Monday, January 18, 2010

You Just Never Know....

....How a Day Will Turn Out.

We never know what a day in Africa will hold for us.

Friday was our normal shopping day where we travel to Mansa to the only grocery store. Tom and I got up early and had a bit of breakfast and loaded up the car with the usual: reusable shopping bags, ice cooler, and crates with empty soda bottles for exchanging.

We had the normal exchange as we pulled out: Do we have everything? Do we have our wallets, our bank cards, our 'to-do' lists, our cell phones. Check, check and check.

The drive takes 2 hours and is a nice time for Tom and I to have business meetings. We spent this particular day talking about what projects need to be completed in the next couple months as we prepare for my trip to the U.S. 
We also talked about the bills that were due and what we needed take care of on this trip.  We have to pay for everything in cash and Mansa is the only place up here where we can access funds so we have to be careful and think everything through.  

We pulled into Mansa a bit later than usual and proceeded directly to the bank for our first stop. We use ATM machines to withdraw money, using our Visa cards, from our U.S bank. We took out our 3 cards and watched as one by one they were all rejected. This happens to us on a regular basis when our bank forgets we operate over in Africa and due to 'irregular' activity (using the card in a foreign country) they  block/place a hold on our cards until we can call them and confirm that we do indeed have possession of our cards.

This would be fine if we were able to just pick up a phone and call but it's not that easy. We have to find an internet cafe and hope they have Skype on a computer so we can use that to call. As we deliberated what to do we realised that neither one of us had brought any money with us--I had just emptied my wallet to take care of payroll and hadn't put any bills back--so we really had to find a solution or we wouldn't even be able to get home.

  We found an internet cafe and hooray, they had Skype! Not so was still the middle of the night for the U.S and we had to wait until 3 PM when the offices would open. It was only 10 AM so we had a wait ahead of us. 
  Not knowing if we'd be able to get through to the bank later and needed to do grocery shopping and put gas in the car no matter what, I went ahead and transferred money over to our personal accounts (making a mental note to write a memo explaining this action) and we headed back to the bank. Tom used my ATM card first and got $400 out and then put his card in and it was sucked into the machine. A little note popped out saying 'your card has been confiscated--contact your branch for details'. Now what?!? Tom went inside the bank and found out that the person who was authorized to deal with confiscated cards was out and would be back around noon.

  We piddled around taking care of a few errands as we killed time waiting out the bank drama. Finally it was noon and finally at 12:30 the correct person arrived at work and we found out that Tom's card had expired! We had overlooked the date. This is a pickle for us because we can only wait until we visit the U.S to pick up a new card or pay $30 for it to be shipped DHL.  Oh well, that was a decision for another day.

  Wondering what more would happen this day we took a break to have lunch at our favorite restaurant. At this point we had two options--if we could get through to the bank and fix the problem we could head home in the afternoon. If not, we'd have to wait until the next day  (spending the night at a hotel) to be able to use my ATM card again--we have a daily limit--which meant we wouldn't be able to shop for any perishables.

Finally we decided to do the majority of our shopping and hope for the best when we called our bank later in the day. We shopped quickly and then headed back to the internet cafe. We dialed the bank and....nothing happened because a storm had moved in and blocked the satellite signal. We impatiently waited until the rain passed and then tried again. After carefully entering all my relevant information into the automated system and waiting and waiting I finally got through to a person! He was very kind and proceeded to inform me that he had to transfer me to a different department. And that was when the storm passed over again and we got cut off. Sheesh!
  I dialed again, entered my information, waited to talk to a real person and quickly asked to be transferred to the right person. Finally!  The correct person came on the line and that experience could be a separate post entirely. Suffice it to say that he fixed our cards so we could use them and we were done!

Quickly we dashed back to the grocery store and picked up the cold items, loaded them into the cooler, filled our vehicle with diesel (noted that it went up by $1.00/gallon) and got on the road. It was nearly 5 P.M by now and we were a little worried about having to drive in the dark. Part of our concern came from the fact that Tom had not prepared for night driving and was wearing his prescription sunglasses.

  I spent the second half of our drive home white knuckling it and holding onto the convenient handle on the passenger side of the dash board. Our regular driving hazards --potholes, animals, pedestrians and rain--were multiplied by the darkness and it didn't help that Tom's vision was hindered. I leaned forward and peered intently through the windshield trying to lend my eyes to Tom. I'm not sure if my regular shrieks "Careful, Honey!" and "Oh, Shoot!" were at all helpful but they made me feel better.

  We were never so glad as when our little village came into view and we could climb the hill and  see our happy home. Especially since this little guy greeted us when we got home.

The truth is that none of us know what a day will hold. Please continue to pray for missionaries in Haiti. These blogs here and here have really touched me over the last few days.



  1. Wow...what a day eh? I have enough trouble planning what I'm going to buy at the grocery store for ONE meal, let alone a whole bunch of them AND the other errands AND the cash to pay for it. I bow down to you in admiration!

  2. and I bitch when the bank bounces a check for no reason. That is nothing compared to what you went through, perspective maerae, all a matter of perspective.

  3. Good grief, Amy! Bless your heart, and Tom's too! I think I'd be inclined to change banks back in the US! Do they have any idea how difficult they make things for you?

  4. WOWEE!! What a day...and what a sweet baby!

  5. Do you want me to send you the card???

  6. Boy, and I thought it was a hassle to deal with outsourced customer service! You two are persistent!

    Stopping by from SITS!

  7. Stopping by from SITS and wishing you a Happy Wendesday!!!! :)

  8. HalfAsstic, we are usually pretty happy with our bank and it is walking distance from my inlaws house--also known as our stateside office--and they are (usually) pretty accommodating with our issues.

    JoAnne, we're still trying to decide what to do about the card.

    MadWoman, we all do what we have to do and I'm forgetful in other areas so it all balances out. :)

  9. I am pleased I found your blog of SITS. I can't wait to read more about your African adventures and the children you care for. I am impressed, particularly since you fear creepy-crawlies.

    What a wonderful little greeter.


  10. How much we take for granted in the states...

    Sounds like a crazy day! Glad you made it back safely and that little one is adorable!!


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