Lost luggage, Found Lessons…

Eunice Kilonzo
4 min readMar 19, 2024

Friends, Happy New Year. I know I am three months late, but please bear with me.

As promised in December, I wanted to write my observation four of #KalundeLearns, but a lot has been happening on my side.

What do I mean?

I have been navigating living and working (alone) in Switzerland for the past few months as an unexpected but timely and great opportunity meant my husband and son had to travel, albeit briefly, to Nairobi. Lucky for them, escaping the peak of winter, but unlucky for me as my creative juices ran out in their absence. But I have picked up a rhythm and am easing myself back into writing.

I have learnt a crucial lesson in the process: it is okay to take a break. Not quitting but taking time out to fill up your cup and, when ready, get back into the groove at your own pace.

For the past three weeks, I have been trying to get the right time to return to penning something down.

The sign to get back to writing happened a few weeks back on a Monday morning. I was on the train on my way to work. Unlike most days, I opted to alight at the airport instead of Geneve Cornavin station, where I would get a bus to drop me off at work. I was picking up a FaceTime call from my husband, but from the corner of my right eye, I saw some commotion behind me–what seemed like two people bringing down suitcases. I glanced enough to see someone’s head disappear down the stairs.

Less than a minute later, as the train doors closed and the engine revved up, a couple ran up to the upper cabin where I was seated and asked in French and English if we had seen their two suitcases.

And. I. Froze.

I glanced again at the place with a stack of suitcases that I had seen when I came up. But now, it was empty. A man behind me spoke up.

Image source: SBB Train website

“I saw two young men. I felt something strange about them but didn’t know what it was. I saw them taking the bags, but you know you can’t stop someone from taking a bag. What if it’s theirs? They can’t have gone too far; they are still in the station.”

At this point, the train was moving toward the airport. We turned to see the station lights dim further away as we moved through the tracks.

“We had four suitcases, but when we got in, the train was full, so we had to split the bags. Now, two are gone. We will report to the police once we get to the airport. The CCTVs on the train and at the station should help.”

I have not seen a robbery in the five months I have been here. I have read about pickpockets, though, on some Geneva and Nyon-based Facebook groups.

My guard went up.

I held my phone and bag tighter and switched to the state of mind Nairobians have when they are going into town: Everyone is trying to rob you.

I was edgy on the bus ride from the airport to the office. I wondered what that couple had lost. Were there medicines in their suitcases, gifts for their grandchildren, a new pair of shoes they were going to try out once they arrived at their destination? I thought what would have happened if my bags had been snatched. What would I have done? Would I have chased after the thieves? How would I have expressed myself in my broken very basic French?

When I got to work and mentioned this to some colleagues, I picked the worry in their tone, but I could tell they were not entirely surprised.

“Petty crime targets people who look like tourists or travellers. Do not leave any valuables unattended at any time; beware of pickpockets, just like you would anywhere else…and be extra vigilant during summer,” my colleague said.

Another colleague said there are always police–uniformed (I have seen them on several occasions) and in plain clothes–patrolling the station, malls, and possibly trains. The thieves will likely be caught, she said. It might not be for that incident, but they will be caught soon.

When I mentioned the train story to a Kenyan who is now in the process of relocating to Switzerland, she said that whenever she has luggage and must use the train, she opts for the first class as there are fewer people and you always have your eyes on your bags.

This experience also reminded me why I needed to improve my French language skills: one, to be able to read the daily newspapers and follow news of any happenings in the city, such as crime; and two, to be able to hear, speak, and participate in conversations on the train, in shops or bus. But maybe a third one is to feel more confident, what Kenyans would call a mwenyeji, a local, and not be mistaken for a tourist by pickpockets and petty thieves.

This was a sobering moment.

It would be remiss if I, as a journalist, didn’t tell you this story first before I fulfilled my December promise to write about some interesting things about Swiss real estate, such as how you use one key to open the main door and our apartment and that some houses on sale cost as much as a section of the annual budget of Kenyan ministries!

Next week, I will tell you this story. For now, let me practice my French and continue writing.

Read my previous post here where I talked about my letter to a landlord in Switzerland here.

--

--

Eunice Kilonzo

#Writer | 11 #Awards | #Synesthetes | #Health | #Media #Comms @Gavi | Past @WHO @safaricomPLC @UNEP @nationafrica @aphrc @Falling_Walls