as i sit here on my last day, waiting for my program to finish running, expecting to pull an all-nighter to have a presentation for the office and our USAID funders, i have to say i'm going to miss this place.
most of all, my weird walks to work...following the little holes in the mud from the stiletto heels of all the prostitutes who leave my hotel early morning, up the path and to the road where the holes congregate and then disappear, taken away by a polluting van...past the UNHCR, past the barefoot guy with the huge wheelbarrow full of sticks and palm fronds, past the private school where all the rich little lebanese boys get dropped off, across from the unicef signs advocating girls in schools.i'll miss my low-quality hotel, the blatant disdain of the waitstaff who have perfected the eyebrow response to any request, my little voracious birds, the cat i've been fattening: minouche. i'll miss it when papa pierre comes running after me when i leave, catching up with me halfway to the office out of breath, sweaty, "maman aurelie! you didn't sign the breakfast sheet!" oh the breakfast sheet. it's the first thing i say to the other guests in the morning - DID YOU SIGN THE BREAKFAST SHEET????!
the breakfast sheet is over by the clock: one of those chinese calendar things with a lit up photo of an autumnal waterfall landscape that cycles through the neon color spectrum...from cyan to fuschia to orange to yellow and back to cyan. the clock resets itself after every power outage, so it's never any later than 2am on new year's day, 1900. the breakfast sheet is professionally printed for every day with the name and logo of the hotel, the date, an impressive task. there are three columns: name, room number and signature. everyone who eats breakfast must sign the breakfast sheet. apparently, this is more important that say, putting fuel in the generator, cleaning the pool, making sure there that people have towels and toilet paper, or re-stocking drinks (i have personally wiped out their whiskey, cointreau, tonic, sprite and soda in that order. all that is left is coke and beer which come from an endless supply). as for the breakfast sheet, they know my room number, they know by name, but they will not forge my signature.
sometimes, like the day i didn't sign the sheet, the sheet isn't there, and that's because papa pierre has taken it, running after everyone to sign it. i would also like to add that the day i didn't sign the sheet was the day there was no breakfast. a term to learn here is "y'a pas" - there's none. tuesday was just a day without breakfast. there was no bread, no cheese, no mystery sausage, no stinky papaya, no cold omelet, no instant coffee, no bright pink juice, no hot brown water, nothing. you just don't eat breakfast today. so i had figured i wouldn't need to sign the sheet right? i found a tea packet and some jam and went to work and was buying one of those long breads from the ladies with the bread on their head, and they cut it open and put some sort of oily peanut butter in it. they charged me double because of the color of my skin, but it was still less than $1. it was delicious. and that's when papa pierre caught up with me, looking hungrily at my breakfast. don't worry, papa pierre, i won't ever forget to to sign the breakfast sheet!