Money, health, life

Two things are abundant here: prostitutes and insecticide.  The former are recognizable by their very (very) tight and very (very) short dresses that leave nothing to the imagination and the latter by the constant affront to the senses and (it works!) the dead bugs in the shower. I don’t think anyone reads the labels in order to understand that these two practices are not good for anyone’s health. On the other hand, I am heartened to hear (on TV France) all the climate-related inventions made by young and not so young people around the world and in particular in developing countries to make everyone’s life better, humans, fauna and flora.

The hotel we stay in now is a little simpler than the previous one. If that one was half a star, this one is zero star. Some things are better, others worse: the airco makes less noise, the room is larger, the bed is larger, the door lock is hardly secure, the shower works until my neighbor starts to shower, and the water supply is on and off, as is the internet connection.

Breakfast this morning was rather chaotic and of the basic kind: a section from a limp baguette, an omelette and a Lipton teabag dipped in water that boiled awhile ago. In the other hotel we had a luxury breakfast: juice, croissants or pain au chocolat (both rather limp and a bit too sweet for my taste), jam, butter and a vache qui rit wedge in addition to the bread and omelette.  The fruits we added ourselves (papaya, watermelon, pineapple). When out in the country in most developing countries we stay in hotels that usually don’t cater to foreigners with expense accounts and so the lodgings are rather basic and payment straightforward: in cash.

I left the previous hotel without paying my bill because, contrary to what they told me on check-in, they don’t take credit cards. They would take Euros but I had none. “We don’t take dollars!” said the receptionist and her helper who was dressed in a lacy Victorian dress. “Why not?” I asked. “Because the Euro doesn’t fluctuate but the dollar does.” I offered them a really advantageous exchange rate but that didn’t work. In the end our accountant picked up the bill while I was cruising around town looking for an ATM.

What I had not counted on was that it was the end of the month. Everyone who receives money in the bank at the end of the month, not just from Man but from wide and far had come to Man, some spending their last 300 CFA on a taxi ride. People sleep in front of the ATM. When we made a tour of the city around 8:30 AM the lines were at least 100 meters; the ATMs without lines were already empty. A kind of monthly black Friday. We checked out all the ATMs in Man to no avail.

Last night we tried again and found the lines short, about 15 people waiting in a more or less orderly line, all men. The first 7 were crammed into the air-conditioned portal of the machine itself, and the rest waiting outside. An man in police uniform bypassed us all saying he had urgent business. I hassled him so much that he made mistakes with his password, exiting mumbling ‘zero, zero,’ (everyone laughed). He came back in again through the exit door, once again bypassing everyone. No one seemed to mind very much – they are used to abuse of authority according to my colleague F. My hassling distracted him (guilty conscience no doubt) and it took three tries before he had his money (and very little of it, about 15 dollars worth of CFA). It was a (very small) taste of obnoxious behavior of people in uniforms.

Of course it is nothing compared to what I read in the Congo book that I have now nearly finished. There I wouldn’t have dared to contradict a person in uniform as those folks are dangerous, even if they don’t wear a uniform. I am learning about despicable behavior of Heineken in the DRC that makes we not ever want to drink a Heineken again.

 

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