Losing our valuable belongings – Part 2

Getting the Police Report

We were resigned to the fact that our things were lost and had to figure out what to do next. We were stuck in Calama for the time being and had to wait until we got the copy of the police report. And as luck would have it, it was a Saturday. Who will give us a police report on Sunday? I thought we’d get it the same day – all I knew about a police report was that it is a document that will probably be signed by the officer who answered the call. Apparently that is not the case. The police report is not issued by the police, but by the Fiscalia which is housed in the building next door. The Fiscalia is like the district attorney’s office and we were told by the smiling police officer who said with a shrug that we cant get the report that day and that we can only get it the next day. The next day was Sunday! He insisted the fiscalia is open on Sunday, but I had my doubts. We now had no choice but to spend the night in Calama. There isnt much to do there either. Even if there were, we were simply not in the mood to do anything. Using our smart phone, we checked emails, called the insurance company, informed our families and bunked down to spend the day and the night.

Newspaper ad for stolen Green Card

We read online that in order to replace a stolen green card, we’ll need a copy and the receipt of a newspaper ad that we place in the local daily where the green card is lost. We couldn’t get a confirmation about this from the US embassy, so we decided to give it our best shot and get an ad placed anyway, as we didn’t want to return to Calama for this alone. Unfortunately, the ads desk was already closed. While we didn’t place an ad, we managed to get the story published in the local newspaper!

Getting the police report at the Fiscalia in CalamaThe following morning after day 0, our main goal was to get our police report so that we could be on our way to Santiago to apply for a replacement passport. When we reached the fiscalia, we were told that we would not get our reports today (it being sunday) and that we would have to come again on Monday. We were incredibly frustrated, but were determined not to give up. We walked back and forth between the police station and the fiscalia (there was only a rather stubborn front desk person there) and they were only pointing fingers at each other. At our wits end, we decided to beg, demand and do whatever works. This involved me at one building, swami at the other building, both trying our best persuasive hats. This was compounded by our inability to communicate all this in Spanish. All I ever learnt was “where can I get vegetarian food?” and now I was struggling to say “nosotros robado mochilla, por favor necessito denuncia – es muy importante, no pasaporte”. Just when I was close to tears, the front desk person placed a call and a guy in crisp formal wear showed up from inside the building a few minutes later and asked us in flawless english “Hello, What seems to be the problem?”. We were so relieved to speak English that we quickly poured out our story to him. He confirmed that he couldn’t give us a report just then, but can scan it and mail it to us the next day. We were not sure if this would happen, but we did get a printout of our police report from the police station just in case its needed (without any signatures or stamps). It turned out that in 2 days, we would get a signed and scanned copy of the police report emailed to us. As we grew up in India, we are inherently trained to expect bureaucracy, and instances like this really make the day. :)

Knocking at the doors of the Indian Embassy in Santiago after business hours

We took the long 22 hour journey back to Santiago to reapply for our passports. We checked out the Indian embassy’s website and found that it closes for visitors at 4.30 PM. Knowing how things work in India, we didn’t expect to get anything accomplished that day since it was already 4.30 PM. Imagine our surprise when we showed up at the embassy when we were warmly welcomed, served Indian chai and biscuits and the officials chatted with us, getting to know our story and helping us figure out the quickest way to get our passports. They also offered us the services of their printers and copiers in case we needed to print anything for the passport application. And the best part, we got introduced to a fellow South Indian Tamilian who works at the embassy, who invited us home and along with us wife, shared their wonderful hospitality with us for two days. We got our passports the very next day – which is quite amazing no matter which country you belong to. We had lost our Bolivian visa along with our old passport, so we had to reapply for that too.

Swami and I would play the “lets count our blessings” game. Every time something cool happened on the aftermath of our robbery or we realized we did not lose something, we’d say “at least we didn’t lose this or that” or “we would never meet such nice people if we didn’t lose our stuff” or “when would we get to ride in a Chilean police jeep?”. Such incidents can happen to the most seasoned travelers and we learned our lessons the hard way. Its best to take travel insurance, pack light, make sure you dont carry anything invaluable.  Keep your passport, debit card, credit card and other important travel documents close to your body and hope for the best.

2 thoughts on “Losing our valuable belongings – Part 2

  1. Radhika Dirks

    Hi Nirupama,

    Loving your blog! Thanks for all the useful info. My husband and I are planning a backpacking trip down Central & South America – moi with an Indian passport. So all your visa posts are very informative!.

    Very sorry to hear about this incident, especially on your companion's bday. Sucks! Could you please elaborate more on the travel insurance? You mentioned in a previous post that it was the best money you spend. What did it cover? And were you able to claim losses because of the theft? Any other useful details would also be appreciated.

    Thanks!
    Radhika

    Reply
  2. Nirupama Srinivasan

    Thanks Radhika, I've been meaning to write about our travel insurance on the blog. I'll get to it soon. :) Its awesome to hear about your backpacking trip.

    We got the worldnomads travel insurance. We were able to cover our losses to the extent the insurance provide coverage for. We bought our insurance keeping in mind that it would cover our laptop (MBP) and camera (DSLR with an expensive lens), but not much more. It also covered our dining and lodging expenses that were caused due to visa/passport delays. We had to wait to get a new passport, Transportation letter to enter the US etc. So this 'trip interruption' covered some of that. It also covered passport replacement fees and the fees to get a new transportation letter to replace the lost green card. There is a limit for trip interruption coverage and they covered that. One of us had to change our flights because of this, and they covered some part of it.

    On the whole, it was great dealing with worldnomads. The claims forms were all submitted online and the folks there are really easy to work with. Good luck with your travels!

    Reply

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