We came home after dinner with our friends, the couple staying right next door, Linda and I walking home alone laughing and reminiscing about our children and the songs we used to sing to them. We had just had an average meal, stopped to listen to the local band at the Pig feeling satisfied, fulfilled and bone tired as this heat drains energy and puts most adults over 50 in bed by 9:00pm, tonight we were living on the edge staying out till 9:30pm. As we walked up to the door, the first thing I noticed was the outdoor light was not on, my mind immediately stepped in suggesting we must not have left it on but knowing full well that was not the case, our routine was the same, we always left the outside light illuminated knowing the extent of the darkness at night. My headlamp beamed enough light to see all we needed to see, everything clicked into place seemingly just as we left it, flicked on the lights the first thing I noticed was my sun glasses case on my bed, thinking to myself I thought I put those in the safe, again my mind automatically dismisses the thought suggesting again I must not have done what I know full well I did. I know this because it was the only time I had put them in the safe; they were either on my face, in my bag or the odd time on my bedside table, my shades are a part of me. Linda asked why my passport was on her bed, I immediately spun to look at the safe, I could not breathe, the wind had been knocked out of me suddenly the pieces all started falling together. The incessant dog barking, the light out, the sunglass case, my passport… we had been robbed! My problem solving mind went into action and at the very same time I felt paralyzed. Linda called Laurie, the owner, I will never forget the sound of her voice and what she said, “Laurie we have been robbed” her unimaginable terror and utter disbelief spoke volumes. We hugged one another and cried, something forever changed for each one of us. The realization of what we have lost – trust, the sense of security, the belief that the safety of the locks, the alarms and the safe were safe and the contents inside. My laptop – my writing tool, in that moment it felt like a part of me was suddenly gone. My mind racing, my heart pounding, my skin crawling, a violation I have never experienced before, an abrupt change in perception of this country, these people, turned dark and I could no longer see the light in this moment. I don’t want this, I don’t like this, NO, why me, what is the lesson, I feel sick, I feel nauseated, I have to puke. Suddenly everything feels different, something has shifted, changed, my open, trusting heart closes a little and in the very next moment I’m flooded with anger. So many emotions happening all at once, my mind, my body and my soul are all running in different directions – I don’t know which way to go.
I start to reconcile my losses, my laptop a huge hit, all my travel documents (itineraries, accommodations, retreat confirmations, insurance documents, filled out applications for visas along with money orders, visa pictures for each country), $500 US cash. They left my passport, my vaccination records, my care card, my air miles card and the Canadian cash & coin (robbers don’t even want our money). I feel sick again. I brood over the loss of my carefully crafted and organized package of information put together for ease of travelling both on paper and on my laptop; I search through the cabinets of my mind trying desperately to locate the information, trying imagine how I will piece it all back together when everything has been stolen. I simply cry. My mind frantic, panicking, absolutely unsure of what to do next, I step into the role if a victim. A position I have worked tirelessly not to ever be in again, yet here I am.
Crime scene… we have all seen the movies, don’t touch anything, we touched everything, we moved stuff, we picked stuff up, we used the bathroom – the break in point of entry – we did everything your not suppose to do. Shock.
Suddenly the room is flooded with security guards flashing their lights all around the room speaking very quickly in Spanish, straight out of a movie people shouting, gesturing, panicking, adrenaline racing, moving quickly throughout the room and I have no idea what words are being spoken but I am familiar with the body language, I recognize the facial expressions, the gestures, I know this is abominable.
The sirens screaching down the road and a flood of spanish speaking police join the already unbelievable mass of people occupying our neat little bungalow that was now stained with new memories. I simply sat on my bed in utter disbelief, in shock, watching it all unfold before my very eyes. An english speaking woman joined the crowd and began asking questions on behalf of security and the police, I openly wept as I explained the magnitude of the loss of my writing tool, I am writer I cried my journey ahead is all about writing what will I do I cried, how will I write, I thought about all my drafts on my desktop, my half written book, my travel documents, plans, spreadsheets, Visa applications, my pictures all my precious pictures, my life was on that laptop. I felt in that moment that a piece of me had been stripped away.
How could this happen? We did everything right, we double locked the doors, we set the alarm, we secured our valuables in the safe, we thought we were safe, we were wrong. Do you think not telling someone something is as much a lie. I pondered this after the fact, could this have been prevented with more honest information, perhaps, we will never know for sure.
The robbers came in through a 2×3 window 10 feet above the ground, they ripped off the bars surrounding the windows bending the metal up towards the ceiling to gain access, once inside the bathroom, not wired for motion detection, they opened the small door leading up to the attic cutting the wires for the outdoor lights and the alarm system and went to work drilling the keypad off the safe to gain entry giving him/her/them access to everything we deemed valuable. They took most everything, leaving our passports, miscellaneous cards, Canadian money and thankfully my two silver necklaces that hold a great deal of meaning and are dear to my heart; one the Vishuda chakra and the other a long silver locket that holds essential oils, a cherished birthday present from my beautiful daughter, Jenny Benn. I was flooded with gratitude upon this discovery.
I honestly cannot remember all that happened, I truly believe I was in shock, all I know is it was several hours later and one o’clock in the morning when we checked into a hotel. I remember a moment when it was silent, all the security, the police, everyone was outside, Linda and I looked at one another and started bawling we held each other in support of one another. As we navigated this trauma together we were brought together in a new way, all the walls came down, all the masks came off it was raw pure emotion.
Stepping back and watching it all play out, a movie and suddenly you are the lead, everything, everyone centres around you and your loss, suddenly your world is not the same, it has shifted somehow and it will never be the same – a violation – a blow. A taking of that which is not physical, its personal, I step back inside and move closer to myself stepping away from the outside world shutting the door slightly sensing darkness, a bad smell – thick – heavy – dull. I stumble around in this thick heavy stench, I feel a sense of urgency to get out, to leave and never come back.
The owners husband Carlos came to help, he called around and found us a hotel, we packed all of our things and drove to the hotel and checked in. The hotel security said we had to give him a passport as security, not happening – not a chance in hell was I going to give or let any one touch my precious passport. Carlos paid for our stay, gratitude.
The police advised they would come and get us at the hotel to take us to the police station to fill out a report, we waited and waited and waited, the police never came. We cancelled stolen credit cards while we waited. Finally at 2am Carlos drove us to the police station in the next village, Playa Flamingo. The police station was located at the top of a mountain, like any other third world country road conditions are atrocious, dirt roads most of the way, swishing back and forth in the back seat as each tire sunk deep into the potholes being gobbled up by the deep cavernous craters. Once we arrived we exited the vehicle and walked into something out of a horror movie, something not real, astonishing, beyond belief, a sight I will never forget, all hope diminishing. Tears spring to my eyes several times throughout the long caustic ordeal, sometimes openly crying, other times just allowing the tears to roll down my cheeks in silence, occasionally an audible sound escaping through my frozen lips, I try desperately to hold it all together.
There were no walls everything was wide open – large open decaying windows, a dilapidated, dirty, run-down three roomed building. Outside, sitting in old, rickety lawn chairs three police officers glued to their iphones barely looked up to acknowledge our presence. An officer sitting at the broken down, falling apart desk with an out-dated, old computer with wires sprouting from the ceiling and the floors snaking across the room visible, open, apparent, stifling, hot, humid, curtains hanging by threads, shredded, dirty, old decaying. An outdated two line phone system sat on the broken down desk never ringing the entire three hours we spent there, I am unsure if this is because the police are of little or no help or this robbery was just bad luck. I have come to learn that the police are not highly regarded by the government therefore not paid well, not even given the assurance that they will have enough gas to get to where they need to be, its a crap shoot. I have also learned that everyone is bribable, everyone has a price, it is I think back to those two young officers who two finger typed the reports asking for assistance as each question on the form arose, it seemed they had never done this before. These were the tourist police, we were their speciality yet they seemed like they had never filled out a report before, neither officer spoke English. When we arrived they took Linda and Carlos into the other room leaving me standing in the reception area wondering what could possibly happen next. I was brought into the same dirty interrogation room about 30 minutes later with a young cop who couldn’t have been more than 25 years old, he spoke the a little English, between the two of us we could usually piece together the information with words, charades and drawing pictures to complete the report. Three hours later we were now up against the printer and the slight possibility of it spitting out the reports. After some more time, three Spanish speaking men all gathered around the dusty old relic tinkering away finally after several minutes came the sweet sound of printing. We were were almost on our way. My tiny bladder had had enough there was no longer a choice in the matter, we had to venture into that third room, the bathroom, horrified at the state I had choice I had to go, I had to expose my private bits to this defilement.
It brought upon a deep sadness for these young officers and their the lack of funds, the order of priority, awful working conditions, failing equipment, filthy non functioning bathrooms. Unfortunately, this is the way of life for the Costa Rican natives so completely opposite to my white priviledged life. The priviledge of living a standard of living that allows me all the things that these people may never have the chance to experience. The priviledge of living in a country where civil servants are paid well, often so well they become entitled.
We drove back to the hotel in silence, each of us swimming in our own thoughts, somehow thinking that this is just a bad dream I will soon awaken…