As soon as I have realized that I just had my laptop stolen by a hitch-hiker, I drove back to the area where I dropped her off and desperately cruised around to see if I can spot her somewhere. It was clear that she is in no way related to this area. This wasn’t her destination, this was simply where we were at the time she made successful pull and moved my laptop from the rear seat into her bag. Once the laptop was in her bag, she obviously needed to get off the car immediately to make sure she’s gone before I can notice anything. I tried to see if I can spot her but it didn’t work. After such successful pull, she had likely got into first available cab and had herself driven away – anywhere but here. Trying to find her now was futile. Next stop – reporting this crime to the Dominican Republic police.
They have two types of police in the Dominican Republic – one is National Police (Policia Nacional) which deals with all internal affairs involving local Dominicans and then there is Politur which is the police especially dedicated to serving the tourists. Politur officers speak at least one foreign language to make it easier for foreigners to report crime, because Policia Nacional officers only speak Spanish so as a foreigner, unless you can speak it too, you won’t get very far. Politur was the response of the Dominican government to attract more tourists and give an impression that Dominican Republic has it taken care of so foreigners can feel safe. Unfortunately, existence of Politur changes nothing on the fact that so many Dominicans are criminals who don’t hesitate to steal from you even if you are helping them.
I was in Santo Domingo – capital city of the Dominican Republic. I drove up and down the main highway that goes across the city to see if I can either spot a Politur officer or their office but no luck. I tried to ask several people but everyone was completely useless. After more than an hour spent trying to report the crime to the Politur I eventually gave in and headed for the Policia Nacional head office which had a sign pointing towards it from the main highway.
It was already almost midnight. I parked my rental car just outside of the National Police headquarters where an armed officer guarded the gate. I pointed in to let him know that I need to see the officer inside to report the crime. There were three officers in main hall but none of them spoke English. One of them asked me if I had “passporte” which I could make out despite my lack of Spanish skills so I headed back to the car to get it, since I didn’t have it on me.
As I was coming back with my passport, I was taken by one of the officers to another office in a small building standing separately from main palace. Two men were inside and as they found out I couldn’t speak any Spanish, they called upon their colleague from the room next door. I thought that since I was taken to this building and since they called an officer from another room that it was because he could speak English, but I was wrong.
As a foreigner, reporting crime to the National Police in the Dominican Republic is as difficult as rumors have it. There is little help from their part and you are constantly subjected to jokes on your behalf. They say things they know you can’t understand and have a good laugh clearly showing that they are laughing at you and you can’t do nothing about it. But at least I was reporting it.
I wrote on a piece of paper information that was in what I believed a universally understandable language. I used sign language to make it clear that it’s a laptop I’m talking about and that it was stolen by a hitch-hiker. I wrote serial number on the sheet, wrote where I picked said hitch-hiker up and where I dropped her off. I have included the name and model of stolen laptop, showed them what color it was by pointing at the object that was plain white and as I was trying to describe what a woman who stole it looked like, the police report was ready and was being printed out.
Obviously, National Police of the Dominican Republic knew they were gonna do absolutely nothing about this crime. I was there, so they filed a report, but they showed me clearly that once filed, it will be put on a shelf and never looked at or dealt with. They never wanted to know what the thief looked like or where I picked her up or dropped her off (this information, although provided was not added on the report – too much to type, you know).
All in all, even though National Police accepted me as a foreigner to report a crime with them, they did not show any intention to do anything about it and made me feel that I can forget about ever getting my laptop back. They would simply not do anything about it. Dominican Republic is the country full of thieves from the bottom of the barrel. Thieves who have no troubles stealing from people who help them out. And the police will do nothing about it, not even an attempt to make it look like they would try. What a country…
The serial number that appears on the report is incorrect. I had the original receipt from Future Shop where I bought the laptop in August of 2009 with me as I carry those in case there is a warranty claim and that’s the number that accompanied the brand and model names on the receipt. As I found out upon my return back home, this is not the serial number, but at the time it was the only number I had, since actual unit was stolen so I wasn’t able to just flip it up and look up the serial number that’s on it. What kind of random numbers Future Shop adds on their receipts is a mystery to me.
I was hoping there would be some rapid response from the police as I had reported the crime shortly after it was committed but this was the Dominican Republic I was in. Not only was there no interest from the police to attempt to do anything about tracing down the thief, they acted like nothing will ever get done about it now or in the future. I was defeated. Completely drained of all hope that there is some good in the Dominican Republic, I was faced with 7 more torturous days to spend in that country as my flight back to Canada where I could report the crime to actual police was not schedule until Thursday next week. I had the worst week of my life ahead of me and I had to spend it in a country that put me into this torturous position. And this was supposed to be a vacation for me where I was meant to recharge and unwind.
The worst of my nightmares – one I could not even comprehend became reality. I went to the Dominican Republic to just enjoy myself without doing anything for a week and became a victim of ugly theft. I rented a car and picked up a hitch-hiker who stole my laptop. This is the lowest form of low – you do someone a favor, you help them out because they are asking for help and they abuse the privilege and use it to steal from you. What a horrible experience. This is what happened:
My first trip to the Dominican Republic was in January of 2009. I had great time and thanks to smart timing, the trip was very inexpensive. That time I also rented a car – I picked it up at the Puerto Plata airport and spent my 7 nights stay along the Dominican Republic’s north coast. I started in Puerto Plata, went through Sosua, Cabarete, Cabrera, Rio San Juan all the way to Samana peninsula where I wanted to go whale watching as that’s where whales come to mate from January till March each year, making for a unique opportunity to see a mother whale with a newly born whale calf. I enjoyed my time in the Dominican Republic so much, I wanted to come back and this time explore other parts of the country, mostly along the south coast as well as the beautiful beaches on the east (Punta Cana and Bavaro).
I was purposefully waiting until January, because it’s a great time to travel to the Caribbean. Prices are sky high in December with Christmas season and New Year being popular times of year when many people travel. Then come January, prices drop right down to a level that’s ridiculous compared to December. So basically, instead of going in December, wait a couple of weeks and go in January. You get the same weather, same everything, but for a fraction of price. Plane tickets that cost $850 + fees and taxes at the end of December drop to the $85 + fees and taxes level at the beginning of January. This is the best time to take trips to popular “sun vacation” spots. I learned that trick in 2009 and wanted to take advantage of it again in 2010.
I have patiently waited until beginning of January and kept keen eye on plane ticket prices to Punta Cana, Dominican Republic since mid December. For some reason, unlike in 2009, the prices retained their December levels for near two weeks in January and then they dropped overnight to 1/10th of their previous level. The moment the return ticket was below $100 + fees and taxes (which happen to be quite high for the Dominican Republic – over $300 making it the most expensive destination as far as airport taxes are involved after London UK from what I have noticed), I have immediately purchased it and proceeded to make a reservation for a car rental with Avis as well.
It was a last minute purchase, I had three days until departure but that was fine with me. I’m ready when I need to be ready. Because on my 2009 trip I took over 3000 pictures (Dominican Republic was truly amazing that year), I have decided to take my laptop with me so I don’t have to compromise with storage space. I also thought I’d use time in the evenings to do some writing as there is not much to do and it gets dark shortly after 6pm (that’s how it goes close to the equator). I travelled across South East Asia with my laptop without problems and those were the countries much poorer than the Dominican republic, so I didn’t see it as a big deal.
Everything seemed to have gone wrong right from the beginning, though. I got to Punta Cana and waited at the conveyor belt for my luggage which never showed up. Frustrated and desperate, I went to file a lost luggage report but first had to wait an hour until they have found the Air Transat representative who somehow disappeared even though their flight have just arrived and should be available for the passengers.
So there I was, back in the Dominican Republic I was looking forward to whole year but things were not turning out the way I had hoped. I picked up my rental car and went on to have an adventure I could not do. I had an itinerary in mind but it was all put to halt because of lost luggage. I was still wearing clothes from Canada where it was cold, so I was in long pants, heavy boots and long sleeve shirt, yet I was in the tropical climate with scorching temperatures. I had no personal hygiene products on me, nothing to brush my teeth with or rub into my armpits to make them more fragrant. It was horrible.
I drove back to the Punta Cana airport the following day with hopes that my luggage would have showed up in the meantime. Air Transat representatives were half helpful, half not. They all seemed to blame everything on me. The lady I spoke to said I should go and do what I had planned without waiting around for my luggage. I told her she had no right to be telling me what I should or should not do as she doesn’t know what I can or cannot do without stuff I had in my missing bag. She proceeded by calling their central to find out that there was no trace of my luggage whatsoever. None. Nobody knows where it is, what happened to it, whether it went on a different plane or whether it’s still in Canada – no trace of it whatsoever. Like it doesn’t exist. And that’s 24 hours after it was lost. Great news.
So I’m in the Dominican Republic, sweating in the same heavy clothes from Canada, stinking, dirty, desperate and devastated over this bull$hit but the worse was yet to come. I could not take a grasp of it. I had just returned from Asia from a flight which took 3 transfers and more than 24 hours to complete, including a stop over in Seoul, South Korea, yet my luggage got to me at my terminal destination. And here I took a direct flight – no transfers, one single flight from point A to point B and they managed to lose my luggage to a point that they have no trace of it whatsoever.
Since this was not the first time my luggage was lost during my travels by plane (I also had it lost on my return flight from Cuba to Canada in December of 2008), I already knew that one should never check in valuables. Hence I had the bag with my camera equipment and my laptop with me. I was still in the same clothes from Canada, but had my camera and my laptop so even though excessively stressed out, my expensive possessions were still under my control.
Unfortunately, since there was no trace of my bag and no knowing when it would show up, I had no choice but to proceed with my trip in whatever state I was or spend it waiting around for an unknown length of time. I was distraught, stressed out, desperate, stinky and dirty, but what could I do? So I went back to my rented car, started it up and headed out to try to make the best of my time in the Dominican Republic despite this misfortune.
In this weak state of mind, as I was driving through San Pedro de Macoris, on the south coast of the Dominican Republic, headed towards nation’s capital Santo Domingo, I noticed a hitch-hiker on the side of the road desperately trying to stop a car to get a lift. It was at the beginning of the highway leading to Santo Domingo and it was already about 7.30 or 8 pm meaning it was dark so I stopped to pick this young woman up and give her the lift.
I was heading the same way anyway and had room in my car so giving a hitch-hiker a lift was no big deal. But most of all, back in a day when I was in the university and spent 6 consecutive summers travelling through Europe, I used hitch-hiking as my primary means of transportation. When you hitch-hike, sometimes you are stuck for a long time and sometimes you don’t even catch a ride so you have to stay the night and try again the following day. However once you catch a lift it’s fun times. You are always very appreciative of people who help you out with the lift so now that I was in a position of having a ride and saw a hitch-hiker in need of help, I did not hesitate to return the favor and stopped to pick her up.
There was a major issue with communication as she didn’t speak any English and I speak no Spanish. So we spent most of our time listening to awful Dominican Latino music on the radio (every station plays the same awful music, but CDs I brought with me to listen to on the road were in the bag that was lost by flight carrier). As a person who picked up a hitch-hiker, I had the foremost interest that she feels comfortable and enjoys her ride, so when she threw her bag on the rear seat, I didn’t make much of it, thinking that she just wants to have enough room for herself during the upcoming 45 minute long ride. It was the rear seat where I had my laptop rested.
During the ride, the hitch-hiker went to her bag a couple of time – to pick up her lipstick to do the things that girls do, so I didn’t make a big deal out of it again. Then as we approached Santo Domingo, she asked me to drop her off at first turn off from the highway so I obliged and wished her the best of luck. I have impulsively reached in the back seat to make sure my laptop was all right, not because I suspected a theft, but because I thought it may have slid during the course of driving so I wanted to make sure it was safe. I could not feel it anywhere on the seats so I figured it must have slipped and fallen under the seat. I tried to reach under the seat on which I was sitting, but could not feel anything either. I thought it was because I can’t reach very well from a position behind the wheel so I moved the vehicle up to the gas station on the corner, parked the car and walked out to get on the rear seat to take care of my laptop which surely must have slid in some hard to reach spot.
My heart was pumping like crazy as I was sneaking at every possible spot in the car where a laptop could have slipped but it was nowhere to be seen. I turned the car upside down while other cars were coming and going as they filled their gas tanks up and as security guards stared at me because of my frantic behavior yet there was no laptop. I slowly started to realize the unthinkable – I was robbed. I had my laptop stolen by that hitch-hiker. It was the most horrible feeling ever. Within seconds I realized what terrible loss this theft puts me through. I had many things stolen from me through the course of my life and my travels, but this laptop was hands down the most expensive piece and as if the price was not the only loss, the laptop had everything of value to me on it, including all of the pictures from my travels so far, meaning that I would not be able to continue with updates for my blog because I have no reminder of my adventures anymore. What an awful experience. How could someone do it? How could someone you offer help to abuse it to steal from you? What kind of world do we live in?
This laptop theft is the reason why I’m jumping five months ahead of myself and start writing about the Dominican Republic even though I have not yet finished writing about my adventures in Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. When you start living your life to the fullest and every day is an adventure, there are so many things happening every day that I was unable to keep up with written reports. Things were simply happening faster than I was able to keep track of them. As a result, I am five months behind with my journal, however I had pictures of my adventures which served as great reminder of everything that happened so I was able to write about it as though it happened yesterday. Pictures recall memories and serve as valuable reminder of time spent.
Unfortunately, my stolen laptop was the only place which had my pictures. With laptop gone, all of the pictures are gone but that’s not all. Stolen laptop also means that all of my emails and valuable contact information I have made during the course of my travels are gone. There was much more than I am willing to admit on that laptop and now it’s all gone because I was trying to be a Good Samaritan. One of the saddest and most devastating days of my life.
STOLEN LAPTOP SPECS:
Model: Samsung Q320 Color: White Size: 13.4 Inch Screen Serial Number: ZBBX93ES700101 Stolen On: Friday, January 15, 2010
Description of Laptop Thief:
Young female, approximately 25 year old. Good looking with average size breasts (not too big, but also not small), slender build without big gut, but booty type buttocks. She is on a taller side, perhaps as tall as me, which is 180 cm or 5’11” – on average taller than most girls, but not excessively tall. It was dark already and as a driver, I did not spend my time staring at the passanger, instead I focused on driving and the road, but I believe that her skin color was darker than average Dominicans have. Most Dominicans are dark or darkish, she was on the darker side. She also has very large lips. Noticeably big, plump lips that some women with very dark skin have. These lips stand out big time and are easily distinguishable. At the time of pick up, she was wearing one of those hair gels that give your hair wet look. She was also wearing dark jeans that only reached half way up her buttocks slightly uncovering top of her ass crack. Given that I picked her up at San Pedro de Macoris, she obviously has some kind of connection to the town – maybe she lives there or works there or has other reasons to go there. I believe she was only going to Santo Domingo for the weekend as she was leaving San Pedro on Friday night.