I live in Cambodia. Crime statistics are high, and although I have heard plenty of stories, nothing has ever happened to me. Until now.
I have been living in an apartment for 2 months which is part of a building with 8 apartments and a house at the back where a Khmer family lives who owns the apartment building. I live on the ground floor, in the apartment closest to the Khmer family. I have never been a good sleeper, however I have been sleeping even less the past couple of months, and frequently with my couch pushed against my door, because, well, basically, TIC (this is Cambodia).
On Monday morning I stopped off at my apartment to grab $20 so I could go and buy some medicine for one of our Young Adult boys. In my wallet there was $100USD left. I was then reimbursed $160 at Anjali (as our Director had been away so we hadn’t been to the bank, so I was lending them money) and when I returned home that evening to put the money away, the $100 I had was gone. I was shocked, and looked everywhere to see if it had fallen out somewhere, but I could not find my precious $100. Later that evening I went for dinner with a friend, and she said maybe I was mistaken, that I never had that $100, so I let it go.
On Thursday evening I was getting ready for a girls night in with my friend, and down to my last $2 in my bag, I went to my wallet to grab $10, as I had $150USD left in there. When I opened my wallet, I realised all my USD was gone. I had not been mistaken – someone HAD stolen from me. Twice. They had not taken anything else in my apartment, they had known exactly what the grab and where to grab it from, and had stolen $250USD in total, which was the amount of money I had expected to live off for a month.
My heart started beating rapid, and in a state of shock, I phoned my friend Kyle, a Peace Corps volunteer who works at Anjali. He was with his Khmer ‘brother’, and told me he would be over in 20 minutes. He was over in 5. After coming in and discussing, we decided it was best I got out of the apartment straight away. With the help of his brother, we went to the landlord (an old lady with 2 sons who have never rubbed me the right way), and she said even though she is home all day, every day, she had seen nothing. I do not like to accuse people, but I am convinced it was her or her sons. I have seen her open my apartment door by sliding a card between the door and the wall when I locked my keys in there before.
When we knew she wouldn’t do anything to help, Kyle’s brother called his tuk tuk mate, and we started quickly taking all my photos and Anjali artworks off the wall. We then grabbed all my possessions and showed them into big plastic bags I still had from my move at the start of the year. The decision was to leave my furniture and kitchen stuff there, but to take everything else over to the PURE! For Kids office, where my best friend lives and works. She currently has a spare bedroom, and said I could stay there until I found a place. The tuk tuk was filled to the max with all my stuff, so I had to sit on the arm rest, hanging out of the tuk tuk, whilst Kyle rode my bike over.
When we got to the office, we unloaded my stuff and Mirte kindly bought dinner for Kyle and I. We sat around chatting about everything, and later that evening Mirte and I relaxed and tried to forget about what had happened. I sent an email to my insurance company asking what documents I required to make a claim, however I am pretty sure I will not bother with it, as the police are so corrupt over here that I will have to bribe them to get a report done, and I don’t support that. I didn’t sleep very well that night, as I was feeling quite violated that someone had been into my personal space and through my things. Thankfully, my passport and cash cards were never taken.
On Friday I was feeling quite down in the dumps about what had happened. At lunchtime a few of the kids I had been teaching for the last few weeks called me over to the table to chat. One of the boys told them with a sad look on his face that I had been robbed. They all turned sad and were very angry this had happened, because $250 is around 4 months worth of wages for their families. As more kids came around the table to hear the story, the amount of sadness rose. I started crying as it touched me how much they cared about me, and how empathetic they were. During lunch one of the kids used her pocket money to buy me an ice cream, even though I had sent her to the office a couple of times that week. Good to see they don’t hold grudges.
In the morning I had asked our Director if I could store my furniture in the spare room at the Young Adult House until I found a new apartment, and he said yes. So, at 1pm, after our tuk tuk driver had returned from taking the afternoon kids to school, I rode on the back of my workmate Sreylin’s moto with our intern Sven, riding his bike next to us, and our tuk tuk drive following us. When we reached the apartment, there was a foul stench inside. I hadn’t done the dishes in a few days, and I knew I would not be bothered bringing them back to the PURE! office and cleaning them, so I told our tuk tuk driver he could get his wife to clean them and keep them. He was over the moon. Whilst the men took out my furniture, Sreylin and I talked to the landlord about the $83.25 bill they had given me the night before. She explained that since I paid a $60 deposit, I only had to pay $23.25, and once the lady agreed, I paid and we got out of there.
The ride to the Young Adult House was an interesting one, as there is a small, rickety bridge you have to pass over. Unfortunately, there is no other way to get there, and the bridge is so dangerous that I never even ride my bike over it anymore. With our tuk tuk driver riding ahead of us, with all my belongings inside, I called out to him to stop, and to not go over the bridge. He didn’t listen, and he rode over the rickety bridge, with my heart beating and me screaming “nooooooo”. Luckily, he made it over the bridge, but I made Sreylin let me get off the moto so I could walk over it. We unpacked at the Young Adult House, and one of the boys asked if he could use my fridge. I said “sure, as long as you pay for the electricity”. He decided it was best not to.
On the way back to Anjali, our tuk tuk driver once again went over the bridge, and I had my eyes closed the whole time, as I couldn’t bear the though of seeing him fall through the bridge. I once again told Sreylin to stop, so I could walk over the bridge, but she went over, with me screaming on it. I safely made it over, not to worry.
Since people have found out what happened, they have been sending me well wishes, and one of my friends even sent me money. It is amazing how, no matter where you are in the world, people are always willing to help. Our cleaner at Anjali even said (in Khmer, I got it translated), that she was very sorry for what had happened and she could help me move if I wanted. So sweet. Our tuk tuk driver even said I could stay at his place, however since there are 8 of them already living in a small 2 bedroom house, it might not be the best thing for me.
Thanks to everyone who has expressed their concern, but not to worry about me! Time to start apartment hunting, hopefully at not much extra cost!