Traveling alone isn’t all its cracked up to be. On one hand you have the flexibility to work and go where you please because not every hostel excepts couples. On the other hand it can get lonely and can also be pretty unsafe, especially for women. My Mom always told me that if I’m going to travel I need to hide my money, hide my passport, don’t look rich, if someone ever tries to rob me, just give them what they want. It’s better to loose materialistic things than to get hurt. These are all things I’d been told throughout my life, and I guess I listened, but didn’t understand. I had never had to guard my things so tightly before. I had never really been in danger. I just didn’t get it… until now… until it was made real. Now I understand.
In January of 2017, almost 3 weeks into my CELTA course I was robbed. I was in Bogotá, specifically Barrio San José Sur. I was walking down a busy street-calle 27, Kr. 10. I stopped at one store along the way and bought an avocado.
It was around 7:15pm. I then turned the corner on Kr. 11 (only 2 or 3 blocks from my house). This street wasn’t so busy and there were way less lights illuminating the streets. It’s funny because a few days before I had been walking home and I heard this car. This car had given me terrors since the day I arrived in Barrio San Jose Sur. I thought maybe it belonged to a local gang because it has these bright purple lights and as it would drive it would play a recording of a little girl screaming. It always gave me chills. I knew it was a local car belonging to someone living in this neighborhood because I could hear the little girl screaming everyday at around 2am, etc. One day when I was walking home I heard it, and I ran like a bolt of lightning into a nearby fruit store (in Colombia there are 4 fruit/vegetable markets on every block). I asked them about the car with the little girl screaming, and they seemed confused. So I described it as the car with the purple lights and they said not to be scared, that it’s just a car and the lights are just a design. Yet still I waited in the store until the coast was clear and I preceded home with caution.
The reason I remember this encounter with the car with the purple lights is because I now commend how careful I was that day. As time went by and I became more comfortable with the neighborhood the fear I had in the beginning was less prevalent. It was easy to let go of the fear when I saw so many people, woman and children on the streets at all hours of the night, even at nine and ten pm.
So back to the original story I was telling about this particular night when I was walking home… I had my huge purse and I was just walking with it like I had no cares in the world. I looked nice. I had my hair down and curly and I wasn’t hiding from anyone. I was just walking home from the bus stop. However when I turned from the busy street onto the smaller street leading to my apartment, I saw a bad omen. It was a very sketchy car. It had absolutely no lights on and was pitch black. Why would a car not have any headlights on on a dark street? It was stopping on the street in front of me. My original instinct would have been to run back to the busy street. That’s what I would have done a week or two ago. However I convinced myself that I was over reacting and proceeded crossing right in front of it. Before I got to the end of the next block I heard a motorcycle a distance behind me.
Okay a motorcycle not so odd, I thought. Should I turn around? No that would be over reacting, I thought to myself. So I didn’t. However as the sound got even closer I turned around to find someone 3 feet away and running closer. The guy on the back of the bike had jumped off to snatch my purse while the guy on the front of the bike-motorcycle-turned the corner to wait for all of this to take place and for his accomplice to jump back on the bike.
Now, I regret not just letting him take my stuff, but in my head, in the bubble I grew up in, he didn’t have a knife, he was just some ‘tonto’ trying to take my purse, and I was athletic, I could grab it back. I didn’t think the person was dangerous. I thought it was just some harmless robber. So I tried to grab it back as he was running to jump back on the the bike. When I reached out for it, he made a swift motion towards my arm. It all happened too fast and I was never quite able to grab ahold of my bag. I didn’t even try to get the license plate, which I now regret. When I saw him hop back on the bike I knew it was hopeless. It had all happened too quickly and they were going so fast. He wouldn’t be caught.
Then I was bombarded with deja vu -an experience from my past. I wasn’t in any pain at this moment, but in this experience from my past, I had been in a car and I was suddenly in danger so I jumped out of the car to escape, but I was holding my side and I didn’t know why. I guess my body was telling me to hold my side, but because of the adrenaline I didn’t know why. Why was my hand wet, I thought. When I looked at my hand it was bloody. At that moment I thought maybe the person in the car had injected me with something, but it turned out later that I had been stabbed.
Now thinking of that experience I immediately thought Oh no. That robber better not have stabbed me. Like I said, I wasn’t even in pain at that moment but rather a lightbulb of caution went off in my head from the experience before. I searched myself, and low and behold, yes, for the second time in my life, I’d been stabbed. This time, in my arm. I was scared because the first time I had gotten stabbed it was by far the most painful experience in my life and I never ever wanted to go through that again. The first time I had lost so much blood and passed out, and been in so much pain, and was terrified, and after surgury was more pain, and after that pain was even more pain. Long story short, this time it wasn’t the pain that scared me the most, it was knowing how much pain I’d been in the first time and thinking I would have to go through that again.
Now looking back on it, it was nothing like the first time. Looking back, the pain and trauma of the first accident which was so bad due to location of the stab wound (in my back) didn’t even compare. 3 weeks later and I’m still healing. In the next post I’ll tell you what the next 15 hours were like for me.