The Ramada

English is a rich language and words keep on being created. Let me add one—Ramada. Ramada can take the form of verb or noun depending on context. But before I can put forward my meaning to it, let me put it into context.

Just last week, I was in Addis Ababa, Africa’s capital as others call it since it houses the headquarters of the Africa Union (AU). I checked into a hotel, paid my deposit and was shown a cosy room with a safe box to put my valuables in. As I normally do, I unpacked my stuff and put my money and other valuables into the safe box. Then I made myself comfortable watching news on the TV.

After a couple of days of successfully attending to meetings in Addis, it was time to go back home but had to go through another country for another assignment before I retreated to my base in Harare.

So it was time to check out. I packed my stuff, went to the safe box to get my valuables only to realise the safe could not open. I was sure I was not missing my pin number. I was getting it right. Something was wrong. I called the reception desk asking for help. I was told the IT person had left for home and so they would have to call her back. Meanwhile, I was panicking because I needed to leave for the airport. After an hour, the IT person arrived and she easily opened the safe for me. All I cared was to pick my valuables and leave for the airport. I did not suspect anything because it seemed all my valuables, including the money envelope was there feeling stuffed with money.

Fast forward. I am at the airport in the other country where I was to do another assignment.  I am being asked to pay for a visa. I happily reach into my envelope only to realise that all my money was gone instead, all the notes were now replaced with one dollar notes. I turn my luggage up and down thinking I may have misplaced the envelope but nay! This was the very envelope I had put my money in. Fortunately, the immigration officials realise I have an African Union passport and so didn’t require to pay for visa. I am allowed through. I still can’t believe what I saw in the envelope. Immediately I reach my hotel, I call the hotel in Addis where I had used the safe.  I tell them what happened, and they apologise for the inconvenience promising to investigate and get back to me.

As expected, the hotel comes back to me a couple of days later and all they could tell me was that they investigated but their CCTV camera could only show me and the cleaners entering the room. They go on to say that they always check the cleaners but they did not find any money on them. Wow! I am supposed to believe their story. For all I knew, the hotel management had to save face of the hotel and couldn’t admit to the wrong doing. I could tell there was a syndicate to it— could be running from the IT person, security people and the reception personnel. Guess what? When I get back to Harare and I tell colleagues about the incident, a fellow work-mate confesses to have the same happening to them in the same hotel and same period—somebody was suffering in silence.

Lessons: never carry too much cash on you when travelling—just carry what would be enough. If you have no choice but to carry more cash (and any valuables), leave it at the reception desk’s safe box since they will be accountable and will reimburse if it goes missing. But more importantly, use plastic money (have your debit or credit card for making payments instead of hard cash). I hardly carry cash myself but this time there were some small vendor payments that needed to be paid in cash.

So what does the new word ‘Ramada’ mean then? It’s basically ‘Safe box theft’ or ‘the act of stealing from places one would consider very safe’. You can use it as a verb or noun. While I lost money, I have gained by adding a word to the English vocabulary—so I am happy.

So be warned to avoid using safe boxes in general and you can guess for which hotel in Addis, in particular. As they say, ‘Fore-warned is fore-armed.’ Kindly alert your dear ones and network about this so they don’t lose their hard-earned money.

Blessed day to you and yours as you avoid being in Ramada position.

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