Friday, October 23, 2009

If I had a fist...

... I'd punch you in the morning. I'd punch you in a car. All over this land!

Oh, wait. That's not how that song by the Mamas and the Papas goes. Maybe my head got a bit jarred yesterday if I can't even remember the lyrics properly.

I stayed up late on Wednesday night, watching Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on TMC (I love Jimmy Stewart, Jean Arthur and everything Frank Capra has ever directed). Because I didn't go to bed until far later than normal, I set my alarm for 7am instead of 6:30 and figured it was no big deal if I was late for work.

I left my house shortly after 8 and was walking to the bus stop, same as I always do, I passed the pulperia said good morning to some neighbors and turned onto the main road. It was about 8:15am by this point and there were lots of people walking around, going to work, waiting for the bus... you know, the usual Thursday morning city stuff. I was walking past the panaderia (bakery) and this short, Nicaraguan woman in a white blouse with a pony tail started talking to me.

"Do you like walking?" she asked.
"Yes," I replied. "I'm walking to the bus."
"The bus is dangerous. Where are you going."
"To work. And the bus is far less dangerous than the local taxistas."
"I'm going that way, do you want to share a cab with me? It will be far cheaper."
"Not as cheap as taking the bus, but thank you for asking."

I was not about to share a cab with this lady. I have heard stories since I got here of friends and friends of friends agreeing to share taxis with people and then having all their stuff stolen and driven around to every ATM until their daily limit has been taken from their accounts. So the idea of sharing cabs with strangers has always sketched me out a bit. And I normally only take cabs if I know the driver. Which is how I know half the cabbies in my neighborhood. Additionally, she was telling me a cab was only C$5, which is ridiculous because I can never get anywhere in the city for less than C$20. But I digress.

I talked to her for a moment or two longer, just standing there near the panaderia, and a green car pulled up in front of us. Next thing I know, the girl opened both the front and back doors of the car. She got in front and three men came from behind me (I didn't even notice them) and they dragged me into the car. I was screaming as loud as I could and I was throwing punches and kicks but they dragged me in the car. I had one foot holding the door open while I continued to scream. I had my thumbs in the eyes of one of my assailants. He kept punching me in the face, mouth and head. Then, the guy behind me put me in a choke hold. I could not breathe. I could not scream. The edges of my vision started to go black. The guy in the middle, who was sitting on me, punched me again after Chokey loosened his hold a bit. The guy that had punched me in the face kept punching me in the leg. In the same spot. I'm pretty sure he was mad that my thumbs had been so deep in his eyes. They looked a bit bloody when I looked at him.

I don't think Punchy likes blood all that much. He had punched me in the face so hard that my nose was gushing blood. I'd never had a bloody nose before. And I was surprised so much blood could come pouring out of my nose. My face was like a running tap of blood. And I was bleeding all over Chokey's arm and the back seat of the car. Punchy kept trying to cover my face. Every time he looked at me he started gagging and spit on the floor of the car. I think he didn't want to roll down the window in case I started screaming again. Finally, I told him I had a handkerchief in my pocket. He punched me in the leg, in the same spot he'd been punching me for a while at this point, then asked me which pocket. I told him, he handed it to me, I went to work trying to stop the blood.

They asked me my name, where I was going, what barrio I live in, what barrio I work in, what I do for work, how long I'm in Nicaragua for, where my money was, where my debit card was and all sorts of things. At first, when I responded to their questions, Punchy punched me again. Chokey was just hanging out, holding me in a loose chokehold. Though, at one point, shortly after I'd started bleeding all over everything and before I'd gotten my hanky from my pocket, Chokey pulled out a knife, showed it to me, and said, "Look. I have a knife." I looked at it, looked at him, and said, "Que bueno." Which I meant as like, "good for you, dude." But really means "How nice." It's comforting to know that, even in times of crisis and danger, my sarcasm does not fail.

Eventually, I started answering questions without getting punched, which was nice. I told them I'm a volunteer, what barrio I volunteer in, and that I'm here until next June doing clean drinking water work. I told them my name is Luna and that my debit card was stolen last week. Actually, I said, "Mi tarjeta fue robado proxima semana." Which means, "My card was stolen next week." But I think they understood. I told them where my money was and that all I had was C$110 (about US $5). I think that was when they realized they'd made a mistake. I told them where my money was, they asked if I had a phone. I told them where that was. I also told them they could take my bag if they just gave my my keys and my glasses. (I was wearing my sunglasses.) They didn't seem interested. They kept asking me about my debit card, I kept repeating that it had been stolen next week. (You try speaking sensical spanish when your face is gushing blood and there are five people holding you hostage in a car.) Then I told them, "Lo siento no tengo mucho para ustedes a robar." Which means, "Sorry I don't have much for y'all to steal." After that, the mood in the car lightened up a bit.

Punchy gave me my telephone. He put it in my hand and said, "Look. Here is your phone." Then he took my money and put it back in my bag and said, "Look. And your money is in your bag. We did not steal anything and there is no need for you to go to the police." There actually is no point in going to the police because, well, this is Managua and they are so busy taking bribes, they don't have the time to deal with issues of assault and attempted robbery. He also helped me remove my cardigan so I could use it to clean some of the blood off my face.

Chokey asked me, "Tienes miedo? Estàs nerviosa?" (Are you scared? Are you nervous?)
"No," I replied. "Si ustedes quieren matarme, pueden y no puedo hacer nada. Sola una y ustedes estan cinco." (No. If y'all want to kill me, you can and I can't do anything about it. I am only one and y'all are 5.) Chokey assured me they were not going to kill me.

Then, my assailants started joking with me. They told me I'm a boxer and asked me where I learned how to fight like that. I told them I have four brothers, so I got a lot of practice at a ayoung age in self-defense. They told me the color of my hair is crazy. I said, "Like me." And they started calling me Loca Lunita, or something like that.

After a little over an hour of being in the car, they pulled off onto an abandoned street in a residential part of Bello Horizonte and told me to get out of the car. I bent to pick up my sunglasses off the floor of the car and they told me to hurry. I got out of the car and began walking in the direction they pointed. I looked back to see the license plate number, but the trunk was open, so I waved, said, "Mucho gusto!" and I walked away. As I walked, I realized how strange it is to tell your captors it was nice to meet them. I suppose that, even under duress, I can have good manners. And that's nice to know.

I continued walking down the street, crying. I was this random white, blonde girl wandering through a barrio with a tear and blood streaked face, and I had blood in my hair. I saw three men sitting in chairs in front of a house, talking. I asked them where we were. They asked if I was lost. I said yes and that I was just robbed and assaulted. Then I started crying again. They gave me a chair and a glass of water and tried to get me to relax a bit so I could tell them what happened and make a phone call.

And make a phone call I did. I called my coworker, Wilbert, because he is normally driving around doing errands and he speaks some English. So I called him, told him where I was, what had happened and that I needed help. He told me he was at the bank. I asked if he understood. He said a little bit, so I repeated myself in Spanish and he told em to call the office. What the fuck. So I called the office, spoke with another coworker who called Wilbert and Wilbert eventually came to pick me up. While I was waiting, I talked to the fellas that had helped me out. One is Loiuse the Gardener. He started smoking and I thought, "a cigarette would be nice right now." So I went looking through my bag for the half pack I had put in there that morning. It was not there. Nor anywhere else in my bag.

Then I realized, I had been kidnapped and beaten to a bloody mess and all my assailants stole was half a pack of cigarettes.

The moral of this story is, never talk to strangers. And, that woman had better rethink the streets that she works on because I swear, if I see her again, I will kick her ass. Last time she had four fellas helping her out. Next time, it will be one on one, bitch. So you best be getting ready.


  1. i'm so glad that you are okay and so sorry that this happened to you. keep safe. it sounds like you're pretty aware of potential crooked scams. i was feeling angry and sad when i read the beginning, but then seeing you still had your sense of humor, even with them, made me a slightly relieved. get some kind of a weapon!! and kudos for fighting strong! i love you. love, nalals

  2. That chick better hope she sees you coming.
    Sorry this happened, Heather. I'm so glad you're ok, but damn...
    Be careful, ok?

  3. OMG! I have no idea how I got hera, but reading your history is amazing. Sad this happened to a peaceful country I used to live 5 years ago :( It wasn't like that, I swear! I blame it all on the stupid goverment, they only make people poorer, stupidier and more violent. Sorry that this happened, and I admire how you got it all together, I would have left the country inmediatly.