Sunday, 13 March 2011

A Secure Life Abroad – Part 3

These people must be daft I snorted as I read about some unfortunate but ‘stupid’ traveller who had naively put themselves in a dangerous part of a foreign land and allowed themselves to be mugged. How idiotic of them. Don’t they realise that these places are not the same as home? Can’t they see the poverty around them which can breed crime? Then I thought back over my travels and realised the risks I and many others place themselves in every time they leave their homes or hotels.

Either crime is not as frequent as we believe or I have a brilliant guardian angel walking the streets with me. Mind you this guardian angel sometimes had a day or evening off and occasionally I did end up in a bit of trouble as I will now tell. Strangely, one of these experiences ended up in a kind of friendship that lasted a couple of years.

My office in Zambia was located in a parade of shops. Cars were parked in a square behind that was accessed through any of three narrow alleys. Logic said one should never walk down these alone after dark but it was late and I needed to go home. I was very self aware when I started walking. Every sense was working overtime as I listened and watched carefully as I started my walk. Half way down I knew I was being followed and sure enough he chose his moment and jumped me from behind.

After the initial shock I realised this guy was small, old and very weak. He also had cataracts in both eyes and three remaining teeth. I knew this as in a very short time I was sitting on his chest looking down on him. He was also clearly defiant as he would not stop wriggling under my 13 stone bulk. I was planning on punching him very hard but I could not bring myself to do it especially, when seeing my raised fist, he stopped struggling and said “Good evening Sah” whilst grinning toothlessly.

I got off him and lifted him up. His name was George and he was a remarkably old looking 50 years old. He said he had a family to feed and could not get work so he had decided to branch out into mugging. It was his first night in his new profession and I was his first ‘victim’. Now you get a lot of sob stories in Zambia but most of them are true. Life is tough when you are poor and even worse if you are poor, old and having to look after an extended family. This guy qualified on all points.

You are going to have to quit this new enterprise before you get hurt I told George. I am already hurt Bwana he replied whilst trying to get his breath back from his winded chest. I left him there and went to my car and sat in it for a while as I could not get him out of my mind. Eventually I got out and went back. Sure enough half way back up the alley he only tried again. It’s me George I said as he clung to my neck. “Good evening Sah” he replied.

He ended up working for me. We needed a messenger and he needed work. We did not pay him much and he did steal the occasional shopping item and cigarette from me but never money. His big moment was when he tried to smuggle a large dead chicken out of the office down the back of his trousers. He used to get drunk, drugged and sleepy occasionally but in the main he was a good messenger. In fact a darn sight better messenger than mugger!

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