Corrupt Police, Pickpockets, and Broken Computers

It seems I only write when there is crazy stuff happening in my life… please don't think that my life is so full of these crazy experiences.

At the beginning of this I had to travel to Arica Chile to renew my passport. I took a bus from Cusco to Arequipa (about 10 hours) and then another bus to Tacna Peru. Tacna is the border town between Peru and Chile. When we were outside of the city we passed a police checkpoint. They often enter buses and check peoples identification. I was past due on my visa, by about eight days. They told me that I needed to come into their station and talk to them because my visa was past due. They search all my belongings, and kept telling me in Spanish that I was going to get deported for being past due on my visa. They asked me to help them purchase a new book for the police station. They said that it costs S/. 150.00 (about $55.00). If I "helped them" they would "help me". I knew that when I got to the border I would have to pay $1 per day that I was overdue on my visa. I took their bluff and refused to give them any money. They kept telling me that I wouldn't ever be able to come back to Peru and that it didn't matter that I had an apartment and and my belongings in Cusco. I still refused to pay them any money.

I must say to make this situation worse, I had a lot of cash in my possession. I don't like to carry a lot of cash because it's not safe in Peru. I had just received my paycheck and did not have time to cash it before leaving Cusco. I had my entire paycheck, a little over S/. 1200.00 (about $400.00). But when I have more cash, I also put some money in my wallet and some in my bag… in case I get robbed or something.

When the police were talking to me they kept moving me from room to room leaving my bag in another room. During one of these times, they must have taken S/. 100.00 (about $35.00). They also took my 4 gig iPod nano (although I didn't notice this until I reached Arica). They finally just let me go. I also ended up paying them S/. 10.00 to be able to leave. I also didn't realize until later that they had stolen the money. I just figured it would get them off my back and buy them a beer or something.

I spent the night in Arica and when I was returning I was afraid of the police bothering me again and trying to take more of my money. I decided to put all of my salary in my wallet. I fell asleep on the bus and when I arrived at the terminal in Arequipa went down to wait for my backpack from under the bus. I felt somebody hit my little backpack and moved it to the front for fear of pickpockets. I guess I was just tired and didn't think about having my wallet in my back pocket too. So stupid! Well, they weren't going for my backpack like I thought. They went for my wallet. Went into the station to purchase a ticket for Cusco and found that my wallet was gone. Luckily I had some change. I called a co-worker to work for me int he morning and took a taxi to a hostel. I had to call a friend in the US to wire me some money the next morning so I could get back to Cusco. It was a pretty sucky experience and I wouldn't recommend it for anyone.

I found that I could live for pretty cheaply. While I haven't paid for my rent yet, I've been able to live most of this month for about $100. I know in Peru 18.5 percent of the population lives on less than $2 a day. I'm not sure how they do it. I guess, even being very poor for a month, I still have my western ideals of my lifestyle.

I figured with this event, I lose my status as a Piña (Spanish for pinapple a slang in Cusco for unlucky) and become a Lechero (Spanish for milk man a slang in Cusco for a lucky person). I think it's going that way. But lately, I've been having some troubles with my computer. It's been shutting off randomly, I think because it's overheating. I guess I am a bit of a Lechero because I still have it under warranty. But it means that I'm going to be without my computer for a while. I think my house is going to be quite for a while.

Also, if you haven't checked out my website for a while, check out the main page. I've been transiting to using a CSM (Drupal). Let me know what you think.