I’ve alluded on social media that I have been struggling a bit on this trip. It was a bunch of little things that I don’t need to get into at the moment. I had/have the power to navigate all of them so they weren’t necessarily deal-breakers, just dampening my spirits a bit.
Last night I decided I would overcome one of my first hurdles and figure out how to order a Tuk Tuk to come pick me up and take me into town to explore a bit. After waiting for four hours for my cell phone service and the wifi to come back online I called a driver and in Spanish managed to give the correct address. 15 minutes later the driver pulled up and I was off to start the day. I asked him to take me to the Plaze de Mercado, the local fruit/fish market. I wandered the market and surrounding area, made my way down to the Amazon river, and even spoke with a few of the locals. I was SO proud of myself for overcoming my fear of calling someone who didn’t speak English and figuring the entire morning/afternoon out on my own and with great success. I made my way back to the house I’m staying at and was really excited to tell Aaron all about my day and what I had managed to do.
Shortly after I arrived back at the house I was sitting in my room, reading when popping noises broke the silence. I could tell they were off in the distance and at first thought, ‘that must just be kids playing with firecrackers’. A minute later half a dozen more pops sounded off and all I could think about was my dear friend Janelle describing the sounds she heard while in Vegas at the Route 91 shooting.
This wasn’t firecrackers.
I tried not to panic and just listened. They still sounded like they were a block or two away. There were gaps of silence between each grouping of shots. Then there was a round that were much closer than the others. After these shots a child started screaming and crying off in the distance. The shots were getting closer after each terrible gap of silence. I dropped to the floor and crawled to the corner. While belly-down on the tiles I peaked my head around the corner of my room. I watched as the front door and the gap between the door and floor allowing a sliver of sun to shine through suddenly had two leg-shaped shadows in it. Half a dozen more shots went off right outside of my front door. I lost it.
I was absolutely positive I was going to die. I left Aaron a voicemail sobbing and telling him I loved him. Children were still crying off in the distance and I have never felt more scared in my entire life. I desperately tried calling my Mom but she wasn’t answering, then I tried my brother, I tried calling Aaron again, probably six times in a row. Nobody was picking up and the guns had quieted outside. I sat in the corner of my room and sobbed uncontrollably. I was trapped in my room. There were bars on my bedroom windows, and if I left the room through the door I made myself visible to the front door and wall-sized window beside it which was only half-covered with a threadbare sheet. The back door led me to a 12-foot high cement wall and no way to climb it. I was SO mad at myself for not creating a better escape plan. I was sure I was going to be shot, crying in the corner alongside with few dead cockroaches.
Twelve long minutes passed and the front door swung open, but when I looked there wasn’t anyone there. Then the house cleaner rounded the corner. She told me there was indeed shooting outside but that I didn’t need to be scared. They were armed guards. It was fine, she told me. Nothing was fine, I was NOT fine.
I found out the day after this happened that another neighbor had also reported and automatic weapon being fired around the houses in the area I was staying. The local police told me there was indeed ‘conflict’ in the area. They were currently considering the area ‘unsafe’ and ‘at risk’ and advised me that I should not be there alone and recommended I move to a safer area immediately.
Every sound I hear outside sends me into a panic. A neighbour dropped a bike outside my windows a few hours ago and I started crying again. Every ounce of my being just wants to catch the next flight out of here and come home. I’m terrified, alone, and feel incredibly vulnerable. If this is ‘all part of the experience’ I want no part of it.