Back in May, an e-mail arrived in my inbox that began “The U.S. Embassy in Caracas has received reports indicating that at least seven people have been victims of “express kidnappings” in and around the municipality of El Hatillo in Caracas since Friday, May 22nd, 2015.”
This is not something that I will be telling Mom and Dad about until I’m back in the States, I thought as I continued reading.
The e-mail included sections such as “if a rescue attempt is made” and “ransom” (read: the US government ain’t paying shit for you…period).
Caracas, quite frankly, is known for kidnappings. Horror stories have swirled since I arrived in Venezuela about people being snatched right from the international airport…
where I now found myself stranded.
Thanks to an error from my (now former) employer, my international ticket to the States had actually not been purchased. I learned this lovely fact while at the ticket counter attempting to check in.
As I discussed this mix-up of international proportions, with my Spanish swiftly deteriorating as the minutes ticked by, it became clear that I was not exiting Venezuela that day as planned.
When the gate agents left me at the now empty ticket counter with 110 pounds of luggage to push (and I weigh 115), my senses began to sharpen.
This is not good. This is not good. This is not good.
I had managed to contact my school–which had reserved a hotel for me–before my pre-paid phone minutes ran out, but I still had to get from the airport to the hotel.
There lied the danger.
Kidnappings often occur in what are perceived to be legitimate airport taxis.
When I flat out asked the gate agents for a safe taxi number to call, I was met with blank stares and one nod of understanding.
We all heard what was left unsaid: I need a taxi that I won’t get robbed in please.
They left me there though without a number and not much of a plan. I couldn’t blame them. This mix-up wasn’t their fault.
As I turned to look for a porter who could roll my baggage up to the second floor where the taxi stand was, I thought back to the morning porter.
He was the first airport porter I’ve ever used in my life, and it wasn’t a good experience. The man had demanded that I tip him in dollars (which I did not have). When I gave him a tip in bolivares his response was, “That’s all you’re going to give me? How much money do you have in your purse?”
His words left me feeling threatened and appalled. This was a uniformed airport employee who caused the same visceral reaction in me that I had when a male peddler in New York more or less hinted that a knife would’ve persuaded me to buy him food when I had refused.
Now, I was attempting to wheel my luggage in a neon orange tank top. This tank paired against my dark skin had me sticking out like the Devil would in a Sunday morning church service.
But the thing that unnerved me the most wasn’t that I was the only Black person in the airport. It was that I was a woman traveling solo.
Staring down the long corridor, I felt like I was prey.
And little did I know that unscrupulous people would indeed be circling like only the best vultures could.