Seedy Underbelly of Quito


Finnaallllllyy I am settled in my new apartment! We have working toilets and mattresses and internet (all of which are apparently very important if you don't want to pee in the garden or sleep on a foam mat). I have loads to catch up on, but one story from the last week trumps them all.

I OUTSMARTED THE BANDITS AND THIEVES OF ECUADOR.

Well, maybe not completely. But mostly.

It all started when I heard rumors of an underground electronics black market of stolen goods here in Quito. Except that it's not really underground, but is actually a four story tall shopping mall in Old Town. Having recently been robbed of a Nikon and BlackBerry, I had to check it out. My friend Mike volunteered to come with me to poke around and look for my stolen goods there. 

A photo I found on the local newspaper website 
of police raiding the black market for illegal activity

After asking around in a couple electronics stores in Old Town, we were pointed towards Centro Comercial Montufar by some sketchy looking people. When we entered, I knew this was the place! Rows and rows of booths of stolen electronics with shameless hooligans looking very guilty.

Black Market looming over Old Town

In reality, no one looked guilty or shameless. In fact, it seemed like a totally legitimate shopping mall, except for the fact that all of the smart phones still had the Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T labels on them. None of those companies exist in Ecuador. Hmmmm….

There were rows and rows like this of stolen electronics

After three floors of scouring the shelves for my camera or BlackBerry, I was ready to give up. As we reached the top floor, Mike said he had a feeling my stuff was on that level. Sure enough, we turned a corner and BOOM! There is my Nikon!!

I asked the guy working that particular store to see the Nikon in the window, and when I opened it, there was the 8 GB memory card I had specially ordered, confirming the camera was mine.

I put on my angry face and told him in Spanish that it was my camera that had been stolen. The guy didn't deny it, and then had the audacity to tell me I could buy it back for only $180. Buen precio. I told him no, I wasn't going to pay that much considering it was my camera and I had already paid once for it. We negotiated and I tried my hardest to guilt trip him. In the end, I bought back my $450 camera for $90. HA.

Mike and I on our way to celebratory beers 
after successfully finding my stolen camera

Looking back, it's disgusting that I had to pay for my camera a second time, but I still feel like I beat the system somehow. I beat the ridiculous petty theft assholes in Quito at their own game. I put a face to the crime, and confronted the man perpetuating the system by selling stolen electronics. I had the balls to venture to a super dangerous, sketchy black market, and emerged with my camera back.

Reunited with my camera!!

 The BlackBerry, however, is a lost cause. Le sigh.

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