Two Sides of Humanity
Last night I went out with someone from my hostel, determined to experience Barcelona’s nightlife. What started off as a solo trip to bars ended up turning into being accompanied by an Native American guy I met at my hostel. We went out to a bar, had a drink and then set off back to our hostel. The weather was perfect though a slight bit chilly and once we got to the hostel, we saw tons of people just hanging out for group chats along the beach so we thought, why not? Lets do the same. I headed into the Hostel to grab my new Barcelona Mandala styled mat and found a place along the beach to continue the great conversation we were having as to how and why we were traveling and what we have learned along the way. As we were talking, I noticed someone sit just feet behind us with another group of guys headed shortly behind him in our direction.
That’s when things began to head south.
These two drunk guys who I thought were homeless came up to us and as they got closer my friend told the one that approached us the closest to get back. The guy and my friend were both pretty worked up and seeing how a fight was about to happen I tried to keep the peace by staying in the middle trying to keep what I thought was a drunk exchange from turning into a violent one. After a few moments, the two guys began walking away still shouting things in Spanish at us. One of the men looked behind us clicking his wrists together still talking in Spanish, a gesture I thought was meant to say cops would arrest us if we fought him or something along those lines. What I did notice was him not looking at us doing the gesture, but rather passed us at the guy who was sitting behind us.
I went back to the conversation thinking that was the end to it all but shortly after a guy ran from behind me grabbing my jacket and purse and trying to run off. My friend ripped my jacket from his grasp thinking that was all that was taken but I started screaming when I looked around and saw my purse was also gone. I began frantically ripping everything from the sand in search for my purse already knowing what had happened but too stubborn to let myself come to terms with the fact that my purse was really gone. My friend took off running after him as I stayed behind ripping at the sand, searching for my belongings. I found nothing, tears were streaming down my face and my voice now hoarse from screaming and crying simultaneously. I looked over and noticed the other two men who first approached us were still standing 20 feet away, now with two other men.
I run up to them not caring about anything except for the slight possibility that my desperate disposition and pleas for my purse would somehow change their minds and help them realize how in need I was of my belongings. I gathered all the Spanish I could remember, begging for my purse insisting how much I needed it. They understood what I was looking for but I didn’t know what would have come from my pleas. All of a sudden, two of them began fighting the other two all screaming at the top of their lungs, me only understanding the words “bulsa” and “mobile”. I watched, crying as each turned on each other, fists hitting faces then the two-on-two fights turned into a three-on-one, with three guys beating one guy on the ground. I was so lost. Why were they fighting each other when they were part of me getting robbed? My friend arrived back telling me how the guy ran down an alleyway and hopped on a bike and was soon long gone. I began searching the sand again but without any luck and more screaming and fighting, I took off running screaming for passerbys to call the policia. When I was met with only unbothered expressions, I booked it straight to my hostel and rang the bell. Face covered in makeup and tears, I explained what happened and was told another girl had arrived ten minutes before me having had all of her belongings robbed at the same place.
The Police came and two other people from the hostel able to speak Spanish stuck by my side to help translate and accompanied me along the strip, searching trash cans hoping that whoever stole my purse took the phone and money but had thrown my purse with my passport and credit cards still in it. No luck…
Soon more police came and before you know it, there were ten police officers now with the original two men that first approached my friend and I when we were sitting on the beach They were both searched but still no purse was found. After two hours, endless questions, we all stood there with no lead on who had stolen the purse or where the guy had gone. I sat there crying, thinking of how I was checking out in a mere matter of hours and didn’t have a euro to my name. Everything was gone. I had no means of shelter or food til God knew when and there I was, standing cold on the beach with feelings of being violated and taken advantage of keeping my nerves in full force. I stood there blaming myself. I should have taken my purse when I noticed that guy sit just feet from us. I should have known that guy clicking his wrists was signaling the guy behind me to rob me. I should have just went home instead of sat on a beach. There were so many things I thought I should have done differently.
And then the girl beside me said I am not to blame. That was when it really sunk in, here I was blaming myself for being a good person and doing what anyone should do-embracing the fact that they are in Barcelona and sitting on the beach conversing with good company. I had no reason to be apologetic or indulge in self-blame. Being a solo traveler, you are careful. I walk with my satchel purse around my body hanging from my front. Anytime I am in large crowds I hold my purse by the zipper for extra precaution. These professional thieves sat there and watched me in my vulnerable state, one of the few times I wasn’t as careful as I normally am. They sat and they watched me and they took action. I was not to blame.
I went back to the hostel, defeated, exhausted, unable to do anything until a translator was available at the police station to advise me on what to do next. I stood at the front desk crying worried about where I would stay the next day.
That was when things began to head North.
The person at the front desk then pulled his wallet out and handed me enough money to get to the embassy and back to the hostel the next day. I thanked him so whole heartedly because I now had something to hold on to. I went to sleep, sort of. Recurrently dreaming of things that could have changed the scenario, scenes of the night before playing on replay. Before I knew, it was time to wake and handle the situation. I brushed my teeth, threw on an outfit and some shades to hide my puffy red eyes and went to the front desk. When asked about last night, it was water works part two or simply a continuation of the waterworks that dominated the late hours of Easter. From the other room, the girl who had also been robbed came out hearing me talk about the night prior and so we recounted what had happened to one another and the injustice of it all.
I headed out for the police station guided by a map, feeling a little ridiculous complaining about using an actual map to guide my way realizing it wasn’t too long before that people only got around using a map and not their iPhone. It took 45 minutes to get there on foot but when you are feeling so down time seems to stretch the distance into twice as long. I entered the police station and glanced over to another British girl crying on the phone with her credit card company trying to cancel the cards that were stolen from her. Another guy in line from New Zealand had been roofied by two girls the night before but his friend had been with him and noticed he needed medical attention immediately and he was now making a report. I waited in line, filed my complaint and was told the Embassy was closed for the day for Easter. At this point I was tired of the tears, but once again I was a blubbering mess.
I left the police station and it was then that my legs took on a mechanical rhythm, stepping ‘left, right, left, right’, when all the rest of me wanted to just give up and sit and not do a thing. It was that way that I was able to make it all the way back to my hostel. That walk home I looked at everything with so much appreciation, things that just yesterday I took for granted. I smelt food and wondered when the next time I would eat. I looked around at the happy care-free demeanors everyone had while I now looked everyone right in the face cautiously, making sure to take in details because I couldn’t even remember the guy’s face from last night. I wondered how long I would be stuck in Barcelona.
I made it back to the hostel and to my new friend, now bonded by the thieves of the night and our current pain. The front desk agreed to let me stay another night which then made an instant impact on my mood knowing I had a place to sleep. My new friend and I sat together trying to take all the measures of moving forward, cancelling our cards, reassuring our families we were safe. She then went upstairs and found a card that she had left behind and offered to take us both for dinner and some strawberry daiquiris. It seemed that just as quick as my bag was taken, everyone around me was falling into place to help me out of this horrible situation. People from home and throughout my travels filled my inbox with offerings of places to stay, food and advice on what to do the get back on my feet.
I was overwhelmed with gratitude for each and every one of these people. In a matter of hours I had experienced both extremes of humanity- the ones that take away happiness number few while the ones offering help numbered many. This exact situation made the whole situation seem so tiny. The fact that humanity is capable of such compassion and support in times of darkness.
My new friend and I went for food and drinks, finally able to break a laugh and a smile as we ate our burgers and sipped our drinks. We made sense of a situation, first coming from a standpoint of asking what bad thing had we done to deserve this to switching our mentality to look at it in a different light. Sometimes bad things happen because of past bad deeds but maybe sometimes bad things happen as a way for karma of telling us to slow down or else the blissful karma that is headed our way will be missed. Both of us had hit our travels running, nonstop go,go,go. After both of us getting robbed, we felt grounded and took a step away from our fast paced way of life and slowed down. Maybe we needed to be slowed in order to notice this great karma headed our way, as if to say if we moved too quickly we wouldn’t be able to notice it when it was finally there.
We finished our dinner and left on this positive note, now remaining as eachother’s strong hold as we deal with everything that is to come to get back on track.
At the end, I’m thankful.