I Was Lucky to be Robbed at Gunpoint
Even a terrible experience can give you good lessons
It was dark. We were in Cuba. Two men approached, and one pulled out a gun on me and my parents. They took everything we had, patted us down, and ran.
We got back to our residence with no clue what to do. Can we get our stuff back? Are we okay? What do we do without phones?
This is a situation I never thought I would be in. This is a situation that changed my life forever.
I cried all night, cradled by my mother in a twin-sized bed. I felt panicked. I felt nauseous. I thought it was just the stress of staring at the barrel of a gun and the thought of my first camera being stolen. When I got up the next morning, the nausea was killing me. I tried to eat something, but I ran to the bathroom, and then I realized it was more than trauma. I had food poisoning.
All I had in Cuba was a book (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest for my high school class), sudoku puzzles, and two empty notebooks. I did not care to read at the time, but this book was all I had; I found enjoyment in reading it. Now, I’m a big reader. We returned home and remained without phones for about a month. It was a nice refresher for me, a girl who doesn’t remember a life without a phone. Everything was finally okay, except my stomach. I was horribly chronically ill for over a year.
The Cuba trip taught me more than any school ever could.
I realized just how privileged I was — a girl from a free country in a middle-class family. We saw grocery stores with all of four items on the shelves: rice, beans, shampoo, and conditioner. Food was difficult to find. Water was difficult to find. My parents split two hard-boiled eggs with me as our food for the day.
People were suffering, but they still had immense pride in their country and culture. The people made this trip special. I met a man missing a leg from swimming with the sharks to Florida just to find freedom. He did not make it, had to turn back, and watched the water turn from blue to red as his people died right before his eyes.
We did what most people do before the trip and emptied our refrigerator so no food would spoil. Most people would come home to a full pantry and freezer saying “I’m starving. We have no food.” When we came back, we had so much more food than we ever could imagine: rice, beans of all kinds, noodles, broths, canned goods, and a freezer filled with frozen food. Frozen Trader Joe’s meals were luxurious. They never tasted so good.
We could have lived off of that food for a month. We realized on that trip that no matter how much you are a “picky eater,” when you are starving, food is food. Being a picky eater is a bit ridiculous. You should appreciate every meal you have, especially when there are millions struggling to find their next meal every day. I have never used the words “I’m starving” again.
Despite how many problems the United States had at the time (the beginning of the pandemic in 2020), I could have kissed the ground returning home. We were all emotional returning because our passports were almost stolen, and we very well could still have been stuck there to this day.
Our bond as a family grew much stronger. We felt so lucky to have a nice big house to spend lockdown in. It was not even a bad time in the slightest; we made it fun. We watched episodes of SNL from season one each night, we played games, and I had time to paint. When you are in a situation similar to us in Cuba, you realize how nice the time is to relax in your home, and how special the people you are with are. We really made it a priority to spend time with each other, and we had genuine fun.
Honestly, we all could have died that day. Our lives are more precious than anything stolen.
Had we not been robbed that day, I do not think I would have learned such an important lesson. Stuff is just stuff. Stuff is replaceable, but people are not.
Sure, it made me more street-smart. I only carry what I absolutely need to this day. I moved to Chicago, which actually helped me face the trauma enough to move past it, but if I am ever robbed again, as long as I am okay, that’s all that matters.
AUTOR: Zoe Kuhn