A few weeks ago, I was in my Study Abroad prep class. Someone had come in from the Study Abroad office to give a presentation on international traveling safety. The first topic on her slide show was about virtual kidnapping. She asked the class if anyone knew what that was. After a reasonable pause, she explained that virtual kidnapping is when bad guys get a hold of your personal information, call family or friends, tell them that they are holding you for ransom and threaten not to release you until their requests are met. The bad guys will usually have a recording of someone screaming and/or crying in the background to heighten the effect. So, while family or friends are on the phone with the bad guys, the “victim” mostly likely has no idea someone is threatening her loved ones for money. The victim could be sunbathing at the beach or having monkeys pick nits from her hair or exploring a sacred mosque in the city.
That’s some scary, right?
I haven’t broadcasted my departing and returning dates here or on facebook (which is where a lot of bad guys get their information). If you’ve asked me personally about my itinerary, I have told you. I’ve limited viewing of personal data on facebook to friends, and I swear, if any of you relate that information to a bad guy, and I hear of someone threatening people I love? My new pet hippo will attack you. Horace will bite your head off then sit on your body to squirt blood from your neck like a tube of toothpaste. Then Horace will brush his giant, flat, plant-pulverizing teeth with your blood.
A few of you should have gotten or will be receiving a packet with my flight information, passport number, health insurance number, and contact information of the hotels where we’ll be staying. A few of you know how to get a hold of my mom in case anything happens.
I won’t have regular internet access or international cell phone service, but I’ll leave updates whenever I can.
Like I mentioned before, our class is going to have its very own bus, so we won’t be riding around with strangers. I won’t carry my passport with me, and hopefully my stint in New York City has trained me to be wary of pickpockets and various hoodlums. And, I’ll always go out with a buddy. Maybe this buddy will end up being the guy I date when we get back to the states and eventually marry. No dating is rule #1 on a BYU Study Abroad. 2. No proselyting. 3. Obey the Honor Code. However, that is a gigantic “maybe,” even bigger than Horace. And Horace is a rare breed of enormohippo. FYI.
This is all precautionary stuff. I’m looking forward to having an unbelievable and very fun time.