So combining photo documentation with a late night work project turned out to be a bad idea. Allow me to set the stage.
I wake up normal time, come down, eat, and get cleaning. The board is coming in for their monthly meeting and we´re trying to spruce the place up.
Johanna is cleaning in the main work room, Chris is there working on a bike. Anneliese and I get started on cleaning off a bici-bomba (a bike powered water pump) and we´re both pretty excited to be getting a chance to work on a maquina.
We get called off to join the board meeting and introduce ourselves, all good and fine, then we go back to our work.
I think to myself "i really need to be photo-documenting this," especially once Carlos asked me to start cutting apart tires. I go upstairs to look for my camera. Not there. I come back downstairs, ask around, no one has seen it. Come to think of it my technical-drawings book is missing too... I go back upstairs, dig through everything. Still not there.
I talk to Johanna, she asks where i left it. "On top of that big barrel last night, i forgot it and left it there with my book and sweatshirt and bottle." "Don´t you remember your bottle and shirt were there this morning?" "You´re right." Crap.
Everyone assures me they have to be around, the camera makes sense, but the book too? You must have misplaced them. Its logical, especially since everyone was up and about and no one saw anything. But my gut tells me its wrong.
I listlessly go back to making the piece that Carlos asked me too, but i didn´t get too far before i had to stop. An plan came to me, one that would need to be implemented immediately, it seemed like my best shot.
I sat down with my dictionary and drew out a missing poster, complete with a reward- 1000 quetzales, or $150 dollars- a huge sum to any local. I drew pictures of the missing book and camera, said that they were very important and that they should be returned to Sr. Matthew at Maya Pedal.
Most likely the theif was most likely looking to sell the camera, and i was, in effect, lining up to be the first buyer (and with the best price). I figured i didnt have much time so i rushed down to the copy store with my original and printed up a hundred. I then spent the next couple of hours hanging posters all arounf the town square, main roads and MP´s street.
Part of my logic was that a gringo hanging reward signs would garner enough attention to word-of-mouth it back to the theif. And as i expected everyhwere i put up a poster plenty of people crowded around to ask questions and express their sympathies. Cuidado they´d say. One guy even came up and mumbled a bunch of stuff about god and the devil. I think he was trying to tell me a parable, but he also seemed a little crazy so i´m not really sure.
Some folks suggested that i use the announcer, a modern equivalent of the town crier. The announcer drives slowly allllllll over town, even out into the country side, making announcements and for eighty Q you can get on his list. I was kindly led to his garage, but (thankfully) he was on lunch. I realized i was hungry and headed home, hanging posters all the while.
As i approached Maya Pedal a woman stood outside of the door. I knew immediately. I greeted her as i approached and she went for her bag. "Is this what you´re looking for?" I felt a lot like Dorothy Gale in Return to Oz (the sequel, which is excellent by the way) when she faces the Gnome King and he slides his stone robe aside to display her vibrant ruby slippers "Are these what you came looking for?"
I was faced with an interesting moral dillema, and unlike Dorothy i didn´t have to poison this woman and burn down her house to get my stuff back, she just handed it over. To test her i asked how she came across them, she replied "I found them on the ground." My conscience wavered, but my anger got the best of me. I thanked her for returning them, i truly was grateful, but i also made no offer to give her any reward. And her conscience didn´t allow her to ask for one, considering she had already lied to me. (It also didn´t seem like a good precedent to set- steal the gringos stuff, get lots of money!)
It seemed pretty clear that her kid had lifted it and she, the least offensive figure, brought it back, in part because she felt bad, but mostly because she thought she´d get paid. I didn´t like lying, and this is the first time since i was a little kid that i can remember blatantly doing so. But in the moment i couldn´t justify shelling out a bundle of money to someone who just robbed me. It seemed pretty unjust. Though i´m feeling lots of things other than anger: relief, guilt, sympathy, insecurity, and surreality. Though my journal of drawings and camera are back in my hands it feels fake, like i´m holding a ghost, or i´m just dreaming.
Much like my sickness was a jolting wake up call to be more careful with my health, this was one to be more careful with my stuff. Clearly the universe is trying to tell me something.
Maya Pedal is an organization located in San Andreas Itzapa, Guatemala that designs and fabricates bici-maquinas (bike machines) for distribution to rural Guatemalan farmers and workers. The mission of the organization is to "contribute to the conservation of the environment, the health of the Guatemalan people and the productivity of the local economy."
Its a terrific place to volunteer at- we highly recommend it! To find out more about volunteering, please contact one of us. Our emails are listed below.
You can also visit their website for more information: