The Africa Journals
In which I Outsmart Myself
Traveling is a brutality. It forces you to trust strangers and to lose sight of all that familiar comfort of home and friends. You are constantly off balance. --Cesare Pavese
|I can't read the weight on this package, but it was a large bulk package.|
This was like no other bank I had ever seen. There were no tellers in sight. I waited in the one line until I reached the front desk and was enquired about my business with the bank.
“I would like to exchange some dollars for rands,” I explained.
|African bills have the Big Five on them: lion, elephant, leopard, Cape buffalo, and rhino. The leopard bill remained elusive, much like the cat itself.|
“Do you have your passport?”
“Yes.” Holding it up.
“Fill out this form, please.” Holding up a three page form.
I filled out as much as I could ( a lot didn’t apply to me) and returned to the desk, again explaining the purpose of my visit to the bank again.
A different clerk looked over the form. “Do you have an account with us?” No. “This is the wrong form,” handing me two sheets. “Fill this out.”
“All I want to do is exchange a hundred dollars for rands,” I said.
“Don’t you have an ATM card?”
Sigh. I’d out-smarted myself again. Rather than incur fees from my bank for foreign exchanges, I’d taken cash to exchange, and I was so confident that could be transacted easily, I’d left my ATM card in my hotel room safe.
Back I went to the room, got my ATM card, and back to the dizzying array of ATMs outside the bank. Next to each machine was a long list of what that particular machine could do. I finally had to ask a nearby uniformed man which ATM would dispense actual cash. From there on, I had it. Brian said we’d need about a hundred dollars in rands for tips, and that’s what I got.
Then I realized I’d need some for incidentals and went back to the ATM for more. Then I ran into the only other solo traveler on the trip, Anne from Florida, who complained that the ATMs wouldn’t accept any of her ATM cards. I volunteered to get her some rands with my card, so I went back to the bank for the third time, got some rands, and accepted her hundred dollars.
By this time, those of us who were PUNCTUAL were gathering in the lobby. Casual conversation revealed that Tony had yet to fill his pockets with rands, and I volunteered to escort him to the bank. I had this bank thing down pat.
After all this, I made a detour into the grocery store and rewarded myself with a Magnum pomegranate ice cream bar.
And that led to my next culture clash “adventure.”