The Stolen Dollar

2010 February 17

After our trip up to our market trip in Kinshasa, we fixed up bread with tomatoes, avocado, and cucumber and had sandwiches. Then we decided to go find some phone credit and exchange some money to local currency. Instead of heading left on the street toward the market, we headed right. I had a $50 in my pocket. After buying phone cards and some credit for $14, I exchanged the rest of the money. I got a huge stack of 500franc bills. Exchange rate is 900, so I got something like 32,000 in 500 bills. I stuffed that into my pants pocket, but put a small stack of bills in my shirt pocket so I could buy something small if I wanted to without hauling out the big wad in my pants pocket.

After finishing our short "shopping list," Melody and I decided to continue walking a little further to see if we could find access to the Congo river. We were close and could see it down some small streets, but decided that leaving the main street would not be the safest thing to do, especially in this city.

As we were walking, I saw two rough-looking guys smoking. They eyed us and said something as we walked by, and I just ignored them. Within a few seconds, I saw their shadows approaching us from behind. One guy grabbed my arms from behind so I couldn't reach forward and the other guy scurried around to my front and snatched something from my shirt pocket. I purposefully had nothing of high monetary value in the pocket, but my notebook was there and it had some phone numbers and other important information. The phone cards and credit were also there. Anyway, the men ran off scared. I decided to not pursue them but to continue walking as if nothing had happened. I said nothing to them, and I didn't check my pocket; we just kept walking. Thankfully, they could see that Melody had no pockets and did not bother her.

Shortly thereafter we crossed the road and tried to flag down a taxi. Every taxi on that side of the road was crammed full of people. A fairly well-dressed man was also waiting for a taxi. I watched as a shiny car pulled up and the man got in. They offered us a ride, as well. After a brief sizing up of the situation, I determined that this option was safer than walking back past the thieves. We got a ride back to the guest house and the man would not even let me pay him $1 for the ride. He was very nice mannered and carried on a bit of conversation with me. Before he dropped us off, he gave me his phone number in case I needed anything else. He was so nice that we wondered if he was an angel. I didn't try calling his number. Maybe I should have.

Back at the guest house I checked my pocket. I still had my notebook, a bit of small change, and all my phone cards and credit. Only 5 bills were missing: one 500 and 4 100s, totaling 900 francs or $1! Why did the man not try to grab everything in my pocket? Why did he only grab some of the change? It would have been easier for him to grab everything in my pocket rather than select something.

I thank God for His protection. Even if I had lost $36, it wouldn't have been that big of a deal. But the thieves got only $1. They didn't physically harm us. And we got a safe ride back to the guest house even though the taxis were full. God is good, and I'm a little wiser.

Jonathan