All you really have to do is make yourself stick out like a sore thumb. It turned out to be pretty easy and we were pretty much asking for it…
Sarah and I were walking along the side of the road, like this:
Except it was just past sunset, we were walking the other way and we had shopping bags full of fruit. Being white-skinned gets you labeled enough, but having a handbag makes you a target. There is a reason my good friend Q told me about the “African purse” – your bra. I followed her advice and placed my credit/debit cards/money and phone in my bra. Lopsided, sure, but I didn’t want to get pickpocketed. Too bad I thought my passport was “big” 🙁
After Sarah and I finished at the supermarket, the sun was just past setting. Darkness fell quickly but we kept walking, not thinking anything of it. We didn’t even think of taking a taxi or a boda boda (well, Sarah wouldn’t do the latter for fear of her life). So we’re walking along , trying to avoid the many potholes, when Sarah felt her handbag (the one in the picture) yanked from behind. She turned around to attempt to chase after the black man with a white shirt, but she tripped over a pothole/shopping bag and fell to the ground. War wounds:
The mugger quickly ran into the woods. Sadly, Sarah had nearly everything valuable in her mum’s bag (worst) – passport, new Samsung Galaxy Y phone, Ugandan shillings (that she had just cashed from traveller’s cheques), debit/credit cards, etc. etc. I was silly and decided to put my passport into her handbag because it was “way too big for my African purse.” Sigh.
Police on motorbikes were on the road behind us. I guess they patrol the areas at night (smart) and when they heard our yelling, they came to help. One of the men went into the woods while the other stayed with us and answered passerby questions. “Something something something “mzungu” something something. Mzungu “white person”. I’m so good at Luganda (ha) someone actually thought I’d been here before. Serious.
The policeman came out with two suspects. Interestingly, conversations were happening in Luganda but the policemen slapped one of the men multiple times. I felt awkward, but Sarah pointed out the fact that this isn’t our country so this could very well be procedural. The two were taken for interrogation. We filled out police reports wrote down statements on blank pieces of paper for their records. I took pictures on my phone as records for ourselves. We’ll be heading to our embassies to sort things out ASAP. I’m thankful I had topped up my phone so we could make our emergency calls/texts/tweets. I’m extra thankful for all the support my Twitter friends gave me! Twitter to the rescue, yet again.
The police were helpful, and many, many people said they were sorry. Uganda is full of some of the friendliest people on Earth, which I still believe, but it’s tough not to get too down when something like this happens on the first day of arriving. We learned our lessons: no walking around after dark, and African purses are the only way to go (money belts would be fine, too). I’m sure there’s a silver lining to this somewhere. At least, that’s what I keep telling Sarah 😉