my god!" I gasped. I fell to my knees and looked under
the seat. Not there. I told a nearby couple to watch my other
things before rushing out of the station. Frantically I searched
for a sign of my yellow bag. No luck. A small crowd gathered
backpack, my backpack", I uttered unbelievingly. Of course
I now understood what probably happened: the man who I suspected
of sexual harassment had violated me in another way. While
he distracted me, his partner in crime probably picked up
my bag. How stupid I had been! I had been warned about these
scams yet I allowed myself to be fooled into being less watchful.
The police tried
I stood there trying to explain the situation, the memory
of exactly what I had lost became increasingly clear. My inner
thoughts broke out of me in a wail, communicating to my audience
better than words the extent of my loss -- gone were my negatives,
my film of Huanchaco, email addresses of new friends, and
worst of all, my journals from four months of travelling.
My guidebooks, sunglasses, Walkman, the new camera that I
loved --these were all expensive casualties, but nowhere near
as priceless as my memorabilia.
citizen guided me to the police station, where they bundled
me into a jeep. Perhaps we could find the culprits, they said.
I went along with them, although hope lay low on my list of
As a lone
woman in Peru, I had experienced both excessive hospitality
and hostility. Versus traveling in a group, I found that alone,
I reached out more to those around me and people reached out
to me, offering invitations to their homes, teaching me how
to prepare ceviche and guinea pig. However, I was robbed three
times, despite being careful. It was almost enough to discourage
me from traveling alone. Almost.
must leave Peru...
Suddenly, more than
anything I wanted to be on the bus to Ecuador, to move on.
I begged the officers to take me back because the bus was
leaving in five minutes. In front of police headquarters,
I jumped out and ran, pounding my boots into the pavement.
I put all of my pain and anger into that run and I made
it to the station just as the bus was pulling
out. The staff helped me load my bags and I took my seat
next to a little boy, who looked curiously at the crying
gringa clutching a book to her chest.
In the morning, I felt
the warmth of Peruvians again. Hearing of my plight and
ashamed of their countrymen, a family took me to the bus
to Vilcabamba. At a spa in this town, I spent one day crying;
however, meeting new people, as well as partaking in some
foot massages and exfoliating body scrubs, helped me feel
better and I decided to continue with my trip.
Although the pain has
lessened, I sometimes think of my stolen property. Is a
little girl scribbling in my journals? Whose finger is pushing
my camera's shutter-release button? Is my yellow bag pressed against someone else's back? It's
like picturing your boyfriend with another partner. And
it hurts. But so do root canals, stubbed toes, and paper
cuts. All we JourneyWomen can do is heal, and travel on.
words on loss...
is the price we pay for living.
It is also the source of much of our growth and pain.
Judith Viorst, Necessary Losses (1986)
We never know the full
value of a thing until we lose that thing.
Mrs. Henry Wood, East Lynne (1861)
One knows what one has
lost, but not what one may find in the process.
George Sand, The Haunted Pool (1851)