Have you ever got yourself in a tricky situation on holiday?
Ordering what you’re assured is a vegetarian dish and finding a whole chicken foot at the bottom of your soup (my trip to Ecuador 1997). Or deciding to take a risk on the menu and getting what appeared to be a piece of dried green lasagne and a caviar-type substance (Laos 2001). How I envied my friend with his safe order of tuna sandwich!
This was slightly better that the trout’s head I was served in what was supposedly an American diner (Japan 2004).
But all of these pale in comparison to the time I was held on an Ethiopian river bank waiting for the guide to pay what could only be described as a ransom.
I was on a trip to visit the tribes of Ethiopia in 2005 – an interesting trip. Their aim was to attract the tourist dollar, so they were making us welcome in return for that
all-important hard currency.
It was on a standard tour of this particular tribe’s village that my adventure began. The local policeman suddenly and suspiciously disappeared and men with guns arrived. I found myself separated from the others, standing on a river bank surrounded by lots of children. Our exit was to cross the river on board a boat that had also strangely disappeared. Things were getting tense.
What did I think to do? Keep calm? Plan my exit route? Write my last will and testament? No.
For some reason I started singing ‘Ging Gang Goolie’ – bearing in mind I can’t sing and this was the only song I knew the tune and words to.
I can say with all honesty that this is probably not the usual Westerner’s response. I base this on the fact that the children all stopped asking for sweets and Highland (the bottled water) and just stared. At me. I became conscious that all I could hear was me – singing.
The men with guns also stopped. And stared.
To this day I can’t say for sure that my rendition of ‘Ging Gang Goolie’ did save the group but we were allowed to leave a few minutes later. And the guide still had the contents of his wallet.