Friday, October 28, 2011

Don't Ya Wanna?

I wrote a short article for this month's Burkina Faso's Peace Corps newsletter, warning on the dangers of drinking soda:

I wish I had been tricked by a criminal mastermind; It would be less embarrassing if I was able to say “I couldn’t have done anything to stop it.” Unfortunately, what happened was completely preventable.

In case you didn’t hear the (completely true) rumor that I got drugged and robbed, let me explain. I was on my way to Ouaga for the 50th anniversary fair on a bus from Fada. An old man sat next to me, and we chatted for a little. When we were stopped at a checkpoint for a few minutes, he tapped me on the shoulder and offered me a Fanta. I wasn’t thirsty and thought he was just being nice, so I said no. He insisted and placed it into my hand. There was weird white fizzing and powder inside and the cap wasn’t screwed on. I asked the guy about it and he said it was just the chemicals inside. Which is a stupid explanation, but not as stupid as my response: drinking a little of the Fanta to be polite.

I woke up a few hours later in a bus station in Ouaga, lacking not only the ability to think and walk straight, but also my wallet. I don’t recall much of the next day, but I’m extremely grateful to the PCVs and Med Unit staff that came to my aid.

I’m fine now, and although it seems like the moral of this story is: “John has no street smarts”, I thought it was worth telling for a few reasons. First off, since Burkina seems really safe most of the time, it’s easy to get complacent. Like everywhere in the world, bad things can happen if you aren’t careful. Secondly, it’s ok to be impolite - especially if the situation is sketchy. I should have forcefully said “no!” but instead I let myself get led into a trap.

We all learned it as kids, but apparently I wasn’t paying close attention: “Don’t take candy (or Fanta) from strangers!”

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