Filing a Police Report in Guatemala
We decided that in order to save time and the cost of a hotel room we would travel through the night from Flores to Guatemala City and then connect on to Antigua. We had spent enough time already on the bus during the days and didn’t want to use up another day on the bus for the 9 hour trip. I wanted to file a police report however for my lost video camera and so the owner of our hotel offered to take me on the way to the bus station while my kids went directly in a truck with another couple at our hotel.
We walked to the front of the hotel and he slipped his leg over his motorcycle and started it up. A bit bewildered I asked if that was how we were getting to the police station. He nodded his head. Fortunately there was lots of room on the seat and so I jumped on looking around for the non-existent helmets. I guess they are optional here. Before I knew it we jolted forward as I nervously grasped onto the rack behind my seat. We zipped and bumped along the uneven pavement zigzaging down the road. Our first obstacle was a bus that was going way too slow. He simply passed the bus as a small oncoming Tuktuk bumped along towards us. Fortunately my driver slowed down for the speed bumps that were located in random places along our route. I thought from time to time that I really needed to hold on in order to ensure that I stayed on the motorcycle. Then I felt the jarring bumps of the cobblestone streets of Santa Clara. I held on for dear life. I breathed a sigh of relief as we stopped in front of a run down police station hiding amongst a row of unmarked crumbling buildings.
My translator got out and informed the uniformed officer why we were here. Back and forth the conversation went babbling as I stood there a bit bewildered. I waited patiently wondering when I would have a chance to explain my story and file the police report I had come to make. The police officer then pointed in another direction which was out the door as he sat down and resumed his work. My friend came to me and said that we would have to go to another police station to file the report as the camera did not go missing in the vicinity of this office. There was another one closer to the bus station.
Tired I crawled back onto the motorcycle. As I did so I felt a searing pain on the inside of my right leg. Argh, the tailpipe. “That Hurts” I yelled to my driver. He laughed at me with no sympathy in his voice and said, “I’m sure you won’t do that again.” Frustrated with pain I thought to myself, “I hope I won’t have to ride on the back of the bumpy bike much longer.”
We rode to the front of the next police station which was only 3 minutes away. This office was as plain as the one we had just come from. The room consisted of a cement floor and four plain gray cement walls. One doorway opened to the back of the room and was the only other entrance other than the door we had come through. It was dark outside. The two dim bulbs inside made me feel like I was in an interrogation room as the light bounced off of the dull gray walls.
After a brief conversation in Spanish I was invited to have a seat in the plastic garden chair that was located in front of the lone desk of this barren office. It was interesting to tell what had happened to my video camera to this officer through a translator. It was a simple story of leaving the camera on the seat of the bus and returning a short while later to find it missing. The types of questions however that were asked of me were my Name, Father’s name, passport number and the type of video camera.
The translated conversation only took about five minutes before the police officer swiveled his computer screen around so that I could see it and asked me to verify the spelling of names that were smattered in between the Spanish words of the police report. After making a few corrections to my father’s hard to spell name and verifying the passport number on the screen, I gave my nod of approval. Without delay the report was printed, stamped and signed by the officer and handed over to me. I looked over the piece of paper with the faded gray ink that looked like it was the last of the ink jet printer cartridge. All of the information was there even if barely legible.
I was told we were done and my translator friend told me we could continue on to the bus station. As I cautiously got up I asked if I should provide my address or any other information to the officer in case the camera was found. He smiled to himself and said, “Don’t worry they won’t find it. They don’t need any more information than what you provided.”
At that moment I had the feeling that if by some miraculous event the camera was found, the police officers would claim it for themselves. Perhaps a benefit of this line of work.
I carefully crawled onto the back of the motorcycle making sure to keep my leg clear of the burning hot tailpipe as we spun off to the bus station only a minute away. My kids were waiting there for me with our bus ticket. We had 30 minutes to relax before our bus was to leave… or so we thought.
As we gathered our things together we noticed that our guidebook was missing. This guidebook was a critical help to guiding us to the hotels, restaurants and tours we had been taking. It also explained how to get from place to place. Without it we were a bit lost and dependent upon the few English speaking people we ran into. After some reflection, my son realized that he had left the book on the bumper of the truck they had come to the bus station in. He ran around the bus station parking lot to see if he could locate it. After a few frantic minutes we realized that it was nowhere to be found. Could it have stayed on the bumper? Did it fall off after the truck bumped along one of the streets or over a speed bump?
I ran into the bus station and tried explaining to the ticket agent at the small desk inside that I needed to make a phone call. I needed to call my friend who had sold us the bus ticket and find out if he could get our taxi driver to retrieve our book. Inside the book was the voucher we needed to transfer to another bus that would take us from Guatemala City to Antigua. I did not want to have to pay for that bus trip a second time.
The ticket agent did not understand a word of what I had said. My gestures and finger pointing to the phone number on my ticket to Guatemala city met with a blank stare. I was getting nowhere fast. And our bus was going to be leaving in just a few minutes.
I left the desk and rushed around the bus station in search of someone who could help. This is when I spotted a pale looking Mormon missionary among a few Spanish speaking indigenous looking missionaries as they waited for others to arrive at the station. I went up to the pale American missionary and introduced myself before asking him if he could translate something for me. After explaining my plight he was only too happy to help me out.
He escorted me back to the ticket agent’s desk, translating my story into Spanish. I asked him to request if I could make a phone call using the ticket agent’s phone so that I could retrieve the missing book and travel voucher located inside of it. The ticket agent nodded his head and asked me for the phone number. I showed the cell phone number on the voucher and within seconds was speaking to my English speaking friend.
As I explained for a third time the story of the missing Lonely Planet guidebook he gave a frustrated laugh. He probably thought after dropping me off that he was finished with me, yet I just kept coming back. “So how come you keep loosing things?” he asked.
That was a bit of a sore point and I ignored his stinging comment. “Can you ask the driver to check if the book is on his back bumper and return it to us?”
My friend from our hotel said he would see what he could do but would make no promises.
It soon came time for us to load our belongings onto the bus. My kids and I kept looking around to see if anyone would show up with our book. Five minutes before our departure time a vehicle drove up and tooted its horn waving me to come. It was the taxi driver and in his hand he held our missing book. He got out of the car and placed the book on the back of his car explaining to me where he found the book, on the back edge.
Relieved I flipped through the book looking for our travel voucher. It was not there. Disappointed I asked the driver if I owed him anything for the trip back. $2.50 later I boarded the bus only to discover the missing voucher in my pocket. We were ready for our ride and I was just grateful that we were on our way with everything we had come with. Everything including our guidebook was accounted for.