Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Perhaps as a disclaimer I should start off by admitting that I am an idiot.
To set the scene:
I was staying in Paris for a week in April of 2009 with my Aunt during my travels. An Australian friend, who was living in Germany that year, was in Paris for the weekend. On this night of nights, we explored some clubs and bars and then tried to find our way home in the pouring rain while a drunk man harassed us. He followed us until my friend told him rather directly to leave us alone.
“What’s wrong with you, Lia?” She asked. “You just stood there and didn’t stand up for yourself. That’s not like you.”
It wasn’t. I felt out of it.
We got a cab to my Aunt’s house, where my friend could then walk on to her hostel. Outside my Aunt’s block of apartments a few guys were hanging around. They started talking to us and I was excited by the opportunity to put my poor French into use.
My friend, bewildered, spoke German until she was too fed up and left. I stayed a while longer, talking to the guys. Other guys walked past; apparently everyone knew each other and so I was introduced to each newcomer with a kiss and sometimes a hug.
Eventually, I managed to break away and I entered my Aunt’s apartment. Then it hit me. Terrified, I plunged my hand into my side bag: nothing.
My wallet and passport were missing. I was overwhelmed; I was going to London in a few days! What could I possibly do?
I figured I had two choices: go to my Aunt’s or go outside. I opted for the latter.
I marched back out defiantly. I had paid for the cab so I knew I had had my wallet until then. I scoured the street but to no avail. I burst into tears and the clouds joined me in my misery. I saw the two guys who had first approached us (let’s call them Pierre and Jean) still standing around. I told them what had happened in broken French and English. They could offer no help, they told me. “Go home to your Aunt and call the Embassy in the morning”.
“But I need my passport!” I stressed.
Some men returning home noticed me bawling and inquired. I relayed the situation. “We don’t trust the guys you met,” they told me. “They probably took it.” They had a chat to the guys but came back empty-handed. “Whoever took it isn’t going to give it back to you. Go home, call the Embassy.”
No, I would not. I was not going to miss my plane to London! I thought that if I stayed there and showed how desperate I was the thief would take pity on me.
And two hours later, they did. Pierre and Jean said they’d “chat” to their friends and see if they could get back my passport. Pierre left and Jean told me he was fighting the others on my behalf. As if.
Pierre then returned, brandishing my stolen items. I had lost 25 euros and my passport was sodden but I couldn’t keep a smile off my face.
I said it was time to go home. “What? No kiss for the hero?” Said Pierre. Jean asked Pierre if he could give us five minutes alone. I pushed them both away and told them to get lost.
I was finally my strong self again.
Later, I realised how lucky I’d been. I was in a foreign city, in a rough neighbourhood; a lone girl with a bunch of strange guys. Someone was watching over me that night.