Speed Bumps 2

on Thursday, 12 December 2013. Posted in World Travels

Part Two

It was 6 days after my arrival in Pipa and 2 weeks since arriving in Brazil that it happened. We had only been gone for about 90 minutes, walking over the cashew tree strewn dunes to a friend´s house. We walked into the house and as we went into the living room and then the bedroom, the reality hit us. We had been robbed. The side window in the bedroom was broken, the larger front window open and as we looked we realized that all our computers were gone. I stared at the suitcase where I had stashed all my belongings – passport, cash, cards, etc and it was lying on the floor, the side pocket zip open. I stuck my hand in there, just to see, and of course it was empty. I went back into the living room and realized my computer and Ipod were gone. My friend was repeating to himself, “No, no, I can´t believe it”. Strangely there were 3 bananas from the kitchen on the floor of the bedroom. Were the thieves also making funny with us on top of stealing everything they could get their hands onto, or were they half way through a snack when we came back a bit too early, forcing a sudden departure out of the window.

For some reason, my friend was confident we weren’t going to be robbed. They had lived there nearly four years and even though many others had been robbed in the area, they had been fine and they thought that as they were well-known in the community and had done a lot of pro bono work for various people, the word would be around that they should be left alone. But obviously others had different ideas and the fact that two other foreigners were staying with them probably whetted the thieves appetites. No doubt they had been staking us out and waiting for their chance. The house had been fairly carefully constructed to deter thieves, with bars on some windows and hard-wood shutters on the others, but in fact it was easy to break into. A quick thrust of a crowbar to separate the outer rim of wood that covers the cracks between the two hard wood doors on the window, another thrust and rip of the crowbar as it levered open the door, a quick break of a window pane and they were in. Thirty seconds perhaps. Another 5 minutes to case the place, grab a sheet off the bed and put all the stuff in, 1 minute to open up the larger window to escape, 30 seconds to eat a banana, if they could, and out they go. All that effort at security and for what?

In Brazil, a country known for its inequality of wealth and the sometimes violent attempts to redistribute it, what happened was nothing really. Just another wealthy house owner being disinvested of some personal belongings, and in this case, probably by a small group of local young guys, high on crack. It is known in Pipa that there is a small group responsible for many robberies but the police do nothing in particular about it. Pipa is a small town on the coast of Brazil, which has grown a lot in the last ten years, now catering for many Europeans escaping their winter and also Brazilians coming up to party from the south during the holidays. There are also quite a lot of bohemian types from South America and Europe who live here for part of the year, making some money in the tourism industry.

And then there are the local people, many of whom are quite poor - not that many of the bohemian and longer term residents have much money either - and so the temptation to rob is there. If there is no real deterrence -  as in a serious attempt to stop it by the authorities, then it will continue. Apparently, even in the Lonely Planet Guide, it is not recommended to come here because of the amount of robberies, but as of now, little seems to be being done.