Monthly Archives: June 2010

My Life and the Knife

Day time photo of the location of my robbery attempt.

Talking tough has become second nature to me.  Moving to Bogotá, Colombia, was evidence I was tough enough to challenge the preconceived ideas most people have about Colombia.  I have become accustomed to defending my life decisions and opinions regarding politics, religion, lifestyle and philosophy.  But 8:05pm, Wednesday night, June 9,2010, I had to defend my life as someone attempted to rob me using a buck knife with a 6 inch blade.  I have had self-defense training, but had never needed to use it.  The training was also like 20 years ago.  In the crisis…it came back to me.  I learned I am not all talk – I AM tough!

Buck Knife with 6 inch blade.

I was walking on Caracas Avenida (a main street in Bogotá) between Calle 47 and Calle 45a (avenida is avenue and calle is street  in Spanish).  I was returning a phone call to a friend.  I had been warned talking on my cellphone in English while walking alone could be risky, but I was by the Catholic University of Colombia that had security and I was close to my apartment, so I felt no risk.  Afterall Colombia’s tourism motto is, “Colombia, the only risk is wanting to stay.”

Generally when I walk in Bogotá I am walking with a purpose.  I walk fast, I try to avoid eye contact and I do not talk with strangers.  So, as a guy walking next to me said something to me, I ignored him without even looking thinking he was a bum asking for money.  I continued my conversation and I heard blah, blah – Gringo.  I kept walking and turned to him and said, “I am on the phone!”  He was about 5′ 9″ and looked like a typical college student.  Again I heard blah, blah, blah – Gringo and then he grabbed my phone.

FLASHBACK – A little more than a week earlier, while trying to renew my visa, a guy grabbed my phone.  I was holding the phone in my left hand.  instinctively I used my right hand to latch on to his arm and I stuck out my leg and threw him to the ground.  I am not sure if this was instinct or not, but I gave him a strong kick and shouted, “¡Váyase!” (Spanish for “GO AWAY!”).  He did.  Actually he was running full speed before he was even fully upright! haha

The Krzr phone that seems to be in BIG demand in Bogota!

Now as the guy on Caracas was holding my hand as well as my phone, I think he began to realize I was not just going to let him have the phone.  It is and old Motorola Krzr phone with no real value and now for the second time within 2 weeks someone was trying to steal it.  My God – what would happen if I had an i-phone?  Anyone reading my blog regularly knows I do not have the money to buy another cellphone … I do not have the money to even buy my plane ticket home.  So my rage of I am not letting a thief take something I do not have the money to replace.  This rage helped tighten my grip. This let him know for sure, if he wanted this phone – he was going to have to do more to take it.

This is when he took his stand and in his left hand he raised the buck knife.  My grip on th phone grew tighter because it also my grip on his right hand.  Knowing he could not use his right hand now and my right hand free I drew back and swung my fist.  I made direct contact with the center of his chest.  I heard a solid thud.  He fell back a let go of the phone. Then  he elevated his left hand with the knife.  I had a quick flash visualizing the knife enter my chest and I was NOT going to let that happen!  I no longer was defending my property, I was defending my life!

At this point I threw my backpack to the ground freeing my arms completely.  I drew my right arm back with a white knuckled fist ready to fly.  Pointing with my left hand with the phone still in my grip, I the announced loudly, “You better be willing to kill me!”  If I had been Superman, red lasers would have been shooting from my eyes.  The look on my face, the tone of my voice, I knew he understood me even if he did not understand English.  Our eyes locked. I must have looked cross-eyed because I was staring at the knife and looking in his eyes at the same time.  Again I visualized him charging me and sticking the knife in my chest.  Then I saw he make his next move – RETREAT!  He ran away.

This is the moment I realized my friend had been on the phone for the entire altercation.  The sad thing is his English is not good and had no idea what had happened.  I told him, “A guy just tried to rob me with a knife!” His response was simply, “Que?”  (que is Spanish for what?)  I said I would call him back later and pick up my backpack.  I walked to my friend’s café on the next block and began reporting my story.  One guy there called me a hero, but I already knew I fell short of being a hero.  Once again in my life –  I found myself a survivor!  Okay…. A TOUGH SURVIVOR!! lol

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Categories: Bogota, Colombia, Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

This, That & the Other – Really Don’t Matter!

This, That & the Other

Desperation and necessity makes my decisions for me – who or what makes your decisions?  Americans (for the most part) always feel the freedom to make whatever decision is best.  But for some of us…. we lack the freedom.   Actually we have the freedom, but not the money to back the decisions we want to make.  I know people who have choices and I envy them.  They complain about this, that and the other.  If they saw things from a different perspective, I think this world would change.  I have a friend here in Bogotá that gets upset (like I do) about the lack of common courtesy used by Bogotanos in public ( in private, it would be very difficult to find friendlier people).  I told him “you may not be able to change the world, but you can change YOUR world”.  Smile, say hello, be nice and he has noticed what I said is true, he is changing his world – in general people are more polite than at first.  He made a good decision and has changed his world and I do feel changing the world is possible – one step at a time!

Desperation helps make nontraditional decisions.  But is the a decision-making process you are familiar with?  I am too familiar with this process.  Two years ago, I found myself one of the millions of Americans with no health insurance.  I have Multiple Sclerosis (MS) and 2 years with no insurance made me desperate to find a solution.  I tried and exhausted all possible solutions I knew to try.  I even found living only on social security, I made $14 a month too much for Medicaid.  That close but still to far!  After all traditional alternatives were explored, I tried being creative.  After my private insurance quit paying my private disability I had begun to explore places to live on limited a limited income and Colombia was high on the list.  Soon I found they had a government option health care system that even as a resident I could participate in.  Desperate for insurance I made the move to Colombia, South America.

Necessity also makes bad decisions for us.  Some decisions are made and made too late even when necessary.  A friend from junior high school was on disability due to cancer and had a 2 year waiting period for Medicare (same as me) and he had used his COBRA time during the approval stage of getting on disability.  The cancer returned during this waiting period.  There was a front page story about his situation in the local paper and still, he found no help.  I chose to share my stories.  Necessity left him seeking help even from having his story shared with strangers to no avail.  Healthcare reform came too late for him. Charles Aaron Jackson III, 43, died November 21, 2009 at his residence in Osyka.  I often tried to remind myself – it could always be worse.  I hate my friend was one that had it worse. I shared the struggle and when I reached out, it was too late.  Cancer got him before Medicare did.  Insurance was necessary but the decision was out of his control.

This – I often see “this” is little to complain about.  As I complained to a friend about what I felt was a desperate situation, I saw a homeless man walking up the street and picking trough a garbage bag.  My problem is a big problem, but it could always be bigger.  I am not homeless or dying from cancer.  I need that homeless man and the memory of my childhood friend to remind me to keep things in perspective.  I am so lucky, I will NEVER be homeless, my family let me sleep on their floor until they find me a bed.  Even with little medical assistance I will ALWAYS have help getting out of the tub because when my legs are too tired to stand in the shower, they are also too weak to get me out of the tub and again, my family (even elderly parents) help me out of the tub.  More than once, I have NEEDED a cocktail and I have friends that will buy me a drink (lol) even when I am broke – I will ALWAYS have great friends because they care more about helping a friend than hoarding their money.

That – “that” is not my problem.  In the last few years, I have had so many problems I NEVER thought I would have.  As with the healthcare debate, I saw it from a different perspective being one of the uninsured.  Why do we have to find ourselves in a situation before we empathize.  President Obama was faulted for wanting empathetic Supreme Court Justices.  I like that a judge can empathize.  To understand law, I think a judge should empathize with the writers of the Constitution to understand how the law should be applied and also to empathize with the people who the laws are applicable to.  Only a politician would think empathy to be a bad thing!!

& the other – It is not me so why should I worry?  I was told that I gave up my right to share an opinion about healthcare reform because I had “chosen” to leave the country (actually a cousin told me that – distant cousin).  Her complaint was she worked hard for her money and did not want to be paying for others insurance.  I have been so surprised that there is a price for life and health and there is a point people think it is too much to help.  I have alienated myself from religion because of attitudes from Christians like this.  I am happy she can find comfort in her faith because it repels me from sharing her faith.  Maybe she even prayed for Aaron, but thank God she did not have to pay more taxes to save his life.

So let’s try keeping in mind desperation and necessity hinder decision-making.  We will be desperate at times, but knowing we are not the most desperate can help keep this, that & the other in perspective.  We will feel things are a necessity at times, but keeping in mind people are doing without necessities ALL of the time makes this that & the other less important.  This, that & the other are things we need to keep in perspective, empathize with others about and also know how our actions reflect to others our priorities.   In desperate times we should know it is a necessity that “this, that & the other” are kept in true perspective.

Categories: Life | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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