Friday, February 20, 2009

Do I have a target on my forehead?

I told myself that I would do a Happy Post today, in recompense for whining yesterday. But I am far from happy today. I am ... well, mad doesn't quite cover it. Irate. Livid. And also sad, disappointed, humiliated and hurt.

We've been robbed. AGAIN.

Lest you think Brazil is all parties and beaches, I'm about to reveal the ugly side of living in South America's most beautiful country.

Safety is a real issue here. Your standard Brazilian house has a wall around it - picture your entire yard encircled by an eight foot brick wall topped with either spikes, barbed wire, or shards of glass. This is just your average house. I know quite a few families refuse to leave their house empty. (We get that excuse a lot when people don't come to church - "Jose was working, Maria went to visit friends, and I didn't want to leave the house by itself.")

Now, we live in a gated community, so our house has an open yard with no barbed wire. (Although the condominium does - and also guards with big guns.) But apparently that doesn't mean we're safe.

We found out yesterday that our gardener has been robbing us. He has been walking into our house and taking blank checks. We only found out because he was an idiot and signed the back of one of them. There are six in all - for a grand total of five thousand reais. (About half that in dollars.)

I am mad.

We have known this man for over two years. I have laughed with him. Joked with him. He brings little presents for the boys and they love him. He has relatives that go to our ward - although he is not a member himself. I have met his family and been to his house. He's a good guy.

And he's been robbing us.

I am humiliated.

Does he think we're stupid? That we wouldn't notice? Or that we wouldn't care? Does he think he can just get away with it, because we're church-going Christians who preach mercy? (And also justice?) Does he think we're undeservingly rich, and need to be pruned a little? Did he think we're just 'bomzinhos' and wouldn't mind?

I am hurt.

And I feel ... dirty somehow. Unsafe in my own little house. He's been IN here - when I haven't. He's been looking through our cupboards and drawers and opening things that belong to me. Our checkbook wasn't in the most obvious place - he had to hunt for it.

I am disappointed.

I keep thinking of his kids. Because yes, I believe in mercy - but I also believe in consequences. I will tell the condominium security and he will lose his job. I want my money back. He will have to sell his possessions to do so. And I remember his young children - his wife. Because every thief has a family. Every thief has people who love him - and depend upon him. Their faces tortured me in my dreams last night. He must have been desperate to go to such lengths.

And I'm sick, sick, sick of feeling like HE is the victim.

Because like I said, this is not the first time. We had checks stolen last year as well - we can only assume that it was him again.

But it doesn't stop there:

My Man had R$200 stolen from his BISHOP'S OFFICE at church once - on a mutual night.

A gas station once cloned our debit card and drained thousands of dollars before we discovered it.

Some jerk cloned our phone number and ran up a cell phone bill of hundreds of reals - it took months to sort it out.

My Man has had cash stolen from work, too.

Not to mention the four times our ward building has been robbed while no one was in it. And the countless times My Man's company has been robbed - some outside jobs, some inside.

I want to ask the world - WHY US? I know Brazilians my parent's age who have never been robbed. And yet we've had more than our share. WHY? Is it because we're American, because they think we're easy victims? Because they think they can get away with it because we're foreigners? Well, they won't.

I am MAD.


LisAway said...

Stinky with a capital STINK (suck would sound better here, but I just can't)

I'm sorry. That's awful. And it would be different if you didn't know the guy. How rotten that you have to deal with robbery in one form or another so often. Ugh.

Floyd said...

My companion had his wallet stolen during a church activity. He left it in his bag in the corner.

Brazil is NUTS like that. When we were in Jaguariuna (one of the safest cities in Brazil) 3 men perpetrated a home invasion in the house next door to us - we were home watching TV on the internet at the time. It's a scary place.

Honestly, I think you do have a target on your head. Anyone who looks rich in Brazil is a target (especially foreigners). BUT, it happens to everyone in Brazil. The bishop before we moved to Jaguariuna was murdered for a few dollars as he got off the bus from his 3rd shift job.

It is very hard not to feel bad for those who steal (although murder is something else and R$5K is a LOT). You look at how good people struggle and really are hopeless and it's sad.

Real Mom, Real Life said...

OOOOHH -- I would be SO mad! It really is quite a selfish thing to do. What a awful way to disgrace his family -- and lose the trust of good friends.

Ugh -- I am mad with you.

Vanessa said...

WHAT THE...? I am so sorry!

Sara said...

That is awful. Sorry you are having to go through this. And you are probably the type of person that if he had come to you with a need, would have given to him anyway. Why can't people understand that? Ask...don't take. Now he and his family will pay the consequences for his actions. Sad.

Steph @ Diapers and Divinity said...

Oooooooo, I am mad for you! I would feel the same way, girl. I'm sure your gardener will be shocked and dismayed because "that's just what people do to get by," but you are right about the victim thing. Perhaps he IS a victim of poverty and pressure, but he made a criminal choice, a choice that left you a victim and him a recipient of justice. I'm mostly sorry about the way it will affect your outlook on everyone you meet now. It's too bad. I'm glad you are all safe, though, and some armed creep wasn't crawling through your house while you slept.

Kristina P. said...

I have been robbed, several times. Mostly when I was younger and we lived in a ghetto neighborhood in California. Our house was broken into while we were sleeping.

My purse was stolen at my last job, where I worked with at-risk youth. By a PARENT.

It does make you feel angry and victimized.

I agree that there is mercy and justice, and you will know how to handle this situation.

I hope you have a better weekend!

Lady of Perpetual Chaos said...

That's awful. I'm so sorry. I can see why you feel bad about it. It would probably be much easier if you could just be livid and not be tortured as well. I hope you feel better soon.

JustRandi said...

That makes me mad, too. What the heck?!

I'm so sorry - mainly for the loss of you sense of well being. I'd guess it will come back, but it'll never be the same will it.

Lara said...

Horrible. I tend to feel like you do, though and worry what pursuing justice will do to his family. So hard.

I had about 100 dollars stolen at a church activity in Romania. My companion and I had taken a youth group down to a city that was an hour away by fast train, and it left us stranded there. We ended up scrounging enough money to take the slow train home. Awful. Sometimes I think it's just too great of a temptation for the ones who live with nothing. It probably is because you are a "rich" American.

janae said...

I am so sorry! I don't know why some people are targeted and others are not. That I know of, in the twelve years my family lived internationally, they were only robbed twice. Once was in the first couple months they were outside of the states. At night, with the four small kids in bed, by a guy with a machete. My older brother, who was five at the time, woke up and ran past the guy to get to my parents. Freaky. The other time my mom was robbed at gun point outside of the grocery store. Turned out the guy was actually robbing for someone else who was abusing him. So sad.

Life is tough. On both sides.

Deb said...

I am so sorry. I know how violated you must feel. Please know there are people out here thinking of you and praying for you every day.

Shauna said...

Just stopping by to say have a great weekend!

johnny said...

well, that put the kabash on my "perfect world" theory. i'm with deb - i am so sorry that you are feeling violated and betrayed. hugging you across continents...

nikkicrumpet said...

I'm so sorry. The worst part has to be that you were deceived by someone who you knew. It would be easier to take from a total stranger. I don't understand why people feel it is their right to take something that belongs to someone else. It's just Evil! I hope you get your money back...but more important I hope you get your feeling of safety back. I'm so so sorry!

Kristina P. said...

Oh, and maybe you should change your comment statement to "___ reasons to punch someone in the face."

Melanie J said...

I am so sorry! Our house has been broken in to, credit cards stolen, checks forged, and I've had items stolen from my desk by students (leather jacket, digital camera, etc.) but it's ALWAYS worse when it's someone you know. And yet I understand your impulse for mercy.

Oh, and if it's because you're American, it's not because you're an American living in Brazil because all our craziness happened right here in the good ole thieving US of A.

Kazzy said...

Man, that is rotten. When we lived in LA we were robbed multiple times and it is so emotionally exhausting. But we never knew the crook. That would be rough. The guy needs to have some consequences, and I think it can still be handled with the mercy you want to lean toward. Good luck!

Rachel said...

you have every right to vent about this one. In fact, you have every right to keep on venting for as long as you need to. We don't mind.

I am so sorry. I really am. I hope things work out for you. And I hope it doesn't happen again.

elesa said...

Oh my gosh. That is really, really crappy. I'm so sorry.

wonder woman said...

Ugh. I can't even imagine how violated you feel.....and have felt so many times in the past. I am so sorry. I totally understand you thinking about his family, and thinking him the "victim," then being LIVID for feeling that way.

That really sucks.

Debbie said...

I think you have every right to be mad! That is infuriating.

Annette Lyon said...

Talk about feeling violated in your own home. I'd be spitting nails.

janel said...

The lockers in the temple in Guadalajara, Mexico have signs that say please don't leave your belongings unlocked. It's sad.

Thanks for reminding me that every thief has a family. That's a very mature alternative to being the seething mad that you deserve to be.

Natasha said...

WOW. I can't wait to back read and find out what the heck you're doing there because I certainly didn't think it was all beaches. Brazil is notorious for being crime-ridden.

I think your feeling of dirtiness is perfectly expected. I'd feel the same way. And money lost! I'd be so mad, too. We're going through the same thing except that it's our house that's robbing us. (I know, totally not even close. I meant the losing money part was the same.)

So, ya, I'm not surprised you didn't write a happy post.

I know that when horrible things happen to me, I feel better when I can make some sense of them, when I can understand the WHY. You grew up in an entirely different land where justice and ethics are revered. If you grew up in Brazil, in a culture of violence and immorality, it might not seem like such a big deal to rob someone who is better off than you. You would have a warped idea of what's right and who's in charge, probably?

Sharla said...

Holy cow! I had no idea it was so bad. I can't even imagine how you must feel. All I can say is move...;) I like it here.

Anonymous said...

I know an american family that lived in brasil and were robbed under their noses for a couple of years by their beloved housekeeper/nanny. They had trusted her and treated her like family. It was disgusting. And yes, they sought the full measure of justice.

Maybe stealing is somehow not as wrong in the brazillian mind. Maybe when they are trusted they feel entitled, instead of obligated.

My dad is a college prof and he claims that students from certain countries are pervasive cheaters because in their code of morality, helping a friend is higher than not cheating.

I am not sure it justifies anything, but it is interesting to consider that different cultures have different mindsets, even about basic right and wrong.

PS, I like your blog

Natalie said...

Wow! That's terrible. We went camping for the weekend a few years ago & came home to find out our house had been robbed. The worst part (for me) was that my hubby had talked me into making a little video with him um, at night... and it was STOLEN! We never did find out who robbed us, so for a long time I would look funny at just about everyone and wonder if they've "seen" me. Having someone go into your house and help themselves to what's yours leaves you feeling so violated!