No bags rule

So this weekend was actually really good for a lot of reasons. We had two different retreats, one Saturday with the Professors of Kinder, Institute and Guarderia, and Sunday with the Secular Order of Franciscans we’ve joined. There was lots of reflection time and listening to talks. For me it was a nice affirmation of the faith that the people I work with everyday have; as well as a testament to how many people in the Santa Cruz region are dedicated to living a Franciscan lifestyle. It left me feeling good about the people of Bolivia and the outlook for the future.

Sometimes it’s easy to get comfortable like that and forget: This is Bolivia. No sooner had we finished the retreat than we got robbed. At 6, we went out for dinner with the other volunteers. There’s a new restaurant that looks decent and is only one house down from the convent. So we walk over and sit down. We’re the first ones there because it’s still early for dinner here. And the food’s not ready yet (it’s a set menu) so we get some drinks and wait. A guy walks in and asks about food, but when the server walks back to the kitchen, the guy walks over, grabs Ramona’s purse off the back of her chair and runs! Tom moved the fastest and starts chasing him, but the guy had his friend outside with a motorcycle so once he hopped on that the chase was mostly lost. I ran after Tom, desperately trying to remember Spanish and I finally I get some “Ayuda, Ayuda” screams out while the motorcycle was still in view. The only hope was that a car would block the road so they couldn’t escape. But unfortunately the car that came thought Tom was the robber, since he was running, and didn’t try to stop the guys on the motorcycle. No doubt the motorcycle already had the escape route planned so there was no point in following on a motorcycle. After that things were just confusing, and I wasn’t sure who to trust. A bunch of people came out of their houses and crowded around and said they saw the guy or that they tried to help. Some kid walked up and said he knew the guy but didn’t know his name. I questioned the server, wondering if he wasn’t complicit with the whole thing. We’ll never know. I ran back over to the convent to ask the Sisters if there was anything we could do to report it and they said that even if you gave a description, because I got a really good look at the guy, the police wouldn’t do anything to catch him.

The most frustrating part is that I’m almost certain it’s the same two men that have been causing trouble in our neighborhood for the last few weeks. Another volunteer, Fionn got robbed in the market, right in front of the Kinder in broad daylight. And the night before, Hermana (Sister) Manuela was walking home from her classes at the University and got her bag and head veil stolen right off of her! I don’t know how many other people have been hit, sounds like most people don’t even report it because they think the police are useless. It’s just insane, three robberies on the same block in two weeks time, most likely by the same guys, and no one’s going to do anything about it? Anyway, for now since they certainly know to target volunteers, we’ve instituted a “no bags rule” meaning that we don’t go out in the street with anything except money stuffed in our underwear or hidden pockets. Last night I was thinking about, what can you do when the police in your city don’t fight crime? Oh that’s right, call Batman.