the pick of the litter in pickpockets

David loves to shop at Feria Libre.  Katherine (and friends when they visit) walk over there once or twice an afternoon to stock up on snacks, candies and frozen treats.


Prices are low.  Muchas cosas to buy at the largest indigenous market in Cuenca.

Fruits and veggies (the freshest in town) are in abundance. From produce to meat, tailored jeans to sandals, electronics to spices, hair salons, underwear and fresh seafood.  All on display. Beautiful to look at. Bartering expected.

I very much dislike going there.

The combination of crowds, odors and expert pickpockets–especially on very busy Wednesdays and Saturdays–is a big deterrent to finding the best prices in town. I’ll pay more if you give me space and fresh air!

So I tend to avoid Feria Libre at all costs. I have a sensitive nose and find it very unpleasant to stroll through the freshly slaughtered meat section, shop close to the displays of raw chicken and step over wilting lettuce and rotten tomatoes.  David revels in the offerings and the great deals.  Katherine holds her nose and heads for the sweets.  I remain at home.

Except this past Tuesday.  Katherine had a presentation at school (Life in Ancient Rome) so David and I went to CEDEI in Misicata and enjoyed a school-wide Cultural Days.  We brought her home  via the bus which stopped at …Feria Libr.

I cringed when I stepped off the bus and started wandering through the blocks-long market. People were everywhere, hawking shirts, dresses, limes, herbs, belts…anything and everything you can imagine.  We went down a flight of stairs to walk under the main street and as we were coming up the opposite flight of steps, Katherine and I got separated from David.  She knew where we were going so I followed along, knowing David would catch up.

But he was slow in coming.  I turned around and saw his head towering above the crowd.  He looked perplexed.  Katherine and I stopped and waited.  When he arrived, he told us he had just been pick-pocketed. A middle age woman had blocked him on the steps, then two younger men surrounded him and wouldn’t let him pass.  He felt his iPhone being lifted out of his pants pockets. He told the woman he wanted his phone back, she acted like she didn’t know what he was talking about as David saw the two younger men running off.

Once home, our landlady drove David to the police station. They said he’d have to go to another station. It took some time but they arrived at the right place and David, with Susana’s help, reported the theft.  One policeman said he’d help (though all knew it was a long shot).  Soon two other policemen joined in and they went off searching for the phone. David had the “Find My Phone” app working and they followed the trail to two different addresses. But in the end they gave up.  Phone lost. Lesson learned:  Never take your phone with you to Feria Libre.

In light of so many other thing that can go wrong and are troubling in the world, the loss of an iPhone 6 Plus doesn’t even rank. We have other phones that we can share.  It is most definitely a first world problem.

My emotions have moved from anger, fear, relief (for David’s safety — although pick pocketing is not a violent crime), discouragement, sadness to acceptance and forgiveness.

Ecuador remains a developing nation. Maybe not third world, but certainly second world–if there is such a thing.  The playthings of those who are middle and upper income contrast dramatically to the poverty so visible at the market and on the streets.  And David certainly makes an easy mark by being so tall and so Anglo.

Thieves do what they do for a reason.  I don’t know if the addition of one more iPhone will make a difference in the lives of those men and woman but I pray something someday will give them relief and peace from what pushes them to do what they do.

The event didn’t even seem to phase David.  This is his home. He loves it here.  He just will be very careful the next time he goes to Feria Libre.

Katherine and I had a rougher time.  Both of us immediately reacted with tears and feelings of “I to go back home”…home for me beings where it was familiar and comfortable.

We walked back to our house in a line (the sidewalks here are not conducive to side-by-side strolling), David moving forward with his slow and even pace, with a bound to his step that says he loves walking. Mother and child following behind with tears rolling down our faces.

Comical now that I think about it.  In this land where most people have a smile on their face at all times, two weeping expats can’t see the sidewalk for their tears.

Things are harder here for me. And for Katherine.  I find I miss  being able to jump in the car and go to the store.  She misses her school and her friends.  I long for my books. Katherine just wants to go home.

But we are here to stay.  It takes awhile to feel settled and a part of a place.  Years ago I moved from Atlanta to Birmingham Alabama.  It good a good six months to feel as if I belonged.  And then I fell in love with my life there. Friends. Work. Church. And for many years after I left that city I wondered if I had done the right thing.

I look forward to that happening again.

Katherine is learning the hard truth about life. We can’t always be happy. We have to choose to be happy where we are. It’s up to  us to choose whether to be happy and thankful. It’s up to us to decide whether others or circumstances will make us or break us.

She is struggling but she’s doing a good job.  And she will be fine.  I find I love her more and more –didn’t know that was possible.  I’m proud of her and I hurt for her.  And I pray that what she is going through now will make her into an even better, more loving person.

This is one of those blogs where I’m thinking and writing and again have no idea where I’m going. Bear with me.

I’m working through things myself.  This is time and place for me to process getting older, making good use of my time, learning still about myself and how to be a better  wife and mother.

It’s all good.

4207620054_0894eb1c10_z[1]But I’m still not going to Feria Libre anymore.


6 thoughts on “the pick of the litter in pickpockets

  1. I was there last Saturday. I don’t keep much in my pockets, but I do keep change for purchases. I hadn’t realized I had a visible $5 bill hanging loosely from one pocket till a local woman came up and reminded me to be careful. I was almost pick-pocketed by two indigenous women at the flower market. I caught them, but they would have been disappointed if they had succeeded. I had only a map in the pocket that the woman’s hand was picking.
    I haven’t been successfully robbed here yet, but it does go with poverty cheek by jowl with abundance. I have been robbed in Miami and Seattle. I imagine anyplace there are crowds of people, including relatively rich and absolutely poor, there will be pickpockets.
    I’m sorry it was so painful for you, but I also hear real homesickness in your story. I hope someday you will return to the market casually and comfortably, otherwise you are missing one of the more intensely real experiences in this city.


  2. I don’t go because it is just so huge and I don’t do well with that much visual stimulation…plus pick pockets! I think we underestimate the adjustment period when we move, whether across country or continents. You and I, and many others, we are going to settle in here more and more. And we’ll have lots of tales to tell.


  3. It’s like that in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul, in London and even on the bus my old Auntie catches to see her friend. The pickpockets are usually the lower end of a crime hierarchy. It is sad for all 😦


    • I agree. I wa bummed about losing the phone, and then i got to thinking about the people who must make their living doing this and really felt more for them. and we learned a lesson. so all is not lost. Reminds me of Dickens’ David Copperfield.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: #192 Produce – You Inspire Me

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