Just when I was getting comfortable with Africa winning over and over again, today happened. Let me tell you about it.
So last summer before I left for Africa, I visited a little place called Salt Lake City, Utah. Bethany’s little sister Katie was coming back from a European choir tour and I just happened to be visiting Idaho at the time, so I went with the family on the road trip to Utah to pick her up from the airport. While there we saw quite a few things, but the most incredible had to be the Patagonia Outlet Store. So many things on sale and not enough money to buy it all. So I settled for a sweet mint green Capilene 3 long sleeve shirt. Potentially the best purchase in the world. Got it for $14 when it retails at $65!
So today, Bethany, Jarrett and I were at a restaurant called Paradise for about 6 hours trying to purchase our tickets for Europe. At one point though, I moved down to a different café called Kaldis to charge my computer battery. It was there that I left my mint green Patagonia Capilene 3 long sleeve shirt. I went about my day however not knowing I had lost such a prized possession. After hours of raileurope.com and easyjet mishaps, we finished two of three ticket purchasing goals and left to get a taxi home. On the way I decided that I would walk to a supermarket first to get chicken for dinner and that Jarrett and Bethany would just go home without me. So I walked to Fantu Supermarket only to find a barren freezer with no chicken in sight. Dejected, I made my way out the front doors and back to the traffic circle to catch a taxi. It was on the way there however, that I realized what I was missing. Relieved by my memory and the thought of getting my shirt back I made my way to Kaldis. I ascended two flights of stairs and went back to my seat to find nothing. After asking multiple waitresses if they had seen it, one said, “Lela so alle.” What? Another person has it? Why? Did he steal it? Did I just get my shirt stolen? Well…the answer was…yes. It had been stolen. Even more depressed, I left Kaldis with my head down and started the taxi finding process once again.
As I approached the circle, I lifted my head, not out of pride or an attempt to regain my patience, but to avoid getting hit by crazy taxi drivers. Head lifted, I caught a glance of a mint green shimmer about 75 yards away, oddly enough, back toward the store where I had just been to find chicken. MY SHIRT! I hurried quickly to catch up with this thief and regain my property. He veered off the beaten path a bit down into a depression in the dirt where some sewage construction was being done. I followed him down in and tapped him on the shoulder with a bit of force. He turned and I firmly stated, “Y’ene libs no.” Not as accurate as I would have hoped, but, “It is my clothes” would have to suffice. An argumentative response is what he gave me. So I repeated myself with a little more insistence. Along with his second response he gave me a strong step forward and a physically uncomfortable advance. With him heavily invading my bubble…which doesn’t exist in Ethiopia…I repeated myself and added, “Ishi, sent tifeligal?” But apparently he didn’t want money, so my asking how much he wanted was worthless. Strangely enough, he angrily removed the shirt and held it at his side, glaring intently into my eyes. Then surprisingly, with the shirt in his right hand, he forcefully held the shirt as if to give it to me. Shocked but pleased, I reached for the shirt with my right hand. Then, out of nowhere a looping left hook came out of the corner of my eye and I moved just in time to reduce the blow and take it in the forehead rather than in the face! “Did he just hit me?” speedily made it’s way through my thoughts. Flabergasted and in a bit of pain, I held onto the shirt and tried to push him away with my left. Switching his grip on the shirt, he then slugged me in the stomach just left of my gut and again I turned the other cheek and tried to push him back. Grabbing my shirt where he had just struck, he pulled me toward him then quickly away. Letting his grip go of the shirt, I got my footing just in case. Again, he went for a left hook. Is he crazy? It’s just a shirt! As the punch came my way, I ducked just enough to miss the shot, simultaneously dropped my shirt, and then reacted. Faster than I could think, I finally retaliated with a cocked right cross to his upper cheek and every amount of strength I had within me. Instantly he collapsed to the ground and didn’t move. Did I kill him? Oh crap I’m going to prison! He started to move a bit, so I picked up the shirt and slowly backed away. With a sizeable knot on my forehead and a pounding headache, I mad my way back to the taxi stop looking back every few yards to make sure I didn’t really hurt him. I found a Winnebago-esque bus quite quickly and hopped aboard. Watching him as we passed, I saw him stagger slowly to his feet and take a seat on a nearby rock. Thankfully he wasn’t hurt too badly. I don’t want to experience Ethiopian prison. They don’t have food there.
A little shaken up, I couldn’t help but think that I hadn’t been in a fight since 10th grade and it was nothing compared to this. I was just happy to be safe, shirt in hand and on my way home. My next thought, oddly enough, was that I still had not acquired the chicken for dinner. A few miles down the road though, there was another store that I could make the purchase. A mile later however, Africa tried again.
As I stood in the aisle of the bus, arms stretched to either side as braces, I felt something in my right pocket enter and exit very quickly. With my wits still about me, I reacted with a quick grab of the perpetrator’s wrist. His snake of an arm slipped out though just as I caught a glimpse of his face. Not in the mood for another fight I just shouted, “leba!” Having no tolerance for thieves, the men surrounding me on the taxi asked me to point out the thief that I had just called out. Eyeing the men in the back closely through the shadowed faces and sun light streaks of dark brown skin, I spotted the man nonchalantly gazing out a side window. I pointed with my right arm and instantly the bus came to a screeching halt and the men that were once my standing buddies had quickly become my henchmen. They made their way to the back of the taxi and with a bit of finesse, they pat him down, got my keys to me, and removed the man from the bus in the same way Uncle Phil tosses Jazzy Jeff out the front door of his Bel-Air mansion. Following the man’s quick exit, the men give him a short beating and then literally tag team threw him off the street and into the dirt. Back on the taxi, the driver thanked the men and we headed toward home. At this point, the chicken was the last thing on my mind.
The special thing about those keys…they were connected to a pocketknife. But not just any pocket knife. A genuine, red Swiss Army Camp Edition Pocketknife, with my name engraved into it, purchased by none other than Bethany’s little sister…Katie. Where did she get this pocketknife? Well…in Switzerland, on that same European choir tour that had led me to Salt Lake City to purchase a mint green Capilene 3 long sleeve shirt.
I’m just happy to have both in my possession and finally be able to say, “Africa loses this round.”
Ibuprofen Finally Kicking In,
PS. Hi Katie!