Saturday, July 19, 2008


This morning I woke to a dark house, I tried the light. Nothing. It’s not unusual for power cuts, especially after a night of heavy rain, but something felt different. Maybe a branch had knocked down the line. I went to look. I looked and looked at the place where my power line was yesterday, but there was nothing there. There are two power cables leading from the road to the houses. Our neighbour’s was there. They have the higher cable, we the lower. Ours was simply gone. I walked to the road, yes, there about 10 metres in from the road was what was left of our cable, cut and hanging in a sad, naked mess. Someone had stolen the cable. How . . . low. Cables, like everything else in Costa Rica have recently undergone a price hike, cables by 40%. So now people are just stealing them. Can you believe it? I walked back to the house staring at the place where the cable should be. It’s 200 metres from the road to the house, that’s a lot of cable. Then I got worried, what if they came to the house and why didn’t I hear them and why didn’t the dogs bark, and who were they? No point in calling the cops, no point at all. They probably wouldn’t even come out for it. There’s no point, they wouldn’t catch the thieves, and if they did they would in all likelihood be bought off.

Costa Rica is no place for law enforcement. Firstly the police make $200 a month, so bribes are taken just like tips. Secondly the police are never locals. They are stationed in different parts of the country, live in the police station for three weeks and then are moved somewhere else. The idea is that non local cops will not be part of the community and therefore not have family ties or friendships with lawbreakers. Perhaps, but the result is that I who have lived here 10 months can point out the thieves, the drug dealers, the thugs, but the cops who have no frame of reference, can’t. Every time they start with a clean slate – they don’t know where to even begin. And the community is tight, the thief or attacker or dealer is always someone’s brother, son, nephew and the family will take gather round them, maybe even threaten revenge. Then, if the amount stolen is less than $210 it doesn’t count, it’s not really considered theft. If there is no sign of breaking and entering then it’s not treated seriously, the thinking being that the ladron just wandered in and ‘found’ your valuables. And lastly it is fairly acceptable to take from foreigners because we have more. Yes, that last is true, most of the time, but it’s hardwon and certainly not easily replaced. And what the hell kind of reasoning is that anyway????

It’ll cost $700 to replace the cable. For me that’s a month and a half’s wages. And with new cable, who knows if they won’t just come back next week?

This is the kind of thing that makes people leave. Lack of trust is very tiring.