Mexico and Niger Zinder Niger West Africa Tuesday, October 10, 2006
I received the Niger shake down, I felt like I was in Mexico again.
The Mexican police were, I hope they are changing, I doubt it much, but they were a pain. It was always possible for a Mexican police officer to call you over, ask many questions and try to finagle a bribe.
I have not been shaken down in years; I am normally an excellent student of how to avoid the police. I have a policy, I see police, and I walk the other way anywhere on the planet. I never ask them questions, and do anything about to avoid eye contact.
I am on the corner, police are rare to see in Africa, and at least if you were expecting protection or traffic control or you needed them. However, if you found the right shady area, then probably easy to find.
I am taking this corner shot of the MSF office, Medecins Sans Frontieres - or - Doctors Without Borders - in English
I just finished tracking down the answers to my question and was going to frame it out with a photo. I went to the corner, suddenly motorcycles are stopping to and helping me, they are pointing.
The Police are waving me over, Africans do not like to move, they like you to come over, I normally ignore a spssss or noise, or something rude, or a pull of the hand. I cannot be bother do work to pay attention to a person I never wanted to talk with in the first place
However, like a Mexican police officer, you cannot ignore a Niger police officer, they need their power play. I look over and there are about 20 of them, I said to myself, - Ooops, I screwed up. -
Casually, very casually, as if I owned the planet in a meek way, I walked across the streets. I suddenly speak very bad French, my French is very bad. Then one starts to speak English, they want to know if I have a permit to take photos. I say, I do not know, they want me to go somewhere that way; I do not understand and continue to be stupid. I speak very American English, they want to know, where are you from. I say, - United States. -
They ask me my job, I say - I sell homes. - I was a real estate broker in Indiana and it is my default profession when talking to people who are looking for something to find.
They are trying to rattle me, this is why they want to shake me down, and it is to shake me until I rattle. I am not rattling; the enjoyment of panic is not good for them. Everyone that spoke two words of English asked me two word questions, actually, they spoke very good English, and I was surprised.
Mexican that look like Niger Police, go figure, the culture of Africa and Mexico to me are surprisingly similar, the Islamic is less drinking, but still the elevated need to have someone come and listen.
Africa spends a lot of time thinking about how to get something for nothing. South of here, it is happier in Benin, Togo, and Ghana, Niger is more or less hot and not so happy. Different, dry, hot, dusty and I actually think the food may be better.
Nevertheless, I think of them as Mexicans, the must be very distant cousins. My joke about why Mexico is the way it is this. How would you act if your founding fathers were pirates, or land pirates? I suppose most of Africa was colonized by pirates also, the first great influence, slave trader, nefarious bunches of pirates. Leaves a mark on the culture that was done with indelible ink.