Red thumb incident Part #1

Helen says:

Okay… here is the detail about what occurred at the Shanghai Railway Station, which involved my camera, paperwork and a red thumb.

We returned to Shanghai around 8pm, after half a wet day at Suzhou.  While it had been a good day I was tired.  Exiting the the railway station, we were attempting to locate the the entrance for line 1 to head towards the Bund for some food.  As usual we couldn’t find the entrance (obscured by entrance to the “sudway market”), and had already been down to the taxi subway once, and returned to the top looking for the entrance.  Before I go any further, you need to understand that Shanghai railway station is big.  I mean really big, and there are lots of people all the time.

After wandering around for 5 minutes or so, Kym spotted the entrance, and we headed over, dodging a number of people.  We were about to go down the stairs, when I heard the velcro of my camera pouch and my bag suddenly felt lighter.  Upon looking at the empty camera bag, I said “My camera, Kym do you have my camera?”, of course the reply was “no, I don’t”.

Kym says:

It was somewhat of a surreal moment, just as Helen was flapping about looking for her camera in her bag and we turned around to look for a lost camera we were approached by a couple of well dressed fit chinese men brandishing the camera, it was discreetly revealed and covered in a cloth. They asked Helen if she had just lost her camera. Of course the answer was yes! They flashed a badge, which of course was difficult for use to decipher the chinese and a less well dressed man was also there with has hands in cuffs. It turned out that these men were undercover Shanghai Police.

Remember this was at just after 8:00pm at night, and because there is no daylight savings it was getting quite dark. The two men asked us (in a combination of limited english and signs) to come with them, we assumed to make the report. We weren’t to certain. We walked towards ever darker parts of the railway station, ultimately to a somewhat shabby room.

We waited in a room with the accused for about 20 or so minutes waiting for the interpreter. The accused said he was sorry, in english, and I guess he was one of the poor itinerant workers that hung around the train station. When the other room was freed we were separated from the accused. The policeman contacted the police station seeking an interpreter. He told us (via our visual dictionary) that they had promised an interpreter within 30 minutes. That didn’t really happen. At this point, I would like people to think “Life on Mars”. You’re getting the idea a number of people came through and talked to the police officers, the currency of camaraderie were cigarettes. In those hours I certainly had my pack and a half of cigarette smoke that night.

I think ultimately they gave up on getting a professional interpreter. They rounded up a couple of the younger cops at the police station to do the translation for us. They intimated we needed to go somewhere else for the interpreter. So we followed, went through a large side gate onto a dimly lit station platform,  along the station platform with track on one side and a construction site on other. A rhythmic loud pumping sound was ever present. The construction site had large drill like machines. We walked across a muddy walkway through the construction site to the back entrance of the Police Station.

Helen says:

Kym has forgotten to mention that while we were with the undercover officer in the daggy rooms, we attempted to communicate using our english/chinese vocab book.  If you’ve had some experience with these books, you will understand that they do not contain enough useful words to assist in providing any information, apart from “interpreter”, and “I’ve had x stolen”.  Nothing was quite appropriate.   He flicked through the little book a couple of times and appeared to find it amusing.  The only useful words in there were “interpreter”, and “I’m Australian”.

Getting back to our location at back of the Police Station.  We were placed into what appeared to be a room used by the officers, but it was as daggy as the other rooms.  Only difference being was there were socks drying on the seat I was sitting on, it contained a few lockers, and the computer (very dirty) had obviously been used a few minutes previously as the only words on the screen I could understand were “Game Over”.  The drawers were over stuffed, and room was painted a smoked influence version of beige, quite some time ago.

End Part 1.


  1. Peter · August 16, 2009

    Phew – I’d been thinking you’d been done for photographing something you shouldn’t have.

    Did you get the camera back?


    • Kym · August 16, 2009

      In short, Helen got her camera back. But for more details see Part #2 (when we have a chance to write it).


  2. Helen & Tony · August 18, 2009

    Can’t wait to read Part #2!!! Hope all the photos have survived? Life’s going to be dull back in Adelaide eating imitation Peking duck…..


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