Pickpockets and Police in Xian

Today we slept in until the workers awakened us at 10am banging. I did laundry in sink to expel some nervous energy. OL threw covers over his head.

I decided to buy the expensive silk scarf at Wanda plaza. We walked over there. I had my purse on my arm with my camera. Held onto both the entire walk to Wanda plaza. Through the two underpasses.

We get on express escalator from ground floor to fifth floor. One ginormous escalator.  A couple Chinese people crowd us. Totally normal. They always crowd foreigners.

After two bumps, I step away and push OL up telling him they are crowding me. This happens so much in China, I don’t think much of it.  Get off at 5th floor and go into McDonalds. I get in line. OL gets a table.

While I’m waiting a little girl stares and me and says ni hao. Then she says hello. Her mom is behind me in line.

When I order I go to pay and my purse is open. Weird. I never leave it opened. And my wallet is gone. Double weird. I get a bad feeling someone stole my wallet. But I am not 100% sure it was in my purse. Or maybe I just don’t want to believe this is happening.

I step out of line to get $ from OL. When I get back in line to pay mom is in front of me with kid. So I pay with OL money and we go eat.

I’m hoping I left my wallet on table in room when rearranging my money last night. We scarf down lunch and try to think of when it could get stolen. Escalator. Or McDonalds. Ugh.

But I only got bumped on escalator. Probably escalator.

Get back to room and turn it upside down. No wallet there. Fuck. I have a bout of diarrhea from stress. There was about $200 American dollars  worth of Chinese currency (1200 yuan) and $60 American bucks. Fuck. The money however isn’t the worst part. Someone took my license, credit cards, ATM card. Everything in my wallet is gone.

I only have $450 in cash hidden in suitcase. Ugh. Not much I can buy now.

Go to tell front desk and they are so confused. Only one girl speaks English.  I try Chinese and they don’t seem to get it. Finally, English speaker comes over and I tell her to call the police because my wallet was stolen. She asks from the hotel in a voice laced with not again. I say no from Wanda guan Chang.

She ask what is missing. I say 3 credit cards. 2 bank cards. And 1200 yuan( about 150$).

Then i cry a bit.

She calls police and tells us someone from foreign office will call back. Says go to room and wait.

So we ask how to call credit cards and cancel all of them. She opens phone for international calls–8 yuan per minute. Way to rape someone who just got robbed.

OL and I get to room and start calling credit card companies and bank. Takes about 30 minutes to call all those places. Luckily wrote down the account numbers and non US phone numbers for each company. No one used my cards. Thank goodness.

Reissue all cards to CT address. Except one credit card sent to Beijing hotel.

I luckily have 88$ American in my purse still and 450$ in my suitcase hidden.

But not having access to cash freaks me out.

Also being victim of crime, even a non-violent one leaves me shaken and feeling unsafe.

Especially since I know Chinese people robbed me and I’m surrounded by them. Now logic says anyone can be a thief, but it just happened in China, which has a really really homogeneous population. So how can I possibly feel safe?

I finish card canceling and go downstairs to see what is going on. It’s been over an hour since I reported the wallet stolen. 2pm now. Front desk girl tells me foreign office of police department will come at 3pm. So I should wait in room.

At 3pm,  she calls and tells us to come down stairs. She brings us outside and we are put into the police car. The driver speaks little English and takes us outside the city gate to the police station. Driving is intense. Airconditioning doesn’t work.We get there and he leaves us outside building to wait.

Finally comes to get us and bring us to 18th floor. We follow him around to office where people are supposed to speak English but no one does to us. They tell me to fill out form and then walk away.

No one asks what happened. No one cares. Or rather all they care about is the exact amount of money stolen. Because they ask me half a dozen times about that. I’m not sure if it’s because there is a certain threshold where they must investigate or if they are calculating their kickback from the pickpocket ring.

Ol watches. One woman instant messages on computer, one stays on cell phone and another browses Internet. The only competent person gets harassed by everyone else. We are waiting for her to read my report. She laughs when gets to part about being bumped and jostled on escalator being a common occurrence.

She stamps and signs off on stuff. Give me confirmation of filing. Refuses to give me copy of report. I’m so frustrated and upset. And this felt so pointless.

I cry as we leave in elevator. Then I cry in car ride back. I’m just so upset at having my property stolen. Now I feel like I cannot trust anyone and have to be on constant guard. My default is to spit kick and hit if anyone touches me now. Which pretty much ruins the rest of my time in China.

OL comforted me and gave me tissues. Finally I calmed down.

And I realize we are in the middle of nowhere. The cop has taken us to some back road with broken down buildings. I’m thinking he’s gonna get rid of the foreigners. Then he puts the car in park  but leaves it running. He  grabs two bags and says just a minute.

He brings something into one of the houses. OL and I burst out laughing. This is the kind of shit that happens to us.

He comes back with two cokes for us. I open mine and almost spray myself then his driving nearly spills it on me. OL wisely refrains from opening his.

The sugar helps.

We continue on a rip roaring ride back to our hotel. The police man drops us off and wishes us well.

Lol. So since I’m technically penniless we decide to hit the bank and convert $60 American dollars. This takes 20 minutes. Ten or so stampings of papers. Four people. A review of my passport and visa. My signature on something. And two counting machines.

Finally I get 379 yuan. Ouch US dollar at all time low. I do make jokes about not using ATM since I got robbed.

We decide to rest a bit and salvage the day with some night photos. Ofc it takes forever to get dark here. At 7:20 still light so we wander down an old calligraphy road I read about.

OL gets some more paper cuts. We both get this flute thing we can’t play.

Head back to nan men still no lights on tower. So we go to Subway for dinner. Then we walk outside at 8:30. Nan men is illuminated.

Pretty. We walk up to the bell tower and drum tower and take some pics.

Then walk back to hotel. Get a little turned around and end up at the park.

Cute. Flying electric kites. Neat.

We come back to room.

I had a pleasant time walking around tonight but I’m angry and I’m hyper vigilant. I don’t feel like I’m on vacation anymore. I feel homesick for the first time. I put a luggage lock on my purse so no one can slide it open ever again.

I kinda hate this city right now. I hate this country right now. I wish I wasn’t here. It’s a lawless, filthy place without any redeeming qualities. At least in my eyes. The people live in filth and squalor.

The retched smells seeping out of the ground indicate it’s a bad bad place. Nothing good ever came of something that smells rotten and rotted to the core.

Maybe it’s because I was violated and I’m still reeling from it. But I cannot see this place as anything but a hotbed for evil. The corruption the Communists tried to extinguish is thriving in their pseudo-capitalism. Congrats. You’ve brought back everything wrong with the original republic.

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8 Responses to Pickpockets and Police in Xian

  1. Carol N Wong (@Carolee888) says:

    This same thing can easily happen in the New York Subway system. It also happened to my father but we (the rest of my family) surrounded him when someone came over to bump him and they (two people) got nothing.

    I had the experience of people breaking in and robbing my apartment in Los Angeles. But I never was robbed in China or Japan.

    It is too late now, but I think the best thing to do when traveling is not to carry your wallet around. Only carry what is necessary and put that in a zippered waist pockets to wear around you under your clothes. If you know that you are going to spend some money, only get out that amount. Leave unnecessary bank cards and credit cards and keys at home where they are safe.

    • Carol, yes these things can happen anywhere. But I lived in DC, NYC, and San Diego and they never happened to me there. Unfortunately they happened to me in a foreign country and forever colored my impression of it. Leaving my credit cards at the hotel was a gamble because unfortunately there were signs everywhere saying “Watch your belongings” which indicated a rampant theft problem in the hotel. So I really had no “safe place” to keep my stuff. I’ve worn the travel necklace but it’s very uncomfortable especially for 7 weeks in humid summer heat.

  2. Lucas says:

    What a traumatizing story. You were brave to go all the way to the police station outside city gate.

  3. berry says:

    I hate china. Not safe.

    • To be honest, I felt very safe in Hong Kong and Shanghai. But Xian has a wild west feel. A city not yet fully civilized. And getting pick pocketed takes away any feeling of safety wherever you are. It wasn’t until I got to Korea that I started to feel safe again.

    • Carol N Wong (@Carolee888) says:

      Don’t be so quick to hate.

      • berry says:

        Maybe hate is too strong. I strongly object to the abusive treatment she endured. Hope that is only one fraction of Chinese population. People should be more respectful. To everyone.

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