I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days when I got up at 5:30 AM in order to put up a Fab Friday Foto before heading out for our weekly shopping trip. Just as soon as I booted up my computer the power went out. It came back on relatively quickly—after just 15 minutes—but restarting our internet service is such a headache that I decided to leave it and get ready to go instead.
We had a fairly pleasant drive to Mansa. Our new truck tires are nice and even and make for a much smoother ride despite the massive potholes we encounter along the way. We had just entered Mansa when we heard a terrible grinding sound coming from the gears as Tom downshifted. He quickly pulled into a driveway and that was that. He immediately pulled out his phone to contact our mechanic and we set off on foot toting our bags and cooler.
Our first stop was the bank. Tom left me standing in the unusually long line at the ATM while he took the mechanic to look at the truck and get it towed to his yard. The line barely moved the entire time he was gone. Finally, it was our turn at the ATM. I slid the debit card in and got the dreaded message: “Your bank has denied this transaction”. This was repeated with all three of our cards. We know exactly what this means by now. The bank’s anti-fraud computer has noticed some unusual activity. Yes, we used our card overseas! How this can still be unusual after working over here for EIGHT years and being with the same bank that entire time is beyond me.
Anyway, we had a couple options open to us: One, we could wait for 3 PM and speak to someone, or two, we could check to see what we had available in our personal account and use some of that money. Since the car was broken and we would most likely have to travel home by bus we had to choose option two.
I went with the kids to the internet café to check on our bank balance while Tom headed out to run some errands. The first computer I tried couldn’t load my bank’s web page at all. The second computer could get me through the first three sign-in, verify-your- identity, enter-your-password pages (very slowly) but when it came to the actual bank page it would start to load and then switch to an error message. Over and over and over again.
I was frustrated beyond words but wanted to call Tom anyway. Problem was….his phone was switched off. Since returning from Lusaka we had been unable to find his charger for the phone I just brought him from the States. We had a couple Motorola chargers lying around but they didn’t charge the phone fully. Now, today of all days, it had finally died completely!
Tom finally returned and suggested we use a friend’s computer in a nearby office. Unfortunately we couldn’t get load the page there either. We decided to use a credit card inside the bank to get a cash advance. This got us the cash even though, it too, was a slow process. Go to this office, wait at this counter, get denied once, beg them to try again, have the transaction go through, wait again, then joyfully receive cash!
With cash in hand we rushed to the grocery store. We would have preferred to take a taxi but in keeping with this day the usual swarm of taxis begging us to use their services were nowhere to be seen. We hoofed it again still carrying our bags and cooler. (The kids by now were at their shotokhan [martial arts] class) After leaving our bags in the parcel room at the grocery store, Tom rushed off to take care of errands while I ran around like a crazy person filling two carts with groceries. We had just an hour before the bus was scheduled to leave.
When I was done shopping I pushed both my carts to the check out counter and on my way to collect the bags from the parcel room realized that Tom had the little ID number that would allow them to release the bags. I wasted precious moments begging them to give me the shopping bags but they refused. I even got two different managers involved but no go. Furious and cursing broken cell phones, I hurried back to the line and began loading groceries onto the counter. On the way back to the cashier I noticed a delicious looking candy bar. If you think I resisted temptation and did not load that sucker into my cart you are sorely mistaken. After the day I was having I deserved that treat!
Tom showed up eventually and loaded my already bagged (in plastic—blech) groceries into our big carrier bags and then into a waiting taxi. I ran across the street to a little restaurant to get some food to go. The kids met me there and we quickly picked out some food for the trip home. I was out of patience by this time and when the lady working the counter turned out to be a bit of an idiot I had to hold myself completely in check so I wouldn’t reach over the counter and spank her. C’mon Holy Spirit! Make me be good!
We got to the bus station just minutes before the bus was due to leave. Folded ourselves (quite literally) into our seats and left town. Halfway through the trip our lower limbs had pretty much lost all feeling but we hung in there. Just 15 minutes away from home the bus had a flat tire. We could hardly contain the moans of disappointment. But, hey! On the bright side we got to stretch our legs!
After about 20 minutes the tire was replaced and we were on our way again. Our gardener met us in the village and though it took two taxi trips we and all our groceries finally made it home.
Last night Tom found his battery charger. It looks like our ‘luck’ is back!
Oh, and I never did eat the chocolate bar. I can’t find it! and while I don’t exactly need it anymore, boy do I ever want it!