10/11/09: Iringa, Tanzania
In the middle of the crowded fruit and vegetable market, I felt something bump up against the side of my left leg. Only because I’ve been on high alert in crowded places such as this one did I think anything of it. I quickly glanced down, only to see a hand in my lower cargo pocket, and my camera in that hand. (Integral detail: it wasn’t my hand.) I swung around to see a man in a yellow jacket, and as we made eye contact he quickly dropped the camera back into my pocket. Not quick enough!
I immediately sprung into action, throwing the man to the ground with a move Jackie Chan would be proud of. Then, and this is a blur because it happened so quickly, with a foot firmly implanted in his neck and a growl on my face, I quickly patted down my pockets to make sure everything else was there while at the same time shouting “Thief!” at the top of my lungs. (I had been told that us Mzungus, also known as white people, should not get into big altercations with the locals, as they will tend to side with one another. However, if you call them out as thieves, the locals will turn against them, as they do not want thieves in their markets.) Several locals came running to the scene and saw the pickpocket on the ground. I slowly backed away and saw them converge on the helpless man like hyenas to a carcass on the Serengeti. I heard a scream, and then…
I woke up.
It was just a fantastic dream. But just a dream wouldn’t make for a good blog post, would it? The entire first paragraph actually was true. Here’s the rest of what actually had happened during our Iringa market experience:
… I immediately sprung into action and gave him a small shove into the side of a fruit stand, hopefully knocking over a few bananas for effect. With my arm still feebly against his chest, I raised my voice just slightly and asked, “What do you think you’re doing?” With my free arm, I gingerly set down the bags of potatoes and eggplant I was carrying and searched all my pockets for any missing items. All the while I murmured, “Wait right there mister, what else have you taken?”
In the meantime, Zhou and a few others had taken notice of what was going on. Zhou, thinking that I was overreacting to a harmless man who had accidentally bumped into me (since apparently this is how I usually react to those situations) yelled, “Kevin, settle down!” or something to that effect. I don’t know, I was too busy under-reacting. Another member of our group, Cara, actually witnessed the scene and began to faintly whisper “Thief!” perhaps thinking she was in a library. My mind was racing, debating on whether or not it was too late to punch him. (Like all guys, at one point in my life I would like to punch someone who is up to no good – this did not end up being that momentous occasion. As a side note: I have been on the other end of that only once in my life. I was eating yogurt in the chess lounge at my high school when the chess team captain threw a glancing blow off my face because yogurt was not allowed in the chess lounge. I was a rebel in high school.)
I eventually determined that the man hadn’t taken anything from me (except my thirty seconds and the happiness I was experiencing up to that point) and let him push his way through the crowd and walk out of the market. While he was walking off into the distance I began to get incredibly angry, first at him for trying to pull something like that off, and second at me for not having the nerve to punch him or better yet let someone else punch him. I suppose the latter would have been better, as the part I mentioned in the dream about letting the locals take care of the thieves was actually true. This brings me to the moral of this post:
For those of you traveling to Africa anytime soon, if you catch a potential pickpocket in the act, yell “thief!” as loudly as you can and hopefully the local people will help you out.
Picture of the Day: Sorry for the shaky picture quality, but I’ve asked around and have found that this isn’t actually a used expression. No one can figure out what “Good Wine Needs No Bush” means.