10 Years of Blog Archive

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

This Silly Hat Finally!! Got Me Pick Pocketed in Cuenca Ecuador!!

I knew going out the door that morning, I shouldn’t be wearing it.  I’ve never worn it before in Cuenca.  It marks me as a foreigner.  And I knew it.

You may have seen me wearing it in our Salinas videos, and I have it earmarked as my “beach” hat and for that it works great. 

But this morning I was frustrated because the sun was full on in Cuenca, and I had recently lost my ball cap! And if you’re in Cuenca or anywhere else in Ecuador any length of time you will quickly realize being out in the equatorial sun without a hat, is suicidal.

Why was I frustrated?  I knew locals don’t wear them, they wear ball caps.  As I said, it marks me as a foreigner.  And foreigners are frequently a target for crime in Cuenca or anywhere in Ecuador.

But that wasn’t the only thing that finally got me pick pocketed for the first time in two years.  I also wore my cargo pants even though I knew the Velcro on the pocket was worn out, causing the pocket to hang out open, and my wallet was an easy target.  Talk about being stupid, I must have appeared Rich and Stupid.  I mean, who walks around with a silly tourist hat and a bulging wallet in an open pocket in South America?

Well, now you know who.  I frequently tell people South America is not a first time travel destination!  Why?  Because first time travelers are not ready and willing to believe the precautions you must take to avoid being a target of crime here.  You know, "that won’t happen to me, it just happens to people you read about" kind of attitude?

So what went wrong?  In a nutshell, here’s why it happened.  I DIDN’T OBEY OUR OWN RULES.  Readers of our DIY Cuenca Landing Guide know that the only other time we had a close call altercation was when we didn’t obey our own precautions listed in the Cuenca GUIDE, when we went to Feria Libre Mercado.

The other thing was that we had been running around all day long doing errands under the sun, and even with the hat, I was exhausted.  It was later afternoon in a crowded bus, and I was slumping against the side of the bus with my head on Angie’s shoulder and could barely keep my eyes open.  I was also sleep deprived.

So I was off my guard, and the thief must have spotted me first with my silly hat, then on the bus, slumping and tired.  Could I have made it any easier? I’m taking full responsibility here!  And that’s a recurring theme we get when we ask local Ecuadorians about crime,  “It’s up to you” they say…

Next, a nicely dressed guy moved up closer to us and began to try and open the bus window. For about 8 to 10 seconds the man pushed and yanked on the window but it wouldn’t open, which is normal for most buses in Cuenca. Some of the windows will open and some are jammed and will not open. Anyway, at the next bus stop the guy gets off.

Angie remarked “That’s odd, that guy who was trying to open the bus window got off the bus anyway, so why was he so intent on opening the window?’  We simply shrugged it off not knowing yet that the man took my wallet.

As soon as I stepped off the bus I could tell I was a little lighter!  That’s when it hit me.  Fortunately for us it was my dummy wallet, which only had an expired debit card, a Supermaxi discount card and $30 in it!!

So how did the guy pick pocket me without me knowing? When he leaned up close to pretend like he wanted to open the window he took his other hand and grabbed my wallet. It happened very fast, very sly and very professional.  He was also very presentable, collar shirt, manicured haircut.  A normal, nice looking guy.  Not like the night of the living dead drunks you see occasionally, which would have caused alarm bells to ring…

We have lived here almost two years and this is the first time anything remotely close to being robbed has happened to any of us. I blame the whole ordeal on myself because I made myself exposed to being pick pocketed.  Here’s the recap:

1)    I was showing that I was tired to the thief and he took advantage of that. Thieves look for vulnerability, so don’t give it to them.

2)    I was not paying attention – I was totally oblivious to what was going on around me. I got lax, something I normally wouldn’t do.

3)    I was wearing the wrong kind of clothing, because the pants pockets were not sealed properly with a zipper, and the hat was not a blend in, local guy kind of hat.

So, bottom line, why should you listen to me?  Because one thing is certain, when we actually do obey our own rules, nothing ever happens to us, but boy do things change fast, when we disobey them!!

For more information on safety, saving money, living well and blending in, see the DIY Cuenca Landing Guide.


  1. Thanks for sharing. A good lesson for us all.

  2. Good advice for all of us if we can discipline ourselves to follow it.


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