Craig Davis: Living with Cancer: Armed robberies in Kenya and Honduras


June 1 is Madaraka Day, a public holiday in Kenya commemorating partial independence.

On this day in 2016, my 8-year-old granddaughter and I left our apartment in Nairobi, the nation’s capital, to walk a mile to the park. While violent crime is all too common in Nairobi, we often walked backstreets to local stores, restaurants and playgrounds just for the exercise. And this particular suburb, Lavington, was relatively safe.

Around 10:45 a.m., we crossed the street and joined the light holiday foot traffic. I was holding my granddaughter’s hand and carrying my iPad in an old plastic bag.

To draw less attention, I frequently carried my laptop or tablet this way, a trick I learned from a Somali colleague who carried his laptop to and from work that way for years in Mogadishu, Somalia. The driver of the boda-boda, or motorcycle taxi, pulled up beside us and said something I couldn’t understand over the street noise. I still remember the man’s face, his full cheeks crowded into a tight-fitting helmet.

I smiled, thanked him and waved him off, assuming he was merely plying his trade. It did seem a little odd, though, because in the three years I had lived in Kenya, I had never seen a boda-boda drum up business while riding aside pedestrians. Nor would I see it again in the final two years before moving to Honduras.

Rather, motorcycle taxi drivers always parked at busy intersections and accosted passersby. My granddaughter and I strolled on to the park, where she played, and then we ate at a rooftop restaurant, where she played again at the tiny playground.

The next day, I learned that just 15 minutes after the boda-boda driver approached us, a motorcycle taxi driver and his accomplice killed 26-year-old Cameron Huntley, an American teacher, just five blocks away. Huntley was carrying a backpack with his laptop inside while walking with his girlfriend when a boda-boda driver stopped them. The accomplice approached on foot from behind, demanded Huntley’s backpack and when he refused, they shot him in the head once and chest twice.

On Oct. 7 of this year, capping off the three-day national holiday of Semana Morazánica in Honduras, I was walking in a relatively safe neighborhood of the capital city of Tegucigalpa. About 9:20 a.m., as I was finishing my 3-mile walk, I heard a motorcycle approach from behind. I moved off the street and onto the sidewalk.

When I noticed his engine slow down, I looked back at him just to check my surroundings. He was maneuvering a speed bump, so I slowed down to let him pass. Just ahead at the intersection, he gradually turned right as if uncertain of his destination. I, on the other hand, crossed the street and headed left toward my destination, the mini-supermarket.

The motorcycle rider then made a U-turn and circled up behind me. I grew even more alert. He yelled to get my attention. I turned, and he was stopped almost parallel with me. He was wearing a blue jacket and helmet, maybe 5 foot, 10 inches and 180 pounds, perhaps 30 years old. He reached his right hand into the waist of his pants as if to draw a handgun.

Without thinking, I sprinted in the opposite direction. The last thing I saw were his eyes snapping wide in surprise. He probably couldn’t imagine that an old Gringo could move so quickly.

The engine revved, and the bike sped off. I sort of expected him to circle around and pursue me. At the intersection, I cautioned a glance, prepared to run further to a small security shack, from which an armed security guard operates. But the would-be armed robber didn’t bother.

Only then did it occur to me to take a photo. But by the time I withdrew my phone and snapped a shot, he was breezing down a curve nearly out of sight.

Two weeks later, the Honduran police arrested an armed criminal on a motorcycle a couple of blocks from the same intersection. He had been robbing pedestrians in the area.

Even in the United States, big cities can be dangerous. And violent crime doesn’t only happen to others. In 1995 in El Salvador, my brother-in-law was shot and killed by two criminals while walking his wife to a bus stop early one morning. Although today, that country is one of the safest in Latin America, my son was mugged at knifepoint in the capital a few months ago.

But it is also important to temper the very real risks with a reality check of the fabric of humanity in big cities. The overwhelming majority of citizens in Kenya, Honduras and El Salvador, for instance, are hospitable, hardworking and even protective of foreigners. Time and again, my family and I have been sheltered, transported, provided accommodations and treated with dignity, warmth and love.

Just this past weekend, we took our grandkids to El Venado beach to witness the turtle hatchlings crawl across the sand to the Pacific Ocean. We have enjoyed the quaint village of Valley de Angeles’s handicraft shops, pupusa restaurants and horseback riding.

During Easter, we once spent a few days in the western town of Gracias, where we experienced festivities, traditional musicians perform in the town square, a beautiful church and a zigzagged zipline across a canyon. My wife’s hiking group treks all across this beautiful county.

International travelers, even the most seasoned, must always be alert and cautious. But the unique and rewarding experiences of foreign cultures make the caution worthwhile.

Craig Davis, who was born in Seymour and graduated from Brownstown Central High School, currently lives in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and works for a U.S. government contractor on school-based violence prevention. He is the author of “The Middle East for Dummies” and is conducting research for a genealogy and social history book in Kurtz and Freetown. You can visit the Living with Cancer weekly blog at and write him at [email protected]. You also can follow his travel blog, “Cross-Country Bike-Packing at 63: SE East Asia,” at Send comments to [email protected].

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