In a recent post about my first experience celebrating the holidays in a foreign country, I briefly hinted that something mischievous was afoot. It wasn’t much more than a mention, but I noted that amongst all of the joy and jubilee of celebrating Christmas on a beach; my camera had gone missing.
What comes to mind when you hear the words: jolly, fat, red, and beard? Well for me, I think of a jolly, fat, bearded, red suit wearing THIEF!
Let me explain…
Our bus had just arrived at a serene and secluded lodge that peaked out of the treetops and overlooked Raglan beach from a hilltop.
After checking in, I moseyed on up to the third floor bungalow and chucked my bags onto the top bunk to claim it. I set my camera beside it knowing we would be heading out the beach in a little, cracked open a semi-cold Tui beer (not much better when fully chilled), and walked out to the sun-baked balcony to admire the view of the distant beach with the others.
Just as I was beginning to enjoy the fresh air, a slight easterly breeze, and the sun warming my skin, a shout startled me out of my daydreaming.
“Hey ya’ bums!”
We barely had more than a minute to relax before our bus driver had shouted out that we had 10 minutes to get changed and hop back on the bus if we wanted to see the beach.
“Shit!” (The American a.k.a. myself)
“Scheiße!” (The Germans)
“Chyort voz’mi!” (The Russians)
“That wanker!” (The Brit)
The lot of us collectively cursed in one language or another, then scattered like ants. I hadn’t even had time to take my second sip, let alone figure out where the hell the bathrooms are to get changed so we could enjoy what little time we had on the beach.
But the gorgeous black sand beach was calling, there was no time to waste.
So I examined my beer sweating in the sun and contemplated chugging it or staying here to enjoy it. Then realized in seconds it was crap anyway and there is no way I would give up a chillaxing day on a beach on Christmas!
When I entered the room to grab my trunks, I noticed Santa Clause hop down from my bed and exit out room.
“What the hell?” I thought. It’s not everyday Santa drops in at your hostel.
But there was a hidden cabinet still slightly open above the beds and he was running off with sparkly decorations. Not your normal “stout” Santa with the bulging belly and deep bellowing laugh. Nope, just a skinny chap with a fake beard, Santa hat, and euro capris. I shrugged; figured it was just some poor backpacker fulfilling a weird hostel job requirement and grabbed my trunks.
And this is where my Christmas took a turn for the Grinch.
I returned to the room where the others were waiting and ready to go. All looked eager and slightly worried that we would be left behind any minute now, so I ducked back in the room to snag my camera.
There is no way I was going to head down without my camera.
But my camera was gone.
Wait, how the hell could it be gone?!
You know that panicky feeling you get when you know you left something somewhere specific but can’t find it, and you are running late for something at the same time? Yeah, that was me. And in the frantic searching I tore apart the entire room. Clothes flew through the air and my bag was turned inside out and emptied. Yet, there was no trace.
I remembered I had JUST set it down on the bed before heading to change.
There were no other backpackers checked into the hostel and some of the others from the bus had been sitting around on the balcony.
Nobody could have stolen it.
Nobody except SANTA!
Instantly I was enraged. I had pulled apart the room for the hell of it in a frantic search, but I knew it had been on the bed. I knew I hadn’t moved it. I knew none of the others would be so brash as to take the camera.
Mother Fuckin’ Santa had jacked it! (repeat in a Samuel L. Jackson voice)
Everyone had run down to the bus except a couple of my friends, who were baffled as I was shouting and accusing a Santa Clause of stealing my camera. They hadn’t seen anyone dressed as a Santa Clause at all, and probably thought I was bat-shit crazy.
But I know what I had seen.
The bus driver was blaring the horn and calling out warnings that he was leaving, and the others somehow convinced me to look for it later.
I couldn’t shake the rage building; accompanied by a gut wrenching feeling of not having a camera for the rest of my New Zealand trip. And there was no way I could afford another. My working holiday had just begun, and I was on a trip of a lifetime with no photos?
I was pissed.
And I didn’t want to be put in a better mood either. Everyone was trying to cheer me up but I didn’t speak a word.
Kill Santa was etched in stone on my face.
But the urged me over and over to come to the beach. And as much as I tried to think positive thoughts that someone might find it, I couldn’t help the feeling of despair. But it was no use sitting inside thinking about what I would do to that hippie Bad Santa if I ever found him.
So I went and though at first I was grumpy, but however stubborn I was somehow the group was able to cheer me up. We returned to the lodge after a few hours in the sun and the sand and I immediately went to the front desk. I had prepared myself mentally for the attendant to tell me the worst – that they hadn’t seen anything.
And as I approached the desk, I saw my bright orange camera glimmering under the lamplight. A slow smile crept onto my face and the cold ice melted from my heart. It was happiness that filled me, for I expected the rest of Christmas to be celebrated as a Grinch.
I excitedly reached for the camera without even saying a word to her when she called out, “Excuse me?”
“Oh thats my camera, WEW! I’m SO relieved!”
“It looked like you in the photos”
Wait, she went through my photos?! Oh well, that doesn’t matter right now.
It turns out the Santa didn’t even work at the lodge.
Apparently, he was gathering some decorations that they had extras of for a shop in the town. When Santa had gone into the office, the attendant noticed he had a bright orange camera around his wrist now. When asked about it, Santa Clause seemed short of words as to if it was theirs or not.
Seems Santa isn’t good at lying.
After a little more prying he decided to hand it over with a lousy excuse something around the lines of “I thought one of your guests left it in the room so I was bringing it to you.”
Now, I always try to assume the best intentions of everyone.
And I would LOVE to believe that Santa only steals milk and cookies. Except when there had been nobody checked in and we had just set our bags in the room, something was fishy about that Santa.
Though I was just happy to have one of the most important tools of my trip back that was already maxing out with what would be amazing memories.
Just remember though, Billy Bob Thorton isn’t the only bad Santa, so keep your nice things hidden at all times.
Have you ever had something stolen on your travels? (By Santa or not)