This was it. I was leaving the Dominican Republic the following day and only had a few more hours for San Pedro de Macoris. I had to drive overnight to Punta Cana to get there in time for return of my rental car and check in for the flight. The die was cast – I did what I could to recover my laptop but it didn’t work out. Yet. I however knew that I was leaving with one strong contact in San Pedro de Macoris on whom I could rely. Domingo became my good friend and I feel truly grateful for all the help he provided me with. My time in the Dominican Republic was up and I couldn’t wait to get the hell out of there. Getting my laptop stolen by a person I was helping was a terrible experience that will put the country on my personal black list.
Before saying my final Good Bye to San Pedro de Macoris, I wanted to have one more beer with Domingo and hoped lovely Keira would be there to join us. We drove down to San Pedro’s Malecon and yes, Keira was there. She looked stunning and was happy to see us as much as we were to see her. She’s an amazing companion who made my time spent at the beer there very enjoyable. It gave her sads when I mentioned that I was leaving San Pedro de Macoris to catch the plane in Punta Cana the following day. It meant that this was the last time we are seeing each other to which she reacted in such genuine and sweet way it made me feel warm after all the disappointment in the Dominican Republic so far.
I made two wonderful friends in San Pedro – Domingo and Keira even though Domingo later corrected me to make it three, because his wife considered it a pleasure to have met me and enjoyed the time with me. To her, all Domingo’s friends are also friends of hers and are welcome anytime to their house. I tried to look at the bright side of life and told myself that all of the laptops of the world are temporary, but true friendships are forever. Keira insisted that I come to the Dominican Republic again. She promised that this time around it will be her who catches a ride with me and she’s no thief. She enjoyed my company as much as I enjoyed hers and was shocked I was leaving because it meant she was not gonna get a chance to spend more time with me. She thought I was gonna be here for at least a few more days but the reason I was not too social during my stay was that I felt down all the time after my laptop got stolen.
Keira was a sweetheart from start to end. Domingo was an amazing support from start to end. So much headache caused by laptop theft but if it wasn’t for this stolen laptop, I would have never met these two wonderful people. I was torn between my feeling of hatred towards the country that put me through the biggest stress of my life and love for it because of wonderful people who showed so much support and offered so much unconditional help. There are good people in every walk of life and one must strive to not ignore them. This is something I’ve always been aware of but my mind was clouded by ruthless crime committed against me.
My last moments in San Pedro de Macoris were truly enjoyable. Keira has a little sister who despite her young age (she’s 8 year old) could speak great English. I had one last pack of chewing gums on me because I gave all the rest to Domingo’s children when we went to visit them at the place of his former wife so I gave it to Keira’s little sister who rewarded me with the sweetest “Thank You” I have ever heard. San Pedro de Macoris is not a tourist trap. The town is on the coast, but it doesn’t have the beach or anything otherwise attractive to tourists so locals don’t see many foreigners there. As such these people are more genuine and unlike Dominicans from popular tourist areas, they are not used to getting free gifts in exchange for looking cute. When I gave little Shakira (Keira’s sister’s name) chewing gums, it was the most genuine child’s appreciation I have ever seen. So definitely worth it.
Alas, I had to bid my friends good bye. Domingo was a little concerned about me driving over night all the way to Punta Cana but I explained that I actually preferred to drive at night because traffic is less crazy and I needed to get there early anyway so I have time buffer in case something goes wrong. Leaving my great new friends was not easy, but I really needed to go back home to Canada as I had a lot of stuff to take care of now that my laptop was gone. I said my final good byes to San Pedro de Macoris, sat in a car and drove off into the night.
The rumor of a Canadian guy who was robbed spread across San Pedro de Macoris quickly. My story was published in local newspaper and featured on national TV. Domingo lined up three live interviews during prime time hours with three of San Pedro’s top radio stations. I can’t speak any Spanish, but with Domingo by my side I had nothing to worry about. It was weird, but through my misfortune with stolen laptop I ended up getting an opportunity to be on the Dominican Radio.
It was a weekday which meant Domingo had to go to the college in the morning where he works as a teacher. He said he was gonna ask the principal whether he’d release him so he can assist me with interviews on the radio. He was gonna explain to him what exactly is happening with me and why it is important that he goes to the radio stations with me. Unfortunately the college was short staffed for the week so he was only released for one and a half hour. This was enough to get us on two live shows with two different radio stations.
First we went to Jumbo shopping mall in San Pedro where on the second floor is the studio of Radio FM 103 (if I’m not mistaken about the name) and after that we headed to another one the name of which I can’t recall but it’s presumably hosted by the most popular radio host in San Pedro. The guy also took a picture of me and was gonna post it along with my story on his website which is frequented by young locals. He also said he was gonna keep making an announcement that I am offering a $1,000 reward for return of my laptop for a week, three times a day as he host three different live shows each day.
I’ve done my best to give my story exposure in town in hopes that it will reach either the ears of the girl who stole my laptop or a person she may have sold it to. One way or another, I knew she was not gonna get a grand for it if she were to sell it so my offer was more than generous. There was material on that laptop that’s of great value to me so I was able to give financial reward for safe return of it back to my hands – no questions asked.
This was my last full day in the Dominican Republic. I spent my 7 day long vacation trying to recover my stolen laptop. I knew I did all I could and even though I didn’t manage to get my laptop back, the message was out there so I could leave the Dominican Republic with some hope that I may see my laptop one day. Statistically, more than 97% of all stolen laptops are never recovered. Chances of me having luck with it were extremely slim. I’ve tried my best, I’ve sacrificed my vacation to chase for its recovery. I hope it was not all in vain and karma will bring it back to me by some means.
It rained most of the day today and at one point it was coming down so heavily, the streets were filled with three feet of water. There didn’t seem to be any drainage system in place in San Pedro de Macoris even though the town is right on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. Driving through flooded streets near disabled my brakes. I was in a 4×4 SUV so I could plow through it, but as I got out of the flood, brakes would not work. There was no resumption for a while but I kept stepping on them after acceleration to heat them back up as I figured they don’t wark because water cooled them down rapidly.
Domingo tried calling the number of the potential notebook theft suspect, but there was no answer. We made appointments to appear on live radio shows the following day and decided to wrap this one up as it was nearing midnight already.
Domingo mentioned that he told his wife about me and how I was robbed by a girl I was helping and said it made his wife very upset. She was angry at the girl for doing it and could not take it off her mind. Since it was nighttime again and I was as stressed as can be because my time in the Dominican Republic was running out yet I still have not recovered my stolen laptop, I asked Domingo if he would go for a beer with me again and asked him if his wife would be interested in joining us. He phoned her up and made arrangements for her to dress up so she’s ready by the time we get to his house.
Domingo has a beautiful wife. They ended up in this weird relationship because she was once married and had two children but her husband abandoned them. He simply picked up one day and disappeared never to come back. Domingo on the other hand was also married and had two children with his wife whom he caught on several occasions at home doing bumping business with another man. He was putting up with it for as long as he could but eventually had to go his own way. Now he’s married to a woman whose previous marriage didn’t work out either, but they seem very happy together and create a beautiful couple.
I knew Domingo didn’t drink and I was sure his wife didn’t either. I was gonna have my Presidente Grande again and thought Domingo will do a small one, but didn’t want to drag his wife into this drinking game so I suggested that take her to an ice cream parlor. The plan was to get a big ice cream for Domingo’s wife so she can savor it while the two of us are sipping on Dominican beer.
We walked into that ice cream place which was just on the opposite side of the road from those mini bars by the shore and as we were choosing which ice cream to get, a girl working there offered us samples of a caramel one. I had my taste buds focused on beer which I was gonna chug in a minute but I gave that ice cream sample a try and was blown away. That ice cream was so good I don’t think I’ve ever tasted ice cream this irresistible. One small sample and my mouth was watering with lust. Dominican ice cream is the best. It was so insanely awesome I was seriously contemplating ditching beer and having a cone instead.
Despite amazingly tasting ice cream I have resisted the urge and stayed true to my original intention to grab a beer before sleep. We went back to the bar where Keira served us the night before, but she was not there and their bar was closed. That was kind of disappointing but Domingo explained that many social places in the Dominican Republic are not open every day. Sometimes owners get a better gig somewhere else, sometimes they simply take care of their private matters and sometimes it’s simply not worth it as some days during the week are generally slow. We ordered beer elsewhere, I took Domingo and his wife back to their home and set out on my own way to get some sleep. Still insanely stressed out because of that laptop theft. but I tried my best to get some rest at night. That Dominican ice cream was seriously yummy, though.
I made clear plans to continue with my stolen laptop tracking the following day. I met with Domingo and Cesar – guy who knew the girl who may have been the one who stole my laptop and we went to her house again. This time I provided Cesar with a whole pile of instructions on what to do and what to say in any possible situation that could arise. I was gonna stay out of direct contact so the possibility to bribe the suspect remained untouched. Afterall, my primary goal was to get my laptop back, not to launch any form of revenge. Tracking down the thief and offering her payout to get my laptop back which would be higher than what she could get from any pawn shop owner seemed like a smart way to go.
Cesar came back with not very good news. The girl who left for Santo Domingo on Friday last week has still not returned. Last time her family heard from her was when she was leaving. This could mean that she’s still in Santo Domingo shopping for the best offer on her newly acquired laptop or that she’s already sold it and is living it up with the money gained. Luckily, Cesar followed my instruction and got her cell phone number. That was his task to do in case she’s still not there.
Now I had the phone number and gave instructions to Domingo to call her and told him what to say to make it work. Domingo did call, but there was no answer. We have tried to call several times that evening but while her phone was ringing, nobody was picking it up.
The day of my return to Canada was approaching. I was really looking forward to it as I couldn’t wait to get out of the Dominican Republic, but if I were to leave without my laptop, it would drop the chances of recovery to infinity. I was considering this option and wanted to do everything in my power to make the message I had to say in the Dominican Republic heard. I asked Domingo to take me to popular media outlets in San Pedro and ask them to cover my story. Since economy of the Dominican Republic is vastly dependent on tourism, having a citizen of Canada in distress approaching media after a terrible experience in their own country, they should be more than willing to respond and use their reach to spread my message. It was already after dark, but we sat back in my rental car and drove around San Pedro de Macoris to visit several radio stations to ask them to announce that I am offering $1,000 reward in exchange for recovery of my stolen laptop. My stolen laptop tracking was yielding some results, but the vision of holding it in my hands was still very distant.
Domingo directed me to a road that stretches along San Pedro’s malecon, which is the sea-side of this coastal town. Southern side of the road, the one closer to the sea is lined by small booth like, independently owned and run bars. These look like roofed hot-dog stands you would take with you to a fair to sell from, but inside they were full of shelves with booze and fridges with cold beer. It was already almost 10pm and there were many cars parked along this side of the street but I was able to find one spot and poked my rental there. We sat at the booth closest to the car.
The booth seemed served by a mother and daughter. One young lady in her early 20’s and one in her 40’s looked strikingly similar to not be mistaken for family. Pretending I was joyous I ordered myself one large beer (Presidente Grande) and a small one for Domingo (Presidente Pequena) as he insisted he couldn’t do the large one – he’s a non drinker, but made an exception for me. Young bar lady served us these beers right from the freezer with frost covering the glass. We were just meters from the sea so the sound of waves bashing against rocky shores accompanied our drinking time. Unfortunately, as it goes in the Dominican Republic, many of surrounding bars were competing in who has the most powerful speakers and played that atrociously irritating Dominican Music extremely loud. Luckily, the tiny outdoor bar we were in was a bit further from main sources of noise so we could actually talk to each other and hear what we’re saying.
I was eager to try to forget the ordeal I was going through at least for a couple of minutes which was luckily not difficult since Domingo was a really nice and positive guy who made me feel comfortable even though I was still in the country I started to perceive as extremely hostile. To top it all up, young bar girl who served us beers joined the debate and tried her English skills with me. It was funny because she lacked knowledge of fundamental vocabulary, but was familiar with phrases I would not expect a beginner to know – such as “give me five”.
Despite difficulties and utter sadness, I felt happy for a moment. Domingo was a great companion and that bar girl added her gracious presence to the equation so I could take my mind away from the pain I was feeling inside. Domingo told me that he’s seen way too many people like me being robbed by bad people of the Dominican Republic. He confirmed that I was not the first, nor will be the last who had something valuable stolen from them. He also said that relying on the police in the Dominican Republic is completely futile not only because they won’t do nothing, but also because if they did find my stolen laptop, they would not give it to me. They would simply keep it for themselves. That’s the way it works in the Dominican Republic and whether I liked it or not, my presence was not gonna change it.
When we were done drinking I had to take Domingo back home to his wife. he had school to go to the following day anyway so I couldn’t keep him up too long. I was really happy to have found a friend in this country despite of all the trouble I was experiencing because of bad Dominicans. Domingo was right – there are too many dishonest Dominicans in this country who will not hesitate to steal from a person who is helping them, but he also insisted that among all the bad apples, there are some good people here too. I knew he was one of them and after the bar girl learned about my ordeal, she offered a great deal of compassion and support too. This day I made two new friends who made the rest of my stay in the Dominican Republic more enjoyable. As we were leaving, the girl introduced herself to us as Keira. It’s not a typical Dominican name but it’s cute and suited her well.
We drove a kilometer or two east of San Pedro de Macoris to get to a place where the girl who looks exactly like the one I described as thief of my laptop lived. The guy who knew her got off the car and went to ring the bell of the house. When he came back he said the girl was not at home. Her parents opened and told him that she left for Santo Domingo on Friday evening and has not returned yet. This information alone was a hit on the head of the nail. Friday evening is exactly when I picked up a girl who was hitch-hiking to get to Santo Domingo. Pieces of puzzle started to fall into each other and offer bigger picture. According to the boy, this girl looked exactly the way I have described and according to her parents, she left for Santo Domingo exactly on the day and at that time when I picked up the thief. This sounded just like the suspect I was after. My investigation was yielding some results, which was giving me hope that I could eventually recover my stolen laptop. And since Dominican police care less about investigating, I had to do it myself.
A visit to suspect’s house didn’t bring me closer to my laptop, but it suggested that things are moving in the right direction. We have returned back to the traffic circle to drop off that guy and I asked Domingo if he’d be interested in going to grab a beer with me. I was so stressed out as result of my stolen laptop I really needed a cold one. Domingo said he had a wife at home waiting for him, but he could do one beer. I really grew to like Domingo. He was a sincere guy, nothing like the thief who stole my laptop. His actions, his words, his eyes – none were lying. He was a sincerely good guy who felt really sorry for me and was willing to try to help regardless of reward. I lost near all hope in the Dominican Republic after this theft, and here I found a friend with whom I felt comfortable and didn’t have to worry about being robbed again. I was glad he accepted my invitation to go for a beer.
As I was done talking to Domingo, we went across the street to talk to the guys who were at the spot where I picked up a hitch-hiker who stole my laptop. Since these boys are there every day, they were the ones most likely to match the description of the thief with an actual person. Domingo was always by my side interpreting from English to Spanish and vice versa making everything go smoothly. When he translated my offer that I would pay a $1,000 reward for information that would lead to recovery of my stolen laptop, I noticed that the eyes of those guys instantly popped and their ears were listening faster than Domingo was able to speak.
I made it absolutely clear that I wanted my laptop back and was able and willing to pay a reward to a person who could get it back for me. $1,000 reward may not seem like a big deal to most western people, but it is a huge chunk of money in the Dominican Republic. It was clear that if I am able and willing to pay such reward, the Dominicans will instantly be able and willing to go out of their way to deserve it. I once again went through thorough description of the thief making my best to give as much information as I could recall, even though as a driver I kept my eyes locked on the road, not on my passenger so my memory of what she looked like is very sparse. Afterall, I am a responsible driver who realizes that my own safety as well as safety of all other people aboard are in my hands and I don’t take that lightly. Unfortunately, because of that I did not gawk at the thief so there were only sparse details.
Several key points I have mentioned instantly rang the bell of one of the boys from the area who said he knew who the girl was and knew where she lived. He said he remembered her because she comes here hitch-hiking for Santo Domingo often and spoke to her on several occasions. As somewhat friend, he knew her family and address so we got in the car and drove to where he said she lived. The reward I offered for recovery of my stolen laptop was a massive motivator so these boys were on their tiptoes to find the way to recover my laptop. Off we went to the house of potential thief.
I got to San Pedro de Macoris the following day just before dusk. I made my way to the traffic circle where I previously picked up the hitch-hiker who stole my laptop and parked the car at the opposite side of the road so I have good visibility of the spot where she was standing to hitch a ride but so I am not visible from that spot. San Pedro is the city of more than 200,000 people and this traffic circle marks the beginning of the highway leading to the Dominican capital Santo Domingo so traffic was quite busy and many people passed around. I noticed a great number of young males on motorcycles swishing up and down the streets. Dominicans seem to come out of their houses this time of day, perhaps as it’s after work and there isn’t anything better to do so they meet up to kill time after dark.
I was sitting inside of my rental car while keeping my eyes locked on the spot where hitch-hikers stand to see if I can spot the one who stole my laptop. At the time there were two people standing there, but the thief was not one of them. As time went by, my presence was noticed by one of those young men who swish around on old motorcycles and curiosity got the best of him, so he pulled over by my door and stared inside. I rolled window down and asked him if he spoke any English. He didn’t but said he had a friend who did. Few minutes later he was back with a girl on her own motorcycle. She spoke a little bit of English so I started talking to her but her understanding was very basic so she wasn’t able to follow. Seeing that I had something important to say, she said she knew an English teacher and told me he was gonna be here in about 10 minutes. So I waited.
Sure enough, a little while later a group comes back on motorcycles with a new young man among them. He opens the door and I ask him whether he speaks English. He said in quite clean and unaffected English: “More or less!” This was my man. I asked him if he would like to take a sit on the passenger’s seat, claiming that I had something important to say and needed his help, but had a reward for a person who could help me. Young man took a seat and introduced himself as Domingo.
Domingo teaches English at a college in San Pedro. He has a very sincere voice and eyes and his English was better than just “more or less”. He was the best English speaking Dominican I have ever met and that meant there were no obstacles in how I needed to express myself which made everything easier. Domingo listened carefully and with interest and when I told him everything about what happened and how my laptop got stolen, including the plea that I would pay $1,000 to anyone who can get me my laptop back, he said we were going to go across the street right on the spot where I picked up the hitch-hiker who stole my laptop to talk to the guys who are there. Domingo said that these guys are there every day as this is their bread. They organize buses and gua-guas (cheap but not very comfortable form of transportation in the Dominican Republic) and help travelers with bags for which they get a few pesos to help them get by.
This was it. My intentions to trace my stolen laptop with my own devices was off to a good start. Finding someone who speaks good English in the Dominican Republic is a tough task. Doing it in a town like San Pedro de Macoris which is not a tourist trap because it doesn’t have anything interesting for foreigners is even more difficult yet thanks to Domingo the English Teacher who learned to speak English on his own out of his own interest this became a no issue. I had a person to help me communicate with others despite my non ability to speak Spanish. The first, very important step on my way to trace the whereabouts of my stolen laptops and/or the person who did it went down smoothly and made everything that went down from this point on so much easier. Domingo the English teacher was the best thing in whole of the Dominican Republic.