Saturday, September 08, 2007

I can haz shithole?

No, wait... I got one. kthxbye!

When I am a stranger in a strange land, I will keep my council and watch and learn. I will not judge until I have had time for the culture shock to wear off and I have had time to make an objective decision.

That's the plan anyway, but sometimes it's hard to stick to it. Good intentions and all that...

My first impression of the Central African Republic was 'Damn, they have their corruption all smoothed out here!' I walked straight off the plane and before I even hit immigration, I was met by someone and whisked away into a VIP lounge. My contact took my passport and my baggage tags and wandered off. I sat drinking coffee and learning French off the iPod. Then I chatted to a bloke from Cape Town about diamond exploration. Then my contact came back an hour later and I walked out, without ever seeing immigration or customs. So far so good...

Unfortunately, that is where the good ended. It's funny, but one little thing is sometimes enough to put me off of an entire country. In this case, it's almost enough to put me off the whole damn continent. The little thing in question is the Hotel du Centre en Bangui at the low, low price of $85 per night. No, that's US dollars, not Zim dollars!

I'd be doing the place a disservice by calling it a shithole; at least shitholes are good for fertilisation. I've stayed in many a shithole and probably will again. Small, cramped, hot, whatever - no problems. But dirty is a problem. Dirty with no way to get clean is a monster problem. The room is just filthy, I have no other words to describe it... Well, I do, but they're not fit for print.

When I arrived, in a recently cleaned room, there were pubic hairs in the basin (anyone want to guess how they got there?), urine on the toilet and the floor, lord only knows what in the bath and towels that had clearly not been changed between several guests. There is a stain on the main bath towel that looks like shit, and smells like shit, so we're just going to assume that it shit. The whole room smells like damp and there is no way to open a window to get fresh air in, so now pretty much everything I own smells like damp.

Then it got worse.

It turns out that there is no hot water. Now while cold showers are a little inconvenient, I can live with them. Hell, they can even be invigorating from time to time. But as well as no hot water, there is no shower. So to get 'clean' I have to have cold baths. Then I have to get out of the bath and jump around for a while to get most of the water off, then use a t-shirt to dry off properly (note to self - add that to the list of clothes ruined on this trip).

But wait, there's more!

When it came time to go to bed, I found that the bedding is in a similar state to the towels and the carpet - cleaned only on special occasions or every alternate year, whether it needs it or not. And the pillows? Well, the pillow is just a pillowcase filled with lumps of foam and a knot in the end that would normally open. There is no cover over this, so I guess I would be sleeping on the same surface as lord only knows how many people before me.

I shit you not, but I'm sure you don't believe me, so here are the pictures:

Hmmm - that's a little lumpy looking!

Is that knot supposed to be there do you think?

Uh... Wow. Just. Fucking. Wow!

Long story short? I can stands what I can stands, but I can't stands no more. I quit.

Lemming out! Way, way, way out!

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