I should have known, at least that's what I keep telling myself.
I should have known to bribe the police to actually do something with the police report that I had to file regarding my stolen bicycle. I also should have known that a luxurious mountain bike in a third world country is a huge liability, and I should have know it wouldn't be safe sitting inside a government building out of my sight, (without cameras, a guard or locked doors), only 10 feet away from where I was sitting.
We all make mistakes, "sigh," and in retrospect everything is much clearer. But the lesson learned here is not only about my personal frivolity and carelessness but really about how things are here in Paraguay.
Clearly someone saw an easy opportunity and took it, and how can I blame them? Sometimes one small opportunity is all you get, and here you take it, whether or not it's "the right thing to do."
However, I have been touched by the shared embarrassment that all of my colleagues expressed after my bike was stolen from under our noses. And then, I just have to smile as the sentiment immediately fades and they all crack jokes about how tired my feet must be after walking so many kilometers to the office, ("maybe that will help you loose weight, Emily").
Thanks to my colleagues' goodwill, yesterday, I found myself on an exhilarating stake out, with two old Paraguayan guys, patrolling a rough neighborhood outside of the city. In between sips of terere we discussed the hot tip I received on facebook from someone who thought they saw a bike like mine, refinished in matte black, cruising around this shady part of town.
Our driver was slow and deliberate, and so was his accomplice who explained to me the master plan of recuperating my bike, if we did indeed catch a glance of it. "I will promise a couple kids a reward if they tip me off about anything suspicious in the neighborhood, then we will visit the house where the suspected bike is, pretend we are looking for a place to rent, identify it quickly and discreetly, and then finally bring in the police in to investigate."
"Yes, genius," I mumbled, distracted not by my low-profile backseat search for the bike but by the rows and rows of shacks that served as cramped, inadequate living quarters for entire families. This was my first glance of the shanties outside of the buffer of wealth and the touristy facade that envelops the city center where I spend the majority of my time. The exhilaration of the search faded into a scene of abandonment, where both the people and their neighborhood seem to have been cast away to the fringes. The sun was shining, but the wind had a chill in it and it rustled the garbage piles in the ditches and sent plastic bags rolling across the road like tumbleweeds. No one would be cruising around on their new bike this afternoon. We turned up a rocky hill littered with potholes, waved at the old men on their stoops and drove back to the city.
I lowered my eyes and thought that if my bike was the one opportunity that some kid from this forgotten neighborhood saw and took, then I should have known...his need was greater than mine.