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Latin America Shawn Dispatch

A Tech Man Cries "Uncle!"

Who will win - Shawn or the computers?
Whose idea was it to travel around the world with a bunch of computers and cameras and expensive stuff? Arriving in Panama I learned the hard way the extent to which we depend on modern equipment when travelling, since most of my important possessions were robbed in the mercado. We have also been having many problems with our computers and other high tech stuff, making this trip very difficult for me since I am the one who has to deal with most of these problems. One good thing about losing this equipment is that I have a lot less to carry and fewer computers to fix and keep track of!

Growing up in New York City, I feel completely ridiculous being ripped off the way I was, since I have seen it happen to other people more times than I can remember, and usually am very careful to keep my eyes on my bag. The problem is, after you travel for a long time you can begin to feel comfortable everywhere. Although the market in Panama City seems dangerous enough, and I certainly noticed a few pairs of eyes hungrily scanning my small backpack, I still let my guard down and set it on the ground for just a few seconds to give my shoulders a rest, and that was the opportunity some lucky thief was looking for. Kavitha and I were negotiating the price of bananas and there did not seem to be anyone too dangerous lurking around, so I set my backpack down and turned to check out the mangos. I had my back turned for about 30 seconds, busily fondling mangos to find a ripe one, and when I turned around my backpack had disappeared without a trace.

Looks like the computers are winning!
Inside the pack was most of the really expensive stuff that I had. My laptop computer, two cameras, my fleece jacket, a handmade travel chess set that my mother had given me for my birthday, my pocket knife, and a bunch of other little things that can not be replaced. As soon as I turned around, I realized what had happened, my heart started racing, and I began frantically searching the market for the culprit, hoping to spot my little green pack making it's way through the crowd. In really bad Spanish I asked people working nearby booths if anyone had seen anything, but of course no one had, and I began to realize that it was hopeless. Suddenly I began boiling with a rage so ferocious that I have rarely felt anything like it. I was angry that someone would have the nerve to steal from me. After all, I am a volunteer, working every day to make the world a better place. Didn't they realize that by stealing from me they were hindering world peace?!? I was also angry with the people standing around saying they had not seen anything and seeming more amused by my predicament than disturbed. Most of all I was angry at myself for being so ridiculously stupid as to leave more than a thousand dollars worth of stuff laying on the ground.

I had written about the beautiful rainforest in Costa Rica, and had incredible photos of monkeys, crabs, and many other animals that Kevin and I had seen on our hikes there, but that was gone too. At first I was most angry about the loss of the computer and camera, which were expensive and I will have to work a long time to replace. However, now that a few days have passed I am most bummed about the photos, my notebook, and the little souvenirs that I can never replace.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the police very helpful, having heard only bad things about the police in Central America. Two cops on bicycles spent about half an hour riding around the area seeing if they could spot the pack, and then having no better luck than me, drove Abeja and me to police headquarters to file a report. We spent most of the day waiting for police and giving statements, but all the police officers we met were very friendly and sympathetic, although no one had much hope that any of my stuff would ever turn up.

When your goal is to travel around the world for two years and live among the people of the places you visit, these kinds of things happen, and this won't be the last time we write about something unforuntate happening. This theft was the most recent and serious bit of bad luck that we Trekkers have endured, but we have had problems almost since the beginning. On the short Trek that Monica, another friend named Silvia, and I did to Mexico last fall (Mexico Trek), I dropped an $800 digital camera and Monica had her computer stolen on the last day. Since we left on the world trek, two computers have broken and been sent home, and mine was stolen along with a digital camera. (At least it was the same one I droped in Mexico, and not one of the new ones!). On top of that our computers were infected with a virus that we downloaded from the internet, which has given me countless headaches, but I think I finally managed to wipe it out. We have had numerous other little glitches that just come with the territory. We have lost important files because diskettes get destroyed and we haven't been able to get on the internet to make deadlines because sometimes there are no phones in the villages we stay in. These are all things we expected to happen when we set out, but nothing could really prepare us for how hard these situations would really be. We are learning a lot though, and by the time we are done with this odyssey, we will be expert techies and travelers and we hope to have made our mark as internet pioneers!


Kevin - How To Get From Here To There?...
Monica - The Eighth Wonder of the World!
Kevin - Chinese Food and Snow Cones in the Heart of Panama
Kevin - Kid's Version - 25 Cents for a Taste of Heaven
Kavitha - Beware What You Order! Food in Central America
Abeja - Anatomy of a Border Crossing
Slayings in Columbia
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