Today, we meet a psychologist to girls who have been rescued from the sex-trade.
As we walk down the street, she tells us she has a "surprise" waiting at our destination. I'm up for surprises. In fact, I kind of flow with them. The day is clear, a slight breeze is blowing, and for the first time I don't even need my Northface jacket. We sit down in an outdoor cafe with green umbrellas and Ahmad tea signs all around. Reminds me of Kiev and the sun feels good.
"Do you want to know why I brought you here?" Nothing to fear, no need to worry. Of course we do. The black stuff in my cup isn't real good so it's not the best espresso in the city. "Why are we here?"
"One of the girls you will meet was trafficked from this restaurant."
What...did...you...say? At that moment, my world changed. The crowded city street was a different place. A man from the Middle East appeared over Anne Jackson's right shoulder. Something about him, it wasn't right.
"In fact, they're here right now. And so are the girls who are being trafficked. They lure girls here for a job. Then they are sent to Turkey, Israel, and Russia."
I saw them. Teenagers draped with blond and brunette curls. You've got to be kidding me. And I've brought Anne here? I mean Simon and Brad are one thing, but a girl? Someone I'm responsible for, and I've brought her into the midst of a den filled with sex-traffickers? I looked to the right and saw two more men emerge out of the restaurant. They weren't Moldovan. Simon's camera didn't help things. He was shooting pictures and video faster than Usain Bolt runs the hundred yard dash.
Now we're the center of attention. We tried to play it cool, acting like we belonged there and were just shooting a plain 'ol video about life in the big city. My chest got a little bigger, my sixth sense a little stronger. If there was ever a time I longed to be a CIA agent.
An overweight, middle aged man sits down with a young girl at a table ten feet from us. She might be seventeen. We captured the photo. She bats her eyes and tries to impress her. He hands her a wad of cash for last nights exploits. I'm sickened beyond explanation. And then I realize, this happens every single day. What am I suppose to do? Turn a blind eye? Pretend this evil doesn't exist? Go back to my comfortable life and wish that young girls aren't trafficked like this right in front of my eyes?
Something inside tells me I can't. I've been exposed and I'll never be the same.
At least ten traffickers sniff us out. They're behind us, in front, to the right and left. We're absolutely surrounded. But were not in prison like the young girls who fill the chairs. We have a choice. Their choice had already been made for them.
This place has the heavy-weight title of the highest rate of trafficked women in the world. Tens of thousands simply disappear. Our psychologist friend pulls out a local newspaper. "This is how they trap them. Local ads promising well paying jobs abroad. Everyone wants to leave so all young girls are potential victims."
I look to the left and to my utter shock, see two girls reading the same kind of newspaper. Once your eyes are opened, it's everywhere in this place.
Tomorrow, we will be with five of the girls who have been rescued from this nightmare. I want to be a real presence in their live and fight back the evil that had control over their life. Thank God there are people here who go to the front lines every day. I have to do something, I can't sit on the sidelines and hope this goes away.
We're in Moldova. Who would like to join us? We stood up from our table and walked out of that hell hole. The beautiful blonde girl didn't have that choice.