Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Dark Side

As soon as we left the stadium, I was on edge.

We had been to games there before, but this time felt different.  The game had started late so it was dark when we left.  There were a lot of people, and 90% of them were men.  We had gotten separated from our friends, so it was just our family and a teenager we had brought with us.

Gil felt uneasy too, and he insisted that we keep close together and walk very quickly.  Poor Lily was running to keep up.

Just as we existed the stadium, we saw a commotion ahead of us.  People yelling, flailing, running, pushing.   A woman in the street, crying.  She had just been robbed.  Police hitting someone.

Gil immediately started pulling us away from the commotion and towards a wall, and I helped in pushing the children towards him.  That's when I felt it--two hands feeling my pockets.  I yelled, but before I could do anything, a hand grabbed my purse and yanked.  The strap broke, and he was gone.

Gil and I both kicked it into high gear, grabbed the kids, and raced for our car.  Lily peed her pants, but thankfully, we were all okay.  Josiah asked a million questions on the way home ["Where do robbers go in the daytime?], we answered them, and life went on.

I was left with this friction burn where the guy yanked my purse strap.  But other than that, no harm done.

I've been trying to give you realistic glimpses of our Tanzanian life, and it's been hard to think of how to write about this part of our lives.

Because the truth is, this wasn't an isolated incident.  This is our reality.  Part of the reason this didn't totally traumatize me is because I was partially expecting it.  I only had the bare necessities in my purse that day--some money and sunglasses--because I knew that it was likely something like this would happen.  

I can't even list all the things like this that have happened to us during our years here--the times our car was broken into, the time Gil's phone was stolen, the time it was almost stolen.  And really, our experiences are nothing compared to our friends.  Like the two dozen families we know who have had invasion robberies in the middle of the night--the friend who had his head hit with a machete, the other friend who was stabbed, the other friend who was shot at.  These aren't just people we have heard of or seen on the news--these are friends.

Our house has bars on every window.

And our front and back doors have metal grates.

Every evening, this is my routine:

Turn on security lights.
Make sure car is locked.
Lock front grate.
Lock and bolt front door.
Lock and padlock back grate.
Lock back door.
Lock laundry room door.
Bolt kitchen door.
Bolt door to garage.
Lock and bolt hallway door.
Set motion sensor alarm.

It's a good thing our house is made of concrete, because we would be in trouble in a fire!

But it's our reality.  When I walk on the road, I make sure I hold my purse in my hand, and not on my shoulder.  Too many friends have been hurt by drive-by purse snatchings when the thief has pulled them down in the process.  When I go to the ATM, I am always on edge.  When walking to my car, I hold my keys in my hand, in case my purse gets snatched.

This is life here.  It happens all the time.  The U.S. Embassy in Tanzania often sends out safety messages about avoiding particular places or situations.  We laugh, because sometimes their "warnings" are so comprehensive that if we took their advice, we couldn't go anywhere or do anything.

Before we came here, we tried to buy life insurance.  No one--absolutely no one--would give it to us, even though I wouldn't consider this country to be in the "high risk" category.  We're not in Somalia, for heaven's sake.

Have I just gotten used to it over time?  Maybe.  Am I doing better at trusting God?  I hope so.  I do still worry too much--but I did that in America too.  There's always stuff to worry about, even if you live in a padded house.

Is living here an unnecessary risk?

I guess that depends on how you look at it.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep,
to gain what he cannot lose.

You keep him in perfect peace
whose mind is stayed on you,
because he trusts in you.

I guess I've decided to just choose Trust.  Every day, again.

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