Thursday, November 01, 2007


They talk about the Seven Stages of Loss. At least I think it’s seven. The different emotions you go through when you lose someone. I think there are similar emotions when you are wiped out as completely. Sure, this is nothing compared to losing everything to a hurricane or a fire, and, fortunately, I still had my purse with passport, cell phone (no charger!) digi-cam (no cables!) and Big Dog still had his wallet with our cash for the day. But we were pretty thoroughly robbed, as far as robberies go.

First comes shock.
I didn’t know HOW to feel. I was neither very angry nor very sad. Just numb. I kept repeating platitudes like “Well, at least we’re okay.”

Then, disbelief.
“Can I look in the trunk again?” I asked as we got back to the car. We had one of the security guards call the condo manager’s office and had her get the phone numbers for the US Embassy and the airline. Her office was in Playas del Coco, the next town over, so we had to drive there.
“Be my guest,” shrugged BD.
It’s the same. The luggage wasn’t going to suddenly reappeared, magically, no matter how much I looked or how often I opened and closed the trunk. If we’d had the time, though, I could have been there for hours, opening and closing the trunk again and again until it sent BD off the edge.

Neither of us could believe what’s happened, or that it happened to US. We've been traveling way too long, in too many countries – many much poorer, weirder, less stable than CR. Somehow, I could imagine damaging my computer easier than having it stolen.

“In 40 years of travel, I have never experienced anything like this” will be BD’s refrain for the next many days. I think of how, when I was an infant, my mother and I traveled by ship from Kobe, Japan to Los Angeles, so I must have been on the road (or sea, or air) for nearly 50 years. And I never had anything stolen. OK, in Tokyo, my motorbike got stolen twice (the second time, the police recovered it) but other than that, I haven’t even gotten much LOST. I can only think of one item that went missing – a beautiful white lace scarf designed like a gorgeous spiderweb. I am still waiting for it to reappear from a coat pocket.

“I can’t believe it.”
“Where could it have happened?”
In my mind’s eye, I could only see the parking lot at the Jumbo Super. It was busy and confusing with cars and people and all that rain. Meanwhile, Big Dog was seeing me with my back to the car at the restaurant when he went to the men’s room. Who knows.

But, that’s the next step. Guilt.
We kept looking for what we did wrong – how we let this happen. It’s easy to feel responsible, somehow.
“In a way, we are. I mean, we in general. We come here and screw up their economy. We pay ridiculous sums for everything. No wonder people feel justified in ‘redistributing’ wealth.” BD didn’t quite share my views.
“Thieves aren’t the poor people and poor people aren’t thieves. Thieves are just lazy fucks without any morals.”
Although we disagreed, I was glad we didn’t get into blaming each other .

We found our way to Playas del Coco and the office that managed the condos. It’s a tiny town crammed with tiny shops in cinderblock buildings. The bumpy road was crowded with quite a few cars and people. Maybe it might have looked charming with a lot more sunshine – the ocean would be blue, the sand whiter, perhaps – but under the gloom (both literal and figurative) the tiny beach looked rather drab. Military green, murky water and a muddy looking beach. As soon as we got out of the car, someone was asking if we needed a taxi. A lot of hustlers, trying to get some gringo cash. Taxi? Hotel? Gimme money? Would they try to shove me out if I started asking wealthy looking tourists for money, too?

The manager, Gina, was gushing with apologies. She’d already gotten the US Embassy and airline numbers, so we got on the phone right away. Then, it was a trip to the local police to file a report. The police were typically casual about the whole thing, but this IS a funky little beach town, so I wasn’t really expecting NYPD Blue or anything.

Gina was still in disbelieve and wanted to believe this happened in or near San Jose, the capital.
“I got my purse stolen the first week back in San Jose after several years in the US. That’s why I moved here. It’s so much more tranquilo…”

It was completely dark when we got back to the condo. At least we had a place to sleep for the night!
“To having our lives!” I opened two beers and toasted BD. I was grateful it was at least physically painless. We had no moments of fear, either. It could have been worse. Much worse. I still had my passport and we had each other. Intact.

But I still spent most of the night, cataloguing our losses, a downpour providing the background music. This must be the next stage. Regret.

I thought of all the things I could have left behind. All the things we could have done to have prevented this from happening. I really regretted not having backed up my data, and most bummed out by the loss of my “tools” – the laptop, the charger to my phone and various other cables, the “studio-in-a-box” that’s also been around the world with me, all of my special pens and art supplies – plus what’s unrecoverable – the data, all the little drawings in my sketchpads…


We got up early after a mostly sleepless night. I had laundered our clothes the night before, so even though we were in the same clothes, at least they weren’t going to be smelly. At least not this day. My purse was bulging with newly purchased toothbrushes, my hair ‘s a fright wig, I had no eyebrows and what little we had (bananas, cookies, a bag of coffee and sandwiches for lunch) floated around in a plastic bag. I looked like hell. Big Dog looked pretty much the same, except for the added facial hair and his shorts and flipflops wouldn’t look at all out of place in LA. Thank god we weren’t heading back to Tokyo!

Our first stop was the OIJ, Costa Rica’s version of the FBI, in Liberia. Since the US Embassy is only open from 8am til 11am, we’d have to overnight in SJO and then hit the embassy the next day.

At the OIJ, a nice matronly woman, who spoke surprisingly good English, took our report again. Other officers took down the car license number but didn’t dust for prints the way Japanese police love to do.

“Jumbo Super? Oh, this happens all the time there,” they told us, all too jovially. “The security, they see but don’t do anything.”
“What about them? They know this is happening and they don’t do anything?” I whispered to Big Dog when they weren’t around.
When they came back, BD exclaimed, “I’ve been all through Central and South America and I’ve never been robbed! This is worse than Colombia!”
“There are many people here from Colombia,” The Matron explained.
Well, send them back!

In the car, driving back to San Jose, BD and I imagined how it could get a whole lot worse.
“Once tourists start getting held up in the national parks, they’ll stop coming. Then land prices will plummet. If I were D (our friend) I’d sell that condo and the other lot he has right now while the selling’s good.”
“As long as people have that ‘oh well’ kind of attitude, it WILL get a whole lot worse. I can see how tons of criminals from other countries with less tourist traffic flocking to these shores. Maybe it’s already happening.”

The road back was just as truck-heavy as the road up. Tons of black exhaust spewing vehicles. We couldn’t stand to be behind them, so BD would overtake them every chance we got…until we got stopped by the police.

BD fished out his California driver’s license.
“No hay! It was stolen!”
“Todo! No hay ropas. No hay makeup. No hay dinero! No hay nothing!” I interjected as BD showed the officer our copy of the police reports.
“Be careful,” he warned and we drove away.
“Hey, we can use this one in the future!” BD smiled.


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