When I was leaving Boston on Aug 21, 2014 en route to Johannesburg, I was very convinced that I would have wonderful stories to tell about my adventures both in both Joburg and Cape Town. Who gets three weeks off? Oh my God, it was my plan to rub it in, any chance I had, that I was having a straight 3-week vacation. And of course, when I arrived Friday night, the first thing that caught my attention was the steering wheels were in the right(ie South Africa drives on the left). I did not expect to see any differently than the driving system that I was used to and yes, I was going to make a Facebook roar out of it.
Oh well, it seemed like I was looking for exciting stuff to talk about. You know, cool stuff that people brag about when on vacation. However, the next day during my first outing, I already got a big story, beyond and nothing like what I wished for. Literarily the first time I left the apartment. Oh my horrible experience!
It all started when I asked my childhood friend and host, that I wanted to take a walk around to buy a few stuff. And immediately before leaving the house, he warned, “drop your wallet; take only what you absolutely need.” Well, I needed my debit cards so I took those along with me and of course my cell phone.
A few steps away, he warned that the outline of my phone was visible from my sweat pants and at this point, I was beginning to find it all ridiculous. I asked how bad the crime situation was and he said he had been mugged twice in 2 years. First in Cape Town by 5 teenagers, a story which I found really amusing and the second time, he was robbed by a guy in Johannesburg who he was trying to get directions from because he heard him talk in his native language.
Well, we walked to the mall, grabbed an early dinner, withdrew a little cash, went to a nearby pub and hung out a bit and left for home at about 9.00PM. Right before leaving, a text came into my phone from my mom asking how my first day was going but I was too scared to have my phone out for long enough to compose a reply, so I decided to hold off till I got home. Now this was in Melville area of town which is regarded to be pretty busy and safe.
As we were just a few blocks from home and it was only 9PM, we decided to walk back. Unfortunately, it happened so fast. Two men alighted from a parked car on a side street and started walking towards us. I quickly asked my host if there was any need to be concerned as I could tell that he too was troubled by the appearance of the 2 men. Well, before we could figure it all out, the hoodlums were upon us. They pulled out their daggers and quickly started demanding that we gave them everything. As for me, I had absolutely nothing since I had given my phone and ATM cards to my host for safe keeping in his jeans as opposed to my sweat pants’ pocket. The hoodlum who was working me found it unbelievable that I had nothing. He kept cursing, asking me to strip.
I was robbed of my Cazal eye-wear, probably the most expensive accessory I ever purchased. So sad but I happen to always travel with spare glasses just as a backup as I cannot function without my glasses. He also took my Leatherman jacket, cardigan and my workout shoes which I had brought on this trip with the intention of working out hard in order to lose some pounds. Obviously, they just gave my lazy ass additional excuse not to exercise.
From my friend, they took both our phones- My Samsung Galaxy s5 which I never really liked anyway but of course I mourn the dollar amount for which it was bought barely 3 months ago. They also got away with the little cash on us, our ATM cards and the keys to our apartment.
After walking jacketless and barefooted in South African post-winter cold, we found the closest hotel from where I was able to call my banks to block my debit cards. I also contacted my network provider asking them to render my smart phone useless. The IMEI number was deleted and I was promised that the hoodlums will not be able to use the phone, ever (Well, that is if they do not have their other crooked ways).
Finally, I got my family & friends particularly my mom who had just texted minutes before the unfortunate event and surprisingly she was calm about it. All she said was to hop on the next available flight back to the States if I felt unsafe and my dad just asked if I had read the book, “Cry, The Beloved Country” by Alan Paton. Apparently, he was mom’s professor in College and had written about the situation in SA even back in the early twentieth century.
What a shame! This is the eighth country I’ve been to but the first with a bad experience. It is just my fifth day here but I have become so petrified to go outdoors even in broad daylight as I do not know who to trust. Since I do not trust even the cab drivers on the streets, I have had to constantly call up the infinitesimally few friends I know in Joburg to give me ride whenever I need to do outdoor stuff. Hahahaha. Seems like the life of a celebrity but if this is what celebrities have to go through, then their lives must suck real bad.
But you know what? I have decided to put all of this behind me and act like the grown-ass man that I am. I am open to seeing the wonderful side to South Africa. That beautiful country whose praise the whole world sings, the sites that attracted me here in the first place, my planned trip to Cape Town and all that there is to be enjoyed.
Above all, I am so thankful that we were not hurt and most thankful that I have been finally motivated to write my first blog.
I promise that my next blog will be about the South Africa, not its horrors but its beauties.