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A Local Encounter that Changed my Perspective - Different country, different rules

BOLIVIA | Thursday, 18 April 2013 | Views [259] | Comments [1] | Scholarship Entry

Our petrified faces were still pressed against the damp, roughly-plastered walls; our hands out-stretched above our trembling heads. We could taste the salty beads of sweat running down our faces as the machine guns smiled menacingly at our backs.

Just two hours earlier, my sister and I had been full of excitement as we’d set off to investigate the La Paz nightlife for the first time. Back then it was only the thin Andean air of Bolivia’s capital city that had made our breathing panicked and shallow, but now it was also fear. We’d simply been enjoying a well-deserved beer in a backstreet bar, when our innocent backpacker bubble had been irrevocably burst. A gang of balaclava-clad, machine gun-wielding police had stormed up the rickety wooden stairs, screaming at us in rapid Spanish. We were too stunned to offer any resistance as they easily dragged our limp bodies to our flimsy feet. Then, as we were held captive in the dark, cramped room, I could only look on in horror as they proceeded to throw small packages of white powder at our feet. Initial feelings of nervous confusion gave way to those of uncontrollable panic. I tried in vain to catch Anna’s attention in an attempt to reassure her, even though my own heart was about to burst through my chest in a last bid for freedom.

An hour later, this nightmare was still our predicament. Despite not being allowed to talk, move, or even use the toilet, my heart rate had slowed to that of a cheetah at full tilt. I’d begun to believe that we’d just been in the wrong place at the wrong time and that we’d be freed imminently. My lukewarm hopes were put on hold as we heard more footsteps, ascending slowly this time. Several senior policemen emerged from the staircase with nerve-wracking quietness, followed, disconcertingly, by a state television camera crew. Before I’d even begun to decipher the meaning of this latest development, the dazzling spotlights illuminated our backs, the huge camera began purring in anticipation, and the microphone beeped into life. As soon as the broad-shouldered, moustachioed Chief of Police uttered his first few triumphant sentences, any remaining hope left my quivering body. With an evil smirk etched upon his face, he began describing how the Bolivian Anti-Narcotics police, the FELCN, had successfully caught these international drug dealers in the act.

I hardly noticed as the camera recorded my face. I didn’t even try to protest my innocence; it didn’t seem to matter anymore.

Tags: Travel Writing Scholarship 2013

Comments

1

So are you still in Bolivia? were you held captive?

  ann Apr 18, 2013 11:26 PM

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