View from the roof of my hostel in Antigua, Guatemela
I haven’t even been in Guatemala for 24-hours and already I’ve been interrogated by the police.
This morning my dormmate woke up, took a shower, ate breakfast and then announced to the youth hostel that he’d been robbed.
“Someone stole my wallet,” he informed me after I entered the room to find him searching under the bunkbeds’ mattresses. “My passport, credit cards…everything. I had 2,000 dollars in there, too.” He shook his head in dismay. “I guess the vacation is over…”
“It’s gotta be somewhere…” I was optimistic. After all, he hadn’t left the hotel since he checked in the night before and the hostel had a 24-hour security guard posted only a few yards away. Plus, he and I had been the only ones who’d slept in that room. Unless someone had broken-in in the middle of the night unnoticed, it was more likely that he’d just misplaced it. But after an hour of searching and no results, he started to panic. And so he called the police. I’d actually been the one to encourage it.
“You should file a police report and have them search every one’s stuff.” I was positive that the thief was either one of the employees or else a guest at the hostel. Never for a moment did I consider the fact that a middle-aged accountant from Denver could be making the whole thing up.
Although I certainly should have. There were more than a few details about the man’s situation that should have stood out as red flags.
He’d refused to give his passport information when he’d checked in, for one. “I’m too tired to go looking for my passport right now, can it wait until tomorrow?” I’d overheard him casually say to the clerk. The reason he didn’t want to give his passport information probably had nothing to do with exhaustion and everything to do with the fact that he hadn’t planned on paying for his stay and didn’t want anyone to be able to trace him.
He also hadn’t locked any of his valuables up in a locker. Anyone even remotely traveled would’ve known that you should never leave anything you want to see again lying around a hostel dormitory. Especially a passport. And who disappears to the showers leaving a wallet unattended when there’s thousands of dollars in it?
Furthermore, there was the fact that the sum of money stolen kept changing with every telling of the story. First it was USD 1,500, then it was 2,000 and then he told the police that it was 2,300. All details which I chose to overlook until later.
‘Later’ being after I’d agreed to lend him money. He hadn’t asked me outright, because he hadn’t needed to: I offered first. As someone who’d once lost her passport and wallet in Berlin, I was all to sympathetic and eager to help.
“I’ll give you some money so that you can take a taxi to the embassy,” I volunteered, like an idiot.
“Oh.” He feigned surprise. “That’s really nice of you. Thank you.”
I shrugged. “It’s not that much,” calculating that 40 US dollars should be enough to get him to the embassy in Guatemala city.
Luckily though, the owner of the hostel had been eavesdropping on our conversation and the moment he headed back to his room to pack his belongings, she motioned me to follow her into the kitchen.
“Something is very wrong with that man.” She then quickly and quietly explained everything, adding that she’d counted nine credit cards in the side pocket of his briefcase. “If someone robbed him, why would they take his ATM card and not his credit cards? And why does he have so many credit cards, anyway?”
“Do you think he stole them?” I whispered. She shrugged and grimaced unhappily. She was worried that his theft accusations would ruin her hostel’s reputation. “I wouldn’t give him any money…” She cautioned.
So I made a quick decision to run out of the hostel before he came back out of the room again. “Tell him there was an emergency and I had to go to the Internet cafe to call home,” I told the clerk and then hurried out the door. I didn’t want to have to confront him with my suspicions. I mean, what could I have possibly said? “I’m sorry, but I can’t give you any money because I think you’re a lying, scam-artist scumbag?”
It’s now nine o’clock at night and I’m hiding in my room (the owner upgraded me to a private suite for free), just in case the scam artist shows up to make good on my offer.
Apparently he waited around for me to return for three hours this afternoon before finally giving up. He told the clerk that he’d be back later.
It’s ironic that I ran away to one of the poorest and most crime-ridden countries in Latin America, only to spend my second night here hiding from a fellow American. If I wanted to spend my evenings holed up in my room alone, eating Peppermint Patties and watching bad cable TV, I could have just stayed home.
I can’t wait until I find a room to rent. Hopefully It’ll be a reasonably-priced one bedroom and completely roommate free…scam-artist or otherwise.