When Bad Things Happen in Foreign Places
I always try to believe that people are inherently good, and even if they aren’t I still try to find the good in them. Throughout my travels I have met so many great people, some who have become friends, and others who have helped me or shown kindness in some way. As much as I know that a few experiences, positive or negative, should not influence my opinion on an entire country, I’m guilty as charged. Fortunately for me, almost all of these experiences have been positive so I’ve been able to continue with my adventures and learning experiences untainted.
I have’t lived in Italy for almost 10 years, but if I’m asked where I would live if I had a choice Italy is one of my top two. Why? I remember store owners and bakers running out of their stores just to pinch the cheeks of my then 18 month old and offer her pastries, breads, and treats. Strangers would stop me to talk during our daily walks, and the Italian men were always ready with a beautifully accented compliment, just like I had seen in films. I have nothing but great memories from my time there and years later I still hold them dear.
In Belgium I remember receiving a phone call while in the market, letting me know that one of my husband’s young teammates had tragically passed away, and as I broke down crying, the cashier and multiple customers on line offered me tissues and napkins and touched my back to give me comfort. They did not speak English, nor did they have any idea why I was crying. I often complained about the crappy weather while living there, and sometimes people refused to indulge my questions if they weren’t in French, but I still experienced enough kindness to outweigh the bad.
While in Turkey, I remember a day when I couldn’t find the exact location of where I was trying to go and the stranger I stopped to ask didn’t speak enough English to tell me where to go so she walked me there, in the opposite direction of where she was going, just to be helpful and kind. This is in addition to the countless other people who stopped us to talk, wanted to practice their English, wanted to give our kids treats from their shops and fruit from the bazaar, or just wanted to stop us to bless our children with “Mashalloah.” Turkey is by far my favorite country, and I’m sure that all of these experiences have influenced that.
There are countless times where the actions of others have helped to keep my sunny outlook on life going. I would say that I am an eternal optimist, though I am certainly not naive to the ways of the world. I have experienced plenty of pain in my life but I haven’t been broken by it.
These past few weeks, however, have really done a number on me and it has me questioning everything.
We aren’t clear on the details but someone managed to take our beloved dog, Bella, we believe from our yard. At the time we weren’t sure if she somehow got out so we searched everywhere that night, and the next morning plastered the neighborhood with flyers and handed them out to anyone who would take one.
Our taxi driver let us use his number since we don’t speak Spanish, and within a few hours we received a call from someone claiming that their “friend” found a dog like ours. However, he stated that the reward we offered was too low and that we should raise it. Our driver said we wanted to see a picture and “the friend” said they would send one. The whole thing sounded shady, but we waited for hours and nothing. Our driver continued to call the number and there was no answer, leading us to believe that it was a scam and they really didn’t have our Bella.
We continued searching the area by foot and by car and the next day decided to double the reward. We called the number again and when they answered, our driver explained that we did double the reward but we needed a picture or an address of where she was. He said he would relay the message to his “friend” but we didn’t hear from them after that. Our driver called multiple times every day with no answer, until finally the phone was shut off.
So we gave up on the hope that they actually had her and I was back out in the streets, searching for hours every day and putting up new flyers with a newly increased reward. The next night, almost a week after her disappearance, the “friend” suddenly calls back and asks if we’re still giving double the original reward, and if so they will give the address of where she is. We say of course, our driver rushes over with the money at midnight, and it is indeed Bella, looking sad, depressed, and scared. Her belly was distended and she was peeing blood and urine all over the house. The man who had her told our driver that she refused to eat or drink water the entire time she was there.
We took her to the vet and learned that she had a bladder stones, which are made worse by stress, and she would need surgery to remove them or she would likely die within the year. So of course we rush to have the surgery, which was performed last Monday, and the very next night, just like that, she was gone.
She had internal bleeding and her kidney was in bad shape and according to the vet “could not handle the surgery.” While I am upset with the vet for not doing more, because I called and called the emergency number while she was still breathing, and never got a response; I blame the horrible people who took her and held her for almost a week in an attempt to extort us. She was scared and alone, and it clearly manifested itself physically.
I can’t stop thinking about what kind of heartless person would do such a thing, even after we agreed to double the reward. How someone could refuse to answer our calls knowing that there was a loving family desperate to have her back is nothing short of evil. If I ever found someone’s dog I would return it as fast as I could, without a single thought to money.
So now I sit here in a house with 4 screaming kids, yet it’s empty and quiet. I no longer hear the quick little feet running around looking for food, or barking at a noise in the yard because she was our great protector. Her spot on the couch is empty, and I don’t hear the constant yells of “BELLA” bc she’s eaten someone’s cookie or sat in someone’s seat.
I cry every day, and I try to hide the tears from my kids because I’m supposed to be the strong one, but I’m feeling pretty week right now. My husband is now home so I have someone to lean on, but he was on the road the week it happened and it was such a low point in my life. I have such anger in my heart, mixed with immense sadness. The anger is directed at the people I feel are responsible, but now all I want to do is leave Formosa, and leave Argentina. I know that Argentina isn’t responsible for my heartbreak, but right now the pain is clouding my judgement.
How do I look past the horrible actions of a few? How do I reflect on my time in a country when something has happened in that country has given me the greatest pain I have felt in many years?
I don’t have the answers, but I’m trying to think of all the people who took our flyers when Bella was missing and taped them to their storefronts, or the vendors who recently saw me walking by and asked me if I found my “perrita” and seemed so genuinely happy for me when I said that I did.
As we look forward to next season, I’m trying to think of the positive from my time here, but the pain I’m feeling is too strong and I feel like I’m done with Argentina. I already spent a good deal of time annoyed at being in a hotel for 6 weeks, and then having a half furnished apartment with no working television or WiFi for so long. My time here hasn’t been great, and this is just the icing on the shitty cake.
So as I wait until the season is over, I have taken to sitting in the backyard every night. Bella would normally be out there with me since she was everywhere I was, but I’ve found one star that shines brighter than the rest and I’ve determined that it’s her, watching over us as she always has. I’m trying to think about all the joy she brought us for the past 4 1/2 years, instead of the anger I feel. Maybe we will end up in Argentina again, but this city holds too much of my pain so this time the anger wins and Formosa has ended up on my very short no-go list.