In the expat world there’s this secret club of people who have never been robbed.
“I’ve been to some dangerous places and have never once been pick pocketed,” one friend will boast.
I’ll counter, “I’ve only *almost* been mugged at knifepoint… and I lived in Brazil!”
In China I feel ridiculously safe 99.9% of the time. My biggest fear is being trampled. A fear that’s sadly legitimate considering the way people push and shove in the subway ☹ Even more disturbing, many stampedes are created by people RUNNING AWAY from someone who has fainted. Fear of airborne diseases and lawsuits against good samaritans fuel this truly disgusting behavior. If it weren’t for my kids sweet faces sometimes I don’t know how I bear living in a place with people who are so incredibly uncompassionate.
I almost don’t worry at all about being mugged, only a little teeny bit about being pickpocketed and virtually not at all when it comes to misplacing my things.
Have I locked myself out of my apartment more times than I can count? Yes.
Do I constantly lose or misplace my valuables? Ha. *foreshadowing sarcasm* No, I’m super responsible and take care of my things.
On New Year’s Eve two of my friends lost their phones and the purse that was holding them while out in Hong Kong. Lucky for them, they got it back the next day. A 2015 miracle! It broke my heart to see my friends so bummed on New Year’s day just before they’d gotten their things back, but I couldn’t help but think how predictably white girl wasted they got. “That’s just being reckless,” I thought to myself. I never get that stupid-drunk to the point of being irresponsible for my things.
Well…stupid is as stupid does.
Last weekend a group of friends and I took a weekend trip to Macau. A place I’d been itching to see because of it’s history with Portugal. I was pumped to see that beautiful calçada portuguesa and be reminded of my favorite city in Europe (the world?) and my other favorite city in South America. Lisbon and Rio! Duh!
Macau is known as the Las Vegas of Asia. It even has it’s own Venetian. But we weren’t there to get drunk and wild. Us girls wanted to go in some churches, eat some pastéis de nata and (I’m not sure about my friends) pretend like we didn’t live in China, but rather in Europe.
We spent the day combating for space with our umbrellas on the intricate Portuguese stones. We walked up and down hills taking in all the colonial sights of Macau. It wasn’t Faro or Porto or Lisbon, but it was a charming historic center and day well spent outside of our brand spanking new city, Shenzhen.
At the end of the night we grabbed some comida portuguesa and then headed back to Zhuhai on the other side of the Chinese border. After a few glasses of wine and little to eat during our day filled with trudging up and down Macau’s wet roads I felt completely and totally beat. We made it to an Irish bar that we’d long since forgotten after our month long of
hell training. I sat down and promptly ordered a chocolate milkshake not wanting to drink myself to sleep at the table.
The night was uneventful and I looked forward to getting into the cab to head to our hostel and get some shut eye. We made the short trip to our hostel and I fumbled in the backseat for my wallet to pay my share of the ride all while juggling my gopro and umbrella. We climbed out and just as I was putting my wallet away and checking if I had everything a sinking feeling entered my chest and I realized I didn’t have my gopro.
As if in slow motion I turned to my friend who was already waiting by the elevator. She asked if I had everything and I slowly shook my head and said my gopro was in the taxi. We both turned to see it’s lights at the end of the street, my 500 something dollar gopro resting on the floor of it’s backseat.
My friend in less shock than I was quickly grabbed our Chinese friend and headed in the direction the taxi went and sent me and another friend the other direction. Walking to the curb I must have checked and rechecked my purse 10 times. This doesn’t happen to me! I’m responsible! I take care of my things! I’ve only had it since February!!!!!
My poor friend had to endure my mini-meltdown. First shock and acceptance. I was certain we’d have no luck spotting the taxi driver doubling back on this random street. I was still so exhausted and just wanted to curl up on my bed and feel sorry for myself. Then I felt something like rage. “I’m STILL holding this FUCKING umbrella but I let go of my Gopro!?!!” Then a few tears came. “I’m so FUCKING STUPID!!!” My savings and budget plan definitely wasn’t going to allow me to buy another one and the whole idea behind getting a Gopro was to make little videos while on my RTW trip starting this June.
I felt bile start to rise and thought I was going to be sick. I was just about ready to give up when my friend who had run off with the local girl called our names. “We’ve got security guards who got the plate on camera. We’re calling the company now!” A little bit of hope jumped inside me, but I knew it was too soon to start planning a selfie shoot.
We got to where my Chinese friend was sitting with the guards and she said she was on the phone with our taxi driver!!! I held my breath while I tried to make out what she was saying with my baby Chinese skills. But something was wrong. She hung up and said he didn’t see it nor did the passengers in his back seat. He advised her to call him back in two minutes when he wasn’t with the new customers. My heart sunk. If there’s anything I learned from getting my Iphone and wallet pickpocketed in Brazil is once it’s gone, it’s gone for good. Find Iphone app or not.
We all probably thought it was over then. One friend said she was sure she thought she saw it on the floor when she was getting out. (don’t blame her! It’s totally my fault and she couldn’t be sure what she saw) The security guards began expressing their remorse saying surely the taxi driver realized how valuable it was and kept it for himself. Guess I saw that one coming. I thought to offer to pay for it. I mentioned it to my friend and she said she already had. It was time to call it a night. I’d have to rely on my iphone 4’s video capabilities during my big trip (yeah I know. I’m checking my privilege right now!)
My friend called the driver again and some words were exchanged I didn’t understand. One guard turned to me and said one word, “Yes.” My heart raced, but again I didn’t want to get too excited. I stuttered to my friend, “He’s got it?” She nodded and I felt the acid rise in my throat again from all the excitement. “He says he has a stick,” she said. “Yes, that’s it! Tell him I’ll pay him to come back here!” I was so overcome with relief I had to sit down. It was only a minute later I realized she had said stick and not camera. Not wanting to whine, but still in disbelief of everything I asked my friends if they thought stick meant that it included the vary valuable camera that can so easily be detached from said stick.
My friend gave a worried look and dialed up the cabbie again this time asking if there was a small device at the end. Yes! Yes, there was!!! She hung up the phone and laughed saying he called it a BBG. “What’s that?” us three foreigners said in unison. She explained and we realized that the taxi driver thought my half a grand camera was a pager!!
Ten minutes of sitting on the pavement and repenting all my sins, praying to the virgin and promising to warn everyone of the dangers of not checking the back seat of the cab, the taxi driver pulled up to the curb holding my Gopro on it’s tripod/selfie stick. He charged me 50 RMB for the trouble (what a laugh considering how much would have been lost). I gave him a hearty xièxie, waved and thanked the guards and gave my petite Chinese friend a bear hug.
So, learn from my stupidity.
Don’t make fun or hold yourself above people who have lost or had their things stolen.
Always check for your things when getting out of the cab. Heck! Ask for a receipt every time (especially at night when you’re drinking)
Hope to God your taxi driver is not tech friendly and mistakes your expensive camera for an outdated beeper reminiscent of the 90’s.