Saturday, February 13, 2010


Yesterday, I walked back into my office that I share with between 2 and 6 other people (depending on the day) and found my little, cute buddy B who'd helped me by all the stuff for the new house with his hand in my wallet.

Let me back up. Our office compound is shared with two other organizations. We are the step-child relegated to three rooms of the outdoor annex. (Except for the head of office who sits on the second floor of the main building. This means we get our exercise going back and forth.) The three rooms of the annex, each about 10'x10', all sit in a row, so you have to go outside to get to another office. Each only has one window right next to the door. There is zero air circulation and with a tin roof, we are all baking by 10 am. I like to refer to these rooms as our little sweat-box caves.

I sit in the very back of room #3. I usually leave my bag on the floor next to the wall since one would have to be behind my desk to reach it and that's hard to do because my chair blocks the space.

I'd walked out to make a couple of copies in room #1 and when I returned, B was all alone behind my desk reaching over doing something. What is he doing?

"Your phone was ringing, so I was going to bring it to you."
"Oh, okay. Thanks." I said walking to my desk and accepting the phone from B.

There was a missed call from M, our housekeeper, which I returned as I sat down at my desk. M usually calls when she is finished working for the day to let me know she is leaving. As I hung up, I turned towards the wall where my bag sits (don't remember why...instinct?) and saw my wallet lying open just inside the top of my bag. Since I hadn't touched my wallet all day (it was 2 pm) I knew what B had been doing.

I picked it up and quickly looked at what money I had -- and I thought it was still there-- all 200 Congolese francs ($0.22), 9,000 Rwandan francs ($15), and 290 Haitian gourdes ($7.25). I'd recently spent my US dollars and hadn't yet replenished my wallet.

I sat my wallet on my desk still open and said to B who had taken a seat at another desk, "Good thing I didn't have much money with me today, huh?" He looked at me with a blank stare. My exasperated French was coming out garbled, but I'm sure he would have understood my message even if I was speaking Cantonese.

I finished filling out some paperwork using the copies I'd just brought back while shaking my head and thinking of how disappointed I was to find out B was as innocent as he looked. B walked out of the office and I took my completed paperwork to the administrator to whom I explained the situation. He said he'd talk to B, wouldn't let him sit in that office again and suggested I keep my bag locked in my desk. He also blamed our office situation-- each of us piled in tiny offices one on top of another and not able to control other program staff in our space.

Unfortunately, petty theft in the DRC is as prevalent as oxygen. As sad and disappointing as this is, it is all the more so when you catch someone you like and trust doing it to you.

1 comment:

  1. I can understand your disappointment. I have had that happen to me also, unfortunately more than once. One time was in high school at a basketball game. My wallet was taken. I was able to get it back because a friend of mine knew who had done it. It was his younger brother. The other time was in our home. Your dad & I had gone out for an evening. A neighbor girl was watching all of you kids. When we got home, she seemed unusually quiet, and anxious to go, but we didn't think to much about it. I went to get some money to pay her. It was in my jewlery box. We didn't discover until a couple of days later that the money we had put away for tuition for you, and an antique ring I had, was missing. We had no way to prove she had taken it, we just knew we wouuld never have her there again.