Saturday, June 7, 2008

Frustrating times

I'll run through a list of some of the challenges that, cumulatively, nearly broke my will to enjoy life here
1. Bank card. I hadn’t used my bank card in over a month and when I got to the ATM it seemed I had forgotten my PIN code but how? I only ever use 2 numbers. I must have changed it last time I used the bank and not taken enough note of it, so like me. As a result I was bankrupt during my trip to Maputo in March, for Regionals, and unable to buy the things I thought I needed (I stupidly went around a fancy store that is like Target of the U.S., picked all the stuff I thought I needed and found out at the register that they don’t take American Express. When I walked away, the realization that I didn’t actually need any of that crap on the check out table was a real liberation). I was told in Vilanculos that “the system” wasn’t working to make cards, try again later. Then while I was in Beira, 2nd biggest city, I spent two full days in the bank “waiting to hear back from Maputo” followed by “well you see, the system’s having trouble...” and in the end I was sent away without a new bank card. Shortly after I was talking with another PCV and learned that she too had PIN code trouble, the bank had forgot hers and she still didn’t have a new card. WHAT!? So it was the BANK that forgot MY pin code during its merger with Barclays? If I’d have known that during my two days in Beira I’d have pleaded my case a bit differently. Anyway shortly after back in the small city of Vilanculos I spent another whole day in the bank and at the close of business they finally gave me a card. I decided that if I work in Africa later in life it will be to fight the sort of idiotic inefficiency that keeps busy businessmen and women standing in line in UTTER unproductivity for hours on end.
2. Chapa drivers as kidnappers. Another funny thing about riding in the chapa is that you are at the mercy of the driver once you get inside. The worst drivers exploit this fully, not only in charging you up front for the trip in order to have money to stop for gas once you’re in the car, but also to make personal errands while the 15-16 passengers watch the minutes and hours of their day slipping through their hands like grains of sand.3. I’ve been waiting for my house to be built since December. It’s June 6th and it’s still not ready for me to move in though it’s REALLY close to being ready. Of the various problems that have interceded:- the original contracted builder got sick and went MIA before starting work, we ran out of straw to build the house 2/3 of the way through the walls—possibly due to shrinkage- the guy who was supposed to do the concrete floor drowned drunk in the river and was apparently paid in full before completing the work—all he finished of my house before his death was building the square foundation about two cinder blocks high and all around the house.

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