robo aggravado

Last night something disturbing happened that has shaken our family adventure a bit. We went out to dinner with our friends the Goodfellows here in Lima, and celebrated Thanksgiving with some amazing Peruvian food. On our  way home, there was a sudden crash at the window near my head exploded into tiny shards of glass. The impact was so jolting that initially I thought we’d been hit by another car, but then someone reached in and grabbed the purse out of my hands, and it dawned on me that he had broken the window. I screamed this awful, gutteral scream and barely recognized my voice as I yelled out that the man had taken my purse. As he ran, my iphone fell out of my purse and onto the sidewalk, and two other men scrambled for it and ran off as well.

For a few seconds we tried to figure out if we could chase them down. In retrospect that would have been a stupid decision, but in the heat of the moment that was my first thought. Then I realized that I was bleeding a bit, and that my girls were starting to scream. They had seen the whole thing happen and they were terrified. They were screaming and shaking and begging to go home. I tried to go back and comfort them but realized I was so covered in glass that it wasn’t safe, so I had to just try to reassure them.  It didn’t work. We drove home with them still screaming.  I tried so hard to act like it wasn’t a big deal, but hearing their terrified cries, it was hard not to join them.

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Blake and Sarah’s kids were having a hard time, too. One of their sons had an ipad stolen out of his hands in the car before, and they had already been shaken up by that situation. Having it happen again was really traumatizing, especially because this happened right around the corner from their house. Apparently this kind of thing is not uncommon in Lima, and it’s just one of the many sacrifices that the Goodfellows make as they live and serve here in Peru.  It seems robbery is a way of life for many here.  In fact, when Blake and Mark went to the police station later to file a report, there was another couple there who had the same thing happen to them (robo aggravado, as it’s classified here).  The wife, unfortunately, had a pretty major gash on her face from the incident. I’m lucky that most of my cuts were minor and on my hand.

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I think that’s what is so disturbing about this incident. It’s not that my purse was taken. . . it’s that there was so little regard for the fact that there were children in the car, or the safety of passengers as someone smashed through a window.  This person did not care if I was covered in glass, or if he’d missed and hit me in the face as he punched through the window. It felt violent, and it was just an awful reminder that there are evil people out there.

All of the kids struggled to calm down and sleep last night. Poor India is an over-thinker like I am, and she kept coming up with scenarios of how “that man” would track us down and harm us again, told to me through tears and wide eyes. “But mom, he can crash through the window of this room.”  Sweetie, he doesn’t know where we are. “But mom, he has your drivers license and he knows our address now.” But honey, he won’t travel that far. “But mom, he may have followed us home.” India, there are guards in this neighborhood. “But mom, what about when the guards have to eat or use the bathroom?” 

It was so sad to watch her mind race through possibilities, and so clear that she was bothered by this violation and loss of control.

I’ve really tried to downplay the impact in front of the kids, parroting that it’s “just money” and “just stuff”. While I do believe that, and comforted myself with that last night, this morning I took inventory and let myself get angry about the stuff, too. My phone was new – recently replaced by insurance after a cracked screen which means I’m not covered for a replacement again. I didn’t have a lot of cash, but last week I had placed several high-dollar items into my wallet because things were getting packed for the move at home and I didn’t want them getting lost in the shuffle. Prior to our trip I’d stuck Disneyland tickets, Legoland tickets, and several cards from home repair stores with significant store credit into my wallet for “safe keeping” – assuming that I always had my purse on me so it would be the most secure spot.  Of course, I’m grateful for our safety. But I’m also giving myself permission to be mad that someone walked off with several thousand dollars worth of my stuff. I’m also mad that I will spend my time after our trip in line at the DMV and swapping out bank card info for all of the bills we’ve got on auto-pay. Thank goodness all of the passports were in our suitcase and not in my purse.

Of course, the biggest collateral damage is the emotional stress.  I can see that all the kids are still processing. Karis said, out of the blue to me today, that maybe Santa would bring me a new purse. At bedtime tonight, all of the kids asked to sleep in our room again. I’m sure with time the fear will lessen but everyone is on high alert right now. This morning we drove to lunch and the kids replayed the scenario a million times. No one wanted to sit near the window. The kids were jumpy and scared. I am really feeling for the Goodfellows in this, since this is their third burglary in a short time span. We go home in a few days, and the kids can view this as an isolated incident that occurred in another country. Their kids have to manage their anxiety about this every day, even in the knowledge that it could happen again. If you are the praying kind, this family could use it. I will be sharing more about what they do in Peru in the coming days, but you can check out their blog here.


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