I woke up this morning to the fading of confused dreams - I was hiding from someone, and I think they were trying to steal my watch.

I thought about the dream as I shuffled into my pants and buckled on my watch - not the trusty Seiko that had seen me through one war already, but a cheap Timex, something a Mormon missionary would wear. Something anonymous.

"Problem is," a fellow foreigner told me on the other side of some passport stamps while we waited for some friends, "We end up standing around looking like the fucking army."

I laughed.

"Well," he said, "Not you, mate - good fuckin' job on that."

I laughed again and reached up to shake my ponytail at him.

"Yer," he said, "That definitely helps. I'm trying but the shit grows so slow these days."

"That's my secret," I say, "I'm always a shitbag."

I was being trafficked, and both during and after the affair found the entire process highly amusing, right down to the look on the border guards' faces as they fingered what was probably the first American passport they had ever seen.

Back in this morning, I'm stuffing my pockets. Passport, cigarettes (Dunhills now, absolutely oozing sophistication with textured papers and gold banded filters), wads of cash counted out and separated the night before. Translator, driver, the newsstand lady, the hotel maid I talked into doing my laundry and a couple on the spot thank yous prepped separate from my main roll. A couple singles wrapped around a big one in case I see the ancient crone on the corner again, prostrated on face and knees and wrapped in a shawl that probably daubed tears of one sort or other when the USSR dissolved.

I grab my anonymous little backpack full of weird gear and the exotic battery packs I've been putting together in a hotel bathroom, and head out to get my fucking ass kicked again. No time for quiet coffee this morning - I have to throw myself down some stairs before the scheduled beatings.

It's dark, cold, and raining on the walk to the gate where the old man outside will smile and nod, and the young men inside will scowl over their AKs.

Finally and all of a sudden, it's 18:40 and my head is floating above my body like a balloon. This shit fucking sucks. I try to give myself a pep talk. I try to tell myself I'm a rockstar and this is my stage. Problem is, I know I am, and right now, I just don't fucking care.

I know I'm the guy on the ground. I know I'm the smart hands. I know they couldn't do it without me. I know all the pep talk garbage because I hear it from my boss and my clients and because I put this program together with bubblegum and tinfoil when nobody nobody else could even find the sidewalk to scrape or the chip bags to cut apart. I know I'm the man, because when I told my boss it was going to cost an enormous piece of untouched Northern woods to get my ass out here, he agreed without blinking.

Right now though, I just got my ass kicked and I'm just not in the mood to consider how well I covered my head and conserved energy.

Maybe tomorrow. Probably not. Probably when I sign the deed to an enormous piece of untouched Northern woods.

My driver/guide/fast-becoming-henchman is telling me I look like I need some coffee.

"No," I tell him, "If I drink coffee now it will fuck me up for sleep."

He looks puzzled and repeats the words to himself.

"I do not understand this one," he says. "Can repeat?"

"No coffee," I say. "If coffee now, no sleep tonight."

"Yes," he says. "I got this. But where is fuck?"

I feel the knives behind my eyes sharpening.

"No coffee," I say again. "I want a beer."

He brightens immediately.

"I know this place! Place for drinking inside from beers made in area around."

He immediately punches the Lada down a gear and whips left down a street I swear to God I A) didn't even see and B) we were already past. This is half the reason I pay him what I do.

"Good place. Many beer. Can take away in one liter."

Four blocks later he slams the little hoopty into a taxi-only spot and gives some cryptic sign to a lurking cabbie. The cabbie nods.

"Is good. He keep our spot, no trouble. Ten minutes."

Sure as shit, we're in and out and I've got two liters of something local and seasonal tucked under my arm. I think it cost me three bucks.

This is the other half of why I pay him what I do.