Getting Mugged in Colombia
I got mugged in Colombia. And it was all cause I was trying to get some.
Before you judge, let me back up and explain.
So it was my last night in Colombia. I had spent 31 incident-free days living it up in Medellín (the city made famous by it’s legendary women, Pablo Escobar…and Entourage) but now it was time to say adios.
My buddies Sol and Sean threw me a Despedida (farewell party) and I swear, it was like out of a movie. The whole night, all these characters I had met over the past 4 weeks showed up to send me off.
My salsa dancing teacher. The crazy, tri-lingual Swedish sisters. The Reggaeton producer who became my closest parcero (‘friend’ in Medellín-talk). The backpacking Canadian fiance’s. My Brazillian and Dutch guitar-mates.
Man, it wasn’t until the Despedida that I realized how much I was going to miss Medellín.
The night was a whirlwind of dancing, pizza cooking, and Aguardiente drinking (not necessarily in that order) and before I knew it, it was already 4am and time to bounce.
After a few heartfelt goodbyes, I grabbed a cab with the Colombian bailarina (dancer) I’d been dating and we booked it out of there. And this is where I started to make a series of mistakes.
Mistake #1: I wanted to get some.
Now ever since I started dating Ana* (name changed to protect the innocent), we had two problems. 1) We had to communicate mostly through hand gestures and, 2) we had trouble finding, uh, privacy.
Fun fact on dating in Colombia: almost every Colombian in their twenties lives at home with their parents. Another fun fact: I was living with a Colombian family and was forbidden to ever bring anyone home.
So that’s pretty much how we ended up on Carrera 70 (a big, main street) at 4am looking for a hotel room. Now besides making me feel seedy as hell, there was another problem…
Mistake #2: I was being a cheap ass.
C’mon, it was the last day of my trip, and I wanted to stay under budget. Don’t give me that look!
We got dropped off at this not-entirely-shitty-looking budget hotel. The price was right, the place was clean, and the price was right. Awesome, we’ll take it!
Wait, what’s that? You don’t accept credit cards?
Crap. I didn’t have enough cash on me.
We stumbled back to the street, on the search for the next one, and at this point I realized my next mistake.
Mistake #3: I was f*cked up!
Okay, maybe I’m making excuses here, but my decision-making skills definitely weren’t at their clearest (thanks Despedida!).
Even in my inebriated state, I noticed how quiet the streets were. It unsettled me a little. Carrera 70 is a major street that’s always brightly lit with people everywhere. It’s not some shady side alley. But that night, it was kinda dead.
Anyways, we manage to find another hotel and lookee here…it was one of those fancy, overpriced, white-curtain-draped hotels I was trying to avoid. Crap. I could tell by the cheesy vests the clerks were wearing that I wasn’t going to like the price.
They told me the price. I didn’t like it. Told ya.
So we turned back, ready to continue the search. With one hand behind my girls’ back, I reached out with the other to push open the glass door…when I suddenly paused.
You know those moments in your life where you look back and think, “Damn, If only I could re-do that…”? This was that moment. That fork in the road. That Choose-Your-Own-Adventure decision.
I looked out that glass door and saw some Colombian dudes chilling in the street. There must’ve been at least 5 of them (but since I’m in storytelling mode, let’s just round that up to 7).
A few were peeing. Others were walking around. But they didn’t look like they were together. They were spread out JUST enough so that it simply looked like some random dudes kicking it in the street.
But my gut knew something was up.
Alarm bells started going off in my stomach. Deep down inside, I knew that I shouldn’t be walking out there.
And that’s when I made my biggest, and last mistake.
Mistake #4: Not trusting my gut.
My gut is ALWAYS right. About everything. From what I really want to eat (double-double, animal style) to whether that shirt makes me look gay (yup). I should always trust my gut. But I don’t, cause my frickin’ head gets in the way.
As soon as I felt something was off, my head decided to chime in.
Head: “Dude, what’s wrong? It’s just a few Colombian’s walking down the street. You think just cause they’re Colombian they’re gonna rob you?”
Head: “Man, that’s racist! You a racist, Jaemin??”
Me: “What?! No, I swear, I’m just -”
Head: “And not only are you racist, but you’re SCARED, huh? What is your girl gonna think? I bet she’s wondering why you’re acting like such a scared little bit-”
Okay okay, fine! My head won.
So I took a deep breath. Pulled Ana in close. And pushed through the glass door.
And we started walking. Fast.
I glanced behind me and saw the vest-wearing hotel clerks staring at us. Like they were expecting something to happen. Uh, not good.
With our shoulders huddled together and our chins up, we quickly passed the guys outside. Hey now, that wasn’t so ba –
I saw movement from my peripheral vision. The dudes were moving closer together. They weren’t random people on the street. They were one cohesive group.
And they were starting to follow us.
Shit shit shit.
We kicked up our pace. I could feel Ana gripping me tighter.
I looked ahead and spotted an open shop about a block away. The street was emptier then I’ve ever seen it before.
The Colombian dudes started walking faster.
Fuck fuck fuck.
If we could just reach the shop. It’s 50 feet away…40…30…
And then the shit hit the fan.
Before we could even react, the footsteps behind us broke into a run and they were on us.
In a split second, Ana was ripped away from me. I felt something cut my arm and I turned to look.
One of the muggers had grabbed Ana and was holding her with one arm. And with his other, he was pointing a knife right at me.
Damn. Looking back, I realize how scary of a situation that was. But to be honest, when it was all happening, I wasn’t scared at all.
I’m not saying that to be all macho tough guy, I’m saying that it happened so fast that I didn’t feel anything. I could only react.
The mugger with the knife started yelling, “Todos! Todos! (Everything!)” And without any hesitation, I gave him exactly that.
My hands fished through my pockets and pulled out everything they could find. My wallet. My shitty Blackberry. My camera. My necklace. Hell, even my Burt’s Bees chapstick!
As the lead mugger held onto Ana, the 6 other guys started snatching my shit like kids in a candy store. It was almost comical. They would excitedly grab something from me, start running, then double-back to grab something else.
And then just like that – it was over.
Within 5 seconds, they had pulled a knife on us, took all our shit, and then were off running down the street like giddy children.
It took us a moment to catch our breath, and that’s when the emotions finally hit us. Ana started crying, shocked by what just happened. And me?
The only emotion I felt was anger. At myself. I was pissed that I didn’t listen to my gut. That I stupidly ignored the signs. But worst of all, that this poor Colombian girl was put in danger because of my dumb ass.
In a completely uncharacteristic move, I grabbed the only thing they didn’t take (a bracelet given to me on New Years) and smashed it on the ground. As I watched the wooden beads roll down the sidewalk, my anger slowly dissipated and I suddenly realized how lucky we were.
They took our stuff, yes, but all of it was material shit. Easily replaceable. More importantly, we were alive and unharmed. Thank God. I didn’t really care about anything else.
I barely had any cash in my wallet anyways (haha suckers!) and my passport was safely hidden in my room, so I’d still be able to catch my flight in 6 hours. We couldn’t call anyone or pay for a cab, but luckily it wasn’t too far of a walk to my place…
Oh shit, where’s my key? Goddammit. They had to steal my key too?!
Funnily enough, this was the hardest part of the night for me. Remember how I said I was living with a Colombian family? The madre was already annoyed with me whenever I went out past 10pm.
So I’m sure you can imagine the look on her face when I had to ring the doorbell and wake up the whole house. At 5am. With a girl by my side.
Yeah…not exactly how I wanted to say goodbye.
But after I was scolded, the family was actually really supportive. They helped me cancel all my cards. Promised to help me file a police report in the morning. And they got a hold of Ana’s parents, who sent a cab for her.
When the cab arrived, I hugged Ana goodbye and told her I was so sorry. She shushed, “All that matters is that we are safe. It’s a shame what happened, but we will always have our beautiful memories together.”
At least I think that’s what she said.
And no, to answer your question, I did not get any that night. Wipe that smirk off your face.
But I did learn an important lesson:
*Never live with a Colombian family if you’re single.
*Always trust your gut. Especially if your safety’s at risk. Your instincts know way better then you about everything – and they don’t care about looking stupid – so trust them.
But if you don’t, hey, it’ll probably make for a great story.
I briefly mentioned this mugging in another post but got called out by some commenters for not telling the whole story. So here ya go, this one’s for you.
Had a lot of fun writing this. It reminded me of my high school self, when I used to pride myself in being a storyteller (I’m a lot better in person then I am in writing, trust me). But somehow, the habit died out during college and I just stopped telling stories.
Hmm, maybe I’ll bring it back. I kinda miss it.