So it all pretty much happened like Jimmy said; I just thought I would share my thoughts on the event as well. So like Jimmy said it was around 4:15 pm and we had just given up on finding the smaller art gallery that we had been looking for and decided to start heading back to the main square with the opera house and metro station that was only a couple of blocks away. We made this decision on a very cool looking street architecturally speaking: it was all the old colonial buildings and mosaic tiled streets. But we were both realizing that we were the only tourist-types on the street, and in fact most of the people on the street were lazing about and seemed either homeless or just kind of scrubby. Despite this I felt relatively safe because it was still totally light outside and I thought we probably had just made a wrong turn somewhere and needed to get back to the main square to reorient ourselves so we could get back to our hotel.

I told Jimmy that I thought we should get off that street and he agreed and we heard some music and saw some tents set up and decided to cut through what appeared to be a street fair because there were lots of people and families and it seemed like it would be fun to go through it. However the stuff wasn’t all that cool (mostly cheaply made futbol fan paraphernalia which just isn’t my scene) and it was super crowded – kind of like too bustling – with accidental bumping into peoples and kids jumping out in front of you and the like. After we walked through it awhile I saw a gap to a new street and I said that I had had enough of the street fair and was ready to go back to the hotel.

So we squeezed out between some booths and looked ahead and saw that we only had one block more to get to the main old square again. And I remember thinking, if not saying aloud, that this looked like a good street to go down ( by the way, in case you’re wondering, this was indeed the street we got mugged on). However, it seemed okay at the time because the buildings on it were newer and kept up really nice and there were a bunch of people up ahead on it.

So we started walking down the street and about a quarter of the way down we passed through the crowd of people who were mostly middle class and business workers who were waiting for the bus. I was still feeling pretty good about the street when about 1/2 way down it I noticed the business/worker types had been replaced by skinny old homeless men, adjusting their cardboard sleeping mats on the ground for the night. But I could also see we weren’t that far away from the corner and i knew we would pass through the area quickly since me and Jimmy tend to be fast walkers.

When all-of-a-sudden I felt someone walking so close behind me they were brushing up against me and I immediately got a really bad feeling! Then again, all-of-a-sudden, two men behind me and Jimmy took Jimmy roughly by the shoulders and pinned him up against what at the time I thought was a painted plywood wall of a newspaper stand, but since have realized was metal because all the newspaper stands here are concrete and metal. I felt really disoriented and couldn’t figure out what was happening – it was like I knew we were being robbed but I couldn’t figure out why – it was kind of like my brain stopped working. The whole thing was going really fast – at the time I rememebered having a fleeting thought that everything was happening too fast, and directly afterward I thought the whole thing may have taken a totel of 20-30 seconds, but upon reflection I think it actually took much less time even than that.

All of my memories at this point are a jumbled mess in part because at the time my thoughts themselves were a jumbled mess but let me recount them as I can:

1. I know there were two guys but I only remember what one of them looked like- the one I remember is the one that was closer to me who was also the one doing the punching. I thought he was in his 30s or maybe even 40s – he was skinny and short – at least I remember thinking he was the same height as myself and i am only 5’3″, but upon reflection he must have been much bigger and taller than me because i could never really see what was going on because he was totally blocking my view. I remember his face being wrinkled in rage thouh I mostly only saw the guys’ backs since i was behind them. Also upon reflection I have decided that my memory of what the guys looked like may actually be my memory of an old skinny man adjusting his mat on the floor instead of what the guys really looked like. Again it happened super fast and I wouldn’t be able to pick them out of a line up of I was asked.

2. One of the guys flicked Jimmy’s hat off and it fell on the dirty sidewalk and I remember thinking that that was so rude and uncalled for even if they were going to take our money. I picked it up quickly and asked aloud “why did you do that?”

3. I remember not being able to see anything and being really worried about jimmy because I couldn’t see him and I couldn’t really tell what was going on and if he was okay. So I kept crowding up behind the muggers trying to see what they were doing and poking my head between their shoulders and I remember seeing the one punch Jimmy in the stomach with his right hand while trying to keep Jimmy pinned against the wall with his left hand. The whole time, the other guy was holding Jimmy up against the wall on the right side.

4. I remember feeling confused as to why they were only focusing on Jimmy and vaguely concluding and discarding the idea that it was because I was a woman – upon reflection they probably figured that Jimmy had all the goods (which he did) because he had a messenger bag and I didn’t have a purse or anything, and I was wearing skinny jeans so they could probably tell I didn’t have anything in my pockets.

5. I remember feeling frustrated because I couldn’t understand what they or Jimmy were saying since nao falou portugues (I don’t speak Portuguese). Except for the occaisional word or phrase Jimmy would yell out in English among the Portuguese like “what do you want?” and “hold on” and “I don’t have any more money” but it might have been me saying those things – I can’t really remember.

6. I remember for a short time being afraid that they might really hurt Jimmy or maybe even kill him- these thoughts crossed my mind right after the guy punched Jimmy low down in the gut. I was afraid he might have stabbed Jimmy with a knife but I couldn’t really see anything, but my heart dropped to my stomach and I felt sick to my stomach at the thouht and I grabbed at his arm trying to swat it away so I could see better. I could see that it wasn’t a knife only a weak punch because Jimmy didn’t react at all to it – he was is so brave. In another brief moment I could see them trying to pull Jim’s messenger bag off over his head but I again saw Jimmy was grabbing onto it tightly and he had a fierce face and he was yelling something in Portugues (I don’t know what) and he looked dangerous or desperate or both. And I remember thinking it was going to get worse and I thought that if it did, I would have to do my best to fight.

7. I remember thinking around this time when everything was most intense that I should probably run and get help since they were basically ignoring me but hurting Jimmy, but I didn’t and I couldn’t because I remember feeling that i couldn’t just leave Jimmy- that I had to be there for him, like that somehow magically my presence during the situation would make everything okay. In retrospect that was really stupid of me because they could have had weapons and could have really hurt Jimmy and me, and even though that wasn’t the case I also wasnt much help to Jimmy because I was just basically standing there anyways.

8. I remember at various isolated moments not feeling scared at all- even though I thought in my head that this is dangerous and I should probably feel scared. I also felt detached like it was probably just a dream and I just needed to get through it so I could get on to the next thing.

9. I remember praying “God keep us safe; God don’t let them hurt Jimmy; Heavenly Father please please please help us get through this.”

10. Right when it seemed like it was going to turn into a fight or a beating or whatever the case, I remember the crowd at the bus stop starting to holler at the muggers and start toward us led by a tall man who had his fist raised in the air and I remember the homelsee men acting confused and Jimmy shaking them off and us grabbing each others’ arms and Jimmy saying “let’s go -now” and “walk quickly!” as we got away from there and back to the metro as fast as we could walk/jog my head still spinning with what had just happened and not quite sure if we were out of danger yet.

I don’t know why we didn’t run – we’re both good runners and making a run for it probably would have been a good option at any point throughout the ordeal but I never even thought of it. I also never thought of yelling. I also didn’t do much of anything except pray and swat at the guys’ arms and reproach them in English and act like the totally confused tourist I was who couldn’t think while being mugged. And upon reflection, I really think this whole thing occured in 10 seconds, maybe even less. And at the end of it all I just wanted to sit everyone down and ask them what their experience was throughout the event, and what their motivations were and what were they thinking during it and what they thought upon reflection. I still would like to do this exercise including the muggers and the people at the bus stop and the security guards another hundred feet ahead of us who were just beginning to poke their heads out of the building they were guarding… and everyone, just so I can understand it all better. Because the feeling I am left with after all of this is still one of confusion. I was at least able to talk with jimmy about it afterwards howcver, and it was the differences in our perceptions of the events and jimmy’s encouragement that have led to me writing this, my second blog entry on our trip. I hope you have found it interesting and let me stress again that both me and Jimmy are totally fine and still traveling, though I must admit that sadly I have felt like being less adventurous and more wary in my travels since the mugging, albeit admittedly more safe.

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Written by Laura Rowley

I am an artist, flight attendant, and travel blogger.

2 comments

  1. So sorry to hear what happened to you guys in Rio, but glad to know you’re safe and not harmed, what did they take from you? I hope the rest of your trip pass without unfortunate events.

  2. Wow I am so glad you guys made it out of there! It is such a scary event, I am so sorry! I just can’t even imagine. I’m so grateful that some people came and scared them off, and I hope the rest of your trip is much less eventful!

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