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I Don’t Want to Come Home October 16, 2010

Posted by Mike O in people.

The title says it all.  I deal with such marvelous people here.  Rita Nyamwiza, savior an Wonder Woman, is on the way to this cafe to return my camera from a grand adventure described below:

Savior, Goddess, CEO of Getting Things Done; whatever title Ritah Nyamwiza wants, I’d gladly try to get for her. She has really saved my bacon here.  I’ve been taking too much risk for too long and it finally caught up with me, but not nearly as bad as it could have and- because of Ritah’s tremendous efforts- all of the real damage was undone and all that was left was a little ‘education’ cost to me and three professional thieves are in prison.
I came back from Sabina on a much later bus than Ritah had realized and she was left cooling her heels for several hours waiting for me.  I was vastly overloaded on the return trip, still carrying all the stuff for Winnie (her laptop DID allow me to maintain a journal, however).  But, more importantly, I was carrying far more cash (most in safer American currency) than I should have: $3,300 in US- buried deep inside the laptop case- and about 650,000 Ugandan Shillings (nearly $300) in my left cargo pocket, as well as maybe $100 of mixed currency in my left front pocket.  NOT a good way to arrive in the nightmare of shoulder to shoulder crowding around the New bus park (which is being struck by the bus drivers to demand that the recently increased fees be rolled back).
Ritah and a young man found me at the bus with Peter, a young security guard I’d struck up with. Ritah and the young man took charge of the other bags and I retained the laptop case that I had around my neck.  Peter went his way after a bit and I followed behind Ritah.  However, I’m big and awkward and a little separation occurred- very likely deliberately generated by people in the mob scene.
Suddenly, there was a big guy blocking my path- clearly deliberately so. I hestitated, prepared defensive and barged by him.  I knew it was trouble and my passport coming flying back to me from the crowd confirmed. It.  My camera- in the small bag on my right hip- was gone.  Along with the critical pictures and video, taken to take back to Jetpay and to document the sorry condition of textbooks.  The pictures and video taken were worth far more than the camera.
I was hit by a standard 3-person team; a blocker (and obvious enforcer), a pickpocket and a ‘bag man’ who instantly takes charge of whatever gets taken, in case the pickpocket gets pegged.  Ritah took charge, got me and the baggage to a safe spot among the taxis and vendors, called in reinforcements (Esther Gray; so glad to meet her!) and set to work.  Within the hour, she had informed the police, who actually knew the names of the three person team, who were taken into custody shortly thereafter.  They confessed to taking the passport, but claimed not to have the camera.  Ritah said to let her work the issue on the angle of paying a reward for the camera as a trap to the men and it is apparent she a good part of Saturday doing just that while Winnie and I went to graduation. By evening, she had the camera (with the chip) and the three were in prison.
This whole incident was a lesson: that we Americans are not always the most observant and lack common ‘street-‘ sense, that big city criminal patters are the same worldwide (we have such three-parson teams in this country), and the one thing unique in this case: the incredible promise of this place, primarily due to phenomenally wonderful people here, from the street vendors who ‘baby-sat’ the Mzungu, to the drivers and police who helped locate the thieves, and- most of all- Ritah Nyamwiza, my resourceful, intelligent, articulate savior who I cannot possibly thank adequately for her efforts.  If my son were to find a young lady that was 1% the total package that Ritah is, I’d be proud to call her daughter-in-law.



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