Sour Taste

14 Jun

So you’re volunteering away, everything is going well and you are having the time of your life.  But as more time passes and you look a bit harder, the rosie hue through the volunteer’s glasses begins to change.  It’s a typical come down.  You are all hyped to be in a foreign country and doing something new and exciting, but gradually this wears off and with more time, comes more opportunity for things to go wrong.

An event I sometimes wonder about, didn’t effect me directly but definitely effected my experience.  Two other volunteers were making a documentary about volunteering in South America.  Their main piece of equipment was a video camera and they had been making there way across the continent for the last 6 months, volunteering at various places along the way.  They were pretty discreet with their filming, mostly just about the volunteers and animals whilst they are out in jungle of the park.

We lived in a share house near the park, with about 4 bedrooms and 2 people per bedroom.  There was a lock on the front door, but we were kind of out of town, and it’s a share-house, and whilst you always mention security, no-one is ever sure who is the last to go to bed, so sometimes it doesn’t get locked.  Some people had locks on their doors as well, but these two guys didn’t.  They did however chain the video camera to their bed with a sizeable metal wire and padlock.  We awoke one night to the shouts of “Wake up! Check your stuff! We’ve been robbed!”.

Someone had come in during the middle of the night, gone straight to there room whilst they were sleeping, cut the wire and made a get-away.  No-one knows if the front door was locked or not.  But nothing else in the house was missing.

This was, needless to say, pretty upsetting for the two guys.  They had lost there purpose for the trip and all the material they had filmed in the park (they had backed-up there earlier material). Here were two guys set upon highlighting the benefits of volunteering, and someone stole their tool to spread the message.

The called the police which were about as helpful as you would expect of the Bolivian police.  The two guys searched the local town, scouring through shops and market stalls, looking for their camera.  They even considered going to the bigger towns nearby where there might be more of a market for it.  The never found it.

The obvious finger points to someone in the park, either another volunteer or a local who helped out around the place.  Thus, the few bad apples leave a sour taste in everyone’s mouth.  The volunteer community is small and word passes fast.

This definitely affected them, questioning what they were doing here, and it also affected me.  Was our work appreciated?  How are we viewed by the locals?  Are we this mysterious white beast from Hollywood or some music video?   Or is this just a few bad apples?

What I want to know is, was it need or greed that drove the thief?

Puma Facts:

4)  One single puma will normally have a territory of at least 1 square kilometre.  We had 8 pumas in a park less than 1 sq km.


One Response to “Sour Taste”


  1. Need and Greed « EthnoSense - July 5, 2011

    […] me attack this from another angle.  I discussed in the previous article about the theft of the video camera, and whether this was driven by need or greed.  I have also wondered about […]

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