Ever have one of those continuous bad days, you know, the kind where everything that can go wrong does... and even then some? Last week seemed like a series of unfortunate events to borrow from Lemony Snicket. It seemed like everything I tried to accomplish was thwarted by the uncaring universe of achievement.
Problem #1: My airfare reimbursement check
I was reimbursed for my flight down to Piura. That's very generous and I am happy I received it. However, it was in American dollars. I need to get this check to the United States. I was told different ways to do it. I got the check on Friday. I first was told I could go to the bank and have it cashed and then transferred to my credit union. I didn't have my passport with me, so I thought I'd wait until (now last) week. Drat - totally my fault. A friend suggested that I try mobile banking with my credit union. But, I don't have an Android phone or an iPod/iPhone. My colleague does, so I asked her to download the app and I tried the picture taking thing. It didn't work at all. I contacted customer service and got several non-answers to my questions. So I gave up on that route.
So, at lunch, I go merrily down to the bank, and I prepared. I wrote down in Spanish what I wanted to do. After trying to figure out the line system (there were numbers, but the system didn't make sense), I went up to a representative at the door and asked if I needed a number. I showed the written note to him. However, the customer service representative took the check (I did go with him!) and spoke to a supervisor. He came back and said it wasn't possible to cash it or do anything with it. By this point, I wanted to cry. I literally did leave with tears in my eye.
So, I went back to the university and explained my situation to the center's administrator. He called a person he knew at the bank and found out a completely different story. Basically, I need to find somebody with an account there that can accept American dollars and have them deposit the money into their account and then transfer it out to my account. Oh great. Just want I want to do - go around begging people to transfer money for me and deal with that hassle.
So, I thought okay, I am going to try Money Gram. On Friday, my co-worker and I went downtown to where she knew Money Gram was. We go into the store (that sells electronics and motorcycles), and head back to the cashier. My colleague asked a woman sitting at a desk if they did Money Gram. She nodded and pointed to the caja (cashier) window. I approach the clerk and ask about Money Gram. Of course I didn't understand her, so my colleague jumped in and found out the location moved. The cashier was very snotty and we wondered why the first woman (about 20 feet away) didn't tell us first that Money Gram was gone.
So we got the run-around and finally, after walking through some sketchy parts of town, found the location. However, I couldn't cash my check, thus I couldn't send a wire. Next, we tried to find an exchange place (better rates than the bank). However, they wouldn't cash a check. By this point, I'm done. Done. Done. Done. I am starving and I say forget it. So, as of Wednesday, August 22nd, I still have this check and I don't know what to do with it.
Problem #2 - ATMs
As part of my temple trip, I needed to pay s/70 soles (roughly $27) for the bus ride. I hadn't heard any details about paying, times, or locations to meet really - other than it was the 17th -19th. When I was at the bank, I tried to pull out cash to have on hand. However, the ATM didn't work. Of course not. So I went next door to the store. The bank ATM didn't work. The other bank's ATM didn't work for anyone. I was able to use the coin machine to get out s/5 coins (about $3). I needed a few groceries so I used my debit card - no problem - except the cashier asked me a bunch of questions that I didn't know. I just smiled and nodded and it seemed to work. So after all that, I walk home. I ran into the bishop and his wife. They told me they needed the money for the trip that night. I was planning on seeing some of the ward members after class anyway,so I was okay. Then about 4 pm, I got a panicked phone call from the 1st counselor saying I think that somebody was coming to go with me to the bank to get the money. I explained I had class at 5 pm and we'd have to hurry. Then, as I waited nervously for the person that I thought was coming, I got a call back. I was informed to give the money and give it to the ward member that night. So, there's an ATM on the main gate of the school. I hustle over there before class, and yep - you guessed it. It didn't work. After class, I tried it again. It didn't work again. My friends and I went to karaoke (another blog entry for sure) and there were two different bank companies with ATMs. I tried ScotiaBank, and it worked perfectly. I got soles and dollars (for Ecuador). Good grief. I was able to give the money to the ward member to pay for my trip.
Problem #3 Cell Phone
When I got to Piura, one of the teachers helped me get a cell phone. I don't know what kind of prepaid plan I got or anything. Nobody seems to really know what the cell phone story is around here that I ask. I knew I had run out of minutes because I couldn't send texts or get calls. But, trying to figure out how to recharge my phone or what plan to get was impossible. While my colleague and I were downtown, we tried a store that said "Claro aqui." Yes! We go inside the drugstore and were told... "We can't recharge your phone here." We go to another Claro store. They don't do recharging. We stopped at a newspaper stand. Yes, the woman does have recharge cards. I was advised not to do it that way. I didn't even know what to say or how to ask for the phone recharge. Finally, it got too confusing and I was too angry and stressed from the check mess that I just left. My colleague finally took me to a neighborhood store in our area that she used. The owner recharged the phone and it works. Whatever I had set up before, wouldn't let me call anyone. Plus, it costs more to call another carrier- or so I think. Who knows!
Problem #4 Post Office
I decided to go to the Post Office to buy stamps. My colleague went with me to eat lunch and hang out. We get to the post office. It was open ( I was told it wouldn't be). Crap. I didn't know how to ask for stamps. I look at a picture on the wall. It has an arrow to a picture of stamps and it says "postales." Okay, that must be it. We go to the first desk. No, not the right one. The 2nd desk. Nope. Finally, we get to the 3rd desk. Of course, just like in the USA, there's one worker and a line. We stand in line for 15-minutes. My colleague finally goes up and asks if we can buy "postales" there. The worker says no but we were told were we could buy them. So he and I go on a wild goose chase to many stores with no luck. My colleague just starts asking random shopkeepers where we can go. Finally, we end up at the City building. They tell us to go to the tourism office. We got a bunch of nice postcards and brochures, but the clerk sends us back to Serra Post. We get in line again and finally realize the word we wanted was "estampillas." So this stupid adventure was my own fault. So, lesson learned. Always be prepared with what you're looking for in another language. Don't assume you know the right words. When trying to do something, look up the words first. So we get back to Serra Post and then I find I can't even buy stamps! I have to bring the letters and postcards to the office to send! Then, all of our lunch options were ruined too. We finally ended up at a fast food joint. I guzzled my Inca Cola and chicken sandwich like no tomorrow.
On Friday, when my other colleague and I were downtown, I was successful in mailing a few things! One minor success.
So this week, my hot water heater stopped working along with the cable reception. Also, the classroom technology repeatedly fails when I try to introduce multimedia. The non-stop domino effect of frustrated plans and hopes ... welcome to my life- nothing changes when you move to another hemisphere.