A key component of living as a foreigner in a poor country is being conned. Many local people think that foreigners have an endless stack of cash in their wallets, just ready to spill over. We, as foreigners, are personal stimulus packages. Naturally, we are prime targets of conmen, and it’s terribly annoying.
Most conmen are not very good liars, which sucks for them as lying is an essential skill for them to do their jobs well. If you keep talking to them, they make mistakes, saying the truth instead of a lie, or something ridiculously illogical. They also get nervous, and show a wide range of emotions. They might be show anger and pleasantry in the same conversation. They try to be personally close to you, saying words like “friend,” or shaking your hand a bit more firmly than normal. Just one small doubt is enough to reveal their intentions.
Last Saturday, two locals ended up escorting us to a reggae performance. One introduced himself as a musician, and the other as a friend. We ended up in a real performance at the French Cultural Center, and I was surprised that they brought us to a legitimate location. We met some other KOICA volunteers there, and had a good night. When the performance was over, the two conmen called two taxis for us, and said each one would cost 15,000 TSH. We knew this to be bullshit, so we argued there for about ten minutes with all features from the above paragraph happening. A volunteer friend who we met in the concert helped us by calling a taxi that would only cost 6,000 TSH. When we told this to the two conmen, they accused my friend to be drunk, that I was disrespecting the friendship. They eventually lowered the price to 10,000, and the taxi drivers even offered to go for 6,000 TSH (so no commission for the conmen). Emotions were heated, and I felt that the two conmen were not going to let us go easily. So I told them to wait outside while I would go talk to my friend in the building. Of course, by then, my friend had already left, and we took the back door to get on the 6,000 TSH taxi he called.