7.19.2008

I got mugged today.

That's the bad news - most of it, at any rate. Good news is that it looks as though I'm still going to see 30 next week.

I woke up early - 6am, and the first thing I did was look at my camera. I had been trying to decide whether or not to take it with me to Kokorbite today. I know it wants to leave me, all of my cameras apparently want to leave me, but I decided I'd be extra careful and not let it off my person unless it was behind the bar at the resort, buried deep in my bag, for safekeeping.

8am came and I caught my taxi off to the Bojo Beach Resort in Kokorbite. There wasn't much traffic as we were off pretty early. I was the first person at the resort, around 9am, and they were still setting up for the day. I took a few minutes to watch the waves. There was a practically endless right-hander that was breaking a little closer to shore than I would have liked, but it looked to make for some nice long rides. It was going to be a good day.

Until I enquired about the "surf" boards for hire. There was one. It was a drug-store boogie board. GAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAR. So apparently there won't be surfing in Ghana, as this was the only spot that Lonely Planet even listed for it.

I decided to take a walk down the beach. The only thing I took with me was my camera. About 50 yards from the resort bar I come across a line of about 20 guys heaving on a rope, pulling in a fishing net. I watch them for a while and then one of them waves me over and asks me if I want to see the fish. I say "sure," and he indicates a spot on the rope for me to help pull. What else am I going to do, right? So I start heaving with these guys. You slowly make your way back across the beach and soon you find yourself the last guy on the rope, and that's when its time to walk back to the front and start heaving again. It was hard work, but each time the bouy was a little closer to shore.

They were singing in unison - one guy would call out and the others would respond in a double-grunt kind of thing. I kept hearing them talk about me but couldn't pick up all the Twi (local language) - just enough to know that there were regular jokes at my expense. My camera was firmly lodged in the only pocket on trunks, the whole time.

Sun starts getting high, and I start getting tired and decide I don't want to wait around to see the fish. So I wave goodbye and start to angle back towards the resort. The guy right in front of me on the rope (Samuel, but it would turn out that wasn't even his real name) turns and insists on walking me back out of the village and towards the resort.

I stupidly follow him behind the only reed hut between me and the resort instead of walking along the beach, and that's when his pal steps out in front of me.

He didn't have a weapon in his hands and "Samuel's" hands instantly grabbed both of my arms from behind, just above the elbows. I don't struggle as the younger guy in front of me quickly grabs for the camera. He's wearing a black and red jersey emblazoned with a large "95," basketball jersey style. Then he trips me and Samuel pushes me face first into the sand, but is still on top of me.

I realized about halfway to the ground that I didn't have anything else of value to them but my life, and that's about when I decided enough was enough. I jerked my head back into Sam's face and felt his nose crunch against the back of my skull. His grip weakens a little bit, but he holds onto me as I stand up again, so I toss him overtop of me and onto his back on the grond in front of me. I turn to take on 95 but he's already taken off.

I decided against chasing after the camera, who knows what I might run into back in the village.

Broken Nose is lying there and I pat him down to make sure he doesn't have anything, and then I leave him there to go get resort security.

By about noon I get back with a small boatful of resort security and they quickly find Broken Nose. We cart him off on the boat and I stop to get him some sports tape from my bag, and set his nose, since it didn't look like anyone else around had the faintest idea that it needed to be done. Then we drive over to the police station.

We spend a couple hours in total driving there, hemming and hawing and finally convincing the chief to send a couple policemen back out to find the other guy, and of course my camera, which I'm repeatedly assured by everyone will be found quite shortly. They drag Broken Nose along so that he can help point out his accomplice. So the whole time I'm riding right in the same taxi van with the guy who attacked me. But whatever, TIA.

So now its maybe 2 or 3 and we're back boating over to the stretch of sand that the resort and these theiving bastards' village is on, except this time with a couple of cops. I've got my backpack on the whole freaking time as I trust no one even as far as I can throw them (literally) at this point. So there's the lone white guy with his backpack, 3 or 4 resort security guards, 2 cops, and Broken Nose, trekking through the village, which veritably collapses on us as I'm sure this is the most excitement they've seen all year. Kids crowding around people whooping and pointing, the occasional drunken guy coming out trying to act tough and get in a fight with the Broken Nose, since he's tightly cuffed and can't fight back.

We eventually find 95, sitting there mending fishing nets with the others, like he's done nothing wrong. I found it interesting that he wasn't in hiding or didn't even try to run. So they cuff the two together, and of course they start fighting, and now the crowd around us is like 10 deep and I'm starting to get a little nervous, and it occurs to me that its for the first time.

We eventually start back out of the village and down the beach, but not before the cops can stop and buy some of the day's fresh catch. Apparently this was every bit as much a shopping trip to the beach for them as it was arresting the theives. They make Broken Nose and 95 carry their fish. There's lots of taunting of the prisoners, both from the cops and hotel security, and even some of the locals, but its all in Twi and there's usually at least 3 people yelling at the same time. We return to the scene of the crime, its maybe 4pm by now, and it looks for a minute as though they might finally decide to tell the truth and give up the camera's whereabouts.

I should probably mention that by this point I've tried to bribe EVERYONE, multiple times. I've tried bribing the cops, repeatedly. The hotel security. I even tried bribing the thieves themselves. I bribe them and the cops simultaneously, convincing the cops to let them go if they produce the FREAKING camera.

But everyone decides that the camera just isn't going to happen. So we boat back across, and now the resort staff refuses to use their van to take us all to the police station (again), but they would appreciate it if I'd pay them for taking extra trips in the boat. Screw you guys, I'll pay you if I get my camera, which they're STILL telling me not to worry about.

So my taxi guy, who's been waiting there all day (not an uncommon thing, he knows he has an overpriced ride back to town essentially paid for), who is also my instant advocate and friend, drives me, the 2 cops, and Broken Nose and 95 back to the police station.

This time its a little more straight forward - I don't waste any time trying to bribe the chief anymore, I just fill out the report, and get their real names in the meantime so that I can include them in the report. I also get everyone's cell phone (there's no land line in the police office, but all the "detectives" have cells). Taxi driver suggests that I give them some money ahead of time as it might help their results, which apparently means that they'll agree to beat the prisoners extra hard. Everyone in the room seems to think this is a good idea but me, and they all seem somewhat disappointed when I tell them that I still only plan on producing bribes once I see my camera. As if I'm going to pre-bribe them or something.

Taxi driver takes me back to my hotel. Sans camera but with my corpus intact.

I take a shower and start writing this, and now its 7pm and I'm starting to come down from my hours-long high. My neck is sunburned as I didn't get the chance to put on sunblock today. Or eat anything. Or even go in the ocean. Which I could care less about seeing again here in Ghana.

This is my 3rd camera stolen here in Africa. I was joking after the second one that apparently God doesn't want me taking pictures of this place, but now I'm pretty sure He's serious about it. So that's it - I give up. If this camera comes back, great, if not, no more pictures. I have a feeling its been tossed into the ocean at this point - these people seem pretty afraid of the police, and as long as it never shows up, those two guys will be the only ones that get any hassle, which I assume will be a couple days in a dark cell and maybe a slapping around. And then they'll be off, with or without my camera waiting for them.

The really ironic thing that occurred to me at some point in the endless charade of waiting and pointlessly traveling hither and yon was that it really would have been something to have a camera to document the insanity.

Damn.

Africa - I love you, but you're killing me here.

7 comments:

MissPinkKate said...

We're just glad you're not literally killed.

gwyneth said...

dooooood.

you have the most unbelievable experiences.

Grace said...

Was this your first Africa mugging?

BethanyLynne said...

Oh my goodness...that is absolutely insane. I'm so glad you're alright...

David said...

Yeah, first one. First time for everything, right?

special-k said...

That's crazy! I'm glad you're ok though.

PS: First time I stumbled on your blog. I didn't make it to my nyc wedding after all. We should meet up next time you're in Sac.

Sarah said...

Very well handled, David. Glad you got Broken Nose. Even more impressed that you set it for him.

Glad, too, that you're okay.