So in my last post, I was complaining that I feel a bit like I am in prison – with all the work and safety issues, I can’t leave the hotel alone. We move from hotel to the car then to the next building then back, hardly walk anywhere, etc…. I haven’t really been alone except for sleeping in my room. Over the past 2 days, I got a bit closer to the reality as to why

We decided to go to a mall for lunch and do some shopping. Even though the mall was about 400 meters from the hotel – we drove. We enter the mall with full blown security scanning and I immediately feel as if I am in a gladiator arena. Imagine a round building with 3 floors going up, and you walk in on the ground floor. There are hundreds (and I mean hundreds) of young men standing over the railing looking down – and since we are the only white people or tourists anywhere, dressed in western clothes and I am the youngest and whitest with light hair – it feels as if 90% of those eyes are on me. Pictures are taken, videos are taken, everyone just stares…..constantly. They slow down and walk behind you or with you. So we walk into a store similar to H&M or so and there are men there as well, in women’s department just standing and watching. It feels creepy, intimidating and a bit scary… thankfully I stayed close to my two teammates, Colin and Tony who basically acted as my bodyguards (and big thank you to both of them for watching and staying close). We then walked to a restaurant for lunch where the staring continued, a few women asked to take a picture with us – one even asked for me to hold her baby (gorgeous little 2 months old with make up on!) and took a picture. It all felt very very surreal… and I couldn’t get out of there soon enough.

I had very mixed feelings – relieved that we are out, exhausted from being so alert, disappointed that I will not be able to see or do anything by myself, sad for all the other women who live here everyday, worried for any of the women traveling here alone.

This happens pretty much anywhere we go – and are not in the car – so I am not complaining that we drive even 100 meters or go from hotel to a building or restaurant anymore. Just a bit disillusioned that women have to go thru this everyday .. and many of them without the safety net of my car, hotel or friends.