iLost it: My encounter with the Nepali police

ImageiPhone: gone. It was bound to happen I suppose. I decided on Tuesday that I was going to fly to Nepal on Wednesday and my spontaneity was rewarded with an unforgettable trip. But on my first (and only) day in Kathmandu (Nepal’s crowded main city) I was “liberated” of my brand new iPhone that I had saved up for and bought as a treat for getting my fellowship.  I was in Durbar Sq at the time when the phone “fell” out of my purse (I stupidly had it in an outside-ish pocket). It was Janmashtami, a celebration of Krishna’s birthday and the place was packed even though it was 8pm. The tourist police station was closed and I was directed to the district police station.

It was like a horrible Monty Python skit: I truly couldn’t communicate that I wanted to file a police report, nor could I really explain that I thought my phone was stolen: Image“snatched, grabbed, pickpocket, thief, they take, bad man,” I tried in vain. Mostly they filed in, uniform-less and just stared at me. “What country are you from?” (standard conversation opener), each one asked in term. And nodding, they each suggested I find the “tourist police.” I tried to explain that the tourist police were closed and I practically begged to file a report- a concept that seemed largely lost on everyone I talked to. What’s more, no one seemed to be in charge and without badges I had no idea who to target my inquiry to. And every five minutes a new guy would come in, gape at me and finally sidle over…”what country are you from?” I was at my wits end.

The next round of questioning involved asking about the serial Imagenumber of the phone. Everyone seemed astonished that I couldn’t simply rattle it off the top of my head.

Finally someone took pity on me and somehow persuaded 2 tourist police officers to come from the main station. They showed up, also uniform-less, and proceeded to take my “report” on a piece of computer paper. Then they ushered me into a rusty old van. “This is how I die,” I thought to myself. But no, they took me to a police station and had me fill out a slightly more official piece of computer paper which I’m pretty sure was basically a tourism survey. Or maybe an entry form for Publisher’s Clearinghouse. Or a deed to a new motorcycle. Who could tell? “OK what is the serial number of the phone?” asked one of the officers. I explained that I didn’t have it memorized but could probably find it in my electronic receipt. But no…power was out in the station and there was no internet.  O-K. By this time it was late and I was exhausted. I filled out the form as best I could, answered which country I was from for a few stragglers and allowed the head officer to help me find a taxi who, of course, couldn’t find my hostel and basically dropped me off somewhere random. Luckily a kind shopkeeper walked me there and I went to sleep a former iPhone owner.

I am not proud to say how much this incident upset me. I really did love that phone. It was my first iPhone and I had spent a long time deliberating whether to splurge and purchase it. It had allowed me to easily keep in contact with friends and family and share my new passion for photojournalism. I know that I can’t afford a new one at this time and I felt like an idiot for letting it get stolen. But I also hated myself for being upset over a stupid hunk of metal and plastic. There were literally children begging in the streets and I was sad over my iPhone. Pathetic. I was finally able to talk myself out of my funk. I decided to consider it an offering to the travel gods- a reminder that my possessions are really and truly unimportant  when compared to this fantastic experience. I’d sell my iPhone a thousand times over for these past few months. iPhone or not I know that I am the luckiest girl in the world. Plus, these things have a way of working out. And my birthday is in 3 days, after all. Maybe the iPhone fairy will take pity on me  😉

Below are some photos of Durbar square before the iPhone debacle:


5 thoughts on “iLost it: My encounter with the Nepali police

  1. Dear Hayley,
    Just as long as you have that camera and keep taking great pictures, your blog will be okay. When you get home (when is that?) there’s birthday and holiday money waiting for you and you can replace the iPhone. I’m so glad that you weren’t injured in any attempt to get the phone.
    Love, Namby

    • I guard that camera with my life!!! I calculated that I have over 10,000 pictures from this trip and that is with (at least one round of) editing! I am putting it through its paces. Thanks Nambs

  2. Hayley:

    Your reporting and ability relate your experiences in such a way to your audience makes each interaction a teachable moment to us all. I was just complaining about the summer of living out of my suitcase each weekend when I went to the beach to stay with my friends. What was the alernative to sit at home and use my closet? How silly to think that way. Losing the phone or complaining about the suitcase…really allowed both of us to look fondly back at the experiences and say that they mattered. I would like to contribute to the IPhone fund with Namby. Wishing you a terrific birthday. When are you back in Boston and when do you leave for Stanford? Love, LSK

  3. One of my very favorites with all the contradictions one could muster, all of which you recognize and communicate clearly and powerfully. Sounds like quite an adventure and the hunk of metal and plastic will no doubt be replaced with the help of any number of well-meaning souls.

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