I’ll tell you the end of the story first. Our camera was stolen, from our apartment, and the thief got away. Unfortunately we only have the one camera and therefore I couldn’t take pictures of the hilarious night that ensued. So you will have to do with pictures I found all over the web to represent the situation as best as I could.
So we walked into the apartment the other night and heard a strange noise from the balcony. We live the fourth floor up, so there shouldn’t really be any strange noises. Mix that with the fact that the foreign teachers have been getting burgled lately and it didn’t take too long to figure out what was going on. It took seconds actually, but it was enough time for the thief to get away. But not before he dropped Ryan’s laptop and his own set of keys.
Ryan went into an F-bomb rage and ran outside to see if he could catch him, and I ran to call the foreign teacher helper so she could call the police. Ryan found a rent-a-cop and called him up to our apartment. We also banged on our neighbors door to see if the thief went onto their balcony and to warn them.
Pretty soon we had a whole host of visitors. Foreigners get special treatment in China and when something bad happens to us, we get really special treatment. Personally, I think it was a slow night down at the station and they all wanted to get a look at the laowei’s apartment because a lot of gawkers filed through our apartment.
Within an hour we had 20 motorbikes parked out front, and at least twice as many people. In fact at one point I looked outside and it resembled more of a night at Lollapalooza then a crime scene. (Okay, a really lame Lollapalooza but I think you know what I mean.)
First up was the campus security. Their ineptitude goes beyond words. Dozens of bicycles are stolen on campus weekly and they do nothing. In fact, they make it worse by stealing things themselves. If we leave something in our bike basket they will take it out and keep it ‘to be safe.’ In fact they once stole my friends brand new motorcycle because they thought the lock wasn’t strong enough. He had no idea, because they didn’t leave a note or anything, and he only found it after he went to report it missing.
Next in was a regular cop. He was older, had a tucked in blue t-shirt with ‘police’ written on it, and seemed to know what was going on. We handed over the thief’s keys to him.
Then came the 21 Jump Street crew. Chinese people look really young, but these guys couldn’t have been more than 18. One guy had a hot pink polo shirt with the collar flipped up. In fact, at first I wondered if they were the suspicious looking youth the cops had found in the area but they walked around like they were in control of the scene.
Then came the others: a middle aged guy who shuffled around in a dirty basketball jersey, loose shorts and flip-flops. Then there was the anemic looking fellow who kept pulling up his shirt to expose his belly and cool off (it was very humid and hot).
A whole host of young uniformed police showed up. Their uniforms were about 2 sizes too big and they looked like little kids at Halloween.
There were a few professional looking cops, in fresh tailored uniform, which seemed well spoken. One such professional spent about 20 minutes with Ryan writing down all the details for the police report. But the shirt to his snappy uniform was so short it couldn’t be tucked in. So when he squatted down to lean on a low table he had plumbers butt and you could see his leopard print underwear.
We had people shuffling in and out for hours. At one point a school security guard actually climbed out over the balcony and crossed the thin ledge between ours and our neighbor’s apartment. With shaky legs he slowly made his way across. I think we all signed a breath of release as he slowly pulled his old legs over the ledge and fell into the safety of the inner balcony. But then he decided to hop the wall again, and go around a wall that separated the two balconies. Did I mention that we live on the fourth floor?! Not only was it a worthless and stupid act, he effectively erased any evidence the thief left behind. When the Lin’an police discovered what he done he threw up his hands in disgust and muttered..Aiya!
The whole thing seemed like some surreal kegger in which I was very, very drunk. (Especially when the old man decided to walk out on the balcony.) Thankfully guns are not common in China and the security guards didn’t have any or someone would have definitely gotten shot in the foot. The school gave the police the keys to every apartment and about 20 people were running up and down the steps giggling, chatting, laughing and generally having a good time like they were frat boys on a panty raid instead of police searching for a thief.
After this incident the school went into overdrive to try to protect us. They strung about a miles worth of electrical lines so we can have lights on the lower portion of the building and they added a laser to some unoccupied downstairs balconies that will trigger an alarm if someone walks on it. We also have a number of guards patrolling the area 24/7. In fact, the 21 Jump Street crew stood by the entrance to our building from dusk till late at night (to me these kids look a lot more like trouble makers than trouble preventers), while security guards walked back and forth sweeping a flashlight around the backyard.
So while I was hoping to never have to deal with a robbery while in China I will say the whole event was a lot more entertaining then I expected it to be. Was it worth the price of a new camera? It just might have been. I just hope I never have to deal with a real emergency.
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Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker.Writer. Traveler. Tea Drinker. Doing all three in China
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so funny Becky because I just read Renee’s account of this incident! It was like hearing two different witnesses at a trial!Glad it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
Hi Ruth! She was the second foreign teacher to get robbed, and we were a week or two later. What was really funny was by the time we were robbed, the foreign teachers knew we were a target and everybody started dragging rolling bags and heavy backpacks filled with their laptops and other valuables everywhere they went. Luckily the thieves were caught. We got our camera back, but Renee wasn’t so lucky. Her computer was long sold by that time. But she did get the cash back from the thief so they were happy!