25 February 2012

Brazenness and Burglery

This week was a sad week for us. One day, between 7:30 and 10:30pm, our laptops, hard drive, and Mark's work bag with its contents were stolen from our gated, locked, lighted, security-screened house. Within about an hour, the Tongan police were there, and it was the first time a detective and forensics officer have ever investigated any occurance related to us.

After everything was done, what was there to do but read?
There's not much likelihood that our things will be returned to us, but we do hold out hope that we might get at least one item back. The increase in crime has been a frequent subject of conversation among the general public this past year, and everyone attributes it to some cause, real or imagined. I'm not sure what it is, but almost everyone we know, Tongan and foreign alike, have gotten their house burgled at some point or another. Foreigners are an even more frequent target because of the assumption - often correct- that their houses are more likely to have laptops and electronics hidden away somewhere.

And of course, everyone has a story. Someone was telling me the other day about a Tongan family who (like many Tongan families) has two houses. Usually, one house is the boys' house, and the other is the nice family house. One Sunday, the family was all resting in the family house, when someone heard a noise, and went to the other house to investigate. It was theives, who when they heard, immediately ran off to a get-away vehicle. Fearing the worst, the family went over to count their losses. The house was cleaned out- laptops gone, stereo gone, and worst of all, all their fine mats and tapa, worth thousands of dollars. They were devastated- until they went to the outhouse out back. To their surprise, amusement, and releif, they found all their stuff, stacked on the toilet! The theives' greed had got the best of them, and they'd been intending to return with a bigger vehicle. Too bad we didn't have an outhouse to check.

Fixing the break-in
I expected to feel horrible about the whole thing- which both of us did. We're devastated at the loss of our laptops- mine which I'd kept in good condition for almost five years, and had lasted me through graduate school and two years in humid, buggy Tonga. We're worried about how we'll afford to replace things. We're incredulous at the brazen courage of the theives to enter our relatively well-protected, gated compound, and now we jump at every sound outside.

But what I didn't expect to feel was incredible greatfulness. I woke up this morning to cool breezes and the sun shining in the window, hearing echoes of Sunday sunrise service singing, and felt lucky- that we're alive and well, that both of us are together. I feel lucky that those items were the only thing they took. I feel greatful for the support of our landlords, who got the broken window fixed, double-reinforced, and extra-lighted within hours of the next day dawning. For the friends who have supported us (and we haven't even told everyone yet, for the sheer emotional exhaustion of having to explain the whole thing over again). I feel lucky that we have food in the kitchen, fans to keep us cool, books to read, and people to talk to. Who knew that something like this would have made me feel greatful for everything else in life.


  1. Dear Elena and Mark,

    I feel terrible about your burglary. Losing your laptops is more than the expense of getting new ones. Generally all your correspondence, addresses, work, is on them! It's good to hear that gratitude was possible for you!

    By the way, your house looks very nice (on the outside).

    The forlorn look on your face was most apt; speaking of reading, I'll send you some more New Yorkers.

    With sympathy,

    Marian Heidel

  2. So sorry to hear about the burglery! That's so traumatic, frustrating, and costly. As you said at the end though, thank God you are both safe and unharmed and together through everything. I can emphathize a little bit--got into a car accident last week, car was totaled, and now dealing with the financial and emotional aftermath. But above all else, I keep remembering the sheer gift of being alive and being loved. Hugs for you both as you get through this time.

  3. Elena & Mark ~ ~ Just saw this burglary account. What a blow!
    I hope you have been better on backing up than we have. Losing stored records and collected information would hurt me a lot worse than losing the equipment. When a library burns down, it's the books that are mourned, not the shelves!
    Should we be seeking solutions in the clouds? Or a mirroring to a high-capacity pocket thumb-drive?
    We'll hope for miraculous recovery. I wonder if anyone has developed a GPS app for laptops that can be remotely activated to report location. If not, you might make a fortune developing one!
    Ted in Bellingham


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