A few days ago marked an anniversary of the worst thing that has ever happened to me in my life. It was the day when I realized bad people really do exist in this world and they would not think twice about causing harm to another human being.
A year ago, I had just recently arrived to Chile. I could hardly speak Spanish or understand it (at least the Chilean dialect). I was naive, like most foreigners who go to another country "aware" of the dangers but not completely understanding them.
I am going to re-post my blog entry from a year ago here:
"So I recently made the decision to start training for a 5k race in the Andes. I have never run a marathon or race of any sort, but I have trained for a racing sport: Rowing. It is a different sport, but training for a race; the mentality is the same. The problem with Viña del Mar, Chile is that where I live there is good place to run. There is a median where people walk their dogs and run, however on either side is five lanes of traffic, so the pollution really bothers my lungs. I had heard from other Gringos in my group, that along the beach is a good place to run because it is fresh air off the ocean, a nice view and PLENTY of space. The issue is that the length of the boardwalk, begins in Valparaíso, the sister city of Viña del Mar. It is a poorer city in general, and known to not be not as safe. However I had been meaning to try this route out so yesterday I took the metro to where my university was, and the office of my study abroad program so I could drop off my coat there along with my metro card. So I start running, with my ipod, because I love running for a long amount of time and it is INCREDIBLY BORING to run with out music. As I am running I see there is a TON of other people walking, running and biking, and a lot of them are listening to music.
As I am running there are a ton of men, and all of them that watch run past them, whistle or yell at me ¨AYYY GRINGA.¨ Which is nothing new, so I ignore it and keep running. I do notice as I run past three teenagers, they all stare at me as I run by but say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING, which was very out of the ordinary. However, I keep running and forget about them. After about 20 minutes or so I turn back and start running in the other direction, because the way the boardwalk is set up, it is incredibly wide in most parts, about a city block or so, which made it easy to avoid other people but the only way to get off the boardwalk is to take overpasses over the metro line and about 6 lanes of traffic, so it was pretty obvious that I would have to retrace my steps in order to return back to my university. So after about 30 minutes of running, and after about 10 sets of stairs I start heading back to wrap up my workout. As I get within about 4 city blocks or so of my school there is a part of the boardwalk that gets really narrow because it is sort of like a corner, so the people behind, and the people ahead cant really see anything. As I am nearing this corner the same three boys step out from behind it as I get close.
At first it just looked like they were moving over to let me pass but as all three of them turn to face me I immeadiately realize that they had been waiting for me. They start staggering themselves in a manner that wouldn´t allow me to pass them. The first one yells something in Spanish at me, to try and trick me into stopping to talk to them but I start to instintively move away from him, and lunges towards me. My first reaction was to hit him as hard as I could in the face, with the same hand that had my iPod in it. So hitting him stops him in his tracks so I dodge him AND I get past the second guy. However the third guy, who was standing further back lunges and grabs me around my rib cage and pulls me close. The second guy comes up then and starts to grab my hand but gets ahold of my headphones and rips them out of my ears and out of my ipod. He then swings and tries to hit me in my face, which breaks my sunglasses. At this point I am screaming my head off in english at them and thrashing and fighting as hard as I could. The second guy tries again to grab my hand, which is the same hand I am usuing to try and hit him in the face with. He is also simultaneously kicking and punching me in the ribs and stomach. The first guy kind of joins in, but is holding his face, and clearly is wary of my flailing arms and legs. At first, when all three of them came at me, I didn´t realize what they wanted was my ipod, because they didn´t go for my ipod, they tried to grab me. I did not realize they were trying rob me, I thought they were trying to attack me. The adreline I had for the past fourty minutes during my workout revved up and I just start kicking and hitting whoever I can. I couldn´t feel when the second guy was kicking or hitting me, and the only thought in my head was my uncle telling me before I left that is something happens I need to fight for my life. So as the second guy is hitting me over and over then i kick him as hard as I could in his nutsack and he falls over on the ground and starts crawling away from me. So I am thrashing and screaming and the third guy still won´t let go of me. I push him back against the railing and try and slam him repeatidly against it to get him to let me go. He is yelling too at his friends and at me ¨¨CONCHA DE TU MADREEE¨, which is the chilean version of saying ¨fuck¨, but translates literally to ¨Your mom´s vagina.¨ I start punching backwards to where his face is behind me with the same hand that has my ipod in it. I am doing over and over again until he grabs my hand to probably stop me, but also in part to try and grab my ipod. So I start biting his hand as hard as I could until he let me go. I take off sprinting for about 20 feet then turn around to see them running in the opposite direction so I slow to a walk.
After about thirty seconds of complete shock I realize as I look at my ripped headphones that the entire time they were after my iPod so I quickly shove it in my bra so it is out of sight from everyone else. No one saw the three of them attack me except one chilean guy who was REALLY far in the distance and as I pass him he tells me ¨Bien Hecho Gringa¨, which means good job white girl.
As I am walking, I realize the back of my leg is wet... and I smell like pee. Because apparently the second guy peed his pants while I was punching him in the face. I truly cannot imagine the level of embarrassment those three little shitheads felt after what happened. One of them probably had a bloody nose, the other could barely walk because I kicked him in his babymaker, and the third had a distinct mark of piss down the front and back of his pants. What on earth could they possibly say to eachother to make themselves feel better about getting their asses kicked by ONE WHITE GIRL.
I went to the police station with the director of my program and filed a report that pretty much signifys absolutely nothing. The police officers there, were impressed however, that one gringa fought off three people, and everyone in my family and all my chilean friends could really believe it. I really can´t either.
I understand I was incredibly lucky. The best thing to do when you are getting robbed, is to give up what they want, because my life is far more important than my ipod. However I did not realize what they wanted, because they grabbed me, not my ipod. At the same time, three arrogant 15 year olds who saw me as an easy target were put in their place. I am not a strongly religious person, but I truly belief that I had a guardian angel then. Because in reality one girl, fought off three boys, who had planned an attack and were essentially the same size as me. Adreline played a huge roal, because I truly was fighting for my life, not for my ipod.
The mistakes I made which lead to this attack was obvious, I should have run been running with my iPod in my hand, I should have been by myself, and I should have been more aware of my surrondings... However there is no way to predict I would have been attacked in the middle of the day, in a public location.
My program sent out an email warning others of what happened to me... However I could help but get upset when I read it. It made it sound like I stupidly fought the theives for my ipod, when in reality I thought they were trying rape me or beat me up. The way they grabbed me, and way they lunged towards me didn´t look like they wanted my iPod. I would hope, that any female who was in that situation would react like me. Because there was no blatant way in the way the approached me that indicated they wanted to rob me. They tried to attack me. And I reacted as if they wanted to hurt me, because as far as I know, they might have."
Now this experience would have sent most people packing. After a year of reflection I have realized that this event has completely changed life, but not in a bad way. After my near robbery my chilean host mother did everything she could to help me recover. I suffered from post traumatic stress and cried everyday for about week. The following weekend I had planned to go travel with some fellow Americans to Mendoza, Argentina, but after this event I was too stressed out to have the desire to go. My host family suggested I spend the weekend with them, as there were several birthday parties or something.
That weekend completely turned my experience in Chile around. I feel like it was the definitely moment for my Spanish because after that weekend it got better by leaps and bounds. I finally bounded with my host family and I began to realize that I wanted to be in Chile for more than just simply 4 months. It started the process of me staying there for a year.
Me being there a year completely changed me as a person what I wanted in life. I know I am 21, however I have to say that Chile has been the best decision of my life. (ps. I never ended up running the marathon.. I was far too traumatized to continue running.)