Our current time zone: GMT +8 (We're home in Singapore!)

Friday, July 24, 2009

Mugger Toads

This entry cannot be more well-timed.

Just 2 days ago, we gave Oly a rousing sendoff by showcasing its best works, followed closely by an introduction to Dan's new Canon camera.

Today, we got mugged. 3 nasty robbers jumped Dan and made a getaway with his camera.

It happened in broad daylight, at 3.30pm, in La Candelaria - Bogota's historic town perched on a hillside. The area is well patrolled by tourist police (military personnel) 24/7. Our hostel is located on one of the streets in this area. We were taking an afternoon stroll along the streets just slightly uphill from our hostel, something which we had always wanted to do since we arrived in Bogota 10 days ago.

After hearing horror stories from fellow hostel guests about getting mugged in Colombia, we always go out empty handed except for some cash and our small point-and-shoot cameras (my DSLR has been condemed to a life under lock and key here), securely zipped up in our jacket pockets and out of sight. When in use, our cameras are always looped around our wrists on a strap. Mindful of dangers lurking under the blanket of the night, we never venture out in the evenings. Keeping to well-populated streets is also a must.

I guess taking all these precautions just wasn't enough. Being around other people wasn't enough. Standing along a busy street with cars running by and people alighting from buses wasn't enough. Standing in front of a cathedral which is patrolled by security guards stringing along Alsatian dogs wasn't enough.

1 of the guys came from behind Dan and grabbed the camera while he was snapping a picture. He managed to wrestle him off but another 2 came from different directions and joined in the tussle. The camera wrist-strap broke in the midst of the scuffle and the robbers sprinted across the busy street into the safety of the hillside. In the meantime, I had fled towards the nearest group of people, screaming my head off. No one made any effort to help. It's probably a common everyday sight to the locals here. Some security guards approached the scene of the crime a few minutes later but all they did was to advise us to make a police report.

Deeply upset, we headed back to the hostel where I broke into tears and the staff quickly called the police. Together with one of the Spanish tutors who were teaching at the hostel, we were escorted to the nearest police station, where it turned out that the electronic system for filing a report was not functioning. We waited an hour for a police vehicle to bring us to another station to file the report, all the while watching 5 police cadets wire up a TV so that the inspector could watch telly and switch channels from the comfort of his room. At the next police station, we sat in while the tutor, Jenny, related the incident to the policeman as he typed our statement in Spanish. While we are making good progress in our Spanish classes and most ironically were taught how to relate incidents in the past tense today, our grasp of the language is beyond telling a detailed story without testing the policeman's patience. So we were most grateful to Jenny for being with us throughout a very trying afternoon even though she had a class to teach (she got our tutor, Juliana, to sub her.) Throughout our time at both police stations, a constant stream of people, both locals and foreigners, turned up to file police reports.

Armed with a copy of our police report and receipts documenting our purchase of the camera, we are hoping that we can make a claim for the loss of an item under our travel insurance plan.

Having never experiencing any danger whatsoever while on our travels around Asia and other parts of the world - and definitely not at any point in our entire life in Singapore - we are still badly shaken from the experience. At least the robbers didn't brandish any knives and we didn't suffer any physical harm. But it's pathetic that 3 grown men can go all google-eyed and gaga over a small little camera, and I'm still extremely angry and upset at being the target of a robbery that scared the *&$# out of me.

The anger, shock and all other crappy feelings will probably wear off in a few days time. But one vision of the robbery will probably linger in my memory - that of me looking back at my husband and seeing him surrounded by 3 enemies. While I'm not surprised at my instinct to RUN at the onset of danger (yes, a moment of self-discovery there - I can run pretty fast and scream damn loudly), I wonder whether I should at least have tried shoving one of the guys off Dan before taking flight, or staying and fighting by his side. I would like to think that he would have wanted me to run - but that's self-consolation on my part.

Sigh. It's a really crap feeling getting mugged and then feeling like a big wimpy chicken... pok-keh!


Hong Hua said...

oh dear...

WeLoveRoy said...

You did the right thing to run.. losing a camera is nothing and I am sure Dannie would feel worst if something happened to you!

None the less thank god both you guys are okay.. I guess in the next few blog entries, there will be not much photos (which I missed in the last few entries)...

Iphone pics maybe? But better make sure you are safe first lar!

Dannie said...

Roy: Yeah. Good thing we're not hurt. This is a really small lesson to prepare us for the rest of South America! There are going to be more entries with pictures still lah. Haha... and I think the iPhone is more precious than Yi Lin's Sony PNS!

Tracy Su said...

Andy says 'Biluddy hell!'

That sounds horrible, but it's good that you're okay, and yes, that they were cowardly snatch-and-go thieves. But it stunk that no one tried to help...that's getting a lot more common everywhere these days. Guess others are afraid of getting themselves into trouble too.

Think you both did the right thing, and it's good to know that your run-reflexes kick into gear at the right time!

iluzdaf said...

Nobody knows what they will do in a quick situation like that. I seriously think they should have classes in school for that. I think running and calling for help was probably better at scarring them off Dan then staying and fighting. Desperate people cornered can get ugly. I hope both of you are feeling better and persevere, explore and bring back great stories (with pictures or with mental pictures)!

Yi Lin said...

Thanks guys.

Yeah, unfortunately mobile phones aren´t exempt from muggers. The Spanish tutor said that she was robbed of her mobile at knifepoint, so she can´t use her mobile while out on the streets.

We´re staying on in Bogota for 1 more week to finish our Spanish classes. And will probably get a replacement camera. Can´t possibly live out the rest of our trip in fear. Just pray hard that bad luck doesn´t strike twice!

Carol Mei Mei said...

Sorry to hear you guys got mugged! But thank God you both are safe and sound - that's what's most important. South America is infamous for street mugging, so do take care as best as you can. When I backpacked on my own in the past, I used to carry a small pen knife in my jacket pocket for self-defence should I need to. I am grateful that I never had to use it. I guess in the case of mugging, it's probably safer to just let the robbers get away with your possession, rather than attempt any counter-assault which could end up being even more dangerous for yourselves.

Ms Shirley Wong said...

Hey sorry to hear about that nasty incident! Been mugged before while travelling too so I know it feels unsettling. Thank God that you are not hurt. Stay safe for the rest of the journey.

Ms Shirley Wong said...

Hey sorry to hear about that nasty incident! Been mugged before while travelling too so I know it feels unsettling. Thank God that you are not hurt. Stay safe for the rest of the journey.

Debra said...

Oh man, that really sucks :\

Glad you guys (and your DSLR!) are safe. Take care you guys!

popcorng said...

I am glad both of you are safe! Cameras are replaceable, though at a cost =(

Reader fr SG,
Sharon =)

Yi Lin said...

Carol - yeah, that's the thing that sucks most. That you are doing your best to be careful and sensible but it doesn't matter cos the robbers are bold enough to attack in broad daylight and in front of other people. Makes one feel really helpless.

Debra, Sharon - thanks, girls. Glad we're safe too. It felt really painful shelling out another few hundreds of dollars for another camera though :(

Shirls - sorry to hear about you getting mugged before too. Yes, it's a horrible experience that leaves you feeling upset, angry and totally crap. Where did it happen?

Celine said...

Hey guys, reading this post rather late I think, but will leave a comment anyway. Hope you're all over the nasty incident by now. Horrible as it is, I guess a good way of looking at it would be to take it as part and parcel of travel - taking the good with the bad and putting it all down as one great big crazy experience. When Darren and I were backpacking in Italy, our camera got stolen out of Darren's bag. We also spent frustrating hours at the police station. They were literally smoking and staring at us without helping. Of course, getting mugged is 10 times worse, and I'm glad u guys are fine. Stay safe thru the rest of your travels, and best of luck!

Dannie said...

Hey Celine,

We read and love all comments, no matter how late they are. We're really quite over this incident now, but it IS a good story to tell. In fact, I think your story sounds a little more frustrating than ours! Thanks for the well wishes. We'll definitely take care!

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