Friday, 21 September 2012

How to tell if you live in a conflict-affected country

There are a lot of signs you can use to tell if you live in a conflict affected country. For example:

Are there lots of checkpoints manned by people in uniform? Check
Is there occasionally violence in town? Check
Demonstrations? Check
Security threats against expatriates? Check
Increasing amounts of firearms in circulation and violent crime? Check
Curfew? Check

But despite all that, Bamako doesn't feel like it's in a conflict-affected country. t's overwhelmingly safe to travel around the town, and although there are demos and security threats at the moment, that has a lot more to do with 'that' video than anything to do with the war.

But today, I had a real sign that I'm living in a conflict affected country: being asked out by a 'security contractor' old enough to be my father.

I was in the gym, biking away, and a large man with an American accent asked me if I spoke English, and when I said I did, he asked me where the remote for the a/c was. Then said how nice it was to meet someone who spoke English because "here, you never know"*.

Anyway, once he'd worked out that he could talk to me, there was no stopping him. Lots of polite chitchat about where we were from, then this:

Me: so what do you do out here
Him: I'm a contractor
Me (trying not to sound suspicious): That's interesting. What kind of contractor.
Him: Security.
Me (trying not to sound judgemental): Oh?
Him: Yes, training.
Me: Oh. Right.
Him: Of course with all this in the north...
Me (trying not to sound too interested): Yes?
Him: so what did you say you did again?
Me (internally): damn, just as it was getting interesting

Now I don't know what he's doing, but I don't really need to. What I do know is that being chatted up by over-muscled security contractors that are far too old for me** is a cast-iron sign that I'm back. Hello countries in conflict. It's been a while. But you knew I wouldn't leave you forever, right?

*No Mr Security Contractor, you don't - you're already doing pretty well with the fact that most people already speak some of a second language. French. Not really fair to expect English as well. 

**to be clear, I said no. Actually I said that I would be in Kayes next week and then on leave. But hopefully that translates as no...

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