Soldiers that loot hotels in the night
I posted the last blog rather too soon. Just a few minutes later I heard gunfire. I looked out the window but saw nothing, but then it came again, really loud this time. I assumed they must be in the street outside the front of the hotel, so I grabbed my camera and raced for the stairs, thinking that I might get a sneaky photo through the front doors of the hotel, or perhaps through the window of the bar. I was on the phone as I went down, as a colleague had called me to ask if I had heard the shots.
As I got to the lobby, I realised there was no-one there (maybe the staff were out the front of the hotel watching what was going on?), but I saw a spent cartridge on the floor which looked like a good souvenir. I picked it up, then as I stood back up a soldier came out of the hotel's office! I ran back towards the stairs, crying out to my colleague on the phone that they had come into the hotel, but of course the soldier had seen and heard me and came charging after me. It didn't seem like a good idea to run from a fit young soldier carrying a machine gun so I stopped, put my hands up and turned towards him. He grabbed the camera, and I initially resisted but then realised that was also not a good idea so I let him take it but asked, begged, him to please give it back.
He beckoned me to follow him then when we got back to the lobby he said "Wait!". I stood there, waiting, until a different soldier came in and I explained that I was waiting to get my camera back from his colleague - that it had little value to them but much to me. He motioned towards the chairs so I went and sat down, and continued to wait while the soldiers ransacked the office area and the till area in the adjoining bar. One of them saw I was watching and snapped at me to look away. My heart was thudding and it occurred to me to give up on the camera and quietly leave when they were not watching and make my way back to the stairs, but that wasn't without risk and I had the feeling they were not going to hurt me so I waited.
Eventually - well, it probably wasn't long but it felt like an age - I sensed the soldiers walking up behind me. I wasn't sure if I was allowed to turn round to them at this stage, so started to turn slowly, but then realised that one of them was holding the camera towards me. I took it, smiled and thanked them, and walked away slowly, back to my room, heart still pounding.
Well I wanted adventure but perhaps that was just a little too close for comfort!