just because they can (sorry Tom! You're still my favourite bureaucrat!). I was taken straight to the hotel which was the Grand Hotel and certainly doesn't live up to it's name. I got to my room and thought that my tin can in the bush looked pretty much just as good. And at least it had soap! No soap provided here, or shampoo. Drat. So I had to wash my hair with some Spectro Gel I had in my first aid kit. Can you see how this trip was shaping up to be a little less than ideal?
Before the shower, as I was checking in, I asked about the restaurant cuz I was starving, and due to the time difference from Ouaga it was 10:50 by the time I checked in. The restaurant closes at 11. They actually brought a menu out to the reception desk so I could order before putting my bags away so they wouldn't have to work a minute longer than they had to. You'd never get away with that in the serving industry in Canada! Anyway, the guy who came to pick me up (admin guy) felt obligated I guess to sit with me even though he didn't say a single word, so after about 10 mins of awkwardness I said I would take my pizza to my room and eat it there since they were closing. Me and Admin Guy were both relieved.
The NGO meetings I had today (the reason I came) were ok, although the first was disappointing. The guy wasn't in because it turns out he was sick, but didn't tell anyone that I was coming. So when I get there and they say "oh, he's sick. He's not here", and I say "Well, I flew in from Ouagadougou to see him... " and my face goes bright red, that is a sure sign that Africa is starting to get to me. It didn't help that my driver took it upon himself to leave good and late as well as get us lost. Honestly, you can't hurry people here for love nor money! Anyway, the second meeting went much better. Turns out the senior consultant I spoke to is Canadian and very interested in our work, etc. He's basically got a giant crush on the company now since we're doing social responsibility stuff. Definitely a good spot to be in.
This evening was spent back at the hotel (normally in Ouaga, when people come we take them out. Not here...) but it was surprisingly ok. The World Cup is the only thing anyone is watching here, so I went up to the hotel terrace/bar for some wine and some dinner and watched Cote D'Ivoire make an amazing comeback against Serbia-Montenegro to win 3-2. They had the game projected on a big screen and it was honestly not awkward at all to just sit there and eat alone and watch the game. I actually enjoyed it! I take this as a sign I'm either just getting used to being lonely, or am going crazy.
Tomorrow I'm planning on doing some sightseeing around Niamey since I don't know when I'll be back. Apparently they have some decent shopping, but I'll believe it when I see it.
Take it easy kitty kats, and I'll write again soon!
PS Speaking of kitty cats, the bbq patio was full of really cute ones wandering around and it was all I could to not to tuck one in my purse and take it home... (sigh)