“Don’t ride in cars with strangers”

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Yesterday I spent practically the whole day hiking up and down and around the cliffs of Blue Grotto, Malta. Now I would like to say upfront that Malta is a VERY safe island whose crime rate is practically non existent. During the summer months they do not even have court because it is too hot, and too expensive to fund the air conditioning. The most you have to worry about is thieves. If you do not watch your belongings, you risk having them stolen from you. 
Now having said that, yesterday I missed my bus by about two minutes. It was one of those “nooooooo come baaaaackk” moments as I watched the tail lights drive away. The next bus wasn’t for an hour, and I had just finished capturing the most glorious sunset, and it was getting cold. I hadn’t brought my jacket because I find Maltese winters to be very mild indeed, and find it quite funny that the locals wrap up in fur lined coats and scarves while the tourists wear a tshirt.  
I stood at the bus stop, face in phone, editing some of my iPhone pictures and a cabbie pulled up, asking where I was going. I told him “I am waiting for the bus to Valetta” to which he responded “ahh Valetta.. For 15 euros I take you” I thanked him for the offer, but being only 22 euros short of my week in Malta for $100, and having a bus pass that would get me home for free, I told him I would wait for the bus. He asked if I was staying in Valetta or did I need to take two buses.. No doubt calculating how he was going to sell me on a taxi ride alternative. “Sliema is where I am staying, but it’s quite okay. If I am still here at 5:30p then I will take the taxi” I told him, and he started to pull away. “I take you to Sliema for 15 euros” he said.. Insistent on getting a fare out of me. I thought about it, and the time it takes to take the two buses, and how crowded they are around 5 and decided I deserved the comfy cab, so I took him up on his offer.  
While in the taxi, we talked. He asked me where I was from, if I was traveling with friends, taught me how to say “thank you”, “I love you”, and “beautiful” in Maltese. He seemed very friendly. He asked if I was married, and told me I had a beautiful face. He asked if my friends were waiting for me, and what we were doing that night. Truth is, I didn’t have any friends waiting for me, but I know it is never wise to disclose that I am a female traveling alone, no matter how friendly. He repeatedly told me he had saved me 20 euros, and that the ride from blue grotto to Sliema is typically 35€. I thanked him each time for his generosity, but it began to feel somewhat uncomfortable. Was he pitching his case for a handsome tip? I looked in the front and realized that there wasn’t a meter running of any kind, and I asked how his company knew if he had a passenger or not. He looked puzzled and said nothing. Again I asked, but nothing. I began questioning myself, and had I put myself in danger by getting into this car with a stranger to begin with. I started looking for street names, and opened my map to track our location. We were moving towards Sliema and looked fairly close. I didn’t remember the taxi having a meter the night before. Maybe they didn’t have them here. Maybe I was being paranoid. My mind flashed back to the time I was raped, and how I’d put myself in that dangerous situation that hasn’t seemed dangerous at the time. I began convincing myself that I was safe. The last thing I needed was to have a panic attack and not be able to defend myself should I need to. He asked again where we were going out.. I told him St Julian’s. He said he would wait and bring us all for free. He asked where exactly I was staying, and I told him the Park Hotel would be fine. I’d already told him I was staying near there, and didn’t see why he needed an exact location. He asked if they were ready waiting for me so I pretended to text them and ask them, telling him how kind that would be, but we were most likely going to eat first.  
He took his seat belt off when we were about five minutes away. I wondered why he would need to do that at all, and couldn’t help but feel somewhat frantic. I started picturing the worst case scenario, and decided I should prepare myself. I don’t carry a weapon, so I took out my fountain pen and my glass bottle of water. I’d hate to have to use them but I refuse to let anyone hurt me ever again. We pulled up by the park hotel and he got out, I got out as quick as possible also. It’s entrance is on a side street and not too many people were there. He shook my hand and kissed both of my cheeks as I handed him the 20€. He told me he would like to come up for coffee. “What?” I thought.. “Come up? You’re a taxi driver.. Is that normal here? Is that what he was fishing for when telling me how much he saved me? Is this going to turn into an episode of SVU???” 
“No! You can’t .. I mean, it isn’t my home to invite you upstairs, I am staying with friends, and they’re probably getting dressed to go out. I’m sorry” I stammered. He asked again.  
“No” I replied firmly. He looked a little disgruntled, and my crappy “I want everyone to feel good and to like me” voice kicked in but “NO” I said again, to it and to him. He went back to the driver side and I let myself in, locking the door. “Phew” I thought. I don’t know if I was in danger then but either way, I’m not now. I wondered if that wa adjust how friendly the people here were, and text my friend who lives here, that I met on Girls Love Travel. She replied later on that that was not customary and I did the right thing by saying No. 
Later that night, my host came home and I told him the story. He told me that it is normal. He told me that the drivers offer girls rides and if they ask to come up for coffee, they have coffee and talk, and if they want to have fun, and it is discussed and agreed, then they have “fun” because this is life, and if they like you they will want to have fun with you tonight, and then tomorrow they find other girl” he then told me I could bring anyone home and have fun, it is my house. For some reason it made me think of Jersey Shore lol and I could see how a holiday place like this could have that going on.. I didn’t know coffee was a code word for that, and I now doubt whether that driver would’ve ever forced himself on me, he just had hope of some “fun” .. Funnily, I almost wore a padded bra that day, for the first time ever. I needed a new one and that was the only one that fit.. Bright pink.. And was visible thru my Star Wars tshirt so I didn’t. It would’ve been a bit of a risk since I usually wear sports bras to squash them down to an almost invisible. I’m glad I didn’t wear it tho bc I would’ve swore that was the reason why I was being propositioned. I decided to wear it today tho.. Because I’m not afraid. I can trust my intuition, and I can keep myself safe.  

  

 Nobody will ever harm me again.  

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