Stuck in Agadez

We’re still in Agadez, back once again at our favorite cyber cafe, because the promised driver to take us to Cotonou, Benin flaked out, even though he was promised an insane amount of money. So tomorrow we’ll take the bus to Dosso, and from there, a pair of “taxis” to Abomey, Benin. The taxis have four seats, and if we don’t want to wait for the other two to fill up we can buy them as well.

We bought a few more souvenirs today, most significantly some typical African shirts. Well, there are a lot of types of shirt here, but the type closest to something you would wear in the US is a shirt made with bright fabric in the pattern of an ordinary shirt, not, e.g., the ones that hang all the way to the ground so that you can go modestly to the bathroom in the desert.

The way this is done is to buy fabric, and then take it to a nearby tailor who slices and dices it into a shirt within hours. Three shirts being put together this way were agreed upon for 8000 CFA.

It’s surprising how close we are, in Room 9 of Hotel de l’Aïr, to Africa. In the street outside the hotel, all is tourism — well, no credit cards or ATMs and it’s hard to get a dial tone and European cell phones don’t work, or at least ours doesn’t, but they understand things well enough to invite you in for tea and talk for an hour in French as twisted coming from the direction of Fulani-Wdaabe as ours is coming from English. At the end of it, you walk out with a couple of place mats and they have a twenty dollar bill.

300 meters away, at the Grande Marché, it’s different.

We’re getting low on CFA currency, so we offered the tailor a deal with Euros which would have left him with more value, but he didn’t really understand the 10 Euro note we offered him with a 2 Euro and 1 Euro coin (8528 CFA equivalent). He may have doubted their reality or legitimacy (He didn’t speak French, I don’t know what he spoke, though he had enough Arabic to say Salaam to his passing friends, of which there were lots). Especially the coins seemed strange to him.

I’m not sure what happened in the ensuing discussion between a half a dozen of his neighboring shopkeepers, but we ended up paying 8000 CFA. I think the youngest person was in favor of taking the Euros. Early adopters and all.

The cyber cafe guy says we can change Euros for CFAs (“see-fahs”) at the gas station next door, so maybe that’ll make things easier for our taxi rides. The Cyber cafe is back in touristia, not Africa, though it is popular with several locals as well. The youngest geek reminds me of Nelson Mandela at 16. He showed me his GPS map of Niamey.

Now it’s off to dinner, and to bed early to get to the bus station before 6:30.