Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Ultimate Mistake

It is the oldest trick in the book. I should have known better... I should have, I should have...

Yesterday, me, Ben (the Cdn journalist) and Omar (a Sudanese friend) were out for dinner and decided to go to a park to hang out. I was debating going home and doing work, but eventually agreed and went along. It's this cute thing lots of Sudanese do - they just sit of patches of grass smoking sheesha and drinking tea. It's like the only social activity there is to do here at night, other than go to a restaurant. So there we were on the grass, smoking sheesha when two guys came along. One of them picked up the sheesha and started pulling it away. Some of the coal fell on the ground. Someone said maybe he was angry that a woman was smoking sheesha. Someone else said he was just drunk and causing trouble. It was all very weird and I didn't really understand what was going on. Eventually, they left the sheesha and walked away - leaving us all a bit flabergasted as to what that was all about. But we carried on. Omar went to get tea. And I saw a lady carrying popcorn and turned to my purse to get out some money.

And that's when the fun began. My purse wasn't there. For a minute, I thought it was just me being paranoid, but I looked again - and it really wasn't. Immediately, I knew I had been robbed and I jumped up to go somewhere - but didn't know where to go or what to do. We were in a dark, crowded park. The guy was already long-gone. Where do you start looking?

We started randomly running around, trying to ask people - fruitlessly. Ben thinks others must have been in on it too (on top of the two guys who distracted us with the sheesha), since someone would obivously have seen him, but nobody said anything.

I was so lost. I just started running aimlessly. My passport, lots of cash, my digital camera, my phone - everything was in that bag. It was so stupid of me on so many levels, and I knew that, and I was so angry at myself.

When I first got here, I carried my passport, some of my cash, and a mastercard in a pouch that I wore under my clothing. Some money and other credit cards were in my purse, and the rest of the money stayed at home. As time went on, I became more and more comfortable here - it is so safe and I never had any problems - that I stopped bothering to wear the pouch. I should logically have left it at home, but I had gotten in the habit of taking it with me (at first I was staying in a hotel I didn't trust, and then I was often going to places where I needed official ID). So it was thrown into the purse with everything else. It is the thing everyone always tells you - don't let your guard down. But I did.

Someone afterwards said, "there are always thieves in these parks" and I felt stupid once more for not even considering that possibility. I wasn't even watching the purse, wasn't even worried about it.

So that drop in vigilance has cost me thousands of dollars, a camera that I need for work with pictures that I can't get back, and huge amounts of time that I don't have - as I now have to apply for a new passport, go through the process of getting a visa again, which is - after the prodigy child preacher - the most excrutiating experience ever (employees who could care less send you from one window to another to another until three hours later, you're ready to kill yourself), and delay my trip to the south, which was already way behind schedule.

When Celine and I went to Spain four years ago, people kept warning us of the thieves and that it was inevitable that we would be robbed at least once - never happened. Since then, I have been to many countries where this sort of thing could happen and never once had a problem. So I guess it was bound to happen eventually.

I'm safe and people have been very kind and helpful, so I guess that's what is important. But ugghhh - how frustrating!


Fresca said...

WOWZA! I can't believe it! I'm so sorry to hear that you had to go through that. At least you're ok and nothing worse happened. Hang in there - I know you must be frusterated.

Take care, heba!

I miss you,


Kamal Shaath said...

hummmmmm I wonder what Still Searching would say right now !!!!!

I am glad that you are Ok, the process that you are going through would need a Blog by itself... time has now value outside of Europe & North America..

Good Luck..

Still.Searching said...

Kamal.. Still Searching has given up talking and keeps repeating the old saying "God give me the ability to change what i do not like and the wisdom to accept what I cannot change".

Still Searching learnt to accept that Heba will do what Heba will do and one can only pray she stays safe.

Salooly said...

hey hun, sorry to hear about the damn thieves. but life is not always pretty and just believe that bad experiences make you a better person.
love you darling. come home safe.