The Ecuadorian Robbery

And The Long Trip Home


DISCLAIMER: This story gets intense at times. Nothing too crazy, but want to give you a heads up just in case.



It's another beautiful day in Quito

The sun is shining

The weather is warm

And Mount Pichincha watches over the city

She smiles today


I've been in Ecuador for almost a month now

And while I came para aprender Español (to learn Spanish)

My time here has brought me many places


From the peaks of mountains

To the depths of jungles

And all the rain forests in between

I've seen the beauty this country has to offer


Plus I've made some good friends along the way


Still though

There's one type of landscape I haven't yet experienced in Ecuador


The beach


And considering tomorrow will be my last full day here

Now's the time to go


So I call up my friend Connie

And see if she wants to take a trip


She's down


We head into town

And talk to some locals about what we're trying to do


'Queremos ir a la playa. ¿Dónde debemos ir?'


'Hay Playa Atacames. Es un viaje seis horas en autobús'


They tell us our best bet is a beach called Playa Atacames

6 hours away

By bus


Not ideal


But hey

With my time here quickly coming to an end

What better way to spend my last full day in Ecuador

Than relaxing on the beach


I'm in


I turn to Connie

She gives me the nod

She's in


With thoughts of adventure in our minds

We head to the bus station


The walk isn't far

But it is pleasant

Shops and parks line the way

And we let them guide us to our destination


When we arrive

We walk up to the ticket counter

And ask when the next bus leaves for Atacames


'Hola, vamos a Atacames. ¿Cuándo pasa el próximo autobús?'


'El siguiente sale a las ocho y el siguiente sale a la medianoche.'


We hear that the next bus leaves at 8pm

And the one after that leaves at midnight


So Connie and I talk it over

We decide to take the midnight bus

Figuring it will be cool to get there as the sun is rising


'¿Cuanto?'


'Trece'


We hand over 13 dollars and buy the tickets


'Gracias

Por favor lleguen aquí a las once y media

Con sus pasaportes

No una copia de ellos'


We're told to arrive back here by 11:30pm

With our passports

Not a copy of them


Connie and I give a thumbs up to the person behind the counter

We agree to meet back at the bus station by 11:30pm

And then go our separate ways to pack some stuff

I head home to where I'm staying


Along with a bathing suit and towel

I grab my passport

I grab some cash

And I grab my phone

For pictures


I wonder why I can't bring a copy of my passport

But if that's what the person at the bus station said

Then it must be true

Because who would be naive enough

To not trust a person

They met at a bus station...


I kill some time until 11pm rolls around

And then start my walk back to meet Connie


We both get there right around the same time

And secure our spots in line


20 minutes after arriving

We're seated on the bus

And 10 minutes after that

The bus leaves the station

Right on time


The ride is typical for Ecuador

Lots of twists

Lots of turns

And LOTS of bumps


I sleep for most of the 6 hour trip

Wanting to be rested for a long day at the beach


When I wake up

I check my phone

It says 5:30am

We're almost there


I nudge Connie to let her know

She starts getting her stuff in order


A few minutes before 6am

We pull into the Atacames bus station

::pshhhhh::

And the old bus breathes a sigh of relief


A handful of drowsy travelers gather their belongings

The doors open

And the bus empties


Connie and I walk outside

It's still dark

We walk into town

We see shops

Restaurants

Internet cafes

But none of them are open


The small beach town is still asleep


We walk to the beach

To watch the sunrise

Just like we had planned


We take off our shoes

Find a spot that's just right

And plop down in the sand

Our backs to the tired town


We sit

And we talk


We talk about our time in Ecuador

The things we saw

The things we learned

The friends we made


The sun starts to rise

And the warmth of the nostalgic conversation

Can be felt

Both inside and out


So calm

So peaceful

So relahhh


I feel something around my neck

I see an arm

It's not Connie's


I feel a sharp pain

I look down

The arm has a broken glass bottle to my neck

My Spanish leaves me


'STOP!!'


'No digas nada'


The arm tells me not to say anything

The bottle presses harder


I look over

Connie has a bottle to her neck too


We see the panic in each other's eyes

We feel the pressure of the broken glass against our necks

And we watch as hands go through our bags


The hands take what they came for

The arms loosen around our necks

And the people they're connected to run off


Still in shock

I get up

And run after them


'STOP!!

YOU CAN HAVE THE MONEY

LEAVE THE PASSPORT

PLEASE

PLEASE!!'


I sprint through the sand

Full speed

With tears starting to roll down my cheeks

They could have killed me

But they didn't

And I'll make sure they regret that


Wishful thinking though

Life isn't a Hollywood movie

And I'm not a comic book hero


No matter how fast I run

I'm not gaining on them quick enough


They enter a wooded area

And I decide to stop the pursuit

Because who would be naive enough

To follow Ecuadorian robbers

Into a wooded area...


My phone

My wallet

My passport

All gone


I run back to Connie


'Are you okay?'


'Yes, I think so'


'We need to find police'


We scamper off of the beach

Shouting for help


There's a police truck nearby

We run to it in a frenzy

They see us

And ask what happened


'¿Que pasó?'


'Algunos ladrones se llevaron nuestras cosas ¡Necesitamos ayuda!'


We tell them that some thieves had taken our stuff

And that we need help


They look at us

Then at each other

Then back at us


'Vamos'


They tell us to get in the truck


It's like a convertible

Basically an Ecuadorian Jeep Wrangler


'¿Por dónde se fueron?'


They ask which way they went

And as soon as I point towards the wooded area

The driver stomps on the gas


The acceleration presses us into our seats

As the truck speeds through the beach town


The driver turns on the siren

It's loud

The passenger turns on Spanish music

It's louder

And all four us keep our eyes peeled for any sign of the thieves


In the distance

We see someone waving their arms above their head

Indicating that they may have a clue


The driver notices

He says something to his partner in the passenger's seat

And then zooms over to the good samaritan


As we get closer

We see that the good samaritan is standing on a dock


The driver pulls onto the dock

Stops the truck

And asks if the good samaritan has seen any thieves


'¿Has visto algunos ladrones?'


'Si si si. ¡Ellos fueron allá en el agua!'


The good samaritan points to a long inlet

And tells us that the thieves went into the water over there


The driver looks towards the inlet

Then out to the open ocean


There's a lone fishing boat about 500 feet from shore

He hops out of the truck

Waves his arms

And motions for the boat to come to the dock


Connie and I look at each other

This is getting wild


The fishing boat docks

And both police officers speak with the captain


Connie and I see the captain look at us

Pause

Then nod his head


The police officers turn back towards the truck

They point at the boat


'Vamos'


And tell us to get on board


Connie and I look at each other again


Are we really going to do this?

Yeah


We get out of the truck

Walk over to the boat

And climb aboard


The captain fires up the engine

And we pull away from the dock to start our search


We enter the inlet

Our eyes scanning for any leads

Any clues

Anything


¡Veo algo!


The captain shouts that he sees something

We look over the side of the boat

And we see something floating in the water

It looks like a passport!


The captain casts a net to grab the object

He pulls it out of the water

It is a passport!


Hope

A faint glimmer of hope

I can feel my spirits rise


The captain hands me the passport

It's from the United States!

I open it up...


'Andrew Riley'


Hope

Gone

I can feel my spirits sink


I look up at the captain and shake my head

He frowns but is nice enough to continue the search


We look for another 20 minutes

No luck


The captain brings the boat back to the dock


Connie

Both police officers

And I

Hop off


'Buena suerte'


The captain wishes us good luck and heads back to his fishing post

We wave and say thank you

The police officers turn to us with a disappointed look


'Lo siento chicos

Les daremos un informe policial

Pero no hay nada mas podemos hacer'


They tell us they're sorry

And that they will provide us with a police report

But that there is nothing else they can do


So we get the reports

And head into town


I have to call my mom

And tell her what happened

But honestly

I'd rather just get robbed again


We find a phone cafe

We explain what happened and why we don't have any money

And we ask if we can please make a couple of phone calls

The owner is generous enough to say yes


I call some friends in Quito

And ask if they can wire us some money to buy bus tickets back

Then I call my mom


'Hi mom

I'm okay

But kind of an emergency'


'What happened?

What's wrong?'


'I came to the beach with my friend

And

We got robbed'


'You got robbed??'


'Yeah'


'What did they take?'


'My phone

My wallet

And my passport'


'Your passport???'


'Yeah'


'WHY WOULD YOU BRING YOUR PASSPORT??'


'The person at the bus station said to'


'Oh my god

Okay

I need to speak with dad

And make some calls with him

What number can I call you back at with information?'


'One second

Disculpe. ¿Cuál es el número de este teléfono?

...

Mom?'


'Yeah'


'They said the telephone number is 593-98-92-72-700'


'Okay I'll call you back as soon as possible'


I hang up

Connie tells me our friend wired us some money

And that we have enough to buy bus tickets back to Quito


My flight home is tomorrow

But luckily for Connie

Hers is not

Plus

She has dual citizenship

Which means her passport issue is a bit different from mine


Twenty minutes later

The phone rings


The owner picks it up

And says it's for me


'Es para ti'


'Hello?

Hi mom

Yes

Mhm

Yeah

Okay

Sounds good

Thank you'


I hang up the phone


'What did she say?' Connie asks


'She told me she made some phone calls with my dad

They spoke with some people in the United States and a connection in Ecuador'


'What did they say?'


'They said I need to go to the United States Consulate in Quito

I can fill out forms for a replacement passport

Or they can give me paperwork regarding the situation

Either way

I need to get to the Consulate before 5pm'


Connie looks at her watch


'Well it's 9:45am right now

And the next bus leaves at 10

It's a 6 hour trip back home

So we need to leave now to have any chance of making it back in time!'


We get up

Thank the owner of the phone cafe

And start running to the bus station


When we arrive

There is already a long line forming in front of the bus

We go straight to the ticket window and ask for two tickets to Quito


'Dos para Quito, por favor'


'Qué suerte, estos son los dos únicos que quedan'


We're in luck

We got the last two tickets


With a sigh of relief

We walk over to the bus

Hop on

And wave goodbye to Atacames


In many ways

Our ride back is similar to our ride there

Lots of twists

Lots of turns

And LOTS of bumps

Only this time

We have thought of a robbery and assault weighing on our minds


The hours tick away

As the bus makes its way back to Quito


1 o'clock

2 o'clock

3 o'clock


I start to worry

It's 3:45

And we haven't even entered Quito

I start to think we won't make it to the Consulate by 5


It's 4pm

We're not in Quito

It's 4:15

We're not in Quito

It's 4:30


We're not in Quito


At 4:38

We finally arrive


It's a dark day in Quito

The sky is cloudy

The weather is harsh

And Mount Pichincha watches over the city

She frowns today


I run off the bus

And flag down the first taxi I see


'Hola

Vamos al Consulado de Estados Unidos

Necesitamos llegar antes de 5pm

Es una emergencia

No tengo dinero ahora

Pero te pagaré después'


I tell him we are going to the United States Consulate

And that we need to arrive by 5pm

I also tell him that it is an emergency

And I don't have cash on me

But I will pay him after


He agrees


I give him the address of the Consulate


Av. Avigiras, Av. Eloy Alfaro E12-170 y, Quito 170124, Ecuador


We take off

The driver cuts through traffic at an impressive pace

We're making good progress


4:52

We're getting close to the Consulate

4:53

I can see it!

4:54

We hit a red light


$!#@%


4:57

We pull into the parking lot at the Consulate


I hop out of the taxi

And sprint to the door


I frantically look around

Then make a dash towards the first person I see

Words come flying out


'MynameisHarryBrodskyIgotrobbedandamheretopickuppapers'


'Excuse me?'


'Sorry

My name is Harry Brodsky

I got robbed

And am here to pick up papers'


'Oh yes

I was told you would be coming

One second please'


The employee walks away and steps into a room nearby

I have a moment to catch my breath

And take in the scene


The building is quite nice

Very official

And covered in marble


Three minutes later

The employee exits the room with a distinguished looking diplomat


The diplomat is holding papers

And casually walks up to me


'Harry Brodsky?'


'Yes'


'Hello Mr. Brodsky

On behalf of the United States government

We are sorry to hear what happened to you

But we are here to help you through this process'


'Thank you'


'Moving forward

You have two options

First

You can submit for a replacement passport

This process will take between 10-14 days'


'My flight home is tomorrow though'


'Second

I can present you these papers I am holding

They explain the situation

And why you do not have a passport

They should be enough to get you out of Ecuador

But

It's at the discretion of any countries you pass through on your way back to the United States

As to whether or not

They will let you travel with this paperwork alone

Will you be passing through any countries on your trip back?'


'I have a layover in Panama'


'Then I wish you the best of luck in Panama'


The diplomat hands me the papers


'Thank you'


The diplomat nods and walks away

The employee leads me to the exit of the Consulate

I step outside

Walk back to the taxi

And get in


I give the driver the address of where I'm staying

He starts the car

I tell Connie what happened

As we pull out of the Consulate parking lot


The ride isn't long

Which is good

Because neither of us have much to say


We pull up to where I'm staying

And I get out of the Taxi

Connie gets out too


I run inside

Grab some cash

And thank the driver for all he did


'Buena suerte'


He wishes me good luck

And drives off


Connie and I stand silently

Dazed from the day we just went through

We look at each other

She breaks the silence


'I'm sorry this happened

I'm sorry your trip has to end this way'


'I'm sorry it happened too

But it's okay

It could have been worse

Much worse

I'm just glad we're both okay'


'Yeah

I hope you're able to get home with those papers'


'Me too'


'Well

Good luck

It was great getting to know you'


We hug


Connie turns

And walks away

I head back into where I'm staying


I spend the rest of the night stewing in anger

And sitting in sadness

The emotions are overwhelming


I lay in my bed

Eventually

I fall asleep

But I do not rest


I wake up the next morning

Gather my belongings

And grab a taxi to the airport

Making sure my paperwork is within sight at all times


I get to the airport

And head to security


I wait in line

Slowly getting closer to the agent checking passports


Finally

It's my turn


'Hola, passaporte por favor'


The agent asks me for my passport


'No tengo mi passaporte

Pero tengo estos documentos'


I tell the agent that I don't have my passport

But I have the paperwork instead


Puzzled

The agent looks down at the papers

Then looks up at me

Then calls over their supervisor


The agent explains the situation to their supervisor

And shows them the papers


Now the supervisor looks down at the papers

Then looks up at me

Then says something into the walkie talkie attached to their uniform

Then back down at the papers


'Esta bien'


The supervisor says I'm good to go


'Gracias!'


I say thank you and pass through security


I walk to the departures screen

And look for my flight to Panama City


Gate: C26

Status: On Time


Perfect


I make my way to the gate

Passing by hundreds of other travelers

And as I approach C26

I see two Ecuadorian soldiers point at me


I freeze


The two soldiers walk up


'Ven con nosotros'


And tell me to come with them


They lead me into a security room

Take my bags

And open them


They start to search everything


I stand and wait


I can hear a woman crying somewhere else in the room


'I swear

I swear I didn't know that stuff was in there!

My husband gave me the bag and said not to open it

That stuff isn't mine

I swear!'


The soldiers continue their search


I continue my wait


The woman continues her cry


'Please

Please believe me!

I promise it isn't mine

Please'


The soldiers finish their inspection

They zip my bags up

And then indicate for me to follow them


They bring me over to the woman


She's a middle aged lady

She has an American passport

And she is visibly in distress


'¿Qué esta diciendo ella?'


The soldiers ask me what the woman is saying


I speak with her


'They are asking me what you are saying

What do you want me to tell them?'


'Tell them that it's not mine!'


I tell the soldiers


'Dice que no es de ella'


'Encontramos drogas en su maleta'


'They said they found drugs in your bag'


'No! No!

Tell them it's not mine

I swear!'


I tell the soldiers


'Las drogas no son de ella

Ella promete'


The soldiers are not convinced

But there's nothing else for me to do


I'm led to the door

And told I'm free to go


I continue my walk to C26

Thinking about that woman

And wondering what her fate will be


Who knows


I get to the gate

And within an hour

I board the plane


The papers have gotten me out of Ecuador

Just like the diplomat had said


My flight to Panama City is scheduled to land at 6:50pm

And my connecting flight to New York takes off at 7:30pm

Giving me 40 minutes of layover time

I hope that will be enough


The 3 hour flight from Quito to Panama goes smoothly

We land right on time


I get off the plane

And look at the departures screen for the gate of my connecting flight


Gate: D8

Status: On Time


I start walking

I look out the windows of the airport

Panama seems nice


Within a few minutes

I get to D8

It's 7pm

Boarding is about to start

I walk up to the employee behind the counter at the gate


'¿Puedo ayudarle?'


They ask if they can help


'Si

No tengo mi passaporte

Solamente estos documentos'


I tell them I don't have my passport

Only the paperwork


I hand them the papers

They read through them


'Mr. Brodsky'


'Yes'


'You speak english?'


'Yes'


'I will have to contact a special Panama customs agent to take a look at these

It's up to their discretion to let you fly or not'


The employee picks up the phone on the counter and makes a call

Then hands me back the papers


'You'll have to wait for the agent to arrive

Excuse me

I need to start the boarding process'


I find a seat

I hear the employee's voice over the intercom


'Good evening passengers

We are now ready to begin the boarding process for flight 2189

With non-stop service to New York's JFK Airport

Passengers in group A are now welcome to board'


It's 7:10pm


'Passengers in group B are now welcome to board'


It's 7:15pm


'Passengers in group C are now welcome to board'


It's 7:20pm


At 7:25 I look over at the employee

They look back with disappointment


I hear their voice over the intercom


'This is the final boarding call for flight 2189

With non-stop service to New York's JFK Airport'


I'm not going to make it

I came this far

For nothing


I put my head down


7:26


7:27


I have to call my mom and tell her the bad news


7:28


'Mr. Brodsky?'


I look up

It's the agent!


'Yes?'


'I was told you have papers explaining why you don't have your passport'


'Yes I do'


'May I see them?'


I hand the papers over to the agent

And then I wait


The agent reads the papers

For what feels like an eternity


7:29


'Mr. Brodsky'


'Yes?'


The agents looks down at the papers again

Then looks up at me

And hands them back


'You're free to pass through Panama'


'Are you serious?'


'Yes'


'Thank you!

Really, thank you so much!'


'Have a safe flight Mr. Brodsky'


I run to the gate

Scan my boarding pass

Walk down the tunnel

And hear the door close behind me


7:30


It's time to go home


- Harry W. Brodsky


Send Me Anything You Want. I'll Love it