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Sunday, April 18, 2010

Pickpocketed by an Octopus

Looks like this morning you're getting a two for one deal! I'm sure nobody's going to complain about getting more than one blogpost on the same day. But this time the blogpost will be more lighthearted, humorous and informative as opposed to deep and thought provoking like the other first one was. I like to make sure my blogs have plenty of variety :)

Anyway, there was a funny moment that happnened yesterday when I was at my friends house.  Because she is from Mexico and therefore latino, there are some similarities with the culture of Mexico and with South and Central America. She was explaining to the other people who were at the party that in Mexico, there are food stands 24/7. You can wake up in the middle of the night, walk out of your house and there will be somewhere open where you can go in and eat.  Just like in Argentina as well as the whole of South and Central America.

I jokingly said that you can certainly do that in those countries, although getting up and going for food during those kinds of hours might increase your chances of getting robbed. Everyone laughed and unfortunately there is a little bit of truth to my joke. Now, don't get me wrong, Buenos Aires is not dangerous but it is a big city just like any other big city. I could probably go to grab something to eat in the wee hours of the morning and there would be a 75% chance that I'm not going to get robbed.

But I want to use this blog today to give some precautions to those who may be thinking of going to Buenos Aires as well as other places in Latin America. Some of you reading this may have read extensively on taking precautions in these countries so nothing I'm going to say to you is going to be new. However, there are others of you to whom this info will be all new to you. And I'm glad you're reading this, the info could spare you from getting into alot of trouble.

A very important rule of thumb is to not try to look like you have deep pockets or that you could possibly be loaded.  Hidden amongst the many people that crowd the busy streets are pickpockets and thieves and they are looking for easy targets, people who are ignorant and have not taken any safety precautions.  Things like holding up an iphone and talking on it or carrying your laptop in a case for it increase your chances of being robbed because you are making it known to everyone that you have pricey electronics.

 When you are in a cafe or a restaurant, the general recommendation is not to hang your bag loose on a chair where someone can take it. And don't go to the washroom and just leaving it open and hanging there. Now I do want to add a note here that this depends on where you are in Buenos Aires and which restaurant and cafe. There have been times where I have been able to hang my bag on a chair but in those cases, I was eating inside a restaurant with almost no one in it in a safe part of town, so it was pretty obvious that nothing was going to happen. So what I will tell you is be discretionary. Always follow your instincts and when in doubt, play on the safe side. And NEVER leave your laptop sitting there and go to the washroom, no matter where you are.

The other really important thing is how you wear your bag. For me, I have a bag that slings right over my body. So a thief couldn't grab it without taking me with them! It is better to wear something that slings over your whole body as opposed to wearing something that hangs on your shoulder. Because someone can grab it before you even realize it is gone. Backpacks are a good idea but wear your backpack in the front of your body, not slung over your back like the way we normally do here. This may look strange in this culture but trust me when I say everyone does it over there and wearing your backpack in front of you actually is quite a normal thing to do. And a safe one too, people who want to rob you find it much easier to grab your backpack from behind.  The chances of someone trying to grab your backpack if you wear it in the front are almost next to nothing.

 But occasionally there are incidents where people will take something from you no matter what, even if they have to use a weapon. If you are ever in a situation where someone has a weapon, give them what they want and don't put up a fight. Because they WILL use it if you don't comply in those countries. All they want is your things, nothing more. And no amount of things are worth fighting or possibly losing your life over :)

OK, I know that the last few paragraphs have been quite serious. But think of it this way, reading this info will prevent a much more serious situation from happening.  And I did promise that there would be some light-hearted and humorous parts to this blog and seeing as you've been so good sitting through me telling you about all the precautions you need to take.  You all may be well informed on how not to get robbed while in Latin America but what do you do when you've been pickpocketed underwater when you're deep below the ocean's surface? One diver found out......

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Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas