I recently read something by Alice Walker about never walking in the same river twice, and though I might have read it before, her words really struck me profoundly as I set foot in Santiago again for my second semester. I had a conversation with another student from the United States who is also studying in Santiago for a year where we both admitted that there was indeed room for improvement from last semester and that this one would be our second chance to do it all again, except better.
But as I was sitting on the beach full of optimism for the semester to come, my backpack was stolen from right behind me.
(Below: Me in Viña del Mar wearing a stylish plastic biblioteca promo visor and sharing a laugh with dearest backpack, moments before we were forever separated from each other.)
I should have known this would happen, not because Viña del Mar is any more “dangerous” than any other city I’ve been in (U.S. or elsewhere), but because Mother did say that Year of the Goat, my year on the Lunar calendar, is going to be a really tough one for me. And also a bird pooped on my shirt an hour before I was robbed. Clearly, an omen!
Well, joke’s on the thief because they got a backpack full things I don’t think they actually want: a T-shirt with bird poop on it, a denim button-up with awkwardly-placed boob pockets, a plastic visor, garbanzo beans, a half eaten avocado, chopsticks, pads, a bus ticket back to Santiago, keys to an apartment they don’t have the address of, a Windows phone (not even the kind with the really nice camera), a wallet filled with my various student I.D.’s (a.k.a. unattractive photos of me) and my debit card, which I promptly reported and blocked before any money was drawn out.
I did have things of significant monetary value in there: my GoPro camera and $127.80 USD, which I’d stashed in my backpack as emergency cash the day before — a terrible idea in retrospect. But I’m more upset about the sentimental things, like my little sister’s beanie that she lent me and a coin purse my other sister got me from Prague.
I’m a bit conflicted about how I should feel about the theft of my possessions:
Part of me is like, “Things are just things! They come and they go; it’s part of travelling,” but another part of me is like, “things are just things…that cost a lot of money! Only rich people can afford to say that things don’t matter in our capitalist world.” Regardless, I have to deal because it already happened. It really does suck to have to have to dish out time and money to replace all the things. But then again, I’m fortunately at a point in my life where I can afford to replace most of those things, or at least live without them.
I focused more on how to resolve it and didn’t stress out too much when it happened, unlike last semester when I accidentally dropped my wallet in a taxi and had to figure out the immense bureaucracy involved in replacing each missing item. I think this time around, it helped to have awesome friends to support me in handling the situation better– and that’s what this second semester is supposed to be about, right? Doing all the things, positive and negative, better?
So I drank two delicious mango smoothies and began replacing my lost things, starting with this backpack from Valparaíso with the words “A Day to Remember” (which apparently is a “post hardcore” band from Florida a.k.a. the kind of white boy music I worshipped in middle school) to commemorate the occasion:
I’m still super pissed, but I’m taking care of it.