Jul 1, 2006

LIVINGSTONE, Zambia –  The official stamps my passport and scribbles in the date. "Forty US dollars, please," he says.

I reach into my wallet, hidden deep within nested pockets.


Nor is the fat roll of greenbacks in my purse, the only other place cash resides. I'm quite systematic about packing essentials, so they can be easily stashed in hotel safes...

Which. I. Did. Not. Do. Last. Night.

For the first time ever.


Miss Betty covers my entry visa. Shaking, I rip through my suitcase. Of course the cash isn't there. Probably because it went walkies last night.

The maid was turning down the room as I left. And I – Little Miss Left-Coast Liberal – worried that a blatant safe-stash would be offensive ... racist even. Not wanting to wander Johannesburg with a fatted, muggable purse, I took rand and left the dollars secreted in my luggage. After all, I'd looked this woman in the face. I could identify her in a lineup. Surely, my trust would be rewarded with safekeeping, especially in so posh a hotel.

Not so, apparently.

I'd made the most amateur of mistakes and paid dearly for it.


  1. Yow, correct me if I'm wrong, but she went into your luggage to get your dough? And why aren't these people taking you into Zambia getting the free visa waiver if registered with a local tourism outfitter? Okay, okay, no need to answer the second... maybe they just didn't know...

  2. Anonymous10:32 AM

    File it under 'the most generous tip you ever paid'. You poor thing, Amanda. Is it going to have you scrape by on second-hand cabbage for the rest of the month or will you survive?

    Otherwise, I think you should ralley the troups. Every blog-reader could paypal you a tenner for the privilege of witnessing a crime first-hand thanks to your great writing. What's your paypal account, honey?

  3. Here's the irony: I met an editor on the plane home, recounted the episode and received an assignment, which should cover the wallet-drain.

    Paypal ... not a bad idea – ta! But I'd prefer y'all save those tenners in case I ever finish my bloody manuscript: then you can catapult "Adventure Guide Rome" high into the Amazon rankings...

  4. Yes, Marie, the maid (presumably) – with whom I'd spoken – thoroughly searched my luggage. I left cash unsecured, true, but not anywhere remotely obvious.

    That woman knows things my mother and ex husband don't, I'm quite sure... Ugh.

    I tagged along with a US-based tour operator, so perhaps he didn't qualify for a Zambia visa waiver (we only transited through the country)? On the plus side, I can visit there FREE for three whole years and have an intimidating page for strip passport.

    Happily my Extremely Cool Editor picked up the tab for all my southern African visas. Or rather, he will, when I have a spare second to file expenses.