Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

2/4: What Happened

It was about 8pm on a Thursday when we finished dinner at my colleague’s place, who I’ll call H in these posts.  My Ghanaian friend (called S) had ridden his motorcycle over so we asked if he’d give me a ride home.  It was dark, but not very late.  I considered called a taxi because we’re not supposed to travel at night, but I’d already had one taxi driver steal my backpack and another yell at me because the road to my host family’s was gutted from the rain.  An exciting motorcycle side with a friend seemed like much more fun.

We were almost at my host family’s place, less than 10m from the gate, when I felt something pull on my back.  I turned and saw someone on a motorcycle beside us, holding my backpack.

I wish this was a story of my bravery or quick thinking, but it isn’t.  It just illustrates how terrible I am in crisis situations.

I screamed and jumped off the motorcycle.  I fell in the mud and scrambled up and turned around.  I could see one man with a machete standing next to my friend and S’s motorcycle was pushed over into the bushes.  The other man was about 2m away, facing me and also holding a machete.

I kept screaming.  We paused, looking at each other while I screamed.  Even though my family’s compound’s gate was only 5m or so behind me, I didn’t think about running.  He took a step toward me and all I could think was that I didn’t want him any closer.  I took off my backpack and threw it at him, still screaming.  He picked it ud, climbed back on his motorcycle with his friend, and they drove away.

I took off my bulky motorcycle helmet and threw it on the ground, sinking onto my knees in the mud while wailing, “NOOOOOOOOO!”

Poor S.  He must have been shaken too but I didn’t even ask how he was.  I stood in the middle of the street, sobbing, while he said “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry” and neighbours began filtering out of their houses to see what the commotion was.

“I. Need. To. Phone. H.” I gasped.  S gave me his phone and I called my colleague.  As soon as she picked up I wailed, “They took everything!”  She didn’t know who I was or what I was talking about so I tried to explain about the two men with machetes, my backpack with my (second) computer, (third) smart phone, and camera – but quickly had to give the phone back to S to explain.

Poor S.  I can’t say that enough.  My host father came out and accused him of working with the thieves and putting me at risk on purpose.  I feebly said, “It wasn’t his fault” but most of the conversation was in the local dialect and I too distraught to do or say anything useful or rational.  Instead, I just stood there and cried.

Poor S left soon after.  If I’d just gone through what he went through, the last thing I’d want to do is get back on my motorcycle and ride into the dark.  But I didn’t think to insist that he stay.  I was useless.

H and our other friend came in a taxi to bring me back to her place.  We stayed up past midnight, discussing some of the other terrible things that have recently happened in Ghana and being thankful that no one got hurt.  I babbled incoherently about things back home and we laughed at whatever we could.

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One thought on “2/4: What Happened

  1. Christine on said:

    Your reflexes were good Be. You gave them what they wanted and potentially saved your life.

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