Pickpocketing: The Reverse Secret Santa

Continuing with things that remind me of Columbus, we’re going to talk about pickpocketing.

La ocasión hace el ladrón 

We all know that “opportunity makes the thief.”  Right, so that person who just stole from you wouldn’t have done so if you hadn’t presented the opportunity.

The Metro de Santiago has recently launched a campaign to stop pickpocketing: No Te Andes Regalando.  Check out some of the campaign boards:

These announcements and billboards feature various personal items, such as wallets, purses, and cellphones, tied up in ribbon.  And the message is that you shouldn’t just go about giving away your belongings as if they were gifts (regalar means “to give a gift”).

Let me get this straight…

Carrying my phone in my pocket is the same as wrapping it up and putting it under a thief’s Christmas tree?

Ok, so maybe this campaign doesn’t aim to stop pickpocketing, but at least to stop people from being careless and getting robbed.  Careless people are at fault for getting robbed, right?

As part of the campaign, comedy group Woki Toki has released a video (see below) that pokes fun at a man doing careless things, such as walking around with his backpack open or with his cell phone in his hand.  One man gives him advice and then calls him clueless and stupid (pavarotti y ahuevonado).

Amidst all this, he asserts, “Let’s be clear; the thief is always at fault, but even so, we can the job more difficult for them.”

This is true.  Of course, even though every house is guarded with wrought iron fences, barbed wire, shards of broken glass, and prison-like bars on their windows, breaking and entering is all too common in Chile.


Because the thief can also create the opportunity.

To apply this to pickpocketing, thieves are known to slash purses open with knives or razors and remove their contents before the owners notice.  They sometimes clog up bus exits so that if you want to get off the bus, you are squeezed between two or three of them single-file.  Then they can quickly and efficiently remove dozens of wallets or coin purses.  And people feel completely helpless against this.

So what does this have to do with Columbus?

Chile’s conceptualization of theft insists that your own strength and force or perceived weakness in others justifies wrongdoing.  In other words, might makes right.

This was Columbus’s opinion of natives in the Americas, whom he perceived as kind and therefore weak.  (The Oatmeal had a clever way of describing this in their Columbus Day comic.)

The Metro de Santiago campaign implies that your vulnerability actually means you are giving yourself willingly to those that would take advantage of you.  And you’re gift-wrapped.

I know it sounds crazy, but that’s the way it is with rape cul—I mean, Chile’s culture of robbery.


Reasons to Buy a Fanny Pack and Get On with Your Life

My fanny pack has received varied reactions from my gringo friends that range from disgust to mild amusement.  And then there are those who don’t even question it.  It’s just me being me.

If you are one of those who are highly resistant to the idea of donning a fanny pack, I hope to convince you that they’re worth it… especially as a gringo in Chile.

Handmade fanny packs from http://ultranaty.wordpress.com !!

1. Reduce your chances of being pick-pocketed.  It’s harder to steal a wallet, cash, credit cards, or condoms from a fanny pack.  (I don’t actually recommend carrying condoms in a fanny pack… or a wallet, for that matter.  Too much wear and tear for that to be safe.  MOVING ON.)  First of all, a fanny pack is situated in a place most people aren’t about to grope for.  Moreover, it’s more visible to you.  And there are fewer easy ways to access the cash—it’s zipped up, to name one.  But one factor in the lowered probability of pick-pocketing may just be…

2. Appear more Chilean than you really are.  Believe it or not, most gring@s aren’t about to hop on the fanny pack bandwagon.  So you will make people question whether or not you’re a gringo just by wearing one of these bad boys.  Don’t get me wrong, you still have to rock a fanny pack the right way.  Get one that suits your style—they come in all different colors, fabrics, and sizes.  And I feel cooler with mine when it hangs to the side just over my hip.

3. They’re convenient, comfortable, and can be cool.  If you’re used to a purse, you don’t have to carry it around anymore.  Who wants to always be thinking about that thing hanging from your shoulder?  It’s much more comfortable to wear a fanny pack.  Or maybe you’re one of those people who wear a wallet-shaped hole into their pockets from always carrying their wallet in the same exact place.  Not anymore.  It’s fanny pack time.

So, recap…

Rihanna rockin it.Reasons to strap on a banano and move on:

  1. Travel worry-free in the metro, la vega central, patronato, el persa biobío, and beyond.
  2. Blend in with Chileans
  3. BECAUSE COOLNESS: look at Rihanna wearing one to the left.

That’s it for today!  I am now headed off to celebrate Chile at some fondas!  I just stopped by my house to drop off my backpack and load up my fanny pack.  AWwww yeah.

Fanny pack users:  what do you love about your fanny pack?  Those of you who don’t yet don the banano: what is taking so long?

Downtown, drenched, and de-wallet-fied

A main street in the city where the park is...I’m in the middle of an empty park at nine in the morning.  Cars and buses flood by on either side, and below me thousands of people are packed into subway trains.  A city of six million people, all thinking, speaking, existing in a different language and culture; yet here I am, writing in English, alone.  Not exactly alone… The signs across the street read “Pepsi,” “Shoe Express,” and “Outlet Jeans”… I guess it hasn’t really sunk in that I’m in a different country yet.  Besides, it’s not as if I don’t get lost back home.

Yup, I’m supposed to be in a Sociology class right now (brilliant of me to sign up for a class at 8:30 on Monday mornings), but I took the wrong train and decided it took me too far out of the way to bother trying to make that class.  I was planning on coming this way to meet Emily, anyway.  So I got off the metro and am sitting in the sun on a park bench (otherwise I’d be pretty cold; it was 35 degrees Fahrenheit at 7AM.  Give it a couple hours and it’ll be almost 70 degrees).

Anyhow, other exciting events:

I was robbed recently (wild applause!).  My best guess is that it happened when Emily and I were crammed in the metro for half and hour, because I somehow didn’t notice someone unzipping the who pockets of the bag under my arm to get to my wallet… the unfortunate thing is that it was the first day I had carried my wallet anywhere other than the inside pocket of my coat (I wasn’t wearing it that day), and it was the most I’d ever carried in my wallet since coming to Chile.  I always store my money in different places, but I had the cash allowance that I’d recently received in there.  So that was fun.  At dinner that night with Tono and Paz (the 26-year-old twins), Tono’s response was, “Welcome to Chile!” (They occasionally make exclamations in English.)  They proceeded to tell me that the best thieves in the world are Chilean and that they go all over the world, getting rich from it .  Susana, my host mother, told me that once when she was robbed, she’d been holding her purse and someone cut into it with a knife to remove her wallet without alarming her.  Crazy.

Sneaking around the backyard... there's the pool!

And, since great things come in threes, my last epic event is that Suzy (our midget dog) fell into the pool.  A cat was scaling the wall in our backyard.  Charles and I were watching with amusement as Suzy bravely protected the house from this cat that was bigger than she is.  We turned back to our work, only to hear a splash shortly afterward.  Sure enough, we turned to look, and a huge rat with even huger eyes hopped out of the pool, ran by us, shaking water as she went, and continued barking at the cat.  Hilarious, although less so when we found out that she really shouldn’t get wet and that now she had to be bathed and dried with a hair dryer.  Still, we couldn’t help but laugh; this dog is bizarre.

Sooo all this, and I’m sick ;)  I’m not sure if it’s allergies to something new or what, but we’ll see how things go this week.  Luckily, I have a whole network of awesome people to help me out when I need it!