Thursday, April 29, 2010
I'll Shoot Your Picture, If You Promise to not Shoot Me
After my morning Spanish class, my interrogator warned me about the inviting bombs I was hearing going off.
"The taxi drivers are protesting. It's not safe."
"Oh, and, you know, to be totally safe, what areas should I, say, avoid?"
"Other areas are safe, but don't go to the central park."
And, here I fought through all my logic that was telling me not to go. But for you, passionate and loyal reader, I dashed home, blinked at my no-name off-shore catastrophic health insurance, grabbed my camera, lied to my new foster parents, and hauled ass towards central park.
Really, it's not my fault. For in my past, I survived a year of teaching kindergarten. I have since had an adjusted sense of danger. Anyway, off I sprinted to the front lines.
Immediately, I noticed that, for some reason, the streets were completely bare. Well except, of course, this unruly gang of thugs heading my way. I could smell the strong moonshine of their breath even before I could see their blood-shot and dilated eyes.
"And a good day to you, group of thugly thugs."
Now at close range, maximum impact, yes, I could see, without a doubt, that they possesed 60mm homemade mortar guns armed with gun powder, nails and stuffed with a general lack of concern for anyone's safety.
While I was being sized up, I was counting the odds. 25:1 Mmmmm. My internal think tank now confirmed pessimistic probabilities. The had 8 guns, 4 backpacks with flash bombs and 7 visible machetes. I sadly fingered some sand I had in my pocket. Crap.
Standing in front of each other, nothing was happening. I knew that this wouldn't last. So, I thought I'd catch them off guard by drawing first.
"Ah, hah!" I quickly swung my camera in front. I'd disarm them with flattery.
Wait, would they think I was offering my camera for exchange of my life?
Crap, now they'll take my camera and force me to take tough-guy pictures of them for their thug trading cards.
"Yes, take our picture!"
Do I really have an option when you have forward shooting pipe bombs?
Pictures were taken, I was offered a swig from a gas can and each hombre slurred their story to me. I was in the precarious and vulnerable position of being surrounded by this crack squad. Craig what are you doing? Please! You are not some photographer for Vice Magazine. You have no idea what you are doing. True dat! And plus, there's even more gratuitous danger at the central park. You's gots to get going!
Best wishes, street sentries. I'm off to Spanish class.
"...Muy importamente, no?"
An escort? Too kind, too kind! Next time Thanks, though!
Walking backwards and facing da crew, I continued to wave goodbye until I was well around the corner.
As I approached central square, I could see it was barricaded at all entrances. I was grateful for my lack of understanding of Spanish when the police officers barked something as I skirted the barricade and strolled into the central square.
In the central square, I discovered that there were smoldering tires at every corner. I saw scores of taxis parked blocking access routes. I saw no tourists. Perfect.
It seems that the current taxis drivers didn't like the mayor's idea to sell more taxi permits as this would mean more competition for work with the current available taxis. To communicate their side, the taxi drivers had stormed the downtown municipal building and were currently defending their captured downtown central park.
I observed from a kind of safe distance as taxi protesters surrounded scab taxi drivers' cars and slashed their tires with sharpened screw drivers. Rocks were being thrown and more crude mortar guns were being flashed.
I wasn't too worried about my safety as I observed locals still enjoying a fresh panini in the central park restaurant. These patrons had front row seats for the action and sipped sun tea watching the show as if it were a cricket match.
The taxi protesters would position themselves at one corner of the square guarding against any intruders...only to run to another side when a taxi guard saw oncoming movement. This was frustrating as they ignored my complaints that the light was terrible at the other corner for pictures.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
A series of loud explosions articulated that things were changing . While everyone else knew that they were just big homemade firecrackers--I didn't.
Okay, so, I might have dribbled a little bit. But, I will not deny or confirm this fact. I was convinced the police had gotten bored and were Kent-University shooting into the crowd. I wasn't worried that I was being targeted but more worried about a stray bullet clipping one of my ears or goring one of my internal organs.
As others were howling, running, jumping or responding to the explosions by letting off more explosions, I was the dumbass sprint-crawling on my knobby knees and elbows from one unprotective shrubbery to the next. Remembering what I'd read, I stood up and then ran in a perfect zig-zag form making an inefficient dash for the green-zone of the panini restaurant.
My body whispered to me. Please, dear sir, we are tender and sensitive. Please take care of us.
BOOM! BOOM! BOOM! BOOM!
I felt a phantom vibration in my pocket from the cell phone I did not have. Mobs were fleeing in chaos, car alarms were wailing, people were shrieking, glass was being shattered, and two more panini sandwiches were being ordered. I tried to hide behind my stainless steel water bottle--I am a total genius.
Stalled cars were being picked up by a mob and were being dropped to block the street.
While I was crouching behind a fallen plastic chair for, you know, protection, I knew that already my parents were going to ground me via email--fair enough.
I spotted an ice cream cart. Perfect. But, I mixed up what I was doing and crawled furiously but in a zig-zag fashion over to the ice cream cart. I figured that internationally everyone recognizes that ice cream trucks and ice cream carts are neutral in conflict zones. I made a wiser decision to use the ice cream cart as a shielded escort as we wheeled it out of the war zone.
As I'd already skipped half of my afternoon Spanish class risking my life, I decided it was most appropriate to spend the rest of the afternoon taking pictures at the local cemetery.