One of life’s worst experiences is having personal belongings stolen—and it can happen in a flash!
The other week, as I was rising from a table at Goda Restaurant after a delicious meal with friends, I realized that my purse was gone. A security camera later revealed that a well-dressed pickpocket had been up to no good, feeling his way around the room, checking the pockets of jackets, pretending to have bumped into chairs at our table, and finally lifting my purse from where it hung on my chair.
Inside my beautiful purse was my baby, my iPhone 6+, a sleek, golden piece of essential technology. Also enclosed was my wallet, containing $80 cash, a copy of my cedula and my voting certificate, five credit cards, my Multicines card, with points accrued and my SuperMaxi card for grocery purchases. In addition, there were the little things that provide comfort when needed, such as dental floss, medication, an emery board, and my address cards, which I pass out to new acquaintances.
Although having only been in Cuenca for four months, I was already aware that El Centro can be dangerous. It’s not that one is likely to be injured or killed, but theft comes easy on the streets of El Centro, and we are all vulnerable to acts of desperation and cold calculation. Nonetheless, as in most places on the planet, the vast majority of human beings are good folk, and Cuenca is doubly blessed with kind and caring inhabitants.
Shocked by the crime that had just occurred in the restaurant, our Goda server and his supervisor conveyed their sympathy. Outside, a considerate Tranvía construction worker offered to check the ditch to see if my purse had been thrown in. Two of my lunch buddies walked around the block to canvas the area. Two employees of Tia agreed to keep a look out for items of mine, in case they were discarded in the store. An understanding merchant in a copy center across the street from the restaurant made a duplicate of my cedula for me. The next day, a good friend who used to work at the Hotel Conquistador, just a block from the El Dorado, called the El Dorado on my behalf to express concern and help identify preventative measures that could be taken in the future. His wife, who is like a daughter to me, generously loaned me her iPhone until I could replace my stolen property. At every turn, Cuencanos cared for me.
And it doesn’t stop there. I received a lovely apology from the El Dorado Hotel’s general manager, with assurances that such thieves are usually only interested in the phone and the cash—not in the bank cards, nor in my address. Relief and gratitude filled my heart for every kindness shown to me and, to my delight, exactly one week after my purse disappeared, I received a check from the hotel covering the value of all of my lost possessions. If I had tried to create a perfect ending to this unfortunate situation, I could not have improved upon the truth: that the El Dorado Hotel in Cuenca, Ecuador, shines in its customer care in the center of a city that glows with wonderful people whose second nature is to help one another.
Holly Thompson recently moved to Cuenca, Ecuador, from Monterey, California, where she worked in special education as a school psychologist and principal. Lately, she’s been on the sofa with her adopted Cuencana grandkidz, reading INSIDE OUT, the story of Riley’s emotional adjustment to the family’s big move from the midwest to California.