It comes and it goes

31 Mar

I have to admit, it’s been incredibly hard while in Santiago to not constantly compare it to Medellin.  You all know how much I loved Medellin, so some days end with me just really missing Colombia.

On Friday night I went to the Radiohead concert and it was amazing.  Including the part where they read a scripted hi/hello/thank you in Spanish in an unnaturally strong gringo accent that the crowd loved.  The Radiohead concert may have been the only event that has started early in Latin America for the past, mmm 8.4 years?  But when we heard Creep begin to blare over the edges of the National Stadium at 8:53pm for the 9:00 “start time” we surely broke into a run.  [I ran this starting early business over with some Chilean friends later and they insisted that concerts always start on time here.  I found it strange that concerts are one thing that you can almost be sure won’t be starting on time in the States.  Then again I’ve also found it strange that when Chileans speak about specific events: school classes, work, concerts, etc. they always claim that they themselves and everyone else arrives to these on time, which in my experience I’ve found is definitely not the case.]  Overall, the concert was great, +1 point Chile.

The night’s awesomeness was elevated to a new level when I went with 4 kids from my program to a bar with a great outdoor patio right by my house.  We soon found out that inside the bar there was a private birthday party going on as party guests trickled in and out to chat with us, intrigued by the table of gringos outside.  Within a couple hours someone showed up with an intense sound system and we got ourselves invited into the private birthday for a dance party, +1 point Chile.

The next morning I talked Cori and Lisa into venturing to Juan Valdez with me, a Colombian coffee joint that is slowly making it’s way to Chile.  When we showed up to do homework for a few hours I was so content to be drinking a Granizado that reminded me of Colombia.  Juan Valdez’s atmosphere also resembles any nice coffee shop in the U.S. which I think made me a bit too comfortable.  Because as we sat working on our laptops [the first time I’ve brough it out while here] I had my backpack zipped up underneath my chair with my wallet inside [I also practically never bring a wallet out here] I didn’t notice the man in the business suit come sit in the comfy chair directly behind my chair at the table.  I remember thinking that he seemed to be sitting really close to me as I glanced over my shoulder.  Both of my friends could see him better than I (as I had my back to him), and Lisa noticed that he sat down without a drink or anything from Juan Valdez…she was suspicious, but didn’t want to be the out of control American.  He was only sitting there for about five minutes, and two minutes after he got up and left Lisa said that the man freaked her out.  I yelled shit very loudly in Juan Valdez (sorry grandma) and immediately grabbed my backpack and saw that now both of my zippers were wide open and that my wallet was gone.

I imagine/hope that what occurred next was the thief walked into the street with a smile on his face, opened my wallet and saw that I only had 13 mil pesos in it (about 20 dollars), my Chilean ID, my metro card, and contact numbers of my program director; he then scowled and thought “Smart American traveler for not carrying more cash and credit cards with her, I hate her.”  Good sir, I also hate you.

[I’m going to take a slight intermission to let you know that this post will be rambling just because I want to process it by writing it down, you are not required to continue reading]

At first I felt helpless, but the terrible helpless where you know there were a million things you could have done differently to avoid that one particular point in time, but now that you’ve passed it there’s nothing you can do.  I was running over and over again in my mind what I should have done differently: shouldn’t have carried my wallet I should have split up my money, cards, etc on different parts of my body/backpack, shouldn’t have brought my computer out drawing unnecessary attention, shouldn’t have set my backpack on the floor, shouldn’t have just glanced for a second over my shoulder at the man–I should have turned fully around and stared him in the eye for a few seconds, and so on and so forth.  Then we discussed how in Madison (and Milwaukee for Cori) we just leave our laptops out in coffee shops and go to the bathroom, or leave all of our stuff at the library for an hour when we run to get food, etc.

Then I just felt so angry as Lisa, Cori, and I sat around kind of stunned.  I at one point said, “I don’t even want the things in my wallet back, he can keep them, I just want him to come back here so I can slap him in the face.”  I’ve thought a lot about times when I think certain things like robbery are more justified (small children stealing food in order to be able to eat, etc), and while I don’t know his story, something about his business suit made me feel like it was an unjust robbery.

This probably all sounds very dramatic because I made it away unscathed and it could have been much worse…but that’s what I seem to be stuck on now, it could have been much worse. When you read theft warnings in tourist guide books or even hear stories they always seem pretty abstract and distant, at least in my “oh that would never happen to me” mentality.  Suddenly the stories of people on my program this year, a girl being robbed at gun point and another getting her purse ripped off of her wrist, felt more urgent and real.

Now I’m stuck in this worried and suspicious stage where I do things like open my front gate a crack and scan the street before stepping out because he had my ID with my address on it, or glare at men walking by in business suits.  So when I got an email [and they somehow managed to find my email even though they say I’m not registered through the embassy, and I am] today saying that the American embassy had my ID “that I had left there” and it would be available for pick up this week I was skeptical.  The 2 broken website links in the email, that linked to websites different then what they said they were, confirmed to me that it was in fact a phishing attempt to get more information about me in order to be able to steal my entire identity.  When my dad told me that they had called him I crossed my fingers that he didn’t give away any information.

I think this is all paranoia though, my program coordinator thinks getting my ID back is legit [I didn’t share my insane worry with her that it wasn’t], and don’t worry dad theoretically you didn’t just serve as enabler to someone attempting to exploit me.  The only bad news is that I already put a permanenet block on my ID this morning [which was actually quite easy because I think I’m probably the only person with my name to have ever registered with the Chilean government], so now I have to go through the whole application process again.  This whole experience: -9 points Chile.

Then Saturday night my roommates had planned a party to welcome fall where we also participated in the Respira pa la Tierra [breath for the earth] which consisted of turning off everything electric for an hour.  Lisa and I followed it up by going to a Chilean friend’s birthday party where we danced salsa and merengue pretty much until the sun came up, +.75 points Chile [Listen here Chile, you are currently on probation/grounded and in the next few weeks it’s going to be more difficult for you to earn points]

Anyways, I’m sorry that was ridiculously long and probably sounded like I was complaining the whole time…I already feel better.

My closing remarks: grandma and grandpa, please don’t ever become robbers as a profession.  I was fooled by the man in the suit, only to be told by friends that it’s the grandmas and grandpas who work in pairs that are the sneakiest.  Que triste!

3 Responses to “It comes and it goes”

  1. Lorraine Reddy March 31, 2009 at 11:20 pm #

    When you come home, you will have to give us some pointers. So far, by the time we pay our fines, we are not showing a profit. I am glad you are OK,
    even if you are pretty much shook up.
    Get back to enjoying your experience.
    Love, Gma

  2. John Fink April 1, 2009 at 5:59 am #

    although you may find yourself developing more vigilance in order to keep from bleeding an ID card here and 20 bucks there, I would hope that you don’t lose your faith in humanity- it’s one of many things I admire about you:)

  3. Teresa April 3, 2009 at 5:07 am #

    i ruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuvvvvv you.

    and colombia really would like you back. it told me.

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