Kenya Trip Part II of III

"The Heist"

Wednesday morning started out normally enough. I woke up early to shave before breakfast. Afterwards, I typed out my blog journal for the previous day. Since I wanted to finish what I was writing, I was late for breakfast at 7:37am. I left my computer on my bed since I didn’t want to wait for it to shut down. I also left my backpack next to it without thinking – usually I load my computer in the backpack and carry it with me everywhere on a project trip. It’s annoying to lug around a heavy laptop everywhere, but I’m always paranoid about it being stolen. I remember pausing as I closed and locked the door, looking at my computer on my bed and wondering if I should wait for it to shutdown, and then deciding that I wouldn’t be obsessive compulsive this once.
The Jumuia Guesthouse in Nakuru. A very nice and comfortable place...but security could apparently be better! Our room was on the back side of this building on the second floor. This picture was taken from out front the office.

The team was all down there eating already, so I hurried to catch up so we could get to our morning devotions at 8:00am in the work room. After finishing, I ran up to my room to brush my teeth and pickup my bag and computer. I went in and quickly went t0 brush my teeth. As I left the bathroom, I glanced at my bed and noticed my laptop was not there. I immediately knew it had been stolen since I knew exactly where it was and how I’d left it partially closed and sitting on my bed. Instantly in a panicked state, I asked Jason if he had touched my laptop and he said he had not. I ran (walked quickly, actually) out of the room and down to the front desk in the other building across the parking lot. I told the manager on duty that I had a big problem. She couldn’t believe it when I told her and walked back to my room with me to look. I knew time was wasting but had little choice but to go with her. We returned to the office and she asked the desk workers if anyone had left that morning. They said the couple in room 227, who had checked in at 9pm the night before and paid their bill ahead of time, had walked out earlier without dropping off their key. We went to the gate and spoke with the guard, who confirmed that the couple had walked out about 5 minutes prior, each carrying a small shoulder bag. Meanwhile, Jason had gone to the work room to tell the team what had happened, and they all returned to their rooms to check out their stuff. Sure enough, both Jill and Jaclyn’s (Jaclyn’s was actually owned by eMiEA) laptops were missing, and Roger’s wallet and iPod were missing as well.
Proof that we locked our door. We even took a picture of us locking the door - that's how paranoid we are.

At that point, one of the hotel workers came out of our building and motioned for us to come see him. He led us up to room 227, and where we found some of our bags, now empty, along with the room key for 227 that was supposed to have been dropped off at the front desk before leaving the premisis. The eMi projector bag was there also – I hadn’t noticed before that it was missing from my room. I went back to my room to look for what else might be missing, and realized that my backpack had been gone through, and missing was all of my Kenyan shillings (about $500 worth), Ugandan shillings (about $300 worth) and $50 US. Fortunately, my wallet, mine and Jason’s passports, my camera, and $500 US were all still in my pack. Also still in the room was the survey total station, which is worth up to $10,000 new! Obviously, the thieves felt it was too big to carry out (or the had no idea what it was!).
As we were looking through this stuff, Pastor Sammy called Farouq and asked him to come immediately, not telling him why. About 5 minutes later, Farouq arrived, and when he found out what had happened, he said, “I just saw them!” Apparently, as he was driving just down the street from the hotel, he saw the two people running while carrying shoulder bags. The man riding with him said, “Those are thieves!” Farouq suggested they go after them (as he would do in Uganda) but the man told him that in Kenya thieves are usually armed so you don’t want to approach them.
So we hopped in the van and took off driving to find them. As we did, the security guard got on a bike and road off to look as well. After about 15 minutes of driving around, we returned without finding them. I was starting to realize that the stolen items were very likely gone for good. The hotel wanted us to go to the police to file a report, so we decided to do that. I really was against the idea since I knew that would just slow down the process of trying to find the thieves and likely end any chance of finding our stuff, but that is the process the hotel insisted we go through. So we went anyways, and as I expected, the process was painfully slow. Pastor Sammy and the hotel worker explained the story a couple of times to a couple of different people before finally we all got back in the van and were followed by a police truck full of detectives and officers. We showed them up to room 227 and our rooms, and then discussed what to do in the hall. I told them that our concern was to try everything possible to get the stuff back, and that it would likely only happen now by finding and hiring someone (probably another thief) who knows where the local thieves gather to sell stuff and see if he could buy our stuff back (this is what Farouq was suggesting we do as well). But the police pretty much ignored me and said that it would take time to go through the process but they would do their investigation. They were nice enough about it, but I knew at that point that our stuff was gone. They may actually catch the people eventually, but the stuff would be halfway to Nairobi by mid-day, never to be seen by us again.

The Dining hall (behind Farouq's van). The theives calmly walked out of the building on the left (out from the door under the round arch), then right along side the low hedge just in front of the van, and out the main gate of the grounds located just off screen to the right. They were in plain view of the office staff, but they didn't raise suspicions by dressing very nicely, fitting our stuff in their own bags, and paying ahead the night before so they didn't have to check out with the office. The guard should have asked for their key, but nothing else would have made him suspicious.

All told, we lost a combined amount of $5400 worth of equipment and cash from three separate rooms. But we were feeling fortunate for the many things not stolen; including our external hard drive where most all our work to that point of the trip was stored (we did loset about 2 hours of work on Jill’s computer). We were also feeling fortunate that no one was harmed. Elisa was in her room the whole time with her head phones on lying down, so if they had gone into her room who knows what could have happened.
Jason and I in our room. Awfully happy for a couple of guys who just had a bunch of stuff stolen. (Ok, so this picture was taken the day before - we aren't that good at letting go!)

I also remembered earlier in the morning when I was shaving in the bathroom hearing the room door open 3 or 4 times – I had assumed that Jason had left to use the restroom, but after the 3rd or 4th time hearing the door open, I peaked my head out to make sure it was just Jason. He was just returning to the room so I asked him what was going on. He said he had just left to use the bathroom and was coming back. When I asked later if he had opened the door several times, he said no. I’m pretty sure it was the thieves entering our room who then noticed that I was still in the bathroom. I also thought that if one of us had returned to our room to get something (this happened a number times during the week) and found the thieves at work, who knows whether they were armed or not and what might have happened. So all considering, we felt blessed that the situation wasn’t much worse.
But the rest of the day was pretty much a down day work-wise. I spent the day working with the hotel and the police filing a report (I had to return to the police station the following day as well to give a statement). The team traveled to the site, minus Roger and me who stayed behind, to visit with the children from the two day-care facilities who had been bused to the site for a few hours. Roger wasn’t feeling well, and my head was focused on damage-control as I began realizing the ramifications of losing the information stored on my laptop. Fortunately, I had 95% of it backed up, but I was on the phone off and on most of the day with Alisha, who had gone home from school to secure up all of our personal affairs. I also worked with Janet who was taking care of the office stuff too, and notifying eMi headquarters in Colorado as well. What a mess! But again, I had to keep reminding myself of how much worse it could have been. That kept me pretty thankful that God had protected the team members and a lot of other stuff too.
One of the thieves caught by a hidden camera...Has anyone seen this man? Ha! Actually, this is Jason, calling the thieves out (after they were long gone). A brave, brave man! :)

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