Such has been the not-so-sympathetic statement spoken to Christine and myself on countless occasions here in Vietnam. The funny thing is, we're the most cautious caucasians in Can Tho! We click our combo locks closed on our bedroom doors when we leave; a padlock securing our front door defends our home from unwated visitors; we even have the most annoying, territory-crazed dog next door who barks at EVERY stranger passing by. And yet, in Vietnam, these are just meager measures of security. We simply are not doing enough!
As you well know, my laptop, as well my friend's, were stolen from House 6 about a month ago. Pretty crappy to come home to your "secured living space," which was locked from both the inside AND out, only to find your computer mysteriously missing, without the slightest sign of breaking and entering. Hmmm, ghosts? The CIA? Smarter-than-they-look geckoes?
Whoever the culprit was, I've cursed him and his WHOLE family enough. And I got over it. But apparently this/these @$$hole($) want(s) more: At 4:30 a.m. on Saturday, House 7 was broken into. Two girls from the Princeton in Asia program live there and were spared the misfortune of stolen passports, credit cards and other forms of ID. But what they did find missing were their bicyles. Yes, bicycles.
To clarify the abducted articles, one was not just your typical two-wheel peddler but rather, an electric bike, which cost its owner roughly $300. That money could buy you at least 500 meals at the Vegetarian joint across the street or a thousand motorbike drives across Can Tho city. And with the beans-for-bills that we make at the university, it's suffice to say that my neighbor's investment in an electric bike put quite the dent in her savings.
After consulting with one of the inhabitants of House 7 via text message (she had chosen not to sleep there that night due to feeling unsafe) we concluded that all of us Americans are definitely under constant surveillance on Campus 1. It's unnerving, undesirable and most of all, uncool. But there is no doubt in any of our minds that the participants in Saturday night's break-in are part of the same entourage who stole my SONY Vaio in early October.
Upon hearing of the stolen bikes, I am reminded of the movie "Ladri di Biciclette," otherwise known as "The Bicycle Thief." Directed by Vittorio De Sica and one of Italy's most famous neorealist films of all time, it tells the story of Antonino Ricci, a poor man in depressed post-war Italy in the 1940's, who finds a job hanging up posters and needs his bicycle for work. Alas, the bike gets stolen by some sneaky weasel while he is hanging up a poster, and no one cares too much to help him, least not the police force.
To put it blandly, the law enforcers in Vietnam and those of World War II-era Rome would see eye-to-eye on many things, including their reluctance to help people out when they're most in need of assistance. Che sera', sera'.