Sunday, November 27, 2016

Halloween and Thanksgiving With a Side of Burglary

October, November, and December are my favorite months. There's my hubby's birthday on October 30th, Halloween on the 31st, Thanksgiving in November, our anniversary, and of course, Christmas in December. Unfortunately, something awful happened during Zach's birthday that pretty much tarnished our festive mood.

We had gone out with two very dear friends to celebrate at a Japanese Restaurant in Nueva Cordoba called Oyshiki.
The food was great, the service was decent, and we were having a great time. Afterwards, we went bowling at Patio Olmos, which was only a few blocks away from the restaurant. We had a blast.
The only thing left to do now was to go home so Zach could blow out his birthday candles and open up his presents. It was late. We didn't get home until 2 a.m. At this point it was technically Halloween. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary, but that's probably because we hadn't seen that one of the windows facing the street was wide open.

We didn't notice anything out of the ordinary when we walked in, but when we got to our room, we saw a bunch of our stuff, including our clothes on the floor.
It didn't register in our heads that anyone could have broken into our home. Most homes in Cordoba have bars on their doors and windows. In fact, I can't say I've ever seen a house that didn't have them. Our home was no exception. We thought that there had been a small earthquake, but earthquakes can't open drawers, rummage through clothes, or take things.

Zach was the first to notice that the bars to one of the windows facing the street had been cut. The wooden shutters had been lifted, and the windows had been opened. The first thing I asked was, "Were we robbed?" I meant it as a joke because I couldn't believe that it had happened. The moment I saw the look on Zach's face I realized we had been and it was heartbreaking.

We immediately started checking to see what had been taken. The obvious thing was the laptop I used to write my novels and watch television from the States using an HDMI cable. They also took my Playstation 2, which I rarely played with anymore. Unfortunately, now I have hundreds of games and no way to play them. 

DVD movies and video games in Argentina are all pirated from an original source. Since my PS2 was from the States it wouldn't play pirated games. Admittedly, I never considered checking to see if an authentic game from the States would play on an Argentine PS2, but that's mainly because I've never had access to an Argentine PS2. From what I'm told, all PS2 consoles in the region have been reprogrammed so people can play pirated games. As to whether an Argie system will play my authentic PS2 games is anybody's guess. 

The thieves also took Zach's MP3 player, Zach's laptop, my cellphone, and 3 of his cellphones too. What stung the most is probably my laptop for the reasons I mentioned above. I had just published the first of a five part book series. The information for the remaining novels happened to be in that laptop. They also took a couple of USD that I earned through freelance writing. I actually spent six months earning that money and I'm a little pissed... no. I take that back. I'm super pissed that they took that money. It's like I basically worked for free.

I called the cops. Ironically, there's a cop living across the street from us, but he's clearly useless, like most cops here. The officer that arrived took a quick look around and said that although the province was a P.O.S. (his words, not mine) that it was better than living in the U.S, which according to this officer is under constant attack by terrorists. Once again, the culture's racism reared its ugly head, and it couldn't have come at a worst time. He didn't offer to check for fingerprints. He pretty much talked me out of filing a report because he said that it would be pointless. So yeah, the local police was useless. Then again, the cop across the street was probably the one who hired the thief or thieves to break into our home. Yes! Argie cops do that. I've heard plenty of horror stories. You can't really put much faith in law enforcement down here.

The thieves didn't take any of our collectibles or our clothes. I don't know if I should feel relieved or insulted that they didn't like our fashion taste. Most of the clothes were on the floor because they were probably looking for hidden cash among the shirts and underwear. So I decided to wash everything, which took over two weeks to do.

We were all set to celebrate Halloween. We'd decorated the house. We even bought ourselves some masks and a Freddy Krueger glove a few days before the burglary.
Halloween isn't as big in Argentina as it is in the U.S. In fact, some people are actually against the holiday. In Nueva Cordoba there was a band called "Cristoween" that was basically trying to throw shade at one of the coolest holidays ever. We also get pamphlets from local churches talking about the evil that the holiday brings and nonsense like that ever year. Despite this, there are some clubs that will throw costume parties.
This is one of Zach's favorite holidays and I wanted us to try and salvage it despite what had happened only hours earlier. Our horror movie marathon was canceled given that we'd gone through our own personal Argentine horror story. Fortunately, the thieves didn't take Zach's presents. So he had the chance to open them, but you can see the sadness through his smile.
The next day I had all the windows and doors reinforced with metallic shutters to ensure that no one would try to enter our home again. I personally don't believe anything will keep these bastards away. They've already been inside once. There were a lot of other things that they could have taken, but the hole they crawled into and out of was too small for them to fit these things through. This didn't mean they wouldn't come back for them in the near future.

So for the past few weeks we've been sleeping in shifts. Although I work from home, I'm still required to log on to my desktop computer to work on a series of daily articles. So now we sleep in shifts. I sleep at night and Zach sleeps during the day while I work. I also walk around with a screwdriver in my pocket in case someone does break in. I have no problem defending myself. Plus the anger I feel will fuel my arms and my hands to do what I have to do to protect Zach and myself. I also sleep with a wooden stake near my bed. These thieves might not be vampires, but a piece of sharp wood across the chest will stop anyone cold in their tracks, living or otherwise.

Zach and I considered renting a storage unit like the ones we had in Florida and then in New York. Unfortunately, storage units aren't a thing in Argentina. According to a fellow expat, the best you can hope for is a lock box inside a bank.

I also wanted to buy a gun for self defense. Despite the fact that it's not popular to own one, I learned that you can legally own a gun in Argentina, but you have to get a license first just like in the States. I'm still kind of iffy about owning a gun. I'm more of a "react now, think later" kind of guy. So I'm not exactly sure that owning a gun would be the wisest option.

Two weeks after the robbery, we had a belated Halloween party with our two friends. It wasn't an easy thing to prepare for.
Sloppy Joe's

A cute attempt at making ghost faces with cheese, olives, and crackers
We tried leaving the house at the same time to go buy groceries and suddenly found ourselves surrounded by a swarm of potential hoodlums, but you really couldn't tell right away by looking at them. It's kind of like being surrounded by "The Lost Boys" from Peter Pan. They might vary in ages, the oldest probably 18 or 19, but in a group, they could be dangerous. So we managed to evade them. After buying what we needed we rushed home. We were afraid that they might have taken our absence as an invitation to break in. Fortunately, they didn't, but we felt that going forward only one of us should go do groceries while the other stands guard inside the house.

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, we had to start buying all the stuff we'd need for this traditional feast.
Unfortunately, the only place that had a lot of the items we needed was in Walmart. Since I was working, I couldn't go. So Zach decided to volunteer, feeling that no one would dare attack during the day. So I got back to work on my articles.

About an hour after Zach left, I heard someone messing with the metal shutter on one of the windows. Without thinking, I opened the door and saw one of "The Lost Boys" with a toolkit trying to pry the shutter open. He was startled. He didn't think there was anyone inside. I asked him what the hell he thought he was trying to do and he simply said, "Hello," and then ran away. Had Zach been in the house I would have chased the bastard down and made him regret the day he ever broke into our home, but since I was alone I couldn't risk it and it's probably for the best. Had I taken revenge, and trust me, it would have been fatal in his case, I would have probably ended up in prison. On second thought, maybe not since cops here are incredibly stupid.

I went back to work,  but I was obviously anxious and pissed. It didn't help that Zach hadn't come home after three hours. It never takes him this long and my head started spinning all kinds of horrible scenarios. What if they'd hurt him or worse on his way to the bus stop? The fact that this "Lost Boy" had tried breaking in and Zach hadn't returned couldn't be a coincidence. I was panicking. At this point, I didn't give a damn about my shitty job, or even the stuff in the house. All I wanted was for Zach to come home safe. I've heard stories from other expats about foreigners being kidnapped and held for ransom, but I've never actually known anyone personally who has gone through this ordeal. I was kicking myself for assuming that we were safe. Then it occurred to me that when they broke in, they saw our U.S. passports and our social security cards. What if they'd been targeting us? At this point I wished Zach's family were here and not in the States. I knew if I'd call them they would have taken action right away and helped me form a search party or something. I was ... no! We were essentially alone and my fear was that they took my husband away from me. I was angry. I felt powerless. I didn't know what to do.

It turns out that Zach was fine. He walked through the door a few hours later. He was very frustrated because the ATMs in Walmart were down. So he had to go look for a bank in the middle of nowhere. This was the reason it had taken so long to come back. I was finally able to breathe again.

We didn't celebrate Thanksgiving on the 24th because it fell on a Thursday and our friends had to work. So we decided to celebrate it on Friday the 25th instead.
When it came to the menu we had to improvise like all the other years since there are some items that aren't sold in Argentina. 
Zach made a Pumpkin Pie from scratch for the first time ever and it was delicious. We had apple pie too... well sort of. They don't sell them in Cordoba, but Burger King started selling the equivalent of a Hot Pocket shaped Apple Pie pastry. So we bought one for each of us to try.
Although the burglary is still fresh in our minds, we managed to have a really good time and we even have enough leftovers to last us through the weekend.

Now we just need to get through Christmas and celebrate New Year. By early 2017, we're planning on moving to another home. We no longer feel safe now that our home has been targeted and we don't plan on spending the rest of our lives living as prisoners in our own house. So a fresh start is our best option. We just have to hang on for two or three more months. In the meantime, it's time to start taking the Thanksgiving decorations down and get ready to take out our Christmas decorations.

I'm not sure if I'll be back this year but to those of you who do follow my blog, thank you for your continued support. I hope you have a safe and wonderful holiday and that you'll continue to follow my journey in 2017.

Oh, and if you want to help out, you can purchase my novel "Hunter's Vendetta: Silent Kill" on Amazon using this link or Zach's novel "Welcome To Bore City" using this Amazon link

If you're interested in reviewing my novel, let me know and I'd be happy to send you a digital copy for free.