John McCullagh October 1, 2005
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I returned back to my border town in the mountains a few days later but with a completely different perceptive on the place that I had called home for the past few years.


Considering what the correspondent had stated, and the fact that it was without question reasonably accurate, the situation presented for me a very straightforward and simple question.  What would the impact of this new knowledge?  What would this changing political landscape mean to me?

It  would not be long until I found out the answer.

On arrival back at my home one of my neighbours informed me that different people had been coming to my house and having a look round.  They even ventured into my back shed, a place that I steered clear of myself! I simply did not like the look of it – if you know what I mean!  I had all sorts of creatures visiting me in my house. As to hat might be lurking in there was best left to conjecture.  Nevertheless this had now forced the issue and I had to open the door and enter the place. What if they had planted something? After all it was possible, and it would be a good way to get me out of their way. You see, it was customary to bring people to the city 300 kilometres away for interrogation.

My mind was running riot by this time and probably a little paranoia was edging its way in.  Entering the shed of dread very gingerly, with machete in hand, I eventually managed to search the whole place.  Well, all except for a few dark corners that I considered even intruders would have avoided.  In any case the jungle of cobwebs had not been disturbed.  

In the days that followed I was again informed that other people had come but only when I was not there and on one occasion I returned to find a motorcycle parked outside my door. I never did see who rode it away because I had to go to the monastery for a meeting with the Brothers and it was removed while I was absent.  By now I was wondering were they, who ever they were, playing mind games.  All this had obviously been done in front of my neighbours in the full knowledge that they would have later informed me.  Perhaps they considered that this was enough to scare me off! They had not allowed for my stupidity and I continued to entice fate. Yes, entice it I did!

Now being an Irishman the temptation to drink beer is almost as strong as the will to live.  So it should come as no surprise that I regularly went daily in search of my favourite beverage.  In other words every night at seven o’clock I braved the dark forest for eight kilometres to quaff some of that Nectar of the Gods.  According to my fellow villagers nobody dared venture into such a place at night as there were all sorts of demons and scary things awaiting the unwary.  This had never bother me for the past two years, but I had always made sure that the motorcycle was in first class condition. There was no way that I wanted to break down on my way home!  The forest, and not even the recent series of bizarre events that were going on around me would stop me getting into the town for my regular dose of cerebral medication!

On one night a few weeks after returning home I ventured to a restaurant that I had frequented many times in the past.  On this night there was definitely something different about it.  Numerous vehicles, both military and civilian with odd number plates, were parked outside the hotel adjacent to the restaurant and there was a number of very ‘heavy-looking’ people hanging about outside.  Parking my bike in my usual spot just by the door I made my way inside, scanning the faces as I went.  The place was crowded and from their general demeanour they did not look very happy to see me – despite my greeting them in their own language. 

 And would you believe it, sitting in one corner was a westerner talking with a local. Interestingly he was sitting with his back to most of the other people in the restaurant – something I avoided doing, if at all possible.  I sat down, ordered something to eat, and of course, a large bottle of ‘medicine’.

After some time had passed the local at the westerner’s table made his exit.  The stranger looked around, scanning the crowd as he did so and beckoned me to join him.  He did not look too surprised to see me which I found a little peculiar! But who was I to question him and in front of a crowd of people who evidently knew each other.  We were obviously the odd ones out.  From his accent I gathered he was from a very powerful nation and I presume it was for this reason that nobody was going to take the situation in hand so far as to ask us to leave.  

After some idle chit chat I asked if knew what the reason for all the vehicles.  In a low whisper, he said,

"Oh, there’s a big meeting in the hotel next door between the leaders of the militia from over the border and the local military commandants.’

I wondered how he came to know that.   Then he started asking me questions similar to the foreign correspondent of a few weeks earlier.

In my mind I was thinking, how can this be happening to me? What sort of a coincidence brought me to that hotel 300 kilometres away and now this restaurant and being asked the same questions again?    

The reader should realize that I was not the grandson of Mata Hari nor was I a second cousin twice removed to James Bond – nothing exotic or sinister at all.

I was a Development Worker who happened to be here WHEN really I did not want to be.  By this time the rest of the people sitting around showed by their body language that they were interested in what was being said.  Still, as it was more or less a very low-key conversation, it would have been difficult for them to make any sense out of it.   This was a give away in itself and my co-drinker must have known that fact.

What was he up to? Was he just letting them know that his country was aware of what was happening and trying to scare them off? If he was, it did not work as future events have proved.

Later in the night a few others from the hotel came into the restaurant and were clearly surprised to see us.  They were very nervous and it showed. The unexpected appearance of Westerners here, in this place and this time, had obviously disturbed them. Nobody was supposed to know about the meeting and the plans that were probably being discussed just beyond the wall separating the two establishments.  It was not a good situation for them and certainly a very bad situation for me when I considered that I would be the only person here when the westerner left.  I decided, because he might have some sort of diplomatic protection which I certainly did not, that I would leave with him.

When we parted company an hour or so later he gave me his card.

Sure enough, he was exactly who I thought he might be.

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