Dedicated to my partner in crime...literally

    Almost every time we had school vacation, my family would usually pack up and head to Santa Cruz, Bolivia to stay at Bouganvillas Resort.  It was a beautiful place with suites large enough for our entire family, bikes, volleyball courts, pools, hot tubs, saunas and the most amazing fresh buffet breakfast you've ever seen in your life (or maybe you haven't seen...sorry).  We would spend most of our time out by the pool, reading books.

    On the first day of this particular vacation, I was walking around the pool and found 100 Bolivianos there on the ground!  Screaming, I picked it up and waved it around, showing all my family.  No one else was around the pool, so I figured the money was as good as mine.  My sister, Mary Ashley, and I decided that we needed to go into town to shop.  ASAP. So, we got permission from our parents, changed into something cute, hopped into a taxi and headed out.

    As soon as we got downtown, we headed to the shopping area.  There were rows and rows of little pop up shops, clothes hanging from above and colors every where.  I could not wait to spend that 100 Bs. that I had just found!  We walked around a good bit and then came to this lady in the street with a little push cart.  The shiny, dangling earrings called to us and we quickly made an offer.  I chose a few pair that I wanted and Mary Ashley had hers.  I handed over the 100 Bs., but the woman didn’t want to take it because she didn’t have any change.  Side note - the ENTIRE country of Bolivia is pretty much ALWAYS low on change and super stingy about it…the vendors never have change, but they expect YOU to.

    I explained that this was the only money I had, while the lady shook her head back and forth.  We sighed and put back the earrings, preparing to walk away, when she told us to wait and she would go to find some change.  We watched as she shuffled down the road to speak with another vendor.  They kept talking and talking and it started to worry us.  Is she going to bring back my money?  She motioned for someone to come over to her and the other vendor.  It was a cop!  He walked over and began to speak with the two ladies.  The three of them were taking turns looking at the 100 Bs bill, turning it over, folding it, messing with the edges and holding it up to the sun to look through it.  Mary Ashley and I just stood there, getting more and more sweaty and preparing for our death.  At this point, I just wanted my money back and didn’t care about the earrings.

    The vendor turned back towards us and so did the cop, following right behind her.  I knew that this was no good.  Once they got back to me and Mary Ashley, the cop delivered the bad news: the money was counterfeit and we had to come down to the police station.  WHAT?!?!?  No wonder the money had been left on the ground at the pool!  I looked at Mary Ashley and saw her terrified face, feeling equally afraid.  We had already returned the earrings to their place and explained that we didn’t know that the money was fake, that we didn’t want the earrings, we didn’t need the 100 Bs. bill back and that we were just going to go back to our hotel. You know in the movie Madacascar, when the penguins walk backwards, wave their hands in the air and say "you didn't see anything"...yea, that was us.

    Of course, that was not an option.  The cop was adamant that we go to the station with him.  There is so much corruption in Bolivia that counterfeit bills were not out of the norm!  And, my parents always told us to NEVER trust a cop or go anywhere with him.  So, we argued back and forth with the cop for what seemed like an eternity.  I told him that we were NOT going to go with him, but that he could follow our taxi back to our hotel to get our parents.  He would not have it.  Stepping closer and closer, the cop was not giving up.  Then, all hell broke loose.

    While reaching for my arm, the cop whistled and had a taxi pull up to us.  Although he tried to pull me forward and force me into the taxi, I ripped my arm away and Mary Ashley and I took off running down the street.  Immediately I heard the cop call for back up and knew that we were done for.  I was thinking all sorts of "Locked Up Abroad" scenarios and I had never even seen that show! Without looking back, we ran and ran and ran, turning down this street and that street.  We were breathing so hard, but we were running so fast out of sheer terror.  Finally, we got enough ahead that I couldn’t hear the cops following.  I looked back and no cops were to be seen, so I grabbed Mary Ashley’s arm and pulled her into the door of a store.  We jumped inside and immediately crouched down behind the window displays.  

    Some type of noise kept growing louder and louder and I couldn’t imagine what was rounding the corner.  It sounded like a massive crowd of wild people marching.  All of a sudden, dozens of people dressed in all black, with white “scream” face masks and axes appeared.  They were walking towards the store where we were hiding.  Mary Ashley started to act hysterical.  The timing of the scream costumes was impeccable and we were genuinely confused and were sure that those monsters had joined the cops and were here for us. I knew that this was how I was going to go.

    Holding our breaths and onto each other, we hid there and silently prayed that God would get us out of this mess.  We watched as the scream people walked by, followed by a huge crowd and we waited…and waited…and waited...for an eternity...no cops came.  Slowly, we stood up and walked back over to the store entrance.  I carefully opened the door and peered up and down the street, making sure that we still had lost the cops.  A taxi was coming down the street and I knew that this was our chance to make a get-a-way.  I grabbed Mary Ashley while running out the door and throwing my arm up into the air.  The taxi stopped, we jumped in, told the driver to take us back to Boganvillas and never left the resort again for the rest of the vacation (without our parents, at least).  

So, my little LEAP sister...Happy 28th 7th Birthday and congratulations on surviving childhood!!!

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