So, I Acquired Stabbed in Colombia

A black and white photo of a quiet street in Bogota, Colombia

Posted: 4/2/2019 | April 2nd, 2019

Editor’s Word: I wavered on writing about this for a very long time since I didn’t need to put folks off on Colombia or perptuate the parable that hazard lurks round each nook. As you’ll be able to inform from my posts right here, right here, right here, and right here, I actually love the nation. I imply it’s superior. (And there will likely be lots extra weblog posts about how nice it’s.) However I weblog about all my experiences – good or unhealthy – and this story is an effective lesson on journey security, the significance of at all times following native recommendation, and what occurs if you cease doing so.

“Are you OK?”

“Right here. Have a seat.”

“Do you want some water?”

A rising crowd had gathered round me, all providing assist in one type or one other.

“No, no, no, I feel I’ll be OK,” I stated waving them off. “I’m just a bit shocked.”

My arm and again throbbed whereas I attempted to regain my composure. “I’m going to be actually sore within the morning,” I assumed.

“Come, come, come. We insist,” stated one lady. She led me again onto the sidewalk the place a safety guard gave me his chair. I sat down.

“What’s your identify? Right here’s some water. Is there anybody we will name?”

“I’ll be tremendous. I’ll be tremendous,” I saved replying.

My arm throbbed. “Getting punched sucks,” I stated to myself.

Regaining my composure, I slowly took off the jacket I used to be carrying. I used to be too sore for any fast actions in any case. I wanted to see how unhealthy the bruises had been.

As I did so, gasps arose from the group.

My left arm and shoulder had been dripping with blood. My shirt was soaked by.

“Shit,” I stated as I noticed what had occurred. “I feel I simply obtained stabbed.”


There’s a notion that Colombia is unsafe, that regardless of the heyday of the drug wars being over, hazard lurks round most corners and you must be actually cautious right here.

It’s not a very unwarranted notion. Petty crime is quite common. The 52-year civil conflict killed 220,000 folks — though fortunately this quantity has drastically dropped for the reason that 2016 peace settlement.

When you are unlikely to be blown up, randomly shot, kidnapped, or ransomed by guerrillas, you’re very more likely to get pickpocketed or mugged. There have been over 200,000 armed robberies in Colombia final yr. Whereas violent crimes have been on the decline, petty crime and theft has been on the upswing.

Earlier than I went to Colombia, I’d heard numerous tales of petty theft. Whereas there, I heard much more. A good friend of mine had been robbed thrice, the final time at gunpoint whereas on his solution to meet me for dinner. Locals and expats alike advised me the identical matter: the rumors of petty theft are true, however in case you maintain your wits about you, comply with the foundations, and don’t flash your valuables, you’ll be OK.

There’s even a neighborhood expression about it: “No dar papaya” (Don’t give papaya). Basically, it signifies that you shouldn’t have one thing “candy” out within the open (a cellphone, pc, watch, and so on.) that will make you a goal. Preserve your valuables hidden, don’t wander round locations you shouldn’t at evening, don’t flash cash round, keep away from popping out of nightlife spots alone at evening, and so on. Merely put: Don’t put your self able the place folks can benefit from you.

I heeded such recommendation. I didn’t put on headphones in public. I didn’t take my cellphone out except I used to be in a gaggle or a restaurant, or utterly certain nobody else was round. I took simply sufficient cash for the day with me once I left my hostel. I warned associates about carrying flashy jewellery or watches once they visited.

However, the longer you’re someplace, the extra you get complacent.

If you see locals on their telephones in crowded areas, vacationers toting thousand-dollar cameras, and children carrying Airpods and Apple Watches, you start to assume, “OK, in the course of the day, it’s not so unhealthy.”

The extra nothing occurs to you, the extra detached you get.

Immediately, you step out of a restaurant along with your cellphone out with out even desirous about it.

In your arms is papaya.

And somebody needs to take it.


It was close to sundown. I used to be on a busy avenue in La Candelaria, the primary vacationer space of Bogotá. The cafe I had been at was closing, so it was time to search out someplace new. I made a decision to move to a hostel to complete some work and benefit from glad hour.

I’d been in Bogotá for just a few days now, having fun with a metropolis most individuals write off. There was a allure to it. Even within the vacationer hotspot of La Candelaria, it didn’t really feel as gringofied as Medellín. It felt probably the most genuine of all the massive Colombian cities I had visited. I used to be loving it.

I exited the cafe with my cellphone out, ending a textual content message. It had slipped my thoughts to place it away. It was nonetheless gentle outdoors, there have been crowds round, and many safety. After almost six weeks in Colombia, I had grown complacent in conditions like this.

“What’s actually going to occur? I’ll be tremendous.”

Three steps out of the door, I felt somebody brush up towards me. At first, I assumed it was somebody working previous me till I shortly realized {that a} man was attempting to take my cellphone out of my hand.

Struggle or flight set in — and I fought.

“Get the fuck off me!” I shouted as I wrestled with him, protecting an iron grip on my cellphone. I attempted pushing him away.

“Assist, assist, assist!” I yelled into the air.

I keep in mind distinctly the confused look on his face as if he had anticipated a simple mark. That the cellphone would slip out of my hand and he’d be gone earlier than anybody might catch him.

And not using a phrase, he began punching my left arm, and I continued to withstand.

“Get off me! Assist, assist!”

We tussled on the street.

I kicked, I screamed, I blocked his punches.

The commotion prompted folks to run towards us.

Unable to dislodge the cellphone from my hand, the mugger turned and ran.


After folks helped me sit down and the adrenaline wore off, I obtained lightheaded. My ears rang. I had bother focusing for just a few moments.

Blood was dripping by my soaked shirt.

“Fuck,” I stated my arm and shoulder.

I attempted to compose myself.

Having grown up surrounded by medical doctors and nurses, I ran by a fast “how unhealthy is that this” guidelines in my thoughts.

I made a fist. I might really feel my fingers. I might transfer my arm. “OK, I most likely don’t have nerve or muscle harm.”

I might breathe and was not coughing up blood. “Okay, I most likely don’t have a punctured lung.”

I might nonetheless stroll and really feel my toes.

My light-headedness dissipated.

“OK, there’s most likely not an excessive amount of main harm,” I assumed.

Phrases I didn’t perceive had been spoken in Spanish. A health care provider arrived and helped clear and put strain on my wounds. A younger lady within the crowd who spoke English took my cellphone and voice-texted my solely good friend in Bogotá to let her know the state of affairs.

As an ambulance would take too lengthy, the police, who numbered a couple of dozen by now, loaded me onto the again of a truck and took me to a hospital, stopping visitors on the way in which like I used to be an honored dignitary.

Utilizing Google Translate to speak, the police checked me in on the hospital. They took down as a lot data as they might, confirmed me an image of the attacker (sure, that’s him!), and known as my good friend to replace her about the place I used to be.

As I waited to be seen by the medical doctors, the proprietor of my hostel confirmed up. After having taken my deal with, the cops had phoned up the hostel to allow them to know what occurred and he or she had rushed down.

The hospital employees noticed me shortly. (I believe being a stabbed gringo obtained me faster consideration.)

We went into one of many examination rooms. My shirt got here off, they cleaned my arm and again, and assessed the harm.

I had 5 wounds: two on my left arm, two on my shoulder, and one on my again, small cuts that broke the pores and skin, with two wanting like they obtained into the muscle. If the knife had been longer, I might have been in deep trouble: one reduce was proper on my collar and one other particularly near my backbone.

If you consider the time period “stabbing,” you consider a protracted blade, a single deep reduce into the stomach or again. You image somebody with a protruding knife being rolled into the hospital on a stretcher.

That was not the case for me. I had been, extra colloquially appropriate, knifed.

Badly knifed.

However simply knifed.

There was no blade protruding from my intestine or again. There could be no surgical procedure. No deep lacerations.

The injuries wouldn’t require any greater than antibiotics, stitches, and time to heal. Quite a lot of time. (How a lot time? This occurred on the finish of January and it took two months for the bruising to go down.)

I used to be stitched up, taken for an X-ray to ensure I didn’t have a punctured lung, and required to sit down round for an additional six hours as they did a follow-up. My good friend and hostel proprietor stayed a bit.

Throughout that point, I booked a flight residence. Whereas my wounds weren’t extreme and I might have stayed in Bogotá, I didn’t need to danger it. The hospital refused to provide me antibiotics and, being a bit suspicious of their stitching job, I needed to get checked out again residence whereas all the pieces was nonetheless contemporary. After I was leaving the hospital, I even needed to ask them to cowl my wounds. They had been going to go away them uncovered.

It’s higher to be protected than sorry.


Trying again, would I’ve finished something in another way?

It’s simple to say, “Why didn’t you simply give him your cellphone?”

Nevertheless it’s not as if he led with a weapon. Had he finished so, I clearly would have surrendered the cellphone. This child (and it turned out he was only a child of about 17) simply tried to seize it from my hand, and anybody’s pure intuition could be to drag again.

If somebody stole your purse, took your pc when you had been utilizing it, or tried to seize your watch, your preliminary, primal response wouldn’t be, “Oh effectively!” It will be, “Hey, give me again my stuff!”

And if that stuff had been nonetheless connected to your hand, you’d pull again, yell for assist, and hope the mugger would go away. Particularly when it’s nonetheless daytime and there are crowds round. You may’t at all times assume a mugger has a weapon.

Based mostly on the knowledge I had on the time, I don’t assume I might have finished something in another way. Nature simply set in.

Matters might have been so much worse: The knife might have been longer. He might have had a gun. I might have turned the flawed method, and that small blade might have hit a serious artery or my neck. The knife was so small that I didn’t even really feel it in the course of the assault. An extended blade may need prompted me to recoil extra and drop my cellphone. I don’t know. If he had been a greater mugger, he would have saved working ahead and I wouldn’t have been in a position to catch up because the ahead movement made the cellphone depart my hand.

The permutations are limitless.

This was additionally only a matter of being unfortunate. A flawed time and flawed place state of affairs. This might have occurred to me wherever. You might be within the flawed place and the flawed time in 1,000,000 locations and in 1,000,000 conditions.

Life is danger. You’re not in charge of what occurs to you the second you stroll out the door. You assume you’re. You assume you might have a deal with on the state of affairs — however then you definitely stroll out of a café and get knifed. You get in a automotive that crashes or a helicopter that goes down, eat meals that hospitalizes you, or, regardless of your finest well being efforts, drop lifeless from a coronary heart assault.

Something can occur to you at any time.

We make plans as if we’re in management.

However we’re not in charge of something.

All we will do is management our response and responses.

I actually like Bogotá. I actually like Colombia. The meals was scrumptious and the surroundings breathtaking. All through my go to there, folks had been inquisitive, pleasant, and glad.

And when this occurred, I marveled in any respect the individuals who helped me, who stayed with me till the police got here, the various cops who assisted me in quite a few methods, the medical doctors who attended to me, the hostel proprietor who grew to become my translator, and my good friend who drove an hour to be with me.

Everybody apologized. Everybody knew this was what Colombia is thought for. They needed to let me know this was not Colombia. I feel they felt worse in regards to the assault than I did.

However this expertise jogged my memory of why you can’t get complacent. I gave papaya. I shouldn’t have had my cellphone out. After I left the cafe, I ought to have put it away. It didn’t matter the time of day. That’s the rule in Colombia. Preserve your valuables hidden. Particularly in Bogota, which does have the next charge of petty crime than elsewhere within the nation. I didn’t comply with the recommendation.

And I obtained unfortunate due to it. I’d been having my cellphone out too typically and, with every non-incident, I grew increasingly more relaxed. I saved dropping my guard down extra.

What occurred was unfortunate nevertheless it didn’t must occur if I had adopted the foundations.

That is why folks at all times warned me to watch out.

Since you by no means know. You’re tremendous till you aren’t.

That stated, you’re nonetheless unlikely to have an issue. All these incidences I talked about? All concerned folks breaking the ironclad “No Dar Papaya” rule and both having one thing priceless our or strolling alone late at evening in areas they shouldn’t have. Don’t break the rule! This might have occurred to me wherever on the earth the place I didn’t comply with the protection guidelines you’re imagined to that provide help to reduce danger.

However, additionally know, in case you do get into bother, Colombians will provide help to out. From my hostel proprietor to the cops to the individuals who sat with me when it occurred to the random man within the hospital who gave me chocolate, it seems, you’ll be able to at all times depend upon the kindness of strangers. They made a harrowing expertise so much simpler to cope with.

I’m not going to let this freak incident change my view of such an incredible nation. I’d return to Colombia the identical method I’d get in a automotive after a automotive accident. In truth, I used to be terribly upset to go away. I used to be having an incredible time. I nonetheless love Bogota. I nonetheless have plans to return to Colombia. I’ve extra optimistic matters to write down about this.

Be taught from my mistake. Not just for if you go to Colombia however if you journey usually.

You may’t get complacent. You may’t cease following the foundations.

And nonetheless go to Colombia!

I’ll see you there.


A few different factors:

Whereas the medical doctors had been good and the stitching turned out to be nice, I wouldn’t go to a public hospital in Colombia once more. That was not a enjoyable expertise. It wasn’t tremendous clear, that they had sufferers within the hallways, they didn’t give me antibiotics or ache medication or cowl my wounds, and so they needed to ship me residence with out a shirt (because of my hostel proprietor for bringing me an additional!). There have been just a few fundamental matters I used to be shocked they missed.

It is a robust case for journey insurance coverage! I’ve at all times stated journey insurance coverage is for unknowns as a result of the previous will not be prologue. In my twelve years of journey, I used to be by no means mugged — till I used to be. Then, needing medical care and a last-minute flight residence, I used to be glad I had insurance coverage. I wanted it unhealthy. It might have been so much worse than a $70 hospital invoice and a flight again residence, too: if I had required surgical procedure or needed to be admitted to the hospital, that invoice would have been much more. Don’t depart residence with out journey insurance coverage. You by no means, ever know if you may want it, and also you’ll be glad you had it!

Listed here are some articles on journey insurance coverage:

They did catch the child who tried to mug me. There’s safety in every single place in Bogotá. He made it one block earlier than they caught him. My hostel proprietor tells me he’s nonetheless in jail. He was solely 17 too. I really feel unhealthy for him. There’s quite a lot of poverty in Bogotá. There’s a really stark revenue divide there. Assuming he’s not some middle-class punk, I can perceive the circumstances that led him to rob me. I hope his future will get brighter.

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