Fear and Sisterhood
I have only found fear in the presence of excitement; I can recall very few moments in my existence that I have genuinely feared for my life.
Actively pursuing and seeking out activities that will scare me, helps to eliminate what I see as unnecessary fear.
Trepidation should never stop the pursuit of adventure, especially while traveling.
When expressing my interest in traveling to Colombia to the people closest to me, I could see their faces filled with worry.
Thanks to a mixture of historical events and Hollywood, people have unfavorable perceptions of Colombia.
I had heard to be cautious as one would in any large city, there was the talk of petty theft, but no discussion of actual dangerous or life-threatening situations.
I knew from locals that the police were virtually useless and when cases did occur resolution rarely was found.
In the beginning, these thoughts were at there very forefront of my mind and guarding myself against them was a daily action.
I would partake in the precautions of most tourist, holding my bags in front of me with my hands placed directly on them, or continually scanning the area for signs of danger.
After three weeks of travel that feeling began to wear off, and after a few stints in small beachside towns, I had quickly forgotten my vigilant city nature.
I started to relax and melt into the heat of the city, focusing on having fun and even partaking in some sketchy actions most travelers would not even attempt.
After traveling from Colombian town to Colombian town without any issue, I looked forward to some real partying in the salsa capital of the world.
Cali, Colombia was a city like most major South American cities, it had a sprawling downtown with party hubs all over the city.
The town moved with the fast pace of the thousands of motorbikes that made up most of the traffic.
Vendors littered the streets selling everything from fruit to payphone services.
The week was Semana Santa, a holy week where most things were closed and finding entertainment or even a grocery store was farfetched.
Myself, Farren and our new friend Liv (lee-you) from Denmark were dead set on finding anything to do in the city.
We had all come to learn Salsa and dance with the rhythm of Cali.
We headed to La Topa, a club that our cocaine-dealing uber driver recommended.
When we entered, I became caught in a whirlwind of dance.
Men and women were flying across the room in a frenzy of frilled dresses and jet black dress shoes.
Women were being dipped dramatically; men were clapping their hands in time with the rhythm of stomping feet.
We were in the midst of it, a sweaty red room where everyone breathed salsa.
Admittedly I felt overwhelmed and as I looked over at my girls their face communicated solidarity.
As we stood in the middle of this salsa frenzy, its nature became overwhelming.
We decided to leave maybe gather some more energy and become more inebriated before we took to that particular dance floor.
We heard of another bar less than half a mile away by the name of La Terraza, this place known for its hip-hop and loose rules on the indulgence of cannabis.
This club seemed more our speed, we hurriedly ran from La Topa to a busy street and proceeded to walk less than half a mile to the next party.
As we began to walk, I can say honestly that perhaps our actions on the walk transformed us from three strong and ready women to targets.
We had started taking videos of our tipsy nature laughing and submerging ourselves in the warm Colombian night.
There on the street two men watched us with following eyes.
We had grown accustomed to stares; we even had become accustomed to the particular brand of catcalling that comes with travel in South America.
So when the two men began to stare, we thought nothing of it.
As we walked to the next club the streets became more deserted, the hundreds of people from the previous club seemed to disappear.
We ended up in a small underpass, with one other couple present.
We smoked half a joint a decided that La Terraza was closed for the holiday, the street in front of the club was uncharacteristically empty, and no music emitted into the air.
We turned back around and began to walk quickly to the populated yet intimidating club.
The men that eyed us before began to yell to us audibly.
It started with," un besito" which means a little kiss, then followed by asking for money.
We issued a stern "Buenos Noches" and continued at a more rapid pace.
The men were relentless and began following us.
Liv and I prepared ourselves for a physical altercation, the tension in the spaces between us seemed to be leading that way.
The men persisted, and we were ready for a fight.
One man walked into the street; he was skinny with clothes apparently too big for his small frame.
He frantically looked both ways to make sure there wasn't any traffic or person around.
He reached into his pants and pulled out a shiny pistol with a black handle.
He shot in the air.
My instinct to fight left me entirely, and I then for the first time felt real fear.
Fear for my life, fear for my friend's lives, and a complete loss of trust for the place I was currently.
As the shot rang through the air, a scream left Farren's mouth.
The men violently asked for our belongings.
Liv gave up her phone, Farren lost her debit card and around 40 dollars and probably because I do not carry a purse I lost none of my belongings.
However, I would have given up all of my belongings to regain the thing I did lose, my sense of security.
I realized that because of my stature I hadn't ever seen myself in the role of the victim.
That night outside the nearest liquor store, I stared at my sisters under an all too bright fluorescent light.
A mixture of exhaustion and shock moved across our faces.
We wanted to go back out but couldn't find the energy inside ourselves to salvage our evening.
We called a cab, went back to our apartment in the safer part of town.
We sat up all night in mostly silence, angry tears streamed down my face, as I put to rest my false sense of strength and security.
I asked Liv to sleep in my bed that night. I do not know precisely why but having her near me was comforting.
She had been right alongside me prepared to fight any intruder and that night we both, if only for a moment, had our warrior spirits drained.
As the sun rose the following morning, we assessed the damages. We got dressed, ate breakfast and proceeded.
All we could do was continuously recap the evening in hopes of finding some solace in the memory.
All I could gain from that evening is that we had gone through some pretty real shit, together.
From that moment on I knew that these two women were profoundly apart of me. They had seen me in my most vulnerable state, a state that I had not imagined existed.
In the weeks to come, we recuperated our physical losses. However, I feel it might take some time to regain my fearless mentality.
We had our physical health, and I had forged a strong bond with these women. That's all I could ask.
Some nights later Liv and I went out again, this time finding a mecca of dance and safety.
Bar Malamaña was a safe space free of discrimination and violence.
I danced with professionals, even though my trust for men was at an all-time low (which I didn't even conceive to be possible).
I also got eyed up by a few women who were a complete surprise to me, given the climate of the culture.
Liv danced until her heels came off of her sandals.
We had salvaged ourselves from a dark place and rose like the sun does every day after darkness.
I looked back now grateful for this woman and her strength that accompanied mine.
My warrior sister in survival from worlds away.