A Wild Tale of Africa That You Would Not Believe

The first project I worked on was constructing some temporary houses for a state-owned Chinese company, CRCC (Chinese Railway Construction Corporation). They were building a road near a small town named Motta. I was there for about one week. Food was great and it was “all you can eat”! I shared a room for free with another 3 employees of CRCC and during daytime the room was also used as an office for about 10 people.
FREE food and FREE accommodation!! WOWO! Paradise for me! 😀 😀 Finally I did not need to watch the budget anymore!! Yeah!! However, the better thing than this was those stories I heard from the Chinese people there. WOWO! Unbelievable!
Before this project, many Chinese people there worked in other projects of CRCC in Tanzania. I was telling them that their catering was really good. There was a Chinese chef and 3 Ethiopians working full time in the kitchen. Every couple of weeks they would buy and slaughter a cow. There were meat, eggs, fresh vegetables, noodles, soup, rice, bun (Chinese bread) at every meal. The meat was often more than you could eat. I felt so guilty for not finishing my meat…… It’s paradise for a nomad! 😀 However, many employees told me that that was the WORST catering they ever had while working for CRCC! A bit background information — Before the current Chinese president, Xi Jinping, who started an intense campaign against corruption and extravagence of the public sector, the state-owned companies enjoyed better treatment for their employees. When they were in Tanzania, the chefs they employed must have experience as the chief chef of at least 3 star hotels and there were also confectioners making all kinds of cakes for them. WOWO! Amazing! 😀
They had a project there and their camp was near a zoo. One day there were some American tourists visiting the zoo. When they came out, one of them roamed around and entered their camp simply by chance. This tourist had a camera hanging on the neck. What happened next? The Tanzanian workers there, several of them, attacked this tourist and robbed the camera! They were dismissed by the Chinese — Surely robbers were not to be trusted. They were discontent but off they went. However, the next day, they came back! with machetes in their hands! and attacked all the Chinese in the camp. They chopped one Chinese man so heavily that you could hardly recognize that “it” used to be a human being — more like a mixture of blood and flesh. It’s a miracle that his life was eventually saved after being sent immediately to hospital (and the car had to go through such fierce attacks), but terribly invalidated. Surely the Chinese grabbed some weapons and there was a big group fight. How about the police? How about the embassy? Oh, the police would stay as far away from troubles as possible and would try to get as much money from you as possible. Chinese embassy is one of the most irresponsible embassies one could imagine! Yes, some places could be very lawless. This was still a fight caused by a conflict. Another time, out of blue, a gang of Tanzanians came in trucks and machine guns and without a single word simply started shooting at all the houses of their camp. It’s a miracle that nobody was shot! However, as you could imagine, some computers and bed sheets were shot. After rounds of shooting, they stormed in, tied the hands of everybody at their backs and threw them together, pointed guns at them and took EVERYTHING from the camp. Afterwards their company had to buy and ship a whole new set of equipments to them so they could continue the project.
Luckily both times nobody died, but another time one Chinese was indeed killed. They reported to the police and did everything they could to push the police to catch the culprit, no results. Eventually the company put a reward for anyone who could catch the killer — 10 000 USD, which was a lot for an average Tanzanian. However, the killer was still at large up until when I was there. The company eventually had to equip the manager of the project with a Czech pistol, just for his own safety. It really reminded me of the Wild West of US. 😉
From the manager to the technicians, they all told me Ethiopia was the safest country in Africa they had ever been to. Here firearms were regulated strictly; the people were not that lawless; the policemen were not as corrupt as in Kenya or Tanzania. Nonetheless, they already had two conflicts with the locals. Once one of the Chinese was attacked and beaten. They reported it to the police but the police was reluctant to do anything about it. The Chinese were not content as you can imagine and they went to protest in front of the police station. The conflict escalated and the police shot at them. This set them off and there was then a big fight. I was in their camp only for one week, so I did not have the chance to experience things of this sort by myself, but I did witness something. One of their drivers (Ethiopian) was actually stealing gas from their car. He had been doing this for quite a while so eventually he was fired. I met this dude on my first day there and ordered by the manager, he drove us from the camp to Motta town . He was not that friendly I must say. This dude got angry about the dismissal and came back the next day to threaten them that he would take revenge! After him they hired another driver, whom I also met and drove me a couple of times for business. This one was very kind and gentle. 🙂 We also had 6 Ethiopian local workers for our project there. They were good people and we did not have any trouble, except the fact that some of them were rather lazy and most of them were very much unskilled. There were armed guards 24/7 on the camp, with a Kalashnikov always on their shoulders but still theft could happen. One day they put a barrel of water in front of their houses and the next day it was gone! Right, everything could be stolen, even just a barrel of water. 😀
When I was hitchhiking in Uganda, a Chinese guy picked me up and he told me that I looked extremely like his old classmates (Don’t tell me all the Chinese look the same. 😛 😀 ) ! 😛 😀 He was working as a translator for a state-owned road-building Chinese company, CCCC (Chinese Communication Construction Company) as I can recall and he told me another story. Of course in their camp they had gas and diesel for power generation and vehicles. However, there had been locals stealing from them at night. His boss asked him to hide somewhere and catch the thieves. Ok, I am not being a racist, but Ugandans did look darker than an average Chinese. 😛 🙂 He was hiding, but because of his skin color, he was too visible at night…… He was actually discovered and followed by the thieves and they escaped before he realized it…… 😀 😛
How about the living condition there? Food was great, but water and power supply was not that stable there.
— No tap water there?
— Don’t even think about it! 😉
When they first came, they did some drilling and hoped to dig some wells. However, soon they discovered that they were actually on a plateau and just two kilometers away there was a high cliff, from which all the underground water seeped out…… Therefore, they had to fetch water from some river quite far away. How? Well, there were no roads there, so they had to use donkey carts, driven by some kids. 🙂 The first two days when I was there, they could not go to fetch water because of some reasons I forgot and we had to do with what they had left. Luckily two days later, they sent the donkey carts and some workers and successfully brought back tanks of water. 🙂 Then we could even have warm shower!! I personally think it’s a bit too luxurious for a nomad like me. 😉
There was power supply but it was not that stable. Every time when the public power supply suddenly stopped, which could happen about 10 to 15 times a day, the generator was started and all the work on the camp could continue.
I suppose you have heard of the accusations of the West that China is monopolizing Africa, or China is taking over Africa with its neo-colonism. In the economic part there is some truth in it, but hey, the doors of all these African countries are open to all foreign investors, no matter which country they are from. However, even if these African countries invite or even give privileges to encourage American or European companies to go there and do business, with the safety and political transparency and living conditions, I doubt whether they would really come. Most of them would surely deem their lives more important than anything else. Imagine the attacks I mentioned above happened to an American company, I guess not just the embassy, US government would even send armies. However, the Chinese do risk. We do not have the high level comfort which is enjoyed by people of developed countries. The market in most parts of the world is mostly saturated. Therefore, for a newcomer like China, the only option left for its companies to relatively easily expand business abroad is Africa, where the westerners do not venture to establish big business.

It’s now 7am (Beijing Time) and I basically have been staying up the whole night. 😛 It’s a terrible thing, this censorship of Chinese government on internet. I can not visit my wordpress blog without using VPN… AGRRRR…… It’s super slow…… 😦 Shit! 😛

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