I had planned to do some typing tonight. The topic was going to be dogs, but I think that will get delt with later. Shore version, they are not man's best friend here. Not even runner-up.
It is not completely uncommon for a Peace Corps volunteers (PCV) to be asked to help out with some translation. The paper is usually old, perhaps has a light tan stain from some tea, and might have been carried around or kept in a box for years until a suitable translator (me) has been found. It is assumed (and generally true) that a PCV has a decent command of the English language. My grasp of Berber is much weaker, but usually I am able to get the gross point across if not the finer details. Sometimes it is just a trick of remembering the right vocabulary, as I experienced today.
For some reason, a young man in town whom I talked to frequently picked today to ask me for my help in reading a letter "from a friend in Canada". He was using the word "friend" loosely, as it often seems to be. This letter was really from the Calaedonan Offshore Oil Company Ltd. Most of the letter indicates that they are a company in Canada that specializes in helping secure employment on offshore oil rigs for people (young men). This much he had grasped from the vivid pictures. I was able to help fill him on details about location (about everywhere there is oil), and money (a lot). But, the COOC are not themselves an oil company, and they want 189$ upfront to begin looking for a job placement. They also do not guarantee work. If you are beginning to think this sounds like a scam, I'll add one final detail. The very fine print (yes I was reading that) adds a quick caveat, they are incorporated in Liberia.
The biggest problem with the translation I had was figuring out how to say "these guys are going to take your money and not do anything", which is essentially how I put it. I forgot that somehow the word "mafia" is well known here. Still, even after we had discussed the letter, and that the COOC were part of the mafia (not totally unrealistic in Liberia), this young man asked me to write an email and explain his circumstances. He does not have a job, and does not have the money. But would be happy to pay them back all the money (it is another 250$ after job placement, if that miracle ever happened), after he was working.
I think what bothered me the most about this isn't that someone was trying to rip someone else off. It happens everywhere all the time. If you have never been the target of a scam operation I suggest leaving your cave. It was having to tell such a willing and eager person that this letter was not going to be the future and his ticket out of town. I do not know if the family "needs" the money, he is building their new house right now. But, a small hometown is not a great place for a young man who can see the wide world and wants to get their start in it, just on the other side of his cinderblock wall. He friendly, hardworking, smart, strong in his faith, and bored out of his mind. I am eager to help my town, but for this guy I just want to get him a job anywhere else.