The Australian

You meet all kinds of interesting people traveling. Most are awesome, and share a similar spirit. But since most are awesome, the small percentage who are not are usually pretty terrible. This story is about one such individual: the Australian.

When I arrived at my guest house in Addis, I was so excited to have my own room and bathroom I spent the whole first day and night in my room reading my book, and eating snickers bars from the grocery next door. The freedom in coming and going as I pleased was beautiful. I would breeze out the front gate with money in my pocket, and nod at passerby’s as I did nothing more than pick up snacks and water and stroll just as breezily back to my room. Until I met the Australian.

At first, the Australian seemed nice enough— until he started talking. For although he had the great ability for speech, his over-driven mouth must have somehow damaged his hearing organs.

Here is an example of one of our conversations:

“India is really awesome.” (Australian)

“Yeah, I really liked India when I was there. I was only in Delhi though.” (me)

“There was a lot of poverty there. If you ever go to Delhi you’ll see it, it’s worse than here.” (Australian)

“Yeah, I’ve been there.” (me)

“Oh you’ve been there?” (Australian)

The guest house that had been my sanctuary the day before became my prison. He never left, except to use the internet cafe next door which was, unfortunately, sandwiched between the grocery and the guest house. I would cautiously open the front gate and peer around the corner to make sure the coast was clear, then dash across to get my daily intake of biscuits or whatever else I fancied and dash back, hoping to pass by unnoticed. It usually failed. No matter how quick I was, or how vigilantly I kept watch from the grocery, he would inevitably be smoking a cigarette outside by the time I came out.

At the guest house itself, every time I left my room, he would be waiting on the communal sofa facing the gate. Some nights, his face would be bathed in shadows as I’d walk by and he’d ask where I was going. Once, I came back during the day and took a nap (after the usual questioning of where I had gone from his throne on the sofa). When I woke up and went to leave, there he was again.

“Were you sleeping the whole time you were up there?” he asked.

The most horrifying thing about the whole situation is that he seemed to have some sort of interest in me, and actually thought he had a legitimate shot. The girls working at the guest house told me he would come into their room and ask,

“Where’s Dani?” or “Is Dani in her room?” or “Have you seen Dani?” throughout the day. Once, when they told him I was in my room he responded, “I’ll wait.”

His door was perpendicular to mine, and he took to opening his door every time he heard my key turn in the lock as I came or left. He’d sit at the small table and chair set next to his front door, overlooking whatever was going on below and outside with his perfect view of the front gate.

One night, as I came through the gate he asked where I was coming from. I told him as quickly and with as little detail as possible, and to appear friendly I asked if he had met up with some friend or another he had been talking about, to be honest, I didn’t think existed.

“Yeah I did,” he grunted, “and we had SEX in my ROOM!”

“Thanks. Didn’t really want to hear that.” and I walked upstairs. And vomitted in my mind.

One afternoon, he bought a burger and brought it back to the guest house to eat. I was sitting on the sofa checking my email, and he sat about a foot away— both hands covered in ketchup and who knows what else. As I listened to him chew, with what I’m sure was a sickened look on my face, he asked me to brush the hair out of his face since it was getting in his burger.

He would make sexual comments about the sweet girls working there, claiming they worked in a brothel (one of them was waiting for a visa to join her husband) and that they shouldn’t be going to church in the morning with smoking hot bodies like that. When discussing the girls, he referred to one of them as, “Oh, the one with the big (insert crude hand motion here)”. Ironically enough, in the same conversation he ‘discussed’ sexual harassment in the workplace and how Australia has gotten out of hand with enforcing it, and what was my take on it?

But by far the worst thing about the Australian, is that he lost his passport. One night, he asked me to go to the movies with him and foolishly, I agreed to go. I had nothing else going on, and I thought it would be neat to go see a movie in Addis. When we arrived, we paid the cab, and walked up the five flights of stairs to the box office. I bought my ticket, and all of a sudden, the Australian starting screaming and profanity was flying out of his mouth like flecks of spittle.

“Where the fuck is my passport!” he screamed. “Where the fuck is it!? Shit. Oh shit. SHIT!”

While this lovely display of diction was going on, he was frantically running his hands over his pants and through his pockets as he ran from one side of the hallway to the other, sometimes stopping for brief moments to look over the balcony outside, as if his passport had somehow thrown itself to the ground below.

I do not like overly emotional displays. I have one reaction to them— I leave. If there’s an issue, it’s very easy to calmly problem solve and come up with some sort of plan and solution. Therefore, shouting and crying makes no sense to me and I can’t deal with it. I almost left. I should have. Instead, I calmly suggested we go outside and look for his passport— after I asked him to stop freaking out and making a scene. I’d write what he replied, but I don’t speak grunt so I’m not really sure what was said.

When we walked outside (me walking calmly to where we entered the building, the Australian running ahead, into dead ends, catching up with me, then finally emerging outside to run around the building to god knows where because we certainly hadn’t walked wherever he was running to). I had already asked all the taxi drivers outside, the guard, and had searched the ground by the taxi stand by the time he came back running and shouting, “WHERE DID WE GET OUT OF THE TAXI!?”.

“I’ve already looked,” I said, feeling more than ever I should just grab a taxi back, “why don’t we go back to where we first got in the taxi by the guest house and ask some of the drivers there? Someone is bound to remember us and know the driver.”

No response to this perfectly reasonable solution. He continued to run around shouting expletives, ducking his head into random taxis without a word then running off again. I started negotiating with a taxi driver for the fare to get back to the guest house. The Australian came wandering by sullenly, eyes on the ground, then started bitching about the price of the fare. I ignored him and got in the taxi, chatting with the driver. Several kids in filthy clothes selling gum came up to the taxi as we started to leave.

“I just want to punch them in the face,” he said, with a much anger as he could muster in a sentence.

To sum up the whole experience, I left him by the taxis near the guest house and did my own thing the rest of the night. Surprise, surprise, one of the taxi drivers remembered us getting in the cab, and he had his passport back the next morning. But not before bitching about how if everything wasn’t there (his bank card was with his passport) he wasn’t paying anyone the reward money he had offered, because he’d be in just as bad of a situation.

I sarcastically commented he was in a considerably better place by having his passport.

“Yeah I guess so,” he grunted, sullenly.

I finally escaped the Australian the next morning under the cover of darkness. If there was any justice in the world he would have fallen off a rock somewhere in some remote part of the world, never to be heard from again. Or poisoned by someone who had finally had enough of him. Pity they didn’t sell that sort of thing in the grocery next door.