This weekend I had a true Tanzanian experience, but unfortunately it was not a good experience at all: I was mugged and had my cell phone and some money taken from me.
My cousin, Stephen, who is from New Zealand but has been living in Uganda for half a year came to Dar to see me for the weekend. I met him downtown Dar after work on Friday and we went out to a place right near Posta for dinner (I ate pizza!!). After dinner (like 8pm) we decide to walk around a bit. Stephen was saying that he really misses seeing the ocean in Uganda, so we walked towards the water, then continued to walk along the street that ran parallel to the water. We kept walking, lost in our conversation when suddenly 4 guys (they couldn’t have been older than me) ran out at us from the dark… My instinct was to run away, so I did—away from Stephen and the other 3 predators. But one guy ran after me and grabbed at my pouch that I was clutching in my hands. He tried to take it from me, but I wasn’t giving it to him—I was pleading with him in broken Swahili (and I’m pretty sure I threw some Spanish in there too)… he started biting at my wrists because I wasn’t giving it to him. He kept on biting me, pretty hard, until finally I figured that it wasn’t worth it. He took my pouch and ran off, and stupidly I ran after him (I don’t know what I would have done though if I actually caught up to him!) but one of the other guys stopped me and told me it was okay. But obviously it wasn’t okay, so I tried pleading with him too, calling him my brother and that I know Swahili and that I really need my cell phone but they can take the money. He said sorry than ran off. At that point I realized that I ran away from Stephen and I had no idea where he was or if he was okay (he already wasn’t feeling good because he had malaria and the 36+ hr bus ride from Kampala didn’t help). I called out his name, and he responded so I ran to meet him—he was fine. After seeing that we were both okay, we ran to the nearest building with a night guard and yelled for help. Our first try, there was no one at the station so we ran to the next building. This time someone was there so we asked them to get us a taxi and I tried to explain what had happened… I told them where we were staying and they said it was close. One of the guards starting walking with us, then pointed down a street (another dark one) and said we should just walk straight and our hotel was just down the road. What help they were! So we started walking, but saw a taxi and decided we better do that instead of walking, even if it was close.
Once we got back to where we were staying, we had a chance to hear each other’s sides of the story. The three guys that went at Stephen had machetes, so he was not resistant at all and they proceeded to take his wallet and his cell phone. Luckily, they dropped his wallet after taking the money so they didn’t get his credit cards (but he had just taken out quite a bit of money from the ATM). I guess they were poking him with their machetes, having one against his neck and the others against his pockets and shirt. But thankfully they didn’t actually puncture him—just ripped his shirt a little. It sounded like his attackers were very fast, just taking his money and phone and running off back into the dark. He feels really bad that he couldn’t do anything more—but it probably didn’t help that I ran away from him!
Since they ended up taking my whole pouch (my favorite blue, India wallet) they got some of my money (like $40), my cell phone, my USB drive, and a copy of my passport (hopefully they’ll feel bad when they look at my picture!). It’s funny because usually whenever I travel and go out somewhere, I never keep all my money in one place and definitely don’t carry that much with me. But in this case, I had with me all the money I brought for the weekend…
And actually, Stephen and I shouldn’t have been walking out at night by ourselves, but especially the place where we were. It’s almost funny because I looked in my guide book later that night and it says to avoid walking along the water where we were at all times (even during broad day light). It was really stupid, and we both realize now that we definitely should not have been where we were! It’s just a bummer that we had to learn that in such a dramatic fashion. But it could have been so much worse—they had machetes and there were 4 of them and only three of us (a small girl and a guy sick with malaria!)—so I am very thankful for the fact that they only wanted our money and not to hurt us, well besides biting my wrists (who does that??)
It was scary at the time and right after, but now I am not feeling traumatized, just upset about having my stuff taken from me. (And I feel worse knowing that my parents and boyfriend are even more worried about me know!) But I guess this was a good lesson for me to realize that I am not invincible and not everyone is going to be my friend. It also helps me see that sometimes I need to be cautious and I really can’t defend myself in situation like this one. It’s also good to know that it’s okay to not be too brave.
I thank everyone for their concern, and especially their continued prayers and thoughts. I promise to be safe!