Jaza's World Trip

Camera snatched in Internet café

You can't travel around the world for a year, without expecting to lose or to have stolen a number of things. This morning, my camera became the latest victim of the trip. I knew I would lose it eventually, but I never expected that it would happen quite like this.

I was sitting in an Internet café in downtown Arequipa, blogging and e-mailing away, when a mother with a small baby — and her female friend — came out of the bathroom, and walked behind where I was sitting. The mother dropped some tissues (to my left), and asked me to pick them up for her. I picked most of them up; she asked me if I could please pick up the rest. Which I did.

Ten minutes later, I got up, paid for my Internet time, walked out and down the road for about 20m, and then realised that my camera (which had been on the desk, to my right) was not in my pocket. I sprinted back to the café, but alas: the camera was not to be seen anywhere. And thus, here ends my time as the proud owner of an HP PhotoSmart R707, 5.1MP (3x opt zoom) digital camera.

Chris and I went over it, and really, the only plausible explanation is that the mother-baby-and-friend trio nicked it. Considering that I only walked 20m, down a smooth sidewalk in clear daylight, it seems unlikely that the camera was in my pocket, and that it fell out (or that it got pick-pocketed) within this short walk. Also seems unlikely that I just left the camera when I walked out of the café, and that the girl working in the café then stole it: too much at stake for her (and we did, of course, ask her if she had it).

Well, if it was the trio, then I can't help but commend them for what was a most daring, well-executed, and successful operation. Either myself or Chris could have easily seen them snatch the camera; but somehow, we didn't — I guess we were concentrating too hard on our blogging; and I guess that I was also quite successfully distracted with "the dropped tissues manouevre".

Although I am, of course, pi$$ed off that I've lost my camera, things could have been much worse. Here's a few reasons why:

  1. I had, quite literally, just finished uploading all my latest photos onto my Flickr account, when the camera (and all the photos on the memory card inside it) got stolen. So, miraculously, I lost zero photos today: thank G-d for regular Internet backup! Really, photos are infinitely more valuable than the cameras that they're taken with: I would have been much more distraught had I also lost some of my photos. Unfortunately, I have lost the original high-quality images (for the 500 or so photos that were on the camera): but the ones on Flickr are still more than high-enough quality (1600x1200 pixels) for regular-size prints.
  2. My camera is two years old, it's a bit ugly and chunky, it isn't worth that much anymore, and it has actually been malfunctioning quite a bit in the last few months (e.g. sometimes crashes when trying to take pictures in poor lighting conditions). I have been known to have recently said about my camera, on occasion: "I'm waiting for it to get stolen, so I can buy a new one". Well, now it has, and I can!
  3. I can claim back the value of the camera on my travel insurance, when I return to Australia — so I'm not losing much on it anyway.

So, straight after we'd gone back to the café, and confirmed that the camera was indeed lost beyond hope of reprieve, we then proceeded directly to the tourist police office (which was, conveniently, just a few blocks down the road). Once there, I explained what had happened, and one of the officers on duty took on the case. He asked us to take him back to the café, where he searched the place himself, and where he interrogated the girl working there for a few minutes. We then went back to the station with him, where he interrogated me for a little while, and started writing up an official report.

He was a nice guy, and quite funny too. "We'll say it was stolen, eh?" He asked me. "Yes, I think that will be better for your travel insurance". He's a tourist policeman: I guess he'd know about these things! :P

He was also quite the innovative one. He explained that usually, there's a fee of s/3 for getting a copy of an official police report. This fee has to be paid into the Police Department's bank account at a branch of their bank, rather than being paid in cash: I assume that there are some regulations against giving cash directly to a police officer, for any purpose, since it could be considered a bribe. However, because of the protests in Arequipa at the moment, all the banks are shut. So, to get around this troublesome dilemna, he suggested that we could go to a nearby stationery store, and buy a quantity of A4 paper for the police office, to the value of s/3 or more; and that this could then "constitute payment" instead of the bank deposit. Crazy country. :P

And that's what I did. I went and bought some A4 paper, and gave it to the cops; and in return, I got a copy of their official report of the incident, which I can keep for the travel insurance people, when I get back home. Now all I have to do is find a new camera.

Filed in: ArequipaNot happy JanPoliceSneakyTheft