22.08.2009 - 23.08.2009
Hi folks, It's quiz time. Hooray, i hear you shout. Or that could just be the voices in my head.
For todays starter, what is the following a list of?:
- A swiss army knife
- 2 cigarette lighters
- A mobile phone
- A small container of antiseptic handwash
So what are you thinking so far? Contents of a handbag? A survival kit? That would be feasible, for sure. But no, not quite. Let's continue.
- A pair of shoes
- A pink camera
- An Ipod
- 10000 Malawian Kwacha
- a USB memory stick
Now that's starting to look a bit more obvious, isn't it? But then again, we can continue on a bit more and see if we can stump you properly.
- Half a pack of chewing gum
- 2 half bikini's (both bottom halves)
- A skype headset
- 2 handkerchiefs
That starts to confuse things a bit more, doesn't it? But as you are all clever people, i'm sure that you have already worked it out. And you don't even need to see the final 2 items on our list:
- A lightbulb
- A double mattress
So what is this motley list of items a list of? Yup, as i'm sure many of you have guessed, it is a list of items that were stolen from our dorm room. Whilst all 4 of us were asleep inside it.
Robberies are a sad fact of life. But whilst pickpockets, bag snatchings and opportunist thieves are one thing, robberies from a room you are actually asleep in are a bit different. And this was no opportunist robbery. Exactly what happened will doubtless always remain unknown, but it was very deliberate and almost surgical in it's execution.
Two of us are very light sleepers, yet none of us heard anything or woke up. And it wasn't as if the thieves snuck in grabbed whatever they could and fled. Everything i lost (barring the phone which was on the floor next to my bed) was in zipped pockets of my trousers, which were next to my bed. But they didn't just grab my trousers, or even open the pockets and grab stuff and go: They were so confident that they had time to open my wallet and look inside: I know this because an email address on a piece of paper which had been under some money in the wallet was on the floor, and could not have accidentally fallen out. My passport was also left on the floor.
The dorm had a door which stuck, and needed a hard shove to open (and made noise), and all but one of the floorboards squeak like heck, but we still heard nothing. And the floor on one side was an utter mess of assorted bags and stuff, yet the thieves still were able to root through and find what they wanted without disturbing us. The following morning, a handbag, my wallet and two pairs of trousers (not mine) were found just outside, missing anything of sellable value, but nothing else: Passports, credit cards etc were all left. My wallet had been gone through carefully, but they had even attempted to put items back in it instead of just dump the stuff they didn't want. One of the girls purses was found minus the useful cash, of course, but still included coins. or some of them. The thieves had been that brazen/confident that outside the door of the room they had just robbed they would go through all the coins in a purse and only steal the Malawian ones – euro and British pound coins were left.
Then there was my pockets: A cigarette lighter and the chewing gum went from one pocket, but my watch (a knackered old one, admittedly) and a pen in the same pocket was left. And amazingly, my 'day' cash in my back pocket was missed by the thieves, and so still there. And why steal dirty handkerchiefs???? The two bikini bottoms (also, perhaps unsurprisingly, not mine) were hanging up to dry outside, but next to their corresponding tops which were still there. One of the girl shoes had been stolen, but mine which were just as accessible were left. A couple of other bags and zips on bags (again not mine) had been opened and pockets searched but contents left.
And the double mattress (taken from the room next door, which was empty) had had the sheets taken of it and neatly folded on the floor. It just make no sense. The lightbulb had been removed from the outside light from next doors room, but totally removed and stolen as opposed to just unscrewed or dumped. The light in next doors room had been left on earlier that day by accident and yet was still on: the mattress wasn't even taken from a dark room. There were 4 night watchmen on duty and many lights on around the site, yet no one could see a lightbulb being removed or a double mattress being stolen....?
It is all very strange. Later the following day after the inevitable farce of dealings with the Malawian police, i randomly – and very luckily - found my swiss army knife and USB stick in a nearby cactus. But it was in such a place that it can not have fallen accidentally, and must have been deliberately chucked. Why? Who knows!
Robberies are always annoying, but it could have been much worse. My personally loss of 200usd, 3500ish Mkw (about 25usd), my phone and some small very random bits was frustrating but not the end of the world – the dollars are the worst because i need them for visas, but there is very little foreign reserves in Malawi and so replacing them is going to be hard and at an appalling rate. Of the other stuff, the camera's photo's had luckily been burnt to CD only 2 days previously, the ipods songs on her home computer and her boyfriend flying out in a weeks time so he can bring another pair of shoes. We could have all come out of it much worse.
The hardest part is understanding how none of us woke up or heard anything (none of us had had much to drink, 2 of the girls nothing at all) despite the creaky door and floor and the obvious time they spent in our room and then sorting stuff just outside. if any of us had woken up feeling iffy, or it had been elsewhere, i would have instantly suspected gassing. As it was, we all woke feeling fine – rapidly changing when the losses were realised – and all that is left is a big mystery.