The title sounds like a novel. Right?
Well, it’s not. This actually happened to me. Here’s my story.
Trust: On May 10, my first day in Manila, The Philippines (see the photo – a mix of skyscrapers and shanty towns, modern highways and back alleys), I took a walk from my hostel to see what was around. I was walking in the early afternoon down a major street. Three women my age (two sisters and an out-of-town cousin) were walking in the same direction and we got to talking. They, of course, knew I was a tourist and welcomed me. After talking for a while, they said they were going to take their cousin to see an open-air market. Would I like to come? It would involve a bus ride on a public bus. So I said ‘sure’. I thought it was great that I was going to see local things and learn from the locals. A wonderful adventure. On the bus we shared pictures of children and grand-children, our thinking about racial relations, governments and educational systems. We saw the market and we got on a jeepney, a public open air hop-on hop-off vehicle with a jeep front and long bench seats in the back. I never would have done something like that without local help. We went to a jeepney factory and then to a restaurant. They wanted to practice their English. I learned a few words from their language. There was Karaoke so we sang and danced. I learned about traditions, local foods, holidays, birthday celebrations, etc. They wouldn’t let me contribute to the cost of lunch. I trusted them.
Risk: I didn’t think about it at the time. But I had traveled to an unsafe neighborhood. Talked extensively to people I didn’t know. Trusted strangers over the course of an afternoon. Made assumptions about the motivations of their friendliness. Ate with them. Showed them my money belt when I was paying for bus/jeepney rides.
Betrayal: We left the restaurant and one woman called for her van and driver. We got in so we could do more dancing at another place. My daughter had done a lot of dancing when she had been in the Philippines many years before, so I didn’t think anything of it. They fed me a piece of mango for dessert. The police later said that was what probably was laced with drugs. I immediately blacked out. I woke up 14 hours later in my bed at my hostel with no recollection of anything that happened after I ate the mango. I fell back asleep for 9 more hours. Then I checked my email and saw I had alerts from my bank that my account was overdrawn by almost $1,000. The next day I went to the police and got a police report, and I got photos from the hostel’s surveillance thermal camera. The video showed that it took 3 people to hold me up and walk me to the hostel entrance. The hostel security staff had taken me upstairs to my bed. I remember nothing. How did they get my pin? In my drugged state, maybe they asked me and I told them. Maybe they walked me to the ATM and I typed it in myself. I don’t know. I’m not sure what drug they used, but other accounts online suggest that it might be Ativan since it’s cheap and effective as a date-rape drug. Others have been quick to point out that it could have been much worse. I could have been raped, left in a ditch, had my passport or credit cards stolen, overdosed on the drug, etc.
Resilience: This happened on the 10th and I had presentations scheduled on the 14th and 15th. It took a couple of days for the drug to wear off. But I was fine for the presentations. I partnered with another coach from the Philippines to present on ‘agile leadership’ to senior leadership teams in three large companies. I spoke about changing yourself before you could expect others you lead to change and used my shifting business model as the example. My partner in these talks commented on how resilient I was, how fast I bounced back, that I could just shake off my experience, adapt and move forward.
What I didn’t do is turn it into drama that makes it mean anything. It hasn’t become stressful or traumatic. It won’t prevent me from trusting others or traveling again (although I’ll be more careful). I was a victim of this incident, but I’m not a victim in life.
I had to fight with my bank to get the fraudulent withdrawals reversed. The bank’s back office denied it four times, but I was persistent and eventually prevailed with the help of my branch manager and the bank’s senior executive team. Seeing me continuing to escalate my claim, use social media and threaten legal action, the bank finally did the right thing. More challenges build more strength and reinforce resilience.
I had to dig up the courage to share all this online. No one wants to admit the mistakes they’ve made or how gullible they’ve been. Vulnerability builds resilience. By sharing it on Facebook, lots of people showed their concern. Through their posts on Facebook, emails, phone calls and face to face meetings, I felt very supported. Feeling loved by a caring community builds resilience.
It’s important to me that no one else falls for this scam. So I’ve made it very public. I’ve also been asked to speak about it. Sharing takes the focus off of me and puts it on lessons learned that others can benefit from. Resilience comes from focusing on others.
The title of my talk is the same as this posting: Trust, Risk, Betrayal and Resilience. I can gear it to travel groups, women’s groups, entrepreneur groups, career professionals and more. Trust, risk, betrayal and resilience are part of all our lives, our families, our workplaces, our business plans. There is also neuroscience to shed light on it all, which my audiences find value in. Making lemonade from lemons builds resilience (reframing as an opportunity, adding a little humor).
I know everyone Is not like me. Sometimes people have a harder time letting things go or not getting invested in their own drama. But everyone has the power to create their lives any way they choose, no matter what they have to overcome. I welcome your thoughts. Or call me if you want to talk privately. https://calendly.com/drivingimprovedresults/60min