I travelled for love but was catfished

I convinced my friends to travel with me to Watamu to meet the love of my life. Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • He looks just like his Facebook profile picture. 
  • I stand to give him a hug.
  • I am smiling, breathlessly calling out, “Oh bae!”, the way we have been calling each other on Facebook Messenger.

You have not seen it all if you have not travelled to finally meet your online boyfriend or girlfriend, only to be treated to the shock of your life. 

Sometime back, I met a man on Facebook. I will call him Mr Gustavo. He was Italian. I counted myself fortunate when he sent me a friend request, to which I quickly accepted. Not long afterwards, a message popped up in my inbox. “Hi, thanks for the add,” he said. That was the beginning of our endless chats – that day we chatted until 3am in the morning.

‘Wealthy and young’

Mr Gustavo told me that he owned a beach resort in Watamu. He also told me that he was 34, an age I approved of since I was not keen on an old man. What a young wealthy man, I thought to myself. His English was not so good, he told me he had lived in Kenya for a year only, but had enrolled for English classes. I believed his story, after all, he was Italian, therefore it was expected that his English would be rusty.

He would chat me up in Italian most of the time, and I would use Google translator to decipher what he was saying. I loved it when he spoke to me in broken English, it was so endearing. And I was in love. 

Love of my life

After we had dated online for six weeks, he invited me to Watamu. I was so excited; I could barely sleep. I was finally going to meet the love of my life.

I breathlessly broke the magnificent news to my girlfriends. You see, Mr Gustavo and I intended to do a wedding, and these girls were to be my bridesmaids. My girls, who I hadn’t told that I had never met Mr Gustavo in person yet, were so happy for me, they almost made me go deaf with their shrieks of joy on my behalf. We planned the trip to Watamu in a record three days. Three of my girlfriends came along, since the other two couldn’t travel on such short notice.  

Upon arrival at Malindi, Mr Gustavo sent me a message saying that he was swamped with work, so we could only meet the following day. And so we headed to the villa we had rented and booked ourselves in. Mr Gustavo had told me that he owned the apartment, therefore I shouldn’t be wary of the cost. We had even employed a chef and chauffeur. After freshening up, we proceeded to take selfies and pasted them all over social media. 

The writer, Winnie Mbesa, at the beach in Watamu. PHOTO| COURTESY

“Painted Watamu red” we wrote in our status. I bet you would do the same. Who doesn’t love living the good life once in a while?

The following day, we headed to the rendezvous, where I would meet my husband-to-be. I could already picture myself in a coral white wedding gown, all smiles having my dream beach wedding.

‘Big, big cars’

Allow me to tell the rest of the story in present tense because I relieve this experience everyday as if it happened yesterday.

At the reception, we are told that Mr Gustavo is in a meeting with the Italian Ambassador. For sure, there are big, big cars parked outside the hotel that might belong to an ambassador. We are directed to the lounge and asked to wait. The hotel offers us a cold beverage, perfect for the humid weather. We decide to sit outside and enjoy the cool sea breeze and the sandy stretch and pristine turquoise blue waters. 

Beach therapy is real.

A few minutes later, we spot the receptionist walking a young gentleman of European origin towards us accompanied by a young woman. I am anxious, my girls expectant, whispering and asking if the good-looking man heading our way is “the one”. I giddily tell them yes. He looks just like his Facebook profile picture. I stand to give him a hug. I am smiling, breathlessly calling out, “Oh bae!”, the way we have been calling each other on Facebook Messenger.

Looking confused, Mr Gustavo steps away from my outstretched arms and asks, “Do I know you? Have we met before?” My heart skips a beat. He is the same man I have dated for six weeks, why is he pretending that he doesn’t know me?

Embarrassed, I introduce myself and introduce my girls too, who are watching the drama unfold with trepidation.  

My husband-to-be still doesn’t get it. The receptionist looks confused. The woman by his side says something in Italian and they stare at us in disbelief. I'm now sweating. My heart is racing, not beating, it's confusing. I can't see well. Mr Gustavo calls the security guards. I look at my girls in confusion. They look confused too.

The guards approach us; they want to throw us out of the hotel. I hastily explain myself and pull out my phone to show them the chats Mr Gustavo and I have been having all these months.

I even give them Mr Gustavo's phone number since we talk on phone every day. One of the security guys dials the number and sneers after a few seconds.

He turns to Mr Gustavo and says something in Italian. Mr Gustavo leaves us with the security men, who ask us to follow them to the beach. This is where we will meet the person I have been chatting with, they tell me.

I am totally confused now, though I have an idea of what’s coming. The security man dials a number and tells the person on the other end to bring over four madafu.

Less than a minute later, a stocky middle-age man in unkempt dreads and dirty-looking shorts shows up carrying four madafu.

Conned by a beach boy

Ladies and gentlemen, I had been conned by a beach boy! My blood freezes in my veins. I come to my senses slowly. This beach boy, of course, used a pseudo Facebook account! I turn around and look at my girls, then turn to stare at my ‘Mr Gustavo’, my mouth wide open with disbelief.