The Pickpocket Post
I landed in Sao Paulo with a “Psssh, I got this.”
Day 1: I hit Avenida Paulista like a pro - I kept my belongings close and hidden, made mental notes of every person that lingered behind me for too long and never pulled out my phone on street corners. I left my earrings at home and even made the sensible decision to use a phone camera instead of a DSLR. One would never catch me walking around with a map, inside my hostel I memorized street names with the help of Google Maps. Traveling solo is a matter of pride - a tough sport. Travel well and it's like adding a special tropical bird feather in your hat. (the modest nomads may seem humble but they're proud too ;-).
With months of world travel behind me, not once did I lose or have my things stolen from me. Not to mention, the sheer ambiguity of my situation felt liberating - I wasn't a student traveller, it wasn't work in a cubicle, I was just wandering like a seasoned mystical fairy in new and exotic lands.
Day 2: First, I took my time in Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) moseying through Histórias da infância [Histories of Childhood], and noting down specific Brazilian, Chilean, Argentinean and other South American artists on my Iphone so that I could research them for a future blog post (soon to come). Afterwards I walked to Ibirapuera Park to locate the Bienal Sao Paulo building. In my head, I was already writing my next post- my hostel culture, exploring Paulista Ave, my experience of hundreds of sculpted men and women around me, and the fun things I did and would do.
Day 3: I began my day with a plan to attend a Free Food Tour, taste-test a coffee shop near my hostel, and make a homemade dinner to accompany the creation of my first blog post. I ended up at my hostel at 1 am, my hostel friend rubbing my back as I cried a little, “This happens all the time…” she said. My day had started out perfect, but just minutes before my hostel entrance, Sampa, in all her concrete glory, full and frontal slapped me.
Auguste Street is poppin’ on the weekends. Paulistas know how to enjoy their city. After the fried-food-heavy Free Food Tour (not great for vegetarians) a bunch of us internationals decided to head to Auguste street for some dinner and drinks. The streets were swarming with teens out drinking (it’s currently their winter holiday) and scores of people crowded outside clubs, bars, and cheap restaurants. In the queer friendly air, every person was hip and handsome and there were overtly lovey-dovey couples making out on almost every corner. After a couple of hours and a second dinner at Calçadão Urbanoide (A food truck locale), I decided to go home. My new German friend kindly agreed to accompany me as his hostel was in the same direction as mine. Personally, I like to walk fast, it looks like I know where I’m going and it doesn't give anyone time to grab me or my stuff, so our pace was quick. Earlier in the day I decided against a handbag since it could be snatched or unzipped while I was distractedly eating and so I decided to hold my wallet in one coat pocket and my brand new Iphone 6 in the other (stupid I know..) My reasoning: How could anyone grab anything when I'm holding on to it. Besides, it kept my hands warm in Sao Paolo's chilly winter night air.
Auguste street is hilly, sort of like San Francisco, As my German friend and I were charging up the steep street, we spoke loudly in English so our conversation would carry on the busy street. In hindsight, this must have caught the pickpocketer’s attention. While my friend was telling me how he got mugged twice in Brazil, it happened.
It dumbfounds me how quickly, swiftly, and boldly my phone which was in MY hand, in MY pocket, was taken. I actually felt his hand slide in and out in a millisecond. I could literally feel the phone's weight leaving my pocket. Immediately, I looked all around me, alerted bystanders, certain that in the seconds that followed I could still catch him! But everyone just blended in, looked the same, walked the same. My phone was gone. My MASP notes were gone. And a couple cute pictures of Luke, the hostel cat, also - gone.
I am writing this post because I have learned valuable lessons from this that I'd like to share:
- Bad things happen, but learn.
- No one is an experienced traveller. One travels FOR experience. Be humble. Each country is different, hone your instincts and behaviors but pickpockets are still going to be smarter than you.
- My safety, your safety, our lives, are more valuable than our material possessions. I am fine, I am safe.
After what happened I was shocked and quite frankly scared, I felt kind of violated. But after calming down my hostel friend leaned in, comfortingly close, and told me to be grateful nothing worse happened - she, a Brazilian native-babe, was robbed at knife-point a block from the house she was born in…
These situations can happen to anyone, and happen quite often. Some people I’ve talked to have mentioned that the political tension coupled with intense social stratification breeds pickpockets here in Brazil. Whatever the reason, I was forced to give myself a major ego-check and although the loss of my phone sucks, really really sucks, I am thankful I am unharmed and hopefully a little more street-smart*.
*NEVER keep anything in your outer-pockets, coat or otherwise, even in the cute pockets on the outside of purses. NOTHING, even if your hands are in the same pocket.