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Someone Stole My Camera! Or Did They?

Posted in: Ecuador Travel, Living in Ecuador

When we were in Quito I took my daughter out for a fancy breakfast at the JW Marriott Hotel. We were enjoying the beautiful surroundings so much that I forgot my usual paranoia and laid my camera down while I freshened up my lip gloss.

Normally I would put my camera in my purse, even if I was going to take it right back out and continue taking pictures. But just then, we were distracted and I forgot to put it back in my purse!

restaurant-quito-marriott marriott-quito-front

More reading: How to use your GoPro as a webcam – perfect for staying in touch with family and friends while you travel.

About 15 minutes later I wanted to take more pictures but could not find my camera anywhere. After frantically checking my purse and pockets  over and over again, I went to ask at the front desk. I felt that I was hoping beyond hope that someone would actually return it, rather than just keep it.

No one had returned it. I was feeling very sad and was about to leave when I noticed that the place was buzzing with cleaning staff. Again I felt like I was shooting in the dark when I asked if anyone on staff had recently found my camera. They were so eager to help me, I was surprised!

They went running around asking in all the different departments. And a few minutes later, there it was in the hand of a smiling and friendly staff member. I was so emotional that my eyes were full of tears as I thanked him.

My little black Canon PowerShot 12.1MP was a gift from Bryan. He gave it to me just before we moved to Ecuador, it was our 10th anniversary. I love it: it fits in my pocket, it takes awesome pictures and great video!

I’ve documented our lives over the past two and a half years with it (including the pictures in this post). It was the perfect gift for travel and living abroad, it means so much to me. Many of the pics on this blog have been taken with it and thankfully now, so will many more.

marriott-quito-lobby-entrance marriott-quito-lobby

Here’s how to keep pickpockets out of your pockets.

I wish I could remember the name of the man that gave me back my camera. I will always remember his honesty and the helpfulness of the others on staff that day.

There are so many stories of purse snatching and theft out there, that people tend to fear traveling in foreign countries. While I know there is a need to be paranoid about our valuable belongings, I hope this story will help people feel a little more optimistic about travel and the basic nature of most people.

I know the objection could be made that it was returned because it was a fancy hotel and his job could have been at risk. But I like to think better of people. He told me that he was going to put it in their lost and found, but he had only just found it.

He could have put it in his pocket (I know … it fits perfectly) and not told anyone. But he didn’t … he gave it back to me! I was so shaken from thinking that my camera was stolen that I was still stressed a couple of hours after I got it back. Now I feel  really happy and impressed.

I also feel some shame, “shame on me” for not being more optimistic, and thinking better of the people around me.  Outwardly I guess I was optimistic because I asked about it, but inwardly I was pretty much convinced that I would never see it again. I’m normally optimistic about people’s values, and I don’t want that to change.


By the way, this is my camera. Check it out on Amazon – if you are planning on traveling, this is a great camera.

If you have a happy travel story like mine, please share it by commenting on this post.

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Meet the Author

Dena Haines is co-editor of GringosAbroad - Ecuador's largest blog for expats and travelers. She is a travel blogger and content marketer. She is also co-founder of ClickLikeThis (GoPro tutorial blog) and Storyteller Travel.

20 comments… add one
  • Sharon Abbey Jul 20, 2012, 10:17 am

    Hi Dena,
    I really enjoy reading all your stories and articles. My husband told me when we came for our first trip to Ecuador in January not to bring my camera because of what he had read. He was afraid it might be stolen or lost. So instead I just used my phone camera (Droid X)and got amazing pictures all over the country, even through the bus windows! I have to admit though that I got a lot of young guys interested in my phone and wanted to see it. I just laughed and I kept it in my front pocket.

  • Julian Jan 30, 2012, 8:57 pm

    in Guayaquil there are also many honest people and good Jakob, Dena:) very happy for you, the way you see your picture is very similar to my boss.

    • Dena Haines Feb 8, 2012, 12:32 pm

      Hi Julian,
      Your are right, there are many good people in Guayaquil, we have many friends there.
      I think Jakob feels the same way, but we have to be careful because there are some people (everywhere in the world) that are not honest or good.
      Thank you for your comment.

  • Julian Jan 30, 2012, 8:55 pm

    en Guayaquil tambien hay mucha gente honesta y buena Jakob , Dena 🙂 muy feliz por usted , por cierto viendo su foto usted es muy parecida a mi jefa

    • Jakob Jan 31, 2012, 9:06 am

      Julian… De hecho tengo mucha gente muy querida en Guayaquil y hay cosas de la vida cotidiana, familiar etc que les digo que aprecien porque no son faciles de conseguir en mi pais de origen que supuestamente es “rico” (lo es del lado material, pero no lo es por otros lados), pero me da tristeza ver como sufren de la inseguridad perpetua, ladrones, doctores que te salvan la vida solo si adelantas el pago y tal. Solo se necesita unos pocos para dañar el ambiente para muchos.

  • Jakob Jan 26, 2012, 9:20 pm

    Happy to hear all turned out well. Yes, you still do have to be on guard in Ecuador, especially in Guayaquil. However, let us not forget that most people are decent, trying to make a living every day. This is true around the world. In Ecuador the relative higher danger of robbery and assault makes the rest of the people pull tighter together and help each other out. For example, I am sure that if you were out with your kids and something happened to you a total stranger passing by would spontaneously take care of your children until they could be returned to a family member.

  • Peggy McPartland Jan 25, 2012, 10:13 pm

    Dena, I can’t tell you how happy I am to read this! I have been reading so much negativity about Ecuador lately that I had begun to consider changing my plans and not visiting. Yes, there can be theft and problems anywhere, but it’s really about trusting the inherent goodness of people.

    I’m so glad you got your camera back and had such a great experience.

    • Dena Haines Feb 8, 2012, 12:45 pm

      Thanks Peggy,

      I hope you don’t change your plans! Ecuador is an amazingly beautiful country, and for the most part the people are kind and friendly. Often the fact that we have to be careful reminds me of a story I used to read to my daughter when she was little.

      It said that we have to be careful because of a few rotten apples. There are rotten apples no matter where we go in the world. But we shouldn’t let them spoil our experiences. We just need to be careful because of them.There are more good apples here than rotten, just like everywhere else.

  • Ralph Sabean Jan 25, 2012, 8:13 am

    Funny you should be talking about this subject because My wife her sister and a niece were walking near a market yesterday when a thief came up and swiped a necklace with a pendant on it from my the niece and started running away. The 18 year old was so mad she ran after him and almost caught him and someone saw what was happening and was able to trip the thief and he was apprehended. The only thing missing was the 14 carat gold pendant. They couldn’t find it anywhere so he must have somehow passed it off to someone or just lost it. They took him into custody and the police were so helpful and knew the thief as a felon so he was reprimanded and allowed to go free because the value of the pendant. They may yet get it back but time will tell. The only thing done wrong for the girls was the niece chasing after the guy but if she hadn’t they would never have caught him. The girls were so impressed by all the assistance they received from police and people in general that they said except for them having to look for the niece after she ran after the thief it was a positive experience. The police even took them for ice cream and a lady also took them to a good restaurant and ordered for them as they speak little Spanish. Overall it was a positive learning experience and we do appreciate all the local help and concern they have for foreigners.

    • Dena Haines Feb 8, 2012, 1:03 pm

      Hi Ralph,

      Sorry to hear about what happened! I’m so happy that the young girl was not hurt, and that the police were so helpful.
      It’s not a good idea to wear gold here, silver is fine, but gold will make a person a target. We make a habit of never wearing gold, just to be on the safe side.
      Thank you for sharing this.

  • David Akins Jan 24, 2012, 8:56 pm

    In November 2010, my wife and I came for a month visit to scope out Cuenca. One afternoon my wife decided to go exploring downtown by herself. She visited several shops, etc.

    She eventually ended up at the San Francisco market and was about to purchase something when she realized she didn’t have her purse. She was by the police substation and managed to get her point across to a policeman that she had left her purse in a clothing store when trying on a jacket. Unfortunately, she could only remember the display in the window of the store, but not where the store was located. The police drove her up and down about every street within 10 blocks of the San Franciso Market looking for the window diplay she remembered.

    Finally she called me and told me to meet her at the police substation at the San Francisco Market, which I did. The police then piled us back into the police car and we spent another 45 minutes trying to find the store. Evenutally, we gave up. We thanked the police and they left us on a corner downtown.

    Karen and I decided to walk around a bit more, even though she was wearing a cast on her leg due to the achilles tendon surgery she had some weeks before. She was very sad about losing the purse. All of a sudden some guy comes up and taps her on the shoulder. She recognized him as the salesperson who helped her with the jacket. He had seen the gringa with the leg cast pass by his shop. He escorted us back to the store. The window display had been changed, which is why Karen couldn’t find the store.

    Anyway, he ran back to an office in the back of the store and returned with Karen’s purse, complete with cash, passport, credit cards, etc. She gave him a hug and we left.

    A few days later, we returned to the store with a Thank You card with a cash reward for his efforts/honest. He absolutely refused to take any reward.

    While we felt a little tired from the afternoon’s activities and stress, we were very impressed by the friendliness and helpfulness of the police and the sales clerk in Cuenca.

    • Dena Haines Feb 8, 2012, 1:11 pm

      Wow, what a story, I love happy endings!
      I hope your wife is healing up from her surgery, it’s no fun to be in a cast.
      Thank you for sharing your experience with us David.

  • Eric lutz Jan 24, 2012, 7:56 pm

    Very interesting Dina , happy for you.
    I have one for you. our daughter and her husband were visiting Disney land in Florida, and had a rented car. they spent all day in and around Disney Land. came out late in the evening and 90% of the parking lot was vacant. they saw their rented car parked what seemed to be in a different spot. They were a little shocked, but walked over to the car and got out the keys and un locked the door and got in and started the car in preparation to go to the motel room. As they were driving our daughter looked in the back seat and said to her husband, those aren’t our things. they got to the motel and discouvered that this was not the same rental.
    but it was exactly the same make and year. they call the rental company and they found out who had the other car of the same make. Made contact with them. The interesting thing about this episode is. the other couple never even knew that they had the wrong car. until the rental company made contact with them .
    out daughter and Son in-law got all of their things back un- harmed and of course they returned all of the items in the other car. Strange indeed.

    • Dena Haines Feb 8, 2012, 1:53 pm

      Hey Erick,
      That’s funny!
      It’s good to hear that they got all their stuff back.
      Thanks for commenting.

  • Greg Jan 24, 2012, 7:06 pm

    Well, I might as well share my ‘strange’ experience. It was strange because for the first time in my life my wallet slipped out of my pocket when getting out of the small taxi in front of the Quito airport. It was the evening I was returning home from my first visit to Ecuador (now I live here). I was so preoccupied making sure that I have all my luggage with me that I did not noticed my wallet laying beside the cab. I was already walking towards the terminal when the driver gave me a shout and pointed to my wallet. After hearing so many stories of robberies in Ecuador and warnings ‘do not trust no-one’, I have to say I was really speechless. Not to mention relieved.

    • Dena Haines Feb 8, 2012, 2:00 pm

      Hi Greg,
      I can understand why you were so relieved!
      It’s been so good to read all the positive comments on this post, it really helps to combat the negativity that’s so eagerly passed on.
      Thank you for commenting.

  • Bob Barber Jan 24, 2012, 6:54 pm

    I liked this story too. I’m glad that you got your camera back.

    In 2008 when my wife and I moved to Ambato with 4 large suitcases and a backpack, we hailed a taxi at the bus station and loaded as much as we could into the back seat. The backpack wouldn’t fit though, and had to go in the trunk. When we got to our house, in the hustle and bustle of unloading things, we got flustered and forgot the backpack. It was completely, 100% our fault, the driver was very helpful. We were bummed out nonetheless. And we didn’t get the driver’s taxi number to be able to call him.

    So after going through the whole process of adjusting to the loss over the next couple of days, imagine our surprise when the driver drove up to our door with the backpack, with everything that was inside it still inside it. He hadn’t noticed it himself, since he rarely opened the trunk. We were so pleased, and that is typical of my experience with Ecuadorians.

    Ecuador is not paradise, and people will definitely rip you off under certain circumstances, but I get so upset when I read the relentlessly negative posts, you know the ones, “clutch your backpack with two hands in front of your body at all times in public”–I guess I feel that if that’s what you’re looking for, you’ll probably find it. I always look for honesty, and that’s what I tend to find.

    Thanks for sharing with us.


    • Dena Haines Feb 8, 2012, 2:07 pm

      Hi Bob,

      It was so kind of that Taxi driver to go out of his way like that for you!
      Thanks for sharing your positive experience.
      (We don’t wear our backpacks in front either)

  • Kim Maksymuik Jan 24, 2012, 5:45 pm

    Hi Dena,

    We had a similar experience in Bahia where there are no “fancy” hotels. My husband is forever leaving things everywhere. On this particular trip to Bahia, the wifi signal in the lobby was much better than it was in our room. My husband was answering email from work for about 1/2 hour. As usual, he ended meeting a group of tourists in the lobby and returned to our room without his Ipad. It was about 20 minutes before he realized it. When he returned to the lobby his Ipad was exactly where he had left it in plain view of many people. While we try to be careful with our valuables, there have been times when we forgot to put money in the room safe and left it on the dresser and other times when we have left several laptops in our rooms. We have never had anything go missing.

    I am happy you have your camera back! I am equally happy to hear that it was returned to you. Stories like these will help people understand what wonderful people Ecuadorians are!


  • Erin De Santiago Jan 24, 2012, 5:43 pm

    Love happy ending stories like this when it comes to electronics. My husband accidentally left my Canon 7D and a pretty expensive lens on it (about $2,500 US in equip) in the bathroom at Tokyo Disneyland after I’d been shooting a holiday event all day. We had left the park area, rode the monorail around, exited and gone through the ticket booth, and down at our hotel bus when I asked him for it so I could take a couple photos. The look on his face was sheer panic and I practically collapsed. Speaking only a couple words of Japanese, we managed to get the guy at the monorail ticket booth to call the store, let us back on the train and hustle over to Guest Relations. I will not share the details of what I was saying to him, but as you can imagine, it was not pretty. LOL I think the only reason I wasn’t bawling was the fact I was in pure shock. Amazingly they had found the camera with my lens and memory card still inside, so I didn’t lose an entire day’s worth of work. I think we were incredibly lucky that it happened in Tokyo, a place where electronics like that are not thief magnets. Needless to say, I keep constant watch on my gear now! 😉

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