On the return leg of a routine trip to my local vendor to buy a fried mince baguette i heard a voice calling "excuse me.Hey!" from behind. i turned to see a man running towards me, briefcase underarm and sweating. Like many people i met there he was looking for money, but this wasn't your typical 'im so poor and hungry' approach. Out of breath he began telling me about the kindness of white visitors here and the he is a diabetic in urgent need of insulin but the prices are too much for locals. Putting on my skeptical hat i told him i could only give him a bit of change, hoping, to be honest, that this would quieten him and allow me to move on. This only seemed to make him more eager.
He twigged that i wasn't really buying his story and proceeded to open wide his mouth to show me the damage that diabetes has done to his teeth.
Then from his brief case he showed the blood sugar level test thingy that he uses.. I was now convinced that he was a sufferer but still had it in my head that he was exploiting this to get sympathy from tourists. Calling his bluff i said ''Look, i'll go with you to the Chemist and buy you the insulin.'' His eyes lit up and we started walking through the bustling city. Interspersedly he would grab onto my shoulder and tell me he is loosing energy fast and must slow down. At one stage he staggered into an alley, put his hands against the wall and began heaving then staggering back to me to rest on my shoulder. I still couldn't help thinking it was all an act.. we eventually reached a chemist. He spoke in french to the cashier. No penicillin.. We jumped into a taxi to another chemist.
The same story there......
Eventually, on the outskirts of the city, we found a place WITH insulin. As promised i forked out the cash and he proceed to inject himself there and then in the chemist... All well and good..We made our way back into the city and got some rice and sauce in a shed after which we parted ways.
Later that night i was unwisely walking alone through the city. As usual there were people coming up offering guided tours, ''free'' jewelry in exchange for some coins etc But one group of guys came up to me all jolly and friendly. One of them claimed to work in a night club and asked if i would like to tag along. I agreed and two of the guys and i started walking towards the supposed club. We seemed to be walking for a long time and i started to become edgy.
The two guys were talking among themselves in french which i dont have have word."No, no it's just around the corner" he said.... "No, No the next corner etc etc. I stopped and insisted i go back. After much protesting they eventually decided to walk back with me. Started acting strange. They were talking about how everything around them must be given thanks. To pass a tree or a bush without thanks is a shameful thing to do. One of them showed me how to give thanks by approaching a wall with a tree behind it touch the over hanging branches, close your eyes and say a small thank you prayer. I declined saying i wasn't religious which wasnt taken too kindly. The taller guy started insisting that i face the wall and say the prayer. (Now, i love travel and embracing the unknown delights and quirks of other countries but now i was starting to feel genuinely in danger and had a strong feeling that if i did turn my back on those two guys something terrible was going to happen.
This was, remember, the back streets of a very poor country late at night). Standing my ground i didn't crumble under the pressure. The quieter guy said that there is another way to praise the tree in there absence and without having to turn your back to anyone....Paper money!!! HO HO HO!!!!.. By taking out some cash and saying a prayer it is essentially the same thing. Having enough of this hoop-la i took out a 1 cedi note. Which the taller guy quickly pinched and ran off. But at least he was gone. The quieter man was apologizing for his friend and started to walk me back to my hotel. But he said a very curious thing. He knew all about my escapades with the diabetic that day. When i asked him about it he just said to stay away from him, he is wanted by the police and to come back to him if he troubles me again.
Yes...those are hand grenades
The next day when i was in my hotel room trying to figure out how to sort my blunder at the mauritanian embassy out, there was a knock on the door. The receptionist said there is a man downstairs looking for me..Surely enough it was the Diabetic. I was shocked that he knew where i was staying. Was there people on the street spying on me without me knowing?
The diabetic wanted to talk to me. He has been offered a job in Burkina Faso but has no money for the trip..I tell him about the other guys i met the previous night and how they said he was wanted by the police. Appalled by this he demanded that i follow him to the police station to prove that he is innocent. So we did. ( Sorry i know this is dragging on but so much happened. It will end soon) Into the station he talked to the police in French but all the police said back to me was to stay away from those other guys.
.. Having had enough of all this and just wanting to get on with my trip, i gave the diabetic enough money that would cover a train ride to Burkina. His face instantly lost all its friendliness, he turned cold and wouldn't answer when i spoke to him. He waved down a passing taxi got in and vanished without any expression.
One word entered my mind at that moment. A word i use a lot but never seemed more fitting....''Motherfucker''. ............My mince baguette was ruined