The bartender looks me up and down. Somalia is an incredibly dangerous place for someone who actually belongs there, and about ten times more so for someone as improbably white as I am. To improve my odds of survival, I had shrewdly elected to wear an Obama 08 t-shirt. The bartender takes this in, and says nothing. I take a deep breath, having already rehearsed some critical phrases in Somali. "I would like to meet a pirate." His eyes widen, then lock on my own. Years of hard talk with hard men has given him a preternatural ability to sniff out weakness. "And," I say in a firm voice, remembering my guidebooks advice, "I don't mean I want to be taken to a back room where men will have rough sex with me." His eyes narrow slightly. We stare at each other for eight seconds. Finally, a decision having formed in his wrinkled head, he jerks his head towards a door in the back. "No, I said I don't..." I'm interrupted by his extended arm, pointing at a group of men sitting at a table beside the door leading into the storage room/potential rough sex emporium. I walk over to them. "Are you guys pirates?" Silence greets me in return, punctuated by the sounds automatic weapons make when they're being booted up. I don't really know how guns work. Having run out of Somali phrases already, I switch to English. "I'm from the Internet. I don't know how to say this, but... you pirates
My kidnappers/new chums march me out of the bar. A truck takes us some miles away to a beach camp. Along the way I learn the leader's name is Mustapha. When we reach the camp they politely relieve me of the burden of my clothes, and bind my arms behind me. "You come from big newspaper, yes?" Mustapha hisses into my face. "Cracked is basically a very successful newspaper," I confirm. "We'll ransom you then. Your newspaper will pay big money to bring back their star reporter." I suck air through my teeth noisily. "Ooooooooooooh. I don't know about that." "What, why not?" "One, I'm only like the 8th best guy they have. You know? Like David Schwimmer?" I make a poopy face. "You know?
The next day I'm flying home. In retrospect, I didn't learn that much about the pirate lifestyle as I would have hoped, and ended up being forced to perform rather a lot more oral sex on strange men than I was truly comfortable with. On the flipside I did manage to transform a group of strange men into sashying fancy-dans of the sea. That should look good on the resume. All in all I give Somalia 3 stars. ***