One night I went down to the beach in front of our volunteer house with Jack and Louis to hang out on the log we always sat on - towards the end of the path. In the town of Watamu, at night it was either pitch black or so bright you could see everything because the moon looked more like a sun in Kenya. On this particular night it was pitch black…. The three of us sat on the log gazing at stars, reflecting on life - while listening to music that came from one of our iPods... We had been warned that it’s not smart to go to the beach after the sun sets and definitely don’t go alone if you do. I figured this one time it would be ok - I was just going to the end of the path where our house was still in view. All of a sudden I saw what looked like a shadow of a person come out of the bushes about 200 feet in front of us. “You guys, did you see that? Someone else is out here, be quiet.” We began to whisper, they saw the person too. “Louis, turn the music off, make the light go away.” We decided to just sit there, not moving hoping the person didn’t see us and would continue on their way. At first, I think we thought it was kind of funny…. Like “haha we’re so dumb for coming down here.” The shadow of what looked like a tall man walked out of the bushes and down towards the water, but then he turned. He started to walk towards us, but then he just stopped. I think it was then when I started to actually worry.
Jack never said much, he just kept telling Louis and I to keep quiet. But we couldn’t. Louis and I dealt with our fear by giggling and making jokes… “What if he takes us…OMG we might die…He’s going to want me I’m the only girl…” The man stood there silently, facing towards us no more than 30 feet away. We knew he could see us at this point if we could see him. To the three of us this was so real - all of the stories we’ve been told about people being kidnapped in Africa could happen to us. It was then I remember grabbing onto Louis’s leg so tight… asking what we should do. We weren’t laughing anymore. I remember thinking “if they take me they’re going to rape me. No one will know where I am. What should I do?” We whispered with our shaking voices trying to make a group decision. “Should we run?” But we were so frightened it was like we were frozen.
I had never felt so vulnerable in my life; feeling like I could just be taken into the darkness and that would be it. The man took steps towards us again! It was then when it felt as if I blacked out and my body took over. I no longer heard the voices of Jack or Louis - I only felt my body telling me to RUN! I figured if this guy is going to get us, I have the most advantage if I take off running with a bit of a lead. So that’s what I did… I ran and I didn’t look back.. I had hoped they were following right behind me, but I didn’t have time to turn my head. My feet, sinking into the sandy path up a slight hill - felt like I was running in quick sand up a mountain. I felt so slow and before I knew it, Louis was flying past me with sand flying up behind him!
When we reached the porch, where all of the other volunteers were - their first reaction was “be quiet…. Why are you guys freaking out? What is going on?” I tried to speak but I couldn’t, I stood there shaking while Louis was laughing uncontrollably. We realized Jack hadn’t followed us when we started running. I went into the house so full of adrenaline, but I still I couldn’t find my words or my breath. I kept saying “there’s a man… a man, he was watching us.” Finally we were able to explain a little to the group and then panic took over the house. No one was laughing anymore and we were all dealing with fear in different ways.
People started to close the porch doors that were made of thin, brittle, glass - afraid that this man could have followed us back. Our company had told us we were supposed to have a security guard at the volunteer house, but we never had one. It was then when we heard Jacks voice. He was out of breath and his skin so pale, the only words he spoke were “he followed me, he’s coming up here.” It was then when we all thought this was really happening! Some people went to the window to look out and I don’t remember whom, but someone yelled, “He’s on the porch!” When you hear those words and you’re already panicking, you just believe it. I went for the front door; trying to escape… I thought to myself "I am just going to keep running - I’ll hide in the bushes. I need to get away from all these people or else I’ll never make it." But the door was locked by a chain and a deadbolt from the outside by our housekeeper Florence. Now I felt like I was in a bad movie…. "Could this really be happening?" One boy grabbed an umbrella and went to the window as if he was going to try and fight him off and everyone else was hiding, screaming, and so confused with all of this chaos happening so quickly.
The next thing I saw was Matt, one of the volunteers living in the house with us and he was on the front porch. He asked what everyone was doing and why we were all screaming. My heart dropped again…. “Was this all fake? Are you kidding me? It was a joke”? I had never been so angry and so relieved at the same time. I wanted to yell at him for not telling us it was him at the beach, but I didn’t say a word. I just stared in disbelief that I honestly thought I might die. It then seemed so dramatic for not even being real… but my feelings and fear were real. I remember hugging Louis (who was no older than 18) after and he was still laughing and shaking, but you could see in his eyes that he was so scared. It was like one big nightmare we had just woken up from. After things calmed down people went their separate ways, but a small group of us stayed in the common area. People were very kind to me and could see how shaken up I still was.. I remember sitting in the chair just shaking - as tears ran down my face, wishing I could pull myself together, but I kept thinking how real everything was to us when we were down at the beach. That it could have easily been real and that we all had been acting way too comfortable in a country where we really knew nothing and we had no one to protect us. That we really were all alone, with no security and no one over the age of 25, in a house in the middle of Kenya, surrounded by dark trees and dirt paths…
It makes you wonder – why did we choose to travel alone, all so young from different parts of the world, to a place so dangerous and full of corruption?