COMPETITION: LITERALLY LOST 92

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The Independent Travel
This excerpt has been taken from a work of travel literature. Readers are invited to tell us: a) where is the action taking place? b) who is the author? Blackwell's Bookshops will award pounds 30-worth of book tokens to the first correct answer out of the hat. Answers on a postcard to: Literally Lost, Independent on Sunday, 1 Canada Square, London E14 5DL. Usual competition rules apply. Entries to arrive by this Thursday. Literally lost 91: The book was Innocent Anthropologist - Notes from a Mud Hut by Nigel Barley. The action took place in Cameroon. The winner is B Richards of Tadworth, Surrey.

ocktail hour at the Commodore is eight p.m., when US editors and network executives are safely at lunch (there's a seven-hour time difference). The Commodore is strictly neutral territory with only one rule. No guns at the bar. All sorts of raffish characters hang about, expatriates from xxx, xxx and xxx, officers in mufti from both sides of the xxx Army, and combatants of other stripes. I overheard one black Vietnam veteran loudly describe to two British girls how he teaches orthodox xxx women to fight with knives. And there are diplomats, spooks and dealers in gold, arms and other things. At least that's what they seem to be. No one exactly announces his occupation - except the journalists, of course.

I met one young lady from Atlanta who worked on a CNN camera crew. She was twenty-six, cute, slightly plump and looked like she should have been head of the Georgia State pep squad. I sat next to her at the Commodore bar and watched her drink twenty-five gin and tonics in a row. She never got drunk, never slurred a word, but along about G&T number twenty-two out came the stories about dismembered babies and dead bodies flying all over the place and the Red Cross picking up hands and feet and heads from bomb blasts and putting them all in a trash dumpster. "So I asked the Red Cross people," she said, in the same sweet Dixie accent, "like, what's this? Save 'em, collect 'em, trade 'em with your friends?"

Everyone in xxx can hold his or her liquor. If you get queasy, Muhammad, the Commodore bartender, has a remedy rivalling Jeeves's in P.G. Wodehouse's novels. It will steady your stomach so you can drink more. You'll want to. No one in this part of the world is without a horror story, and, at the Commodore bar, you'll hear most of them.

Dinner, if anyone remembers to have it, is at ten or so. People go out in groups. It's not a good idea to be alone and blonde after dark. Kidnapping is the one great innovation of the xxx civil war. And Reuters' correspondent, Johnathan Wright, had disappeared thus on his way to xxx a few days before I arrived.

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