And, yes, I feel unforgivably stupid for not having backed up more recently.
The hours of labour and love that have gone into the labeling, filing and organizing of various family photos this year as well as teaching ppts and other work-related materials are irrecoverable, and it's a hard pill to swallow, knowing someone else has them and is about to delete them all, if s/he hasn't already, since the value of such work is meaningless to someone "outside" the field who just wants to make a quick buck selling a hot-ticket item here in the large, impersonal metropolis of Buenos Aires.
It's as though I've had involuntary brain surgery.
But that doesn't negate the inevitable pessimism that works its way into my soul like a worm consumes a rotting apple (not to imply that my soul is rotten!)... How can we live in a world where there are countries and cities in which -- when one shares the story of the recent loss -- people nod knowingly, because such dishonesty is so "normal" here that everyone has been touched by personal theft in some way? What kind of desperation drives someone to -- within minutes of its being left behind accidentally -- pick up someone else's personal belonging and, instead of turning it in to a cashier for safe keeping until it's claimed, walk off with it, for keeps?
One of the hardest moments was when "Find my iPad", which Tats had set up for me, sent me an email on Friday afternoon to notify me that my stolen device had been found: Staring at the screen of Alex's netbook, my brain worked hard to process the photo map of the downtown intersection across the city from the original "crime scene", and it became apparent to me that -- despite my wildest hopes against the odds -- my laptop and iPad would not be turned in to the cashier at the McDonald's where I had so carelessly left them unattended for 7 minutes on Thursday night.
Up for an adventure, and undeterred by an experience that was not her own personal drama, our French tutor suggested that we go check out the address and see if perhaps a pawn or computer shop was nearby; fluent in Spanish, she could pose as a customer looking for a laptop, and, if mine was produced for sale, we could negotiate its release.
I was not optimistic, but at the boys' insistence, I agreed to play along, and we set out to Aguero y Cordoba.
Needless to say, our outing did not prove fruitful. The entire block -- with the exception of a small green grocer -- was apartment buildings. Somewhere, in one of those buildings, someone had turned on my iPad a few hours earlier, connected to the Internet, and been greeted with a request to enter a passcode and a message that read "This iPad has been lost or stolen, please contact blah, blah, blah to return it." And they hadn't.
So much for our planned "take-down"! ;-P
The next day was not a good one for me emotionally. I woke up feeling incredibly guilty for the stress I had caused and time imposition I had made on my girlfriend, who was supposed to be focusing on learning to fly multi-engine airplanes in instrument conditions in another country, but who had instead spent the first night doing emergency remote email set-up on one of my kids' netbooks so that I could at least be communicatively functional, and another night providing emotional support via email and Skype (the latter on Alex's iPad mini).
Again, I realised that in the grander scheme of things, this was not such a big deal, and I was feeling like a bit of a crybaby. After all, people were starving in the streets, and here I was all in a fluster over a $1500 piece of equipment while our household had four more electronics that one could use in a pinch. My goodness, $1500 is several months of rent for some people down here!!! Nevertheless, as I prepared for a math lesson I soon realised I couldn't teach the boys because I didn't have the software installed on their netbooks (nor could their small machines handle said software), and then went to look for an alternate lesson on my website before realizing that I hadn't posted it yet, so it was lost forever since I was a moron and hadn't backed up any of my laptop data since before leaving Canada, I began to feel increasingly depressed.
The idea to just succumb to defeat seemed like a tempting one, and I crawled back into bed and pulled the covers over my head, thankful that we had no commitments until later in the day, and that the boys were busy engaged in a project of their own and would not miss me while I hibernated.
Eventually, however, Simon came and got me out of bed to have "breakfast" (it was nearly lunch time!) and do Bible study and watch the Cosby show together, which we've been doing most mornings lately. Despite the non-violent nature of the crime, both boys had been rather deeply affected by the discovery that not everyone is honest, and their world post-theft had become a very different place, one in which there had been a certain loss of innocence. They were desperate for a return to normalcy and routine, and were watching me closely to ascertain for themselves how and whether to maintain hope for humanity.
Hitherto, I'd done a decent job modeling hopefulness and optimism for them about this whole ordeal. Today, however, I wasn't so sure.
After about an hour of Jesus and Bill Cosby (in that order), I decided not to give up just yet. If there was any chance for redemption, I thought, I wanted to provide that opportunity for the poor schmucks who had made off with my laptop and iPad. I was willing to suspend judgement and presume positive intentions, especially if there was some remote possibility that I could get the contents of my "brain" back!!!
I decided to write up a poster, in English and Spanish, and go back to the "secondary crime scene" (the street on which my iPad had first been located via wifi the day after it was stolen), and post said flyers so that if the perpetrator saw and read them, his/her heart would be moved, and s/he would email me and make it right.
We set out for the boys' piano lesson, with a plan to get the posters copied and put up afterwards, before volunteering at the dog park in the later afternoon.
Modeling hope in a hopeless world is no easy task, but it sure is more plausible when you meet the number of kind and empathetic people that we have come across in our travels... our piano teacher's power was out, so today's lesson was canceled. However, he met us at the door with an old keyboard he had dug up for the boys to borrow (free of charge for the month) and practise on! And the guy at the photocopy shop was very sweet, too. He was just closing up for the day when we arrived (Sat hours are limited at best in this country), but he let us in and made the copies for us, and gave us counter space to work on to prepare them (we wanted to underline headlines in colour to draw attention). "I'm sorry", he said, genuinely, when he read our poster, "I hope you find."
We ended up at Palermo woods, and -- after a bit of negotiating with the bike rental owner, who didn't want to rent to us without "documento" -- we found ourselves on a heavily refurbished "cuatriciclo" with questionable steering, careening around the mercifully empty paths of the windy park for an hour. Smiles and laughter abounded.
One of the first things the boys asked after the initial shock of what had happened has worn off was "Mommy! How will you be able to blog?!"
It's not easy on slow, borrowed equipment with limited software and the organizational systems of a hard drive I'm unwilling to commit to, because I know it's not really mine...
Waiting... to see if my brain can be fixed, or a new organ found and transplanted, so that I can get back to living my life.
In the meantime, though, I am determined to show the boys that their old Luddite of a mother can indeed blog in word and photo, even on their tiny, crapped-out machine which they insisted I borrow until such a time when I can get a new laptop of my own!