I actually wrote an entire blog about my apartment getting broken into but never hit the publish button. Now I find myself in a similar situation, wondering this time if I should share the incident of getting robbed at gunpoint. What it really boils down to is that I’m kind of embarrassed about it. It was stupid and on the cusp of the time when I really should not have been walking. I should have taken a taxi. It also coincided with a very bizarre incident that happened earlier in the day, and I’m quite frankly just not really sure what to think.
Honestly, I was more pissed about the situation because of losing my bank cards and my phone. And the fact that I had my apartment broken into just the month before, it was like, ‘Here we go again.’ But then when safety reports started trickling in, and I found out that a foreigner was actually shot by thugs trying to rob him at 9:30 at night on the very road I live on now, I realize that it is a very serious situation. I always assumed that my biggest dangers in Nairobi were a.) a traffic accident or b.) getting robbed. And while I have experienced both, I realize that people are not afraid to use those guns. Thankfully, at the time, those thoughts were not running through my head.
So here’s what happened:
After spending a morning in Kibera with the women, I left just after lunchtime to meet up with someone for coffee whom I had met a few weeks earlier. He, supposedly, was Kenyan by birth, adopted to Norway, and living in LA, but spending a few months back in Nairobi. The story was actually pretty believable. He speaks Norwegian and knows a lot about the country as well as LA. And he has a personality that I think anyone would find hard not to like. He asked to come see my project, and he met the artisans. It all seemed very normal and since he seemed interested, I thought he would be a good contact to have in LA. We spent the afternoon having coffee, discussing more of my business, and discussing his family. Around early dinner time, an American friend of his, who I had met before, came up to the table and asked to speak to me. She seemed really ticked off and didn’t even acknowledge her friend that I was sitting with. I assumed that maybe they were dating and she thought something was going on. When we went around the corner, she told me that she thought he had wiped her bank accounts, stolen lots of money from her, and that the US Embassy was finally investigating him.
Well that was a slap in the face I didn’t see coming. I asked her what happened, and at first she wouldn’t tell me. But after further discussion, it turned out that her apartment was broken into (before he had ever been there) and that she went to stay with him and his sister for a week. She believes they were taking her bank cards at night while she was sleeping and withdrawing money. It was one of those moments where it was just really hard to believe. I truly believed that what she was telling me was what she thought was the truth, I just wasn’t sure if I believed it as well. We made up a story of what I was going to tell this guy and agreed that I would call her when I got home to tell her if he seemed nervous or how he reacted. I basically told him that I thought she was jealous, blah blah blah. He thought it sounded ridiculous and kept pushing, as if, is that really what she said. But I just kept insisting and pretended like I thought she was a bit of psycho, like ‘you know how some girls are,’ and left it at that. As I started mulling things over in my head, I thought it was odd that he had discussed computer security and debit card security with me that very afternoon in depth, and seemed to know a lot about both. Maybe there was a bit of truth in what this girl told me. Now that it was getting late, our coffee meetup needed to end, and I was freaked out. I planned to take the bus home… which he knew. Then after I got to the bus stop, I considered going back into the mall to buy airtime and just take a taxi home. But stupidly, I didn’t. I took the bus to my stop and went into the shopping center there to get airtime. Then I walked the two blocks to get home on a well-lit street. My sister called while I was walking, and I told her that I thought “Kenya was trying to kill me,” (oh the irony) but that she should call me back in 15 minutes since I was walking home. I opted to put my phone in my pocket instead of back in my purse… just in case. As I got near the end of the street, I saw shadows of two men behind me that were practically on top of me. I immediately crossed the street and they didn’t. Phew. I was just being paranoid.
As I got to the corner, the flower seller, who I greet every day, was just packing up to go home. We had a quick chat. The two men crossed the street and were now in front of me but continued walking. I rounded the corner, and they turned on me. The one in front of me pulled a gun on me and told me that if I screamed he would kill me. The other stood on my side. I just remember saying, “Ok ok ok!” I took off my purse and handed it to him. He then asked me for my phone. I gave it to him, and then he searched my pockets. I asked him for my keys. A motorbike driver pulled up and the two hopped on. I begged for my keys again. After saying no the first couple of times, he asked me where they were. But of course they were in a zipper within a zipper, and well, no thief waits around for that. I ran down the hill to my gate, and tried through gasps to explain to the security guard what happened. Of course the guys were gone, and I’m not sure calling the police would have helped. If I had had a phone, maybe I would have. It took a while for me to get my landlord to come to the next gate to let me in. Luckily, she lent me her phone, and I called my sister to inform her not to call my phone.
It could have been some thugs from the shopping center who followed me. It could have been this guy who I met for coffee. After all, someone broke into this other girl’s apartment to steal from her which led her to stay at his house. Maybe he was hoping that I would ask for his help. The thing is, I will never know. The good news is, I have learned NEVER to walk at night again. This guy has also finally been arrested as he was caught on camera using her bank cards. It turns out that he had a Norwegian girlfriend and lived there for two years. His whole story was a lie, and he had stolen from her as well.
I went the very next day and filed paperwork to have my phone cut off. This means, even if they tried to wipe the phone to use it, it won’t work. That is my way of saying F- you to the people who did this. I had about $35 on me but that was it. Split that three ways, and it’s not going to get them very far. What they have cost me is about $120 in wire transfer fees and $80 to get new bank cards shipped to me (which still aren’t working!…I take that back as they are now working the day this posted) and a lot of headaches to get a new SIM card, a new phone, etc.
While I hold these people personally responsible and honestly don’t care if the police were to catch them (which most likely means they would be shot and killed), I do realize this is a symptom of poverty, corruption, and poor leadership. Compare Kenya to Rwanda, and it is like night and day. If the police would crack down, if bribery and corruption weren’t so rampant, and if there were more opportunities, this would not be happening nearly as much. But, like I said, these people made a choice and I hold them fully responsible and think justice can come in many forms, including karma. Jail time would be nice too, but not likely. Hopefully, they change their ways or get caught.
Either way, I am still alive and kicking and need to continue to worry about myself. So I’ll just add it to my list of ‘That Year I Started a Business and Everything Went Wrong but I Still Survived.’
Have you ever been robbed?