Rogues with Knives

The Vacation from Hell     I traveled with two Peace Corps women through West Africa.  While in the Ivory Coast, we almost cancelled the vacation and returned to Liberia.  On the first day of the vacation, we survived a bus wreck that injured and killed others.  But, we figured nothing else would possibly happen to us after that.  Then, we went to Abidjan. 

We toured the very old African part of the city called Treichville.  There was a mosque that we were not permitted into.  Too bad, because I think we needed to pray for a safe vacation.  After the time in Treichville, we decided to walk back to the main part of the shopping district called the Plateau.  A big bridge separated these two areas.   The guidebook said that it should be avoided at night, but we were there in the middle of the afternoon. On the pedestrians' exit ramp from the bridge were sidewalk venders.  There were cafe tables with colorful umbrellas.  There were also two rogues who ran up from behind us and tried to steal the girls' backpacks. 

Right Out of a Horror Movie      I saw Amanda running, screaming at the top of her lungs, with a man chasing her.  It was like a scene from a horror movie.  The man held his arm high in the air as he chased after her, a knife in his grasp.  Well, my heart almost stopped and then I started to call for help -- in English -- which doesn't do a whole lot of good in a French speaking country.  When I gathered my wits, I knew it was up to me to rise to the occasion and be a hero to save my friends.  I went running over to Debbie.   She was struggling with her backpack but managed to pull it away from the thief by the time I got there. Defeated, the thief ran off empty handed.

To the Rescue      Since Debbie was okay, I had to locate Amanda.  I ran down the bridge not having a clue what I'd do when I found her.  I was running, running, running.  Then, I saw her at the end of the exit ramp struggling to keep her purse away from the man.  I continued running and did the only thing I knew to do.  I took a flying leap into the air like Superman and tackled him.  We all three tumbled to the ground.   By the time I'd gotten to my feet, the thief was twenty feet away and running but Amanda was nowhere to be seen.  Although she'd fought long and hard to protect her belongings, as soon as she was knocked over, she "knew" she was about to die. So, she left everything and ran.  However, she did have the clarity of mind to grab her new pair of glasses before saving her life.   

Debbie arrived by my side, picking up Amanda's things.  We watched as the other pedestrians chased after the thief.  They threw anything they could find, including benches, at him.  He didn't stay around.  A thief who is caught can get into serious trouble in West Africa.  One of my friends in Liberia had her house broken into.  When they caught the thief, they cut his foot off with a machete.  That robber didn't have any desire to remain with us and lose a body part.  We had no desire to remain in Abidjan either. 

Now We Know     I remember a woman running up to me and saying in French, "You have a lot of courage!" I really didn't know what she was talking about. But, later, I learned that thieves in Abidjan do not hesitate to slice up or kill anyone who resists them -- including Superman.  It was one of the most dangerous cities in Africa.  We didn't know it at the time.  We do now. 

Copyright 2000, revised 2012 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.