Cameroonian Mafia?

        Most of the dayís mostly wasted, a long trek back from Mbengwi to Douala. I have no idea what the actual distance traveled was because frequent checkpoints of varying degrees of sketchiness make it rare for us to maintain speed longer than 15 consecutive minutes.
        Something worthwhile out of it: I finish ďZenith AngleĒ by Bruce Sterling. Blending cyberpunk adventure with commentary on the post-9/11 military-industrial complex, itís a fast-paced, fun read for any aspiring nerd thatíll never make anybodyís list of best books ever written. I liked his portrayal of hackers as mentally over- and physically underdeveloped solders itching for a conflict even if just for the high of combat. Greatest and simplest insight: the absurdity of allowing glass bottles of liquor as carry-ons for flights. Not only does a broken bottle make a formidable weapon, but the act of emptying the bottle can be one hell of a confidence builder.
        Back to Douala, weíre dirty, frustrated, and ready to leave. I find myself in a dream situation: weíve rented a $40 but luxury hotel room simply to shower, and we need to amass a bill of at least $100 total to pay by credt card. Iím happy to take one for the team by eating and drinking several times a reasonable amount at the hotelís restaurant.
        My stinky greasy dirty self now regrets my next decision: I like my machete so much that I decide to hunt for others as gifts while everybody else showers. Being an idiot, I ask a random kid about my age hanging out near our van where I can buy machetes. Heís eager for the potential donation, so he grabs a buddy and leads me down the street. Leaving with them was dumb, but I get dumber. We find 3 of the 10 machetes I want at a street vendor a few blocks away. Iím a hardass on price just for the fun of it, and he finally agrees to sell me all 3 for a total of 6,000 francs (~$12). I want to avoid converting currency, but the dude wonít accept USD. Dumbly, I entrust one of my random street kid escorts to go and convert money ($20, should bring 12,100 francs) on my behalf. He actually returns and gives me 5,500 francs to pay for the machetes, but I donít get any other change.
        Walking back to the van as I insist on receiving change, I realize one of dudes is carrying the 3 large knives I just bought. I ask for them and take them directly enough that heís have to blatantly refuse to keep from handing the over.
        Holding large, primitive blades while arguing is instant confidence. Back at the van, I get Charles, our driver, to enter the argument. One dude leaves with a promise to return with my change; I move closer to the remaining kid in case he tries to run. Iím (overly) confident that I can catch him, heís unarmed, would win in a fight, and my nearby luxury hotelís security guard would provide a worst-case escape route, so I get a bit loud. I gesture widely and demand ďwhereís my money?Ē frequently enough that several adult, seemingly more legit money changers come over. Soon, a half-dozen young street guys are listening in, too. I stay near shithead moneychanger kid and regret that Iíve left the machetes in the car. Iím still loud and insistent until I hear some guy whose overall message I canít understand definitely say ďmafiaĒ a couple of times. Coupled with some kid I though was the vanished moneychanger going ďyou want change?Ē while waving a bill in my face and then moving back toward his group of friends when I reach for it, I decide to deescalate. Itís an interesting situation, but some of these kids are built, all are more street smart than me, getting punched/punching hurts, any altercation will probably make me miss my flight, and Iíve already received at least $15 worth of adrenaline and entertainment. I step back, look away, and talk to Charles; next time I look, other money changer kid has also disappeared. Isnít it part of experiencing a culture to get scammed out of money like a stupid tourist?
        Clearing customs, Iím literally so drenched in sweat that it looks like I just sprinted several miles. I donít know that Iíve ever looked forward to a flight as much as Iím anticipating leaving Cameroon. I try to compensate for aforementioned stupidity by low offers on tribal masks dudes are selling in the hall. Some guy calls Steve a woman because he wonít buy a set of coasters, but I get a groovy mask cheaply and manage to stay inoffensive enough that nobody mentions the mafia:)
        Something worth trying: shaving and drinking in an economy-class airplane bathroom. I spill water everywhere wrestling with the Bic, but the 1664 provides smooth sips as some breaks. And Iíll end the day now, 5:30am Pars time as my smelly jetlagged bodyís biological clock confusedly ticks toward some sleep.
       

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