Bedbugs and bribes

Friday, January 7
Two lifetime firsts for me yesterday — first bribe and first bedbug!  Both somewhat disgusting, if only mildly so. 

The bribe came as we were returning from Guinea Bissau.  We’d had two choices of travel routes back to Senegal: 1) returning to Ziguinchor and then heading east to Kolda, or 2) traveling east to a town called Bafata and from thence north to Kolda.  We’d had such a dreadful time with all the checkpoints on the way from Zig that we decided to try the second, even though we’d been warned that the roads were dreadful. Happily, they actually weren’t all that bad, although once again, the travel was pricy.  Despite hard bargaining, we’d had to pay about $100 for a bush taxi to get us from Bissau to the border (for that, we got the whole vehicle.) Bizarrely, all the taxis in GB were in hugely better condition than those in Senegal and the Gambia. In Bissau, they were all Mercedes Benzes, not that ancient, and our sept-place to the border was a remarkably clean and comfortable Renault.  (Steve suspects there’s some convoluted explanation involving foreign aid and government contracts to explain this.) 

The bribe came after we’d gone through customs and gotten our GB exit stamp.  We’d had to stop in front of a stand where a sullen looking guy told Laura he was in need of tea, so we would have to pay him 2000 CFA (about $4).  She protested and argued, but he was malevolently implacable.  Item by item, she started taking everything out of her backpack, even though we were all snickering at how ridiculous this was.  The African who would be traveling with us in the bush taxi to Kolda jumped in, pointing out that even HE had had to pay the tea bribe. So we threw up out hands and dug out the money.  It was all so brazen. I’m a little sorry we didn’t carry through and take out every item in all our bags. But we sensed that might have backed the guy into a corner that could have resulted in our spending many hours at that roadside. 

I spotted the bedbug this morning, as he was about to crawl into the crack between the sheet and the headboard.  I probably wouldn’t have recognized him, were it not for the 3 little smears of blood on my pillow.  Ugh!!!!  (I know they’re not harmful.  Just gross.) 

The Hotel Hobbe, where we’re staying, does have its charms.  The pool is large and sparkling clean.  Most of the rooms are located in African-style rondavals (and everything has thatched roofs).  The wifi’s superb, and our dinner here last night was topnotch.  Even the beds are comfy (if infested).

I’m not exactly sure how much the rooms are (as Laura made the reservation for us).  I’ve decided that if we have to pay $40 or less, I’ll be satisfied.  At $60 or more, you’ll hear me grumbling. 

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