Student Blogs & Vlogs | College Study Abroad Programs, IFSA-Butler

Some Serious Talk About Safety

I don’t want to scare you… but actually I do want to scare you. At least enough to prevent what happened to me last weekend from happening to you.

On Saturday night, some of us went out to a bar/club in Barranco (the town next to Miraflores). A friend and I left around 3am and got a taxi on the street (something we’d been warned not to do but everyone in our group including Peruvian patas would do all the time anyway). The taxista drove us to an empty street where two men were waiting. They opened the doors, took all of our stuff, pulled us out of the taxi (which promptly sped away) and ran.

We were incredibly lucky that all they wanted were our purses. We were also lucky enough that the taxista had driven in almost a completely straight line since the bar, so we could find our way back and enlist the help of the kind workers to contact our program director. Walking through the nearly-deserted dark streets with no phone, no money, and no idea whether we would be able to get home or get help was the most terrifying experience of my life.

And I had heard about what could happen. In fact, we’d had an entire security talk at orientation, much of which was about the potential dangers of taxis in Lima. And how to avoid said dangers. But we hadn’t paid enough attention. As I said, pretty much no one in the group would spend the time and the extra few soles to call the secure taxi company that IFSA told us to use. We’d been told to check that the doors opened from the inside, then lock them and open the window slightly, all of which we did (but of course the door locks were tampered with so they didn’t actually work). We were told to call (or pretend to call) someone saying that we were on our way, where we were, what the taxi looked like, and how soon we would arrive. We did not do that right away, and by the time I had my phone in my hand, about to do so, it was too late.

The stuff I lost is replaceable. It’s just stuff. I’m still pretty traumatized, though, and this happened right as I was beginning to feel safer, more trusting, and less scared of the city. I will never forget the sensation of utter vulnerability and helplessness that I felt that night. And I may never get into another taxi in Lima. But what’s done is done, and I learned to actually heed safety instructions from people who know these things. And I realized that it’s a lot cheaper to pay for a safe taxi than a new phone, keys, debit cards, ID, jacket, and ipod.

Last week I assured my parents that as scary as the security talk made this city seem, we would be fine if we followed all of IFSA’s advice. And now I know to put the emphasis on “all”.

“But (life’s) a journey and the sad thing is you only learn from experience, so as much as someone can tell you things, you have to go out there and make your own mistakes in order to learn.” -Emma Watson

Here, have some baby otters to cheer you up.


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