So by a bizarre set of coincidences, I find myself back in Mauritius. That’s okay – the last time that I came here, I actually left with a profit. This time, my one true desire was to get to the natural history museum. I just had a few errands to run first – I needed to post something to Dino, Fed-Ex a stack of tapes back to Lonely Planet and unblock my internet and phone banking – something I’ve been trying to do for six months now.
Er, no. Okay, so posting that thing to Dino was easy but then after that, ygads! I went to the HSBC (there aren’t any in Africa – I guess ‘The World’s Local Bank (unless you happen to be African)’ doesn’t have the same ring to it) and I found myself hanging on the telephone listening to that crappy HSBC music that hasn’t been changed for over ten years ALL AFTERNOON. After speaking to a row of useless muppets, I finally managed to get through to my local branch in Liverpool and explain the situation. No, I won’t be POPPING into a UK branch of HSBC any time soon, my dear. They told me to phone the fraud ‘hot’ line (not hot enough to make them pick up the damn phone within twenty minutes though, eh?), which I did, and they told me it wasn’t their department and to try the number that I had already tried to start with.
After three hours of this, I was just about ready to throw the phone on the floor and jump up and down on it like Yosemite Sam. I eventually got through to a girl named Tanya and proceeded to tell her EXACTLY what was going to happen. I was going to hand the phone over to the nice lady in the bank (which by this stage had been closed for half an hour) and Tanya was going to give her a fax number to fax a copy of my passport to prove I am who I say I am and so therefore unblock my *&%£$! account BEFORE I get back to Africa.
Tanya agreed this was a good idea, even though it possibly wasn’t on the “here’s what to say to the scum” cards sitting in front of her. After they scanned my passport, I legged it out of the bank towards the Fed-Ex office.
Now, when I ask for the address of Fed-Ex, I don’t want to go to the head office. That would be a bit like really wanting a McFlurry and ending up on the 104th floor of McDonald HQ. The lady at reception suggested that I try the post office, which I did, only to find they had stopped taking Fed-Ex parcels SEVEN MINUTES EARLIER.
That’s when I took out the rocket launcher and blew up the road.
Or at least wanted to. I raced over to the waterfront, bumping into Darwin, my friendly barman from the ‘Drink Your Way Around The World’ pub, on the way. I told him I’d pop in for a drink as soon as I sorted this rubbish out. Apparently, there was a Fed-Ex office somewhere in the (rather distasteful) waterfront mall. After asking a bunch of people who had no clue about this fabled Fed-Ex office, I decided it might be a good idea to ask at the Information desk. When the lady smiled and told me that the information desk was also a Fed-Ex collection point, I could have kissed her. I popped the tapes in a box and fired them off to Oz.
It was now past five. I had missed the museum again! Cursing the world and everyone in it, I headed to the ‘Keg and Marlin’ for a swift half. My name wasn’t up on the board yet, but Darwin assured me it would be going up next month. Better bloody had do, or I’ll raise merry hell! A prize to the first Odyssey fan to send me a piccy of it.
By now, there was nowt left to do save head back to the port and clamber back aboard the good old DAL Madagascar. The way I figure it, HSBC owes me a trip to the Mauritian Natural History Museum.
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I’m going to take this opportunity, while you are dawdling on various islands that I can’t keep straight, to give you a final tidbit of premature and unsolicited advice about Ethiopia.
Unlike me, you seem like a friendly and personable guy. One of those weirdo travelers who actually likes to spend time with locals in third world countries, instead of eating all your meals in McDonald’s and spending your evenings drinking alone in faux-Irish pubs and sleazy hotel bars like I do. I digress.
This is why you need to warned about Addis Ababa. Here’s what will happen. You will show up in town. Dudes of all shapes, sizes, and backgrounds (even professional guys in suits on their lunch hour) will befriend you, make small talk, and invite you to a “dance recital” or “cultural show.” They will say things like “special” recital and “today only,” claiming it’s “school graduation day” or the “queen’s birthday” or something. They will promise that the show or recital is “free” for you. If you ask them what time the recital is, they will tell you it’s anytime you want to go, but preferably right fucking now. That should make you suspicious enough.
I never went with any of the dudes, because I gernally eschew all personal interaction with foreign men. What I later learned through the miracle of the internets is that this is a total scam. The guys take the tourists to a crappy dive bar or house, where a few tragically fully-clothed women are woken up to “dance” to some boombox music. Then someone tells you it would be impolite notto buy a round of coffee for the women. Then someone hands you a bill for $200 for the coffee.
So just file this nugget away deep in your beer-pickled brain, forget all about it for now, and enjoy Kenya, Burnudi, Rwanda, Uganda, and especially Somalia. But when you get to Addis and some dude asks you if you want to go to a special dance recital, be sure to tell him that you just went to the recital yesterday and spent all your money there on coffee, and then ask him if you can borrow a few birr.