Wednesday, February 25, 2009
i learned my lesson this time
I am a very stubborn woman. (I know everyone out there that knows me is saying out loud, DUH we knew that!!)
And I like to learn from my own mistakes. Over the years, I have learned that people are usually right when they give me advice, yet I still continue to ignore it (much to my husband's annoyance). But that's just the way I am.
Before I moved here, I tried to prepare myself for this new world. I did my research, joined a Yahoo group (Honduras Living) and subscribed to several blogs of other Gringas living in Honduras. One of the most frequent pieces of advice posted on the group/blogs was this: Do not trust anyone in Honduras.
So, I came to Honduras knowing that I couldn't trust people. I guess it just took a while to sink in, like uh, 8 months.
When the cable technicians were here installing the cable a few weeks ago, I was friendly with them. I let them work in my bedroom installing the cable, just checking on them every 5-10 minutes. I offered them glasses of water and cookies. We chatted about things, about life in Honduras. Remember my post gunshots and gangs? They even taught me all about the Revolocos. Well, it turns out that the whole time I was being friendly, one of them had something of mine in his pocket. I didn't realize until last week that when he was in my room working, he had gone through the cabinet in my room and stolen my US cell phone.
Since it's my cell phone from the US, I don't use it here. It's just for when I go to visit, so I keep it stored in the cabinet in my room. Well, one of the guys stole it, and not knowing it was a US phone (meaning very high international roaming charges), used it as his phone for several weeks. I didn't even realize it was missing until last week. When I realized this, I called my parents to let them know that I might have misplaced it. When my mom called AT&T, she discovered that it had, in fact, been stolen and that the thief had racked up a $500 phone bill. That's in US dollars!
So, what did we do? We printed out the bill, and started calling the phone numbers that the thief had dialed to figure out who stole it. That's how we learned that it was one of the guys from the cable company.
After we determined that we had enough proof as to who stole it, we sat down with Jose's parents for advice and figured out that we have 3 options:
1. We could involve the police. And if the police actually take the time and catch the person...the person could get mad and come back for revenge later on (remember, they know where we live). And we'll probably still never get the money.
2. Call the cable company and ask for the money. If they say no, we will threaten to put an ad in the paper exposing them for having thieves as employees. (The cable companies here are VERY competetive, and will (hopefully) do anything to prevent bad publicity.) We still risk the thief coming back for revenge if he gets fired.
3. Do nothing, be out $500, but be safe and not have to worry about an angry thief.
None of the options are ideal. But we'll probably end up going with number 2.
And I can't help but feel that all of this is my fault. If I hadn't given these guys the benefit of the doubt, and if I had watched them like a hawk like I should have, they wouldn't have stolen the cell phone.
But that's not all! In the same day, I learned my lesson, again.
Last week I asked my assistant to come to work out of my apartment instead of coming to my in-law's office. I gave her some money to take a taxi because it's farther than she usually comes. And because she takes a taxi collectivo (she can't ask to go to a direct location...it's cheaper this way) she has to walk several blocks to get to my apartment. So I gave her some money, and made her promise she would use it for a direct taxi.
She arrived Friday morning, and I asked her how she got there. She said she took a direct taxi. What she didn't know, is that my husband had been driving to work and saw her walking to the apartment 3 blocks away. I asked her again twice how she got to the apartment, and each time, her story changed. I was furious. Not because she kept the money, but because she lied. Yes, what she did was financially smart...she pocketed a few lempiras and walked instead of taking the taxi. But she lied to me. You see, I warned her during her first interview that I would be nice as long as she didn't steal from me or lie to me. I told her she would regret it if she did. She said she understood. And then last week she lied.
My whole life I've defined myself as a good person, and to me that means that I should treat everyone as equal and that I should give everyone a chance. So it is devastating to learn that I have to change that way of thinking. But I've finally learned: don't trust anyone. But not just that. In Honduras, don't give anyone the benefit of the doubt. Assume that everyone is going to lie to you, or steal from you. Because they probably will. It's a game of survival here in Honduras, and the only person you can worry about is yourself.