During my travels in Africa, we came across a sticky situation. I wanted to share this story with all of you today, but please know that this story isn’t common. Africa is a beautiful place, with beautiful people, and I cannot wait to return.
This is Africa. It is not safe. Not like America…not like home.
Sitting in my room late at night, writing about the leprosy center we visited earlier that day, when our leader comes in demanding our passports saying that there were fifteen men outside with machine guns. I could sense the fear in his voice. The fear that we were not safe. His job, which is to protect us, was being jeopardized. In my room with all of my roommates, we devised a plan to escape if the situation got out of hand. With windows covered in metal bars and only one front door, we decided, if needed, to push a bunk bed against our door and crawl through a hole we have in our ceiling and escape, hoping to stay alive.
As the men coursed through the hallways of our home, I pushed my ear against the door and listened intently to the yelling of the force that was threatening our well being. Yelling. The worst sound ever. Loud grumbling impaired through a wooden door. I was only able to make out certain words: leave, Tanzania, not safe, documentation. With our guard Babouu hiding in a bush clenching a machete, sleepy eyed yet adrenaline pumped, the situation kept getting more frightening. As I pushed my ear against the door with my entire being, I juxtaposed what was happening to a Nazi invasion of a house hiding Jews. I don’t know why I made the connection, but I felt like I was living in that situation. Hiding. Praying for my life. Listening to the screams of a foreign language. And all the while, holding my breath as to not make any noise.
I peeked outside the window and saw a line of men with AK-47’s and began to feel my body coursing with adrenaline. I glanced up, and connected eyes with one of the African men, who was now standing at our window-less, barred window. His gun, resting on his cheekbone, was moving with his heavy breaths. The world stopped. I froze.
When I was the on the verge of not being able to physically stand anymore from fear, God spoke words of solace to me and clothed me gently with serenity…and then I waited. I waited for them to leave us alone to go back to whatever we were doing before they came and interrupted our lives. I waited for something, anything to happen instead of the stand-off between us and them.
There is something unusual about being startled out of your comfort zone only to face a blood rushing, life threatening situation. The tiredness of the night vanishes and you become more awake than you were in the middle of the day. Having your life hang in someone else’s hands besides your own makes you realize how precious life truly is.
The men finally calmed down after talking to the owner of our facility and in the last two minutes of their stay, they revealed that they were here to make sure we were safe. Safe from the other people of the town. Safe from the people of the city next to us. Safe. I feel like they could have revealed that tidbit of information a little bit earlier in the confrontation. No one actually knows why they came, but people doubt it was for our safety.
The men agreed to come back in the morning and “check on us,” so we packed up our things, and headed to the Serengeti Plains to camp in the wilderness for the last few weeks of our time in Tanzania.
Who knows what the African men were thinking as they surrounded our house with guns loaded, but all I know is that life seems more beautiful as a result.
Has anything like this happened to you?