Pins in the park, Algiers

As a geologist for an international petroleum company, I have had occasion to visit interesting places and meet interesting people. Usually meetings are carefully planned, but at times there is a large random element. I remember once a short encounter in a public park in Algiers, Algeria. I had worked on a study contract which my company had with the Algerian State Oil Company and was in Algeria to make the final presentation of the study results. The meeting had taken a day and a half and the stress of making a good presentation had been quite tiring. On the last day, our hosts had scheduled a nice lunch for our delegation at a fancy Algiers restaurant prior to our departure. The restaurant is located near the large monument to Algerian Independence on a hill overlooking the city. Algiers sits on the African coast in a curve of land between the Mediterranean Sea and the surrounding hills. A hilltop park surrounds the monument and provides wonderful views of the city arrayed below.

After the lunch we took some time for a walk in the park to admire the view and relax. I was happy to have my camera with me and took several photos of our hosts and the city. On the camera strap I keep a number of lapel pins for decoration as these are quite popular in Europe. At one point we heard a young woman say "Pins!" and come running over to see this little collection. She had been with a companion who had not taken the courage to run over as the first had. We were all amused by her interest and inhibition and I gladly let her look at the pins, most of which are from America and so quite exotic from her standpoint. After I explained where each had come from, I offered for her to choose one of her choice as a souvenir. At this point some shyness set in on her part, and so I selected a nice pin from Texas and offered it to her. This is certainly more than she had hoped for and she accepted it gladly, thanked me and returned to her companion.

We returned to our walk and my colleagues and the Algerians had quite a laugh at the impromptu exhibition. Naturally they kidded me about my secret to successfully attracting the attention of pretty young women. The first day back at the office in Houston my boss showed up with a number of pins attached to his suit coat! Later that day when we got on the plane to return home I had the time to reflect back on that moment in the park and the young lady who, perhaps against her better judgment, took a chance and asked to see something of interest. Her friend was not so brave, and neither so lucky. I thought about the jokes afterwards, and the comments. Was she foolish? Possibly. Was she brave? I cannot know, but she did take the chance, and was happy to have a souvenir for her trouble and a story to tell. I have occasionally wondered about the whereabouts of that pin. In a box or drawer? I prefer to imagine that she keeps it somewhere, perhaps with other pins where her friends can see and ask about it, and she can tell her story about the park, the American, and the pins.

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