Tuesday morning I got myself ready like any other tuesday… it’s my meeting day! Meeting starts at 9 am and Im always the secretary, so I grabbed my computer, phone, raincoat, and a few other items to get me through the day before heading out the door at 8:45 am and taking my normal route through an area called “Fort Jesus” towards Karanja road, which will take me to where I work on the outskirts of the Kibera slums. On my way I noticed two men walking next to me, then one walking on one side and the other on the other side. I said hi to the one on my left and tried to make out some of the swahili that the guy was saying on my right but couldnt understand much as we continued to walk passed produce stands, small dukas, and bars.
Suddenly there was a jacket in the shape of a gun pointed at my face and my bag was gently slipped off my shoulder. Looking down, the other man was pulling my phone and change out of my pockets. I pushed them back in and he pulled them back out. I was shocked, speechless, confused why the many people around me were just watching or not even paying attention to this scene. The guys walked away quickly and i stood there for a few seconds before looking around for help and telling people that my bag had just walked off with those two men. Commotion came and a group of men rallied quickly saying that they were going to go after the guys but as they ran off I doubted their promise and instead think they may have been going to see what the other men had found in my bag, but who knows for sure. Only one from the group returned, reporting that they did not catch them.
Women came around me telling me I should not be walking alone and always take a taxi- both of which I refuse to do. One man who I recognized came up and offered to as around and look into the incident to get information about the men and if they could return the items. My friend George, who works at the car wash on the same road, came out of concern and walked me the rest of the way to the CTM office, where the meeting was going on. The guys who took my bag had left me with the umbrella and cup of chai that were in either of my hands, but besides that I had nothing. At CTM I told the story to Gideon, who listened carefully and then advized me to fill out a report to the police and then go clear my head by walking around town rather than cooping myself up, which might just cause me to dwell more on what had just happened. As I walked out the door I explained to my friend, Rodgers, about how I might be late for our meeting in the late afternoon with some of the artists and he just smiled, put 100 shillings in my hand (since I had no money at that point) and said “Kaylie, just go, you don’t need to come back today. We’ll see you tomorrow.”
Shem took me to go fill out the police form and then offered to go to a park in town which I fondly like to call “Preacher’s Park” since there are always pastors walking alone talking to themselves in order to practice their sunday sermons. This helped me to sit and process things, but really, since the incident in the morning, I was amazed by the first feelings I felt of gratitude for safety, peace, joy, even laughing over the whole thing. I felt a way of refreshment- watching my possessions leave and still being ok with it. I was thankful that I was alive, to happy that I wasnt hurt, and even happy for the unexpected change in my day since i got to go to a park rather than sitting in on a full day of meetings.
Since Tuesday I have found out a bit more from my friends in Kibera who have been asking around. Apparently these two men have been watching me for some time. So they knew that Tuesday I always carry my bag and head to CTM by 9 am. The one tall man with a deep scare on his face is known i the community to be dangerous and carry a gun- so it was a real gun. Both men are from another area of town all together but still they have a presence here in Kibera. I have asked my friends to spread word that if I could have some of my things returned I would really appreciate it, many are silly things that wouldnt be worth much to others anyways… my bible (i miss this the most), biblestudy book, swahili dictionary, notebook, swahili notebook, hairclip, wristwatch, in a pickle card game, and my bright green whale raincoat. I have also found the serial number to my computer in hopes that if the men sell the computer it will be easier to locate, identify, and return it. All of these things I am holding very loosely though, and if nothing is returned, that is totally ok. God gave me that computer as a gift 7 months ago and He knew that it would get taken away so I know that whatever work I need to get done I can still accomplish what He has planned for me to do.
My reaction to the mugging has been delayed a bit. Initially I could only laugh and thank God. The next day I was determined to walk the very same route, same time of day, all by myself… just to prove to the people around me that I was not scared and certainly will not change what I am doing. However even on that walk there were two guys walking my same pace and one reached into his pocket which translated “gun” in my head. So I think I have developed a phobia. Then today, I am rode a matatu to town for a meeting and on the way the men in the matatu called out “police check, buckle your seatbelts”, which I know really means “let us pick your pockets”. So at first I ignored but then because many were saying this and I know that in the past sometimes police have checked seatbelts and have thrown people in prison for not having the seatbelt on I decided to buckle my belt without taking my eyes off my handbag. However, after this is where I started to panic because then the man next to me put a folder in front of my seat, which blocked my view completely from what the passengers in front were doing. I asked him what was going on and what he was doing. He repeated my panicking questions back to me and returned the folder to block my vision as I tried to push it away. I felt trapped and although it was just these men pick pocketting the lady in front of me, all I could think of was guns and hijackings. I struggled to get my seatbelt off and asked the tout to let me get off even though we were in the middle of the road. I got off that matatu and walked the rest of the way feeling very shaken.
I’m still trying to get over what happened last Tuesday, but I have a feeling it may take a week or even two before I am able to really feel comfortable and at ease walking around again, without jumping to extreme conclusions.