The Displaced Nation

A home for international creatives

TRAVEL YARN: Just a regular expat girls’ night out in Kenya…um, right?

Today, as many of us await the very real horror of Hurricane Sandy, it may be helpful to have a distraction in the form of a scary travel tale. Guest blogger Amy Lucinda Jones, an Englishwoman who lives in Italy, has obliged with this story about an unsettling experience she had while volunteering in Africa.

If I had a pound, or even a penny, for every person who told me that it was dangerous to go to Kenya on my own, well…I would have been able to afford to take a friend with me, too.

Have you heard about all those terrible things that happen to people who go there? And you’re going alone! And you’re a WOMAN!

But, I shrugged off these (somewhat sexist, and racist) warnings and went to Kenya anyway, fresh out of university, ready to face a new part of the world and a new adventure. I had decided to take part in a volunteer programme, helping children in the local community. And while the experience was one of the most interesting, eye opening and rewarding things I have ever done, it was definitely challenging.

The heat for one thing. Then the million tablets I had to take to stop me getting malaria (which, in turn, gave me terrible indigestion…and some other, ahem, more “personal” side effects that I won’t mention).

Oh, and the fact that I found lots of little white ants crawling all over my toothbrush one morning. They were in the breakfast jam, too. After a few days I grew tired of picking them out. Extra protein and whatnot.

But despite the creepy crawlies and the questionable hygiene, nothing compared to the experience I had with my fellow volunteers, one Saturday night.

What an excellent night for…

We’d decided to let off some steam after a tiring week, due to hard work and challenging projects. After having had a few Smirnof Ices (yes, alcopops are still pretty big over there) at a local bar where we lived in Mombasa, we decided to take the party elsewhere. There was a “discotheque” several miles away, where we could drink more sugary alcohol and dance under the stars.

The only problem was getting there.

We approached a taxi driver and bartered with him for a while. There were about eight of us, so two taxis were needed, and the guy suggested we go with his somewhat shifty looking friend. Please don’t let me be in his taxi, I silently prayed, as one of the other girls pulled me in the direction of said taxi driver’s car.

As we got in, though, everything seemed fine. He drove through the city calmly, without saying too much. I didn’t blame the guy for staying so quiet when he had a group of women who were squealing as though they were 13 again, in his back seat.

But then we reached the edge of the city. It was pitch black — a whole load of nothing was surrounding us. I began to feel just a little uneasy, but none of the other girls seemed to be in the slightest bit bothered.

That was until the driver slowed right down. He crawled along the road, looking around him. We all looked at each other. We had done this journey before, and the road was straightforward. It should not be taking this long.

Oh, yes, there will be blood!

“You do know the way to the disco, right?” One of us asked.

“Mmm.”

Well, of course that response filled us with a whole load of confidence. We repeated the question but were met with an even less helpful silence.

I’m sure he’s just lost and feels embarrassed about it, I told myself, noticing that I was starting to sweat a little bit, even though it wasn’t that hot. We all fell silent as he continued to creep along, still surveying his surroundings.

Suddenly a petrol station loomed into view. Our driver pulled over and silently got out of the car. As he closed the door behind him, we erupted into a state of panic.

“Oh my God, what’s he doing?!”

Followed by:

“Who’s that weird man he’s now talking to?!”

And then, the slightly more alarming:

“I actually think he’s going to chop us into little pieces!”

After this last statement I instinctively placed my fingers on the door handle to assess our possible escape option.

“OH MY GOD — THE DOORS ARE LOCKED!!!”

The other girls frantically tried their doors, too, but to no avail. The driver was talking with the attendant and beckoning towards the car. Probably explaining about how he had four young women captive in the back seat, and he was planning to take us to his rickety old house and, of course, chop us all into little pieces.

I seriously started to panic.

After a few more horrific minutes, he ambled back to the car. In a slow, Leatherface-like way. Albeit without the chainsaw (although he could have had one of those in the boot).

He got into the driver’s seat and pulled away. Still driving at an agonizingly slow speed and saying nothing. He took another turning, which was again unknown to us.

We were in silence now — all secretly wondering if we should pounce on him to try and take him out. Grab the steering wheel or something equally as reckless.

Help me! Help meeeee!

We continued to crawl along. I could hear one of the girls whimpering. Or maybe it was me. I don’t remember. I thought back to those who had warned me about the dangers of traveling. Although to be honest, I think their concerns were more along the lines of avoiding being mugged, or catching typhoid from ice cubes. I’m pretty sure they hadn’t imagined me being stuck in the back of a taxi with a murderer.

Okay, that was harsh. Maybe he wasn’t the actual murderer. Maybe he just “found” innocent, unsuspecting people and took them to his “boss,” who would do the torturing and killing. Maybe he was actually a really nice guy who was stuck in this horrid job. I almost started to feel sorry for him.

He pulled over again. This time at the side of the road. In the middle of nowhere. We clung to each other for dear life as he got out and talked into his mobile phone. He’d probably lost the address to the House for Killing Unsuspecting Foreign Women.

After another five minutes of driving, one of the girls squealed. With a voice barely containing her excitement, she pointed out that she recognized the road. “We are two minutes away from the disco,” she said.. We bounced about in the back seat as the driver pulled into the car park. People! Noise! No Killing Houses!

We threw some money at him and escaped the moment he brought the car to a stop.

The other girls were waiting by the entrance. They looked incredibly annoyed by our lateness. But we just didn’t care.

Because we were ALIVE.

Amy Lucinda Jones is an English teacher, keen traveler, food fanatic, and occasional follower of fashion. Currently, she is living in Puglia (Apulia) and discovering southern Italy one gelato at a time… You can keep up with her adventures by visiting her blog, Sunshine and Tomatoes, and/or following her on Twitter: @BritInItaly. She was recently interviewed about her adventures by Expats Blog.

STAY TUNED for tomorrow’s post, an Expat Moment involving creepy Princess Di dolls, by Anthony Windram.

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