As you’ve read in a past post, my backpack was stolen. Here’s the story:

On the return trip from my site mate’s wedding, we took an early morning microbus. I put my backpack in the baggage compartment under the bus. I don’t usually do this, but for some reason that day, I did. We drove along through several villages picking up more people and dropping some off. We stopped in a tiny village and two guys got on. They put their stuff under the bus and closed the baggage door. The bus driver is responsible for doing this but didn’t. About 3-400 meters later, a car pulled us over and told the driver a backpack fell out (I later learned that this was my sitemate’s new husband’s cousin. He didn’t pick up the bag because he was afraid of being accused of stealing it). One of the guy’s who got on the bus ran up the road to find in. In the mean time, we stood around and asked passing cars if they had seen the bag. At this point, I was unaware it was mine. I eventually got off the bus to take a look and discovered it was mine. My bag was the only one to have fallen out. At first, I thought it was pretty funny. Of course it was my bag! I thought. However, when the guy came back empty handed, I got worried. After lots of bickering and inaction, I left to take a look for myself. I went with a Bulgarian friend a PCV brought with her to the wedding. He called the police in Gotse Delchiv on my behalf to talk about my options. He told me that the police would be expecting us when we got to town.

We looked and looked, but couldn’t find the bag. It wouldn’t be hard to miss since it’s bright orange (I would later learn that the bag was found by the cousin in the middle of the road). We returned to the bus. I was more frustrated than anything else but hopeful I would find it again. However, one thing did piss me off. The guy who ran up the road to find the bag was talking to other Bulgarians “He’s an American! He can afford to buy all those things again!” That stereotype really pisses me off sometime and has nothing to do with the situation.

We got to Gotse Delchiv. The other PCVs at the wedding caught their buses back to their sites. However, the Bulgarian friend, and my girlfriend stayed with me. The bus driver took us to the police station to file a report. The police, at first, didn’t want to get involved. They told me that it wasn’t any of their business; that it was just between the bus company and me. I told them I wanted a police report to document the situation. They refused. Thankfully, the Bulgarian I was with spoke English well and took care of the entire situation for me. That was a real blessing. I called the Peace Corps office and spoke with the duty officer. He spoke with the police and the bus driver. He convinced the police to write a report for me. He spoke with the bus driver, who, understandably, didn’t want to give any contact information, fearing he’d lose his job. The police eventually got all the information (name and number of the bus company’s owner, etc). I was in Gotse Delchiv for about 2-3 hours sorting all of this out. The police gave me a copy of the police report. However, it wasn’t stamped or signed since the person in charge of that was out of the office. The PC staffer who was on duty told me to come to Sofia the following day to fill out an incident report.

The following day, I made my way to Sofia to fill out a PC incident report. The report included what was missing/stolen as well as a detailed account of what happened. After turning it in to the Safety and Security Officer, I was told it was in her hands. I’m so thankfully that I have a Bulgarian who will sort out everything with the Bulgarian authorities. I can’t imagine doing all this alone! I finished off the day by going to the US Embassy (aka McDonald’s) for a taste of Americana.

Where I stand now:
The Safety and Security Officer has been trying to sort things out for me. Under Bulgarian law, the police have 14 days to recover my items before they refer it to the prosecutor’s office. After that (the deadline is Sunday/Monday) I have the option of taking the bus driver and company to court to compel them to pay for my baggage. The bus company (ultimately the bus driver) is responsible for all baggage and passengers on the bus. It was due to driver negligence that my backpack is missing/stolen. However I don’t know if it’s ethical for me to take them to court being a PCV. The bus driver is a poor man who says it will take over six months to pay for all the lost items. I don’t want to bankrupt the company or have the guy lose his job. But he’s responsible. Also, I don’t know if I can take him to court. The Safety Officer has to check PC regulations and talk with the Country Director. I hope I have the option to go to court IF I want to. Being a Peace Corps Volunteer, I am under both US and Bulgarian law and must follow both. To have my legal rights under Bulgarian law stripped from me because the Country Director says so is unjust. All PCVs would have the burden of living under Bulgarian law but no legal recourse or rights. (Please keep in mind: I have not spoken with the country director on this matter, I’m only talking hypothetically).

That’s where I stand now. I’m waiting for the police in Gotse Delchiv to mail me some documents. When I receive them, I will be able to take the bus driver and company to court IF so chose. I have no idea what I will do. I still need to talk with my CD about my options as well as ethical advice.

Among the departed:
my camera (with all my photos of my school trip, day camp and wedding)
my mp3 player (with my grandfather’s war stories about being MIA and POW in Germany)
-it’s those items that I’m concerned about the most, especially the intangible ones. I recognized and understand I lost things. Thing I would have eventually discarded. I’m not worried about that. I’m sad I lost mementos of my history. The whole ordeal has been frustrating. However, not once did I get upset (except when that guy stereotyped me) or started yelling. They’re just things-

Thankfully, I didn’t have any money; documents (especially my Bulgarian ID card) or bank cards in my pack.


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4 Responses to “Lost”

  1. gogo Says:

    That one’s probably sorted out already – or, knowing the bulgarian system of justice, maybe they’re not 😦

    Anyways, I’d say if you don’t sue the company you’re actually confirming that same stereotype that upset you in the first place. I don’t have any info on the bus company, but yea well, they’re supposed to insure you + your cargo – up to a certain amount – while you’re on the bus. The bus fare should include this insurance. Plus, all that garbage they tried to pull off about the bus driver being liable and having to work for 6 months to pay you and stuff… that’s nonsense. It’s not his fault someone grabbed your backpack and ran! That’s probably just empty talk aimed at getting you not to sue them.

    Nice blog by the way πŸ™‚ Sorry for spamming – but it was nice reading and sharing too. Have a nice day !!!

  2. Jimmy Says:

    I’ve already deceided not to take them to court. The PC told me any legal options are up to me and they won’t be able to help me (as per PC policy). I would have to hire a lawyer and show up personally in court in a town that is six hours away from mine. I figured it wasn’t worth the hassle. I’m working with my insurance company in the US to get some insured stuff replaced.

    Thanks for reading my blog! I’m glad to hear you enjoy it. I appreciate you sharing your insights.

  3. gogo Says:

    I’m glad this episode is over and I hope you get at least some compensation from the insurance company in the States.

    I myself travel quite a lot by bus in Bulgaria, and hearing that such things happen is to say the least, disturbing. I kinda start thinking about buying me a car :/ Off: if I ever get a car, it’ll definitely be Ford. I even know the exact model =) But what’s that news I read today about Ford being in a real crisis in the States?! Is that true?

    I am actually feeling a little awkward by now – almost like a spammer would feel πŸ™‚ But keep posting!

  4. This is Bulgaria… « Chronicling Bulgaria Says:

    […] readers know my backpack was lost/stolen in June. The bus company and driver were clearly at fault but couldn’t afford to replace my […]

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