Sunday, 18 September 2011

The bad side of Bangui

Tuesday after a weekend of madness I was quite exhausted. I started to feel weird, warm and I was sneezing like crazy. As I was sitting at the café writing the last blog post I really started to sweat. It took at bit longer than expected and suddenly it was dark. Nightfall always comes as a surprise. As I don’t like to walk alone in the pot-holed streets without any street lights when it is dark I had to take a taxi. I didn’t see any taxis coming so I crossed the street. On that side it is quite dark and the lights from the café don’t reach that spot. Apparently it is a corner full of thieves but that I didn’t know. 

I have this tiny little purse in which I keep my passport and some money, I normally carry it hanging in front of me. As I wasn’t feeling that well I didn’t realise it had slipped back. The purse also has a pocket which you can’t close, in that I had my phone. It is a really crappy old phone and I would probably only be happy to get rid of it so I am not that careful with it. So I was standing there trying to get a taxi without any luck. Suddenly this UN car pulls over, stops and reverses, the window opens and a man shouts to me “Watch your bag, there is a guy behind you trying to stick his greedy fingers in it”. Oh my. So I turned around and there was a smiling guy looking all innocent. The UN man asked me where I was going and then gave me a ride home during which he held a lecture on how NOT to get rid of all your stuff which basically went like this: “do not stand in dark corners with your bag open and phone visible for anyone to grab, hmmm quite obvious one would think. Silly me. Apparently he works with security for the UN personnel here so I assume that is why he saw what was about to happened.

The day after I felt even worse, I really caught a bad cold so I spent the day chilling out but also prepared the two interviews I had Thursday. The interviews actually went quite well although I was soaked in my own sweat which then froze as soon as I stepped into the offices, very efficient air condition. I really don’t like that, never use it as it always makes me sick. 

To cure myself I thought it was a good idea to have some whiskey with a French police man in the evening. He has been working with the SSR process quite a lot so I thought it was a great idea to combine work and pleasure. The idea was great but it didn’t cure my cold. 

This morning me and the girl I am renting the room from went to the market together with her boyfriend. It was great: colourful, crazy, busy, smelly and absolutely fabulous. I definitely need to go back and buy some fabrics to have some skirts and dresses made. Then I bought some antibiotics, hope it will help. I really don’t have time to be sick plus it is terribly boring and particularly annoying when you start to get “culturally exhausted” as my former boss put it. The fact that I am a woman is occasionally an advantage as it makes it easier to get in contact with people I need to meet with BUT with that comes all kinds of weird suggestions, expectations. It is quite exhausting to constantly have to balance in between, on the one hand you can’t snap those guys off as that would ruin your work, on the other hand you must not in any sense encourage them. I try to use the tactics of avoiding to answer directly, keep to small talk, smile and play stupid. Or play stupid is perhaps not the right way to say it. I am stupid thinking that people actually would treat me in a professional way as I am used to. 

There are several things that I would say are culturally exhausting but what annoys me the most is the attitude from some people (read men) from the international community. No respect whatsoever for any kind of work ethics as they buy prostitutes like a normal person buys bread. It is tragic to see. In particular the complete lack of shame. Here everything is ok and when your wife is not here you “obviously” have to “have fun”. Such people make me sick and even more so when they represent intergovernmental organisations and alike that are supposed to do something good or at least do no harm. It is a damn shame. It is definitely time for the donor organisations to do something about the code of conduct of their employees. I mean seriously, how credible is it when those people come talk about human rights, gender equality and justice during the day and in the night they bang a girl in front of everyone at one of the nightclubs paying her less than the price of one beer. I am not surprised but quite disgusted to see it happened so openly, no shame whatsoever. None. It is time to think about the added value of the international presence when this is the side effects.

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