Tim Spirit: Taxis, eishkom, Nkandla and isiZulu in Mongomo

2015-01-25 15:00

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Our WhatsApp group administrator Mazola Molefe titled the group Mongomo Nightmare (we were struggling to get accommodation).

We needed someone on the ground to help us, and Gift Masina from the South African embassy was on hand to do the running around – and he delivered.

It is heartening and pleasing to know that there are civil servants who go out of their way to render service to citizens.

After travelling for about 36 hours, we reached Mongomo.

By then the only thing we wanted was a place to rest our heads. This is what we were thinking as we checked in at our apartment in Mongomo just after 3am on a Friday.

It was a well-furnished, three-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and a dining room. We immediately felt at home as we retreated to our bedrooms.

The only unfortunate part was that we were not served breakfast, despite being told we would be.

There were no towels and the television with a cracked screen did not work.

Staying connected

We were on hand to welcome Bafana when they arrived in town.

We hit the jackpot as colleagues from the SABC had found a hotel not far away. They offered breakfast and it also had free Wi-Fi.

The challenge was getting out of our initial accommodation deal. Fortunately, places here operate on a cash basis – euros to be exact. The compromise was that we spend one more night there.

After getting some freshly made breakfast at our new hotel, we found that there were no ATMs – the one we spotted had been out of order for about “four months”.

isiZulu in Mongomo

Bafana Bafana coach Shakes Mashaba isn’t the only one who speaks isiZulu here.

Some of us resort to speaking the language when confronted with difficulty explaining ourselves in Spanish or French.

“La,” I’d say to the taxi driver when I wanted to get off – or “le”, meaning I am going that way.

I would have given Thamsanqa Jantjies (the controversial interpreter at former president Nelson Mandela’s memorial) a run for his money with my sign language.

But big up to fellow writer Jonty Mark for coming to our rescue with his knowledge of French.

Mashaba became an instant hero to South African journalists when he refused to answer questions in English. This he did after he was told the Algerian coach and captain spoke French and Arabic only, and there were no translators, meaning we lost track of everything that was said.

Something different

After eating the same meals every day at the hotel, we decided to try something new in town. Off we went to a Cuban restaurant and, although the steak was not as great as the reviews from previous patrons, we did enjoy ourselves. Situated just opposite a cemetery, it turned out to be a nice place to drink away your sorrows, especially after Bafana’s lossto Algeria.

Ebola screening

Every supporter entering the stadium is subjected to an Ebola screening test, resulting in long queues – but it’s in an orderly fashion.

If people in the queue get out of hand, AK-47-wielding police clearly don’t need to repeat an order.

Apart from the language barrier, the people in Equatorial Guinea are friendly and welcoming.

Equatorial Guinea’s own Nkandla

We were fortunate to be staying next to President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo’s own Nkandla, which would put President Jacob Zuma’s homestead

to shame.

A block of almost a kilometre is fenced and manned by heavily armed police 24 hours a day. A peep into the big yard shows what looks like a White House-style structure.

Mongomo’s eishkom

South Africans will be glad and relieved to know that we are not the only ones experiencing load shedding – or perhaps we carried the electricity problems with us – as Mongomo experiences power cuts during the day, which makes our job difficult as it means no internet connection.

We caught a taxi to the media centre at the stadium.

Rip-off

We were ripped off – from the hotel to the taxi drivers.

On our first day, a plate of spaghetti bolognese cost 4?000 CFA francs. A day later, it had doubled – from the equivalent of R77 to R180. A 250ml bottle of still water costs the equivalent of R60.

Taxi drivers do not give change. If you don’t

have the correct amount, you are doomed as they just drive off.

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