Hi gang, this was a blog entry that was kind of misplaced after I broke my back and was sent home. I rediscovered it the other day, and figured why not post it.
From my travels and many wrong turns there have been quite an assortment of individuals who have shared a portion of their lives with me and one thing I have learned is that as humans we all feed off one another.
Why do I say we feed off one another?
Well its not a bad thing, we are social creatures, and as a flower needs the sun, humans need the interaction of others, despite how often we criticize others.
Now this can take two forms, one being a beneficial relationship, a symbiotic relationship if you will between others, our relationships challenge us, the protect us, they offer future adventures, or new loves, and opportunities.
Another form being the relationship of one life form feeding off another for a non-symbiotic relationship and one party acts as parasite to the other.
I like people, I like the symbiotic relationships, but after meeting so many others, both good and bad, when it comes to the bad it seems that most folk are generally good, but it’s the situations we find ourselves in that often force us to do things we often never would have done.
I love people and have spent time with one heck of a variety of them whether they be clergy, killers, relief workers, drug dealers, doctors, teachers , war criminals, the most violent, and the most gentlest of souls, the good lord created all types, Diversity is the spice of life.
The ones who have done wrong aren't' always bad people, even the most savage beast can have a sweet side right? The same obviously rings true for those who side with righteousness as well right?
So what am I getting on about?
Well it just so happens that I think I might have recently witnessed one of the worst type, and that is the parasite that preys on the weakness of those in most desperate need, the poor, the sick, and old.
A couple of weeks ago I was working in my tree nursery and my villagers came and told me that I had some visitors and they were wanting to use my latrine. There was a group of four: two Chinese, two Nigeriens working as drivers/translators. The leader of the group was an Chinese woman, she spoke a little Hausa, some "small small" French, with a side of English. Her companion was a short tubby Chinese man in his mid twenties who said nothing, and sweated profusely, the Nigeriens were nothing short of the suspicious as well.
My villagers were good in their intentions, but seriously, not everyone who comes to my village who is non- African is my friend.
I hate to speak like this but this woman was a bitch, and after my friendly attempts were thwarted to ascertain who she was, why she was in my village, nothing but suspicion could be aroused, I was glad when they were finished with their business, and I could return to my work at the Nursery.
It was market day, and its not untypical for NGO's, or aid organizations to work a market stand by providing free HIV testing, baby weigh stations, or even to take survey's on this and that. So after my work in the tree nursery was finished my second job of the day was to purchase twenty goats for my women's groups. Guess who I saw?
Them. The bathroom user'er'ing people!!
I approached the table to greet them, see how they were getting along, etc, nothing. Just a blank stare back at me like I was imposing on their turf, ah the nerve!
At the table their Nigerien guides in their "broka"english ….
What wrong with you?
You need medicine?
What? Why would I…..?
Then I see people waiting in line…
Oh my, they are selling medicine, and as I look around they have some antique snake oil electrode apparatus that looked about as outdated as the abacus with people attached to its wires with a gauge swinging back in forth.
I am not saying that I am a health care specialist, but I did four years working in Emergency Rooms while in the army, so I have some clue, man this was shady.
So naturally my suspicions were aroused and I wanted to get to the bottom of this. I didn't need to go to Maradi, I wanted to celebrate buying goats with my villagers but I asked them any how for a ride out of my ville after the business with goats was settled. We were off to Maradi in their shoddy SUV.
I sat in the front, the Chinese passengers rode in the back deflecting any friendly inquiries, so I focused my questions with the Nigeriens and set on towards my agenda to get to the bottom of this, and chatted them up.
The key to getting the control of any situation where you find yourself in a shady spot is test the boundaries see where pushing gives you leverage, and where recoiling can encourage a trap for unsuspecting dupes.
I had been pushing all day and nothing, now it was time to try a new approach from what I gathered from the course of the day the woman did have a small command of Hausa, French, and English, the other was a dupe, not a mute, but obviously not too talkative.
Hardly more than a lap dog taking orders from his bitch. Sorry for the language. "But it fits"
Turning on the works I used my ways to ascertain what this was all about and started in on the guides.
They were two Nigerien men in their mid twenties, they formerly worked for the bus companies and have travelled all over Niger, so logically they would be ideal guides for this type of work. They both spoke impressive but broken English and were so easy to guide through the conversation it was kind of like picking on amateurs. Well they were.
From what I was able to gather from them for a twenty kilometer ride out of the bush was that they were hired a couple times a year to escort these two leaches all over Niger and hit up markets and sell their medical wares to Nigeriens.
When the two vultures were not in Niger they returned to China and would acquire medicines then later return, pretty much on a regular basis.
I also discovered that neither had medical training or worked for any type of development agency.
Its funny but I could tell that they knew much more english and hausa then they let on, but it was getting them to show me that they knew I knew…you follow? They minded their own business mostly, but it was apparent when they started listening more intently when I was asking the Nigeriens about the chinese persons work, or any information pertaining to them.
Like boxing, its hit and move, hit and move, each movement deliberate, I was getting close to my market town where I could catch a ride to Maradi. Time to let the jabs fly!
The Nigeriens were starting to get suspicious, So I changed the topic to music
You guys like music ?
"No we don't like music, the koran says its bad….blah, blah, blah"
"Music bad? Well does the Koran say anything stupid people who believe this?
That was a left jab, the right curled tight ready for the follow up.
"What do you think of their work?
"Its…its…what? What do you think of people like them coming and exploiting your people, preying on the most unfortunate?"
"Well they what?"
The sign for Aguie appears, my market town.
Take this left….
We pulled into the taxi pool,
"Okay stop here"
"This is my stop."
I get out of the car, I look into the back and I say
"Don't ever return to my village, if you do we will run your ass's out, do you understand?"
Those same irritating stares, but a level of comprehension is shown
Looking at the shocked guides from outside the car I said
You should be ashamed of yourself and if I had the time or effort I would drag each of you out of this car, tell everyone around what you are doing and the whole village would seriously fuck you up…..
Have a nice day….thanks for the ride! Shag! (equivalent of flipping someone off)
Bewildered they motor on, I hop immediately onto a taxi limping towards Maradi and enjoy a few days respite from the murderous hot season.
This experience has caused quite a stir within me, and substantial time has been spent recounting as many seedy folk, or questionable circumstances that this wayfarer has found himself in.
After all my trips around the world and meeting souls of damn near every color, and shape, people of all different perspectives and motivations, I can't honestly say if I have encountered a lower life form.
These parasites probably are ranked near dead bottom of the pit. It slips my memory but certainly Dante stumbled across a special ring in purgatory for this sort as he and Virgil went wondering off into the abyss.
The Bigger Picture
Niger is a struggling State and is an interesting place to be because I consider it an occupied state by development forces similar to maybe how Iraq is occupied by the American military and the war profiteers.
Nigeriens can be some of the most generous and peaceful of sorts but they are desperate for any kind of assistance, which in many circumstances opens them up to predation.
Not all "development agencies" are bad, many/most do wonderful work, but many witnessed operating here can do just as much damage by not applying their aid sustainably, but not creating community groups, or by not really understanding the needs of the community. This is essential. After a while when you see one level of exploitation to the next you realize its simply nothing more than exploitation, profiteering, and racism.
Think of all the soldiers, private firms, and agencies operating in Iraq; each promoting their vision of a successful Iraq and each either bringing it closer to either ruination or reincarnation.
Imagine Niger in the same sorts only occupied by development agencies, missionaries, international experts of every sort operating to assist a struggling state. What would be our psychological condition if outsiders were in every city telling us we need to change everything about how we live?
And pay well us well to convince others to do so…
It’s a mixed bag, some are really here for the best interests and the Nigeriens respond well to this, on the other hand the occupation is seen as a hand out and creating a culture of dependency.
What this type of occupation has done is open a vulnerable population up to the vultures, or even worse, those like me with good intentions, can come in and seriously mess things up.
There are enough leaches out in the world, and though I have seen exploitation on many fronts and corruption on others this instance happens to be one of the most grotesque forms of predation that this wayfarer has ever had the misfortune to have witnessed.
These two just happen to speak Mandarin, and come from Beijing.
Take the good, the bad, and the ugly, and enjoy it all. The view from my mud hut looks a lot better than the one from your cubicle.