while i was in Kenya, i can rarely pinpoint a time where i truly felt in danger. there were definitely times i felt uncomfortable, or like i was in the wrong place, but nothing too terrifying. i can recall only one specific moment where flight or fight came into play: when there was a man on the beach. now, i stayed in a volunteer house, backed right up to a palm tree path down to the Indian Ocean. the back porch was open with some day beds, a table, and some (broken) chairs.
before i really get going, i’d like to mention how it gets dark in Kenya right around 6pm. and when i say “right around” i really mean exactly at 6pm…it just gets pitch black. before dinner we would need to use a flashlight to even get up the path to our house.
with that in mind, i want to tell you the time in which this event took place, but i can’t. all i know if that it was really dark when two volunteers came sprinting up the path, up the stairs, and onto the porch. in between gasps of air and exhales full of tears i could make out Karissa saying, “there’s a man…on the beach…coming towards us…”
oh, and Louis threw in something about Jack still being down there.
just as quickly as our scattered brained reaches Jack’s name, he also came hurrying up the path and practically diving onto the porch pale and a little bit greenish. i can remember him saying something like, “those guys just left me!” as he pointed towards Louis and Karissa. hearing people talk about the man, he said, “he’s following me!”
immediately, myself, and other clever volunteers ran into the house. Karissa was trying to get out the front door, which was locked a little while earlier when our cook, Florence, went home (it had something to do with our house curfew that didn’t really exist). i was frozen and Jonah grabbed an umbrella that it could really fight off a stalking Kenyan. all the while, Chris was calling the security that had just visited out house a few days earlier to talk about safety protocol and how “Kenyan men don’t just break in. they break in and rape.” COOL.
two people were scurrying to close the double (glass) doors and get the small bolt locked on the doors to the porch as fast as possible when someone projected, “he’s on the porch…”
my heart then sank to my stomach and i couldn’t help but think my parent’s worst nightmare of their child getting killed abroad was actually coming true. the one time in my life i took a huge leap and did something on my own (with my roommate) and i’m going to get killed for it. how. lousy.
During the hustle i kept picturing the man circling Jack, Karissa, and Louis down on the beach. they said his arms were hanging down, away from his body. he walked towards the water, then back towards them. he got closer. and closer. and then Karissa ran, leaving Louis with the only option to follow. but for some reason, Jack stayed. later, he claimed, “I was just…frozen.”
I then pictured the moment Jack did start back towards the house. first, walking slowly, then a little quicker, and then full out sprinting when he realized the big shadow of a man was still coming towards him.
finally, the madness stopped. Matt was standing on the porch questioning why everyone was running away from him and why the house was full of screaming volunteers, terrified Karissa, and still-pale Jack.
it turns out, Matt had circled them because, like i said before, it was really dark on the beach and he couldn’t tell if the three shadows by the bushes were the three people he was looking for. rightly, he did not want to wander up to three random Kenyan’s on the beach at night. in the dark. alone. he also claimed he had shouted their names but the strong sound of the ocean behind him covered his voice.
even with the relief of it only being Matt, people were left shaking. Chris was once again on the phone with security telling them it was a false alarm and that the whole house apologizes. surprisingly, they had already gotten to the beach and cleared the area (which was actually really assuring of our promised safety).
a few of us, still a little wound up with adrenaline, sat in the common room discussing what had just happened. i can recall one volunteer, Ashlea, bringing up how stupid she must be: when everyone else ran away, she ran towards the porch so she could see who was out there or something…
this just goes to show that some fight responses are drastically different from one another. for example, Jonah grabbed an umbrella to fight and Ashlea just went bare handed. There are also other degrees of flight. I chose to fly into a corner and cringe while Karissa attempted to fly right out of the front of the house.
one of my friends in high school was always so certain he would be the only one to live in a potentially life threatening situation. if a killer came into the basement he would throw something at him and run…he had a few of these situations played out in his head and for some reason he was always the only one who got away. part of me kind of wanted to see him in a dangerous situation. this way, i could see if his body really did act how his mind thought it would.
flight or fight aside, adrenaline and terror can make people do some interesting things.