Saturday, December 12, 2009

Bucharest Success and Dubai Memories

I'm sitting in Dubai airport right now, contemplating the eleven hour wait before my connecting flight to Nairobi. I thought about stopping in at my favourite Dubai haunt--the Somali-owned Jubba Hotel--and bargaining with them for a $40 room. But it's too much effort for the middle of the night.

The smells of Dubai (as well as the crowds of Somalis sleeping in the corridors waiting for the bi-weekly flights) have triggered a surprisingly poignant nostalgia for my own trips. I almost wish I was going again.

Bucharest was a big success. With my Romanian friend Teddy as my guide and translator, I managed to track down two former hostages from the MV Victoria, one of the ships I encountered at Eyl during my last trip. The second of these interviews, with the ship's first mate (he called himself "Chief") was unbelievable; he was an amazingly jovial, expressive man who told the funniest stories (though at times I wasn't quite sure if I should laugh or not).

I didn't get to do much sightseeing (and the weather was brutal anyway), but I did get a little local flavour-- I spent my first night on the floor of Teddy's friend's flat, in the heart of Ferentari, the "gypsy ghetto" of Bucharest. Then I spent two of the next four nights at the Hilton, in the nicest hotel rooms I have ever had, thanks to Teddy's mother's client reward program.

Nairobi should be interesting. I have contacts at the AP and BBC, but nothing concrete set up.
More to follow.

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