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Can you believe that in the 8 months I have been living here a guy has touched me up and I’ve had my bag stolen? Me! A 26 year old, who has been traveling alone for 4 years. I’ve had to handle myself in countries where I didn’t know the language and knew no one. I’ve had to learn to be independent and stay safe in different countries. How I was wrong when I thought I knew it all. I know I have lived a sheltered life but I changed that by traveling and now I am here in Makassar and I have seen so much. I now know that I’m not safe, no matter how much I know and where I go.

My boyfriend, who is from Makassar, always tells me of the dangers around and how I should be more careful when driving home at night. He always says, ‘Listen to me. I know what sort of people live here in Makassar.’ But did I listen to him? No. Why? I didn’t think he knew what it was like for me. I am used to being on my own and everything has been OK. But maybe I was lucky. I thought, ‘Of course I can handle myself here. He doesn’t need to worry. I’m fine.’

However, everything isn’t what it seems. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Driving home at night has never been safe but I love staying out with my friends. For 7 months I’ve driven home and kept my wits about me even though my boyfriend said it was dangerous. Then one night I set off on my motorbike, no one was around me, and when I turned right at the traffic lights 2 guys came out of nowhere, driving so fast, and before I knew it I saw them driving off with my bag. I couldn’t believe it.  My laptop and all my bankcards were in there.  It shook me up so much I started to cry and I was shaking. I called me boyfriend and we went straight to the police station. You know what they said, ‘Hmm, do you want to report the crime? Maybe you can come back tomorrow.’ Really! This is why there are so many criminals because the police are too lazy to do anything about it.

Anyway, I cancelled all my credit cards and now I just feel happy I wasn’t hurt and also frustrated that these guys could be anyone. I could be sitting across from them in a cafe and I wouldn’t know. What’s worse is that they must have watched me leave the cafe to take my bag so easily, which was placed beneath my legs. However, this can happen all over the world. I just didn’t realize that driving home on a bike, instead of a car, could put you at a higher risk of these dangers.  Never underestimate the local people.

Then there is the time a male masseuse had the cheek to feel me inappropriately while my Indonesian friends where in the next room. The masseuse, who I had never met before, always goes to my friend’s house to give them massages and they all suggested I should get one. But I felt uncomfortable sitting in the room with everyone watching me, it isn’t relaxing and I hate being center of attention. They all kept insisting it was all right and they won’t look but I was still shy. So I went into the side room and left the door open.

It started off amazing. Good technique and good strength. Then he started to massage my stomach under my top and slightly grazing over my breasts. I thought, ‘Hmmm, this is weird but it could be an accident.’ I’ve had massages from women before and they have always come close to my breasts, so I thought this guy was just following the same technique. It made me feel uncomfortable but I didn’t want to offend him, as he was a masseuse and knew the areas I needed massaging. Why would he want to do anything else? Especially when everyone was in the next room. I felt too embarrassed to say anything and accuse him of touching me inappropriately.

Then as soon as he started massaging my right leg he went up my thigh and pressed against my pelvis bone. I thought ‘What the hell is happening?’ I told my boyfriend and asked if this was normal and he went crazy. He told me he shouldn’t be doing that. I now look back on it and think why didn’t I say anything? Just because you don’t want to offend someone doesn’t mean you should let yourself be in an uncomfortable situation.

This is why my boyfriend and his friends wanted me to get a massage in the room with everyone there. I didn’t think about this situation happening because in England nothing like this would ever happen. Now I feel stupid for not speaking up sooner and calling for my boyfriend. I feel guilty because I did not listen to my boyfriend and made him feel angry by allowing the situation to happen. I also feel embarrassed because I wanted to go into another room and I allowed him to touch me. But it wasn’t like that at all. Why, oh, why didn’t I tell him to stop?

I have always thought that it wouldn’t happen to me and if it does I would be able to get out of it. But I was wrong and I admit it.

OK, so I am independent but that doesn’t stop the dangers from happening. Just because you can handle yourself doesn’t mean you should put yourself in a bad situation. My boyfriend always tells me how to be careful because I don’t know Makassar people like he does. Listen to those who you’re close and are from the city you are living in because they know the place better than you. You have to be careful of everyone around you no matter where you are.