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!
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
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