Thursday, July 19, 2007

Great disappearing act

I know I promised this story yesterday but we went to see Harry Potter. Patrick and I enjoyed the movie but Azure complained that they left out pertinent info that will screw up the next movie. I guess we'll have to wait and see...

Onto the incident in Jaco:

During our November visit to Costa Rica, we decided to encompass not just the moving aspect but also get in some relaxing beach time. I planned a few days in Jaco at the beginning of the trip (but after our tour at Lincoln School) because we had been to the Caribbean coast but not the Pacific. The big draw in my mind was Manuel Antonio Park so we could see squirrel monkeys -one of only a few places in the world to see them in their natural habitat. Anyway, our car rental deal fell through and we decided to take the bus for the duration of the stay. The ride to Jaco seemed dangerous with all the steep mountain roads and the bus driver handled it well so we're glad we decided to take the bus. Our accommodations for the four nights suited us well. Clarita's turned out to be a tiny motel on the north end of the beach which served good food in their sports bar. We found a terrific bakery in Jaco called Pachi Pans that makes the most amazing chicken and potato empanadas. The bus to Quepos picks up right outside their doors so that worked out well. We didn't happen to see any squirrel monkeys but the sloths made up for that!

Back to the point of the story, the day we were to leave Jaco, we had to be out of the motel by noon but the bus didn't come until 3pm. The bus terminal was close by which was good because we had what seemed like a lot of luggage (12 days worth of clothes for 3 people). We didn't want to walk to town with all our luggage so we decided to just pick up food and eat at the bus terminal. Since we needed to purchase tickets for the bus before they sold out, this made the most sense. The bus terminal in Jaco basically is just a window in a building shared with a bank and a Pizza Hut next door all sharing a dirt parking lot. Patrick purchased tickets for us and we "camped out" on the retaining wall next to Pizza Hut. We piled all the luggage between us and started to dig into our lunch. I wasn't extremely hungry so I decided to write in my journal. A young kid (twenty-something) asked us what time it was so I looked at my watch and told him. He seemed nervous like he thought he was late and told me he didn't understand (in Spanish of course). I knew my Spanish wasn't great so instead of trying to tell him the time in Spanish, I leaned over and showed him my watch. (DUMB!) He said thanks and left. The three of us discussed what time it was in Spanish and laughed about it. I started to say the whole thing seemed weird like he wanted something from us. "It's not like we have anything to steal" came out of my mouth as I reached for my backpack - and found it missing!!! I looked at the old lady sitting next to me and she just shrugged. I hollered to Patrick "they stole my backpack" and he took off running. Of course, it was too late.

After all of our traveling, I made the dumbest mistake ever. I know not to tell people what time it is and I know that I always need to keep my hand on my backpack. I blame the whole thing on my trust of people and that Costa Rica makes me feel so at ease - unlike some other countries we have visited. Even so, we were sitting in a space that only had one access point because Pizza Hut was behind us AND a security guard was standing within 15 feet of us PLUS an elderly woman sitting right next to me. Those guys were pros! After questioning the woman, she admitted seeing the whole thing but said it happened so quickly she couldn't say what they looked like. Obviously though, she could have yelled at them or me or something. We've been told since this happened that Ticos believe it is okay to steal from gringos. I'm over being mad at them and just want to let others know how easy it is to have your personal stuff stolen.

You may be saying to yourself, "ok they took the backpack, so what? At least they still had their luggage for the rest of the stay." True. But the two guys that took my backpack knew what they were doing. We figure they must have seen Patrick go into the bank and come back out and hand me his passport (you need a passport for all bank transactions in Costa Rica). We think they were really only interested in the passport because we've been told they can be worth 10k on the black market. Plus, maybe you've guessed by now that I'm not the type to carry a purse. Everything I needed for the vacation besides clothes was in that backpack. I was even carrying some of Azure's things. All in all, they got all my money, credit cards, all 3 passports, drivers license, 2 digital cameras, 2 MP3 players, medicine, several books and maps and my car key which turned out to be one of the most important items to us. We easily received new passports the next day at the Embassy. Patrick had some money and credit cards in his pocket. Because we took the time to file a police report, our home owners insurance covered most of our monetary losses. But because we didn't have a car key, Patrick had to convince the car dealership we purchased the car from to make a duplicate key. Then we had a courier service take the key to the Park N Fly at the airport. Luckily we had just barely enough time to do this before arriving in Minneapolis because we live 90 minutes from the airport and we didn't get off the plane until after midnight.

Whew! Enough of this story for one day. Maybe I will fill in the blanks later.
Now you see you don't.


Anonymous said...
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jen poco loco said...

Wow - sorry that happened to you guys.

I ain't much of a purse lady either - backpacks, saddle bags (glorified diaper bag/purse), satchels.... nothing I got is that pretty or will ever be questioned for being too pretty with my sneakers.

Things are going okay here - hope you get here soon...