Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Expatriate Conversation

This was another world in Malabo, the world of the colonialist.  Or better, ex-colonialist.  An African servant was passing out the drinks, another tended Guillermo and Marisol's small son, and a third prepared the fire for cooking.  The hors d'oeuvres had been imported from Cameroon and Spain.  The style of the conversation was the kind one seems to find among expatriates in almost every developing country I know: a combination of gossip about leading figures, complaints about "the system" and "the people," and great cynicism. 
That's from Robert Klitgaard's Tropical Gangsters, written in Equatorial Guinea in 1990, but it could have been written in Abidjan in 2013.  Although in fairness the U.S. Foreign Service crowd is not like this.  I've found them to be culturally sensitive, and they are not integrated enough into Ivorian life to know any interesting gossip.  The UN crowd on the other hand...

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