Surviving an Extortion Attempt

After Spark Up! Conference at the Mongolian University of Science and Technology, I, along with two other members of the national team (Nathan and Dominic) and three members of the conference team (Ujika, Lana, and Tep) took a taxi to a karaoke place in Sansar.

The taxi ride went without incident; we put boxes in the trunk of the taxi as we didn’t want to waste time going home and then going to Sansar in order to store our laptops and conference stuff (mainly flip charts, markers, paper, and leftover sandwiches), we just wanted to hang out with the rest of the team straight away.

When we got to the karaoke place at Sansar, the taxi driver decided to cause trouble. He accused one of us of breaking open one of the wires(?) next to the seat belt located just by the windshield of the back seat (I’m not even sure if I’m describing this part of the taxi right…). Anyways, the premise of his accusation was that Dominic’s bag, which was placed on top of the dashboard at the back seat of the car, hit the wire and broke it.

Of course, the bag didn’t even move, and if it did, everyone in the back seat would have noticed. Therefore, it was obvious that the taxi driver was causing trouble and was trying to extort money from us. The wire was broken before we got on the taxi. He wanted money for the “damage” that we caused, and if we didn’t pay, that he would not let us take our stuff out from the trunk. Initially, I suggested to just let him take our stuff (who wants two-day old sandwiches anyway?), but then it turned out that one of us had a laptop in the trunk, so that wasn’t an option.

Luckily, Lana, Ujika and Tep were there to argue with the taxi driver in Mongolian. Nathan, Dominic, and I were obviously useless as our Mongolian language skills are extremely limited. Eventually, they got a police officer involved, who sided with us.

After the incident, one of our Mongolian friends later told us that it was because we were foreign that taxi driver decided to “try his luck” with us. Luckily, we had Lana, Ujika, and Tep with us. I shudder to think what would’ve happened if it were just us foreigners in the taxi!

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