WHAT WAS YOUR SCARIEST TRAVEL MOMENT?
For reasons yet unknown I found myself quite intoxicated. Maybe it was the beer with lunch, or the beers between lunch and dinner, certainly the beer at dinner didn’t help, but no matter when and how, I needed to go home. Home was our friend’s Hong Kong apartment which we had arrived to the day before. He lived, conveniently for those of us of Chinese descent, above a 24-hour Dim Sum restaurant and a 7-11. While great neighbors, both of these establishments are as frequent as skyscrapers in Hong Kong, which means it could be anywhere on Hong Kong Island. If you didn’t know exactly where his street is and where to find his discrete door, you’d never find his place. Luckily for me, with built-in GPS, even in the state of inebriation I was in, I could found his place after leaving LOCAVORista and Michael to drink the night away.
Hours later I woke to the sound of the door opening I saw Michael enter…alone. He turned on the light, looked me straight in the eye and said, “I lost Erica.” This was an “oh-shit” moment. I asked what happened, to which he responded, “last I saw her she jumped over a median and was running. You wouldn’t believe how fast she is! I tried to catch her but she was gone…” She had little money on her, didn’t have a credit card, or any way to contact us. We had no idea where she could be, how to find her, or if she’d be able to find a safe place for the night. We thought about going to the police, but realized that was best done in the morning, hoping we would find her before we would need to explain ourselves.
We had lost Erica. This wasn’t the first time, but definitely the most serious. Losing Erica on the Macalester College campus at home was one thing, Hong Kong, a city we’d been in for two days, was another matter. Knowing this was a situation with no resolution we cracked open another beer and watched “Swamp People”, because, you just lost your wife…what else are you going to do?
Suddenly the front door started shaking, someone was trying to get in. Startled we went to open the door and in pushed Erica. She fell into the couch like nothing had happened so I asked, “how did you get back here?” She responded, “I took three taxis and didn’t pay for any of them!” We’ll never know how she got there, I was just glad she had made it home and I wouldn’t have to explain to Hong Kong police how I lost my wife.
“Swamp People”, that’s what you watch when you’ve lost your wife?! I guess I found myself in an equally helpless situation during the most scary travel moment I’ve had to date… We had just arrived in the Nairobi airport late at night from a wonderful week in Zanzibar and needed to get to our hostel. Knowing that Nairobi taxi drivers don’t have the best reputation we used the recommended, and spendy, official airport taxi service. A decision we would later be more than happy we had paid the extra money for.
Not too long into our ride we got pulled over by the Nairobi police. Three tall men in uniform, carrying AK-47′s stopped our cab, the driver rolled down the window and soon thereafter opened the glove compartment finding only an empty envelope. Typically the envelope holds U.S. dollars to be used as bribe money for such situations. Without the necessary cash to pay off the police, we were the best option for the officers to get what they wanted.
The cab driver instructed us to remain in the taxi no matter what happened. Not knowing what could happen we simply nodded and promised to follow his instructions. The next couple hours, which seemed more like twelve, was filled with taunts by the police, repeated requests to get out of the car and threats to arrest us for not wearing our seat belts. All while one of the officers kept an AK-47 pointed at thinkCHUA. Even though I wasn’t staring down the barrel of a gun I was no more comfortable than him as we tried to communicate to each other quietly, considering our options.
After what seemed like eternity we saw a tall, slender Masai warrior, wearing a red blanket and carrying a spear come into view of the taxi’s headlights. He approached the cab and then took a seat on the hood with the driver. Soon one of the police came to talk to the two men, leaving us to wonder who was this strange warrior and why was he here? Within fifteen minutes, again what seemed like forever to us held captive in the back seat, the warrior and the driver got into the car. The officer with the gun pointed at thinkCHUA stepped back and without explanation, we drove away. Still terrified and unsure of what was going on we sat silently, shaking in the back seat.
Finally, the warrior turned around and introduced himself explaing he was from our hostel. He informed us that everything was fine and that our situation was relatively “typical”, nothing to worry about, we were safe now. Soon, we pulled into our hostel and as the security gates closed behind us we finally felt like we could breathe again. Once the taxi was gone and we were checked in I asked the kind Masai warriors name, to which he replied “Justice”. Somehow it was such a fitting name I just smiled as he walked us to our room. Needless to say we didn’t take any more taxis in Nairobi and it’s a night I won’t soon forget.