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  • My brother woke up and wandered through to the living room. He tripped over a fallen table and noticed the TV was missing from its rightful place so, he went to wake up mom.

    Mom stumbled through to the living room/ dining room area, tying her robe as she went.

    And she stopped. And she stood. And she thought about how she had left her purse on the island in the middle of the room last night for the first time ever. And she noticed how dad's wallet was lying on the dining room table, the contents strewn about the floor.

    The floor tile felt colder against her feet that morning as chills ran up her spine. She noticed iron bars and glass slats missing from a living room window as she called out for dad to join her amidst the growing chaos.

    I awoke to the sun streaming in through pastel curtains not yet ready for the grey clouds that were about to envelope us all.

    But they did.

    The more we looked, the more we found missing: money, personal items, electronics, food, clothing from the laundry room.

    Dad remembered a dream he's had in the middle of the night in which he heard men's voices mumbling under the window ledge in the bedroom. It didn't seem like such a dream anymore.

    So we called the police. We went down to the station. A report was filed listing the contents of all that had been stolen (as far as we could remember), even though it took years to finally realize everything that had disappeared that night.

    The police didn't solve much and we felt violated, robbed of our sense of security and safety. We were also back to square one in terms of the personal items we'd built up since moving to Africa with nothing.

    We couldn't blame the robbers of course. No doubt they were local and poor. No doubt they were stealing to feed their families. No doubt we'd survive without our stuff.

    And we did, but we still had to hire a guard to sleep through the night with us as a precaution. Although he became just another mouth to feed and clothe, at least we didn't feel so alone.

    I was grateful for his presence simply so that when we came home in the pitch dark I didn't have to jump out the car and unlock the gate. Five honks on the horn and the guard would be at attention praying for another cup of tea with six sugars to help him get through the night.

    It was Felix, our gardener who finally found the hole in the fence that had been their entry and exit point. Then it was me who walked in on our cook having a nervous breakdown in the kitchen only a step away from the knife block. Lastly, it was the police who found our stolen items a month later and requested that we come down to the station to reclaim them.

    It's funny how, when out of context, stuff just looks like stuff. I'm sure we ended up leaving a lot of our things behind in that little storage room at the police station - a treasure trove of stolen goods.

    When two and two finally equalled four we bid adieu to our cook Victor who begged and pleaded to stay and work for us knowing that at his age it would be difficult for him to find another employer. Sadly, as was eventually understood in all the tragedies that we encountered while living in Malawi, when our cook stole from us, he really only stole from himself and there was little sympathy to be dished out by anyone.

    Luckily for us, our guard kept us guarded and our new cook became our best friend. We also realized how lucky we were that only our stuff was stolen when we were broken into, for it was not long afterwards that the Mozambican war ended. That was when the guns started appearing. That was when we heard about the rapes. That was when our friends' wives were tied up as the children watched, a gun begin held to the husbands' heads.

    That was when I finally understood that I didn't really miss my mickey mouse t-shirt that had never reappeared. I was happy someone else somewhere was getting good use out of it. I was thankful that in all the years we lived in Malawi no one ever hurt us in our home.
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