Garretts little bit of ‘faim’ can be good for his well fed soul

We had been out all morning at meetings with various bankers in their air conditioned offices, which for myself are a necessity. Even the taxi ride to the office can be troublesome, with the windows down and my head slightly to one side trying as best I can to get some of the draft which can appear from time to time when the taxi manages to get up enough speed.
At every intersection there are any number of vendors, with phone credit being the main commodity, but frankly there is little you could not get, at one intersection there appears to be an abundance of bureau de change merchants plying their trade. They have quite large bundles of fresh notes, millions of CFA’s, the local currency, and likely some thousands of dollars and euros between them all, perhaps twenty in a small stretch of the main road into the city centre.
They are trading, no-one seems to take into account that they have multiples of the average annual salary (did I say salary?, sorry that would imply a job, income of course would be closer, and perhaps even more appropriate would be hard earned small amounts of cash) in their hands. There are no guards, no guns, no air of tension, just people doing their business. With others carrying just about anything you can imagine, bags, books, shoes, pans, hats, drugs, hardware, you name it.
We conducted our meeting in a smart modern office, the headquarters of one of the local banks and duly returned to our hotel.
At this point I am feeling a little peckish and so head down to the bar for some lunch with yesterdays International Herald Tribune under my arm (I get a copy daily, it is one of the free copies from Air France, which I have noticed and can get free online anyway, but…..).
I head to the kitchen through the bar, we are that well known at this stage, which is grand, and order some poulet frites (chicken and chips, the standard fare for my good self when looking for food and not wanting to be adventurous, just fed).
The bar girl notes that I am ‘faim’, which in my terrible French know to be hungry. ‘Oui’ says I in my mild brogue French and proceed to sit down with a cold drink and my newspaper.
I am half way through my meal when the young man who sells all sorts of souvenirs in the hotel lobby wanders in. He sits with the bar girl and they pass the time of day. His stall is outside the door of Linda’s room and he resides there day after day, ever trying to make a sale. We talk politely to him when passing and even stop for the odd chat, as much as you can with the language barrier. I have a look at the items he has and make a mental note of what he has, what I would like, what would fit in my bag and so on and delay the actual purchase.
So there I am in the bar, happily munching on my food, with the girl and boy talking and I happen to catch a word coming from the young man, ‘faim’.
My heart sinks, my stomach shrinks and my mind blinks, back to the reality of who I am, where I am, and what is going on around me.
I stop, take up my plate, and walk over to the young man and hand him what is left of my lunch, suffice to say I have a friend for life and an indelible scar seared on my soul.
Bon appetite mon ami.

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