Only cash talks in Nigeria

Location Guarding gear in car park of yet another bank while Lizzie negotiates inside | Mood Light at end of tunnel | Date 21 April 2006
Author (full name): 
Franny Armstrong
Guarding gear in car park of yet another bank while Lizzie negotiates inside
Light at end of tunnel
Bryan Adams on taxi radio: "Everything I dooooooo"
None, unbelievably. Not even gurgly belly. Extreme diet has advantages.
21 April 2006
Current crisis: 
Don't have enough money even to pay the hotel, let alone get to the airport day after tomorrow
Current silver lining: 
Rescued by bessie mate in London. I love asking for help and then getting it. Reconfirms the social bonds or something.
Next job: 
Try to pin down kidnap spokesperson for interview

Very hard to get veggie food in Nigeria so this was one of our strange, but necessary (protein)  snacks - avocado and protein on stale white breadVery hard to get veggie food in Nigeria so the avocado and peanuts on stale white bread becomes a daily staple

It seems that only cash talks in Nigeria. You can't use credit cards as the numbers would immediately be copied and you'd be running an international phishing network. There are two ATMs in this city of 8 million, but neither work. Cheques were skipped altogether. We'd been warned that you have to take all the cash you need into the country with you, but had underestimated how expensive everything was going to be. But we'd spotted lots of Western Unions, so thought we could do a money transfer to ourselves over the internet. Except there's no electricity to get online and even when it returns - 14 hours later - turns out that Nigeria is about the only country you can't wire money to online, because of the corruption.

So we phone various friends in the UK for a credit card loan, which eventually works after a million and one identity checks ("Nigeria? No, I don't think so, hang on."). When Lizzie goes to pick up the cash, they first try to confuse her by nipping a zero off the amount and keeping 9/10ths of our money for themselves. When she spots it, they sulkily give us the complete amount, but in 900 small notes. This takes up all the room in the rucksack, meaning the camera doesn't fit in anymore and attracts even more attention.

We can't call my friend Frank back in London to confirm that his loan has arrived safely, as agreed, because the phone networks go down for twelve hours. When I finally get to speak to him he tells me he got so paranoid that he'd been tricked by some Nigerian scammers that he tried to stop the money going through. When Western Union asked him "Are you sure it was your friend you spoke to?" he said he suddenly panicked that he'd spoken to someone impersonating me - despite us being friends since school, 18 years ago.... Amazing how fast distrust and paranoia can spread.

Also turns out that most of the people here have trouble distinguishing between me and Lizzie. It's true we're about the same height & build, with the same length & similar coloured hair - and obviously all our clothes are interchangeable - but that's where the similarities end. Great twist on "all black people look the same".