Sunday, May 30, 2010

When it Rains it Pours...

     And I thought that the last day was a bad day! Wait until you hear about this dousy of a day (People say things always happen in threes, so maybe I should be on the lookout for a third bad day very very soon)! So what happened this time you ask? Well I went to the city on Saturday so that I could get a few books and what not. I did not have much money left and I wanted to pull out some from the bank (the big banks will accept international debit cards here). I went to the first bank, put in my debit card and waited for the prompts to begin. You can imagine how puzzled I was when I discovered that the ATM gave me the following message, "This transaction has been stopped by the ATM." I was so confused! With a funny look I thought that maybe there was something wrong with the machine, so I put my debit card back into the machine. I received the same message. I was about to attempt to do that for a third time when the guard stopped me and told me that if I got it wrong the third time the machine would eat up my card and would not give it back. I was so happy that he told me that, or else I wouldn't even have a bank card! So off I went to four banks, all of the machines giving me the same message. Finally one of the tellers told me that I needed to go to a bank that served Master Card. I went to the correct bank.

Standing at Stanbic I thought that this would be the time that I got money. I eagerly put my card into the machine. It asked me my pin and how much I wanted to take out. Bingo! Money! Right? Wrong. The ATM told me the same message, "The ATM could not process your transaction". Ok, so I just tried all of the major banks and none of them are accepting my card. Further than that no one in the banks can tell me why my card is not working. Great. I ask the teller if I can speak with the manager. There was one small thing that I forgot when I asked that question; we are in Africa. The manager is not in and no one knows if they are still there for the rest of the day or if they are just in a meeting somewhere. So it turns out that I cannot access my account from anywhere in Uganda.

Time to call my bank and figure out what is wrong. Uh-oh. I am in Uganda, 1-800 numbers are not toll free. Great, I have all of $0.50 CAD on my phone. I borrow my friends phone to quickly call home so that they can call me. It turns out, after 6.5 hours of waiting and more calls than one person should take in a day, that they cannot call me. They try to give me good news, I can call them collect. Ummmm, I don't know how to call collect in Canada never mind Uganda. I walk up to the front counter of a hostel in Uganda and ask the people at the desk, "How do you get the international operator here?". They don't understand. They have never heard of an operator and they do not understand collect calls. Great. Now I am 11714.6 KM away from Toronto and I have like no money. And I thought my day before was bad!

Now it dawns on me, I am in Uganda and with the money I have left, and how long it is going to take to get money I am going to be living off $2-3/day. Sound strangely familiar? I am going to be living on the same income that many people I work with in the community live off of. I can tell you first hand how depressed it can make you. I still feel horrible. My friend has graciously offered to lend me some money for the things that we are doing until I can get some cash. Taking money, all the time. Always asking for things that I want from someone else. It can make me feel even more depressed! It is a reminder every time that I do not have any money. Now I know that my situation is no where near that which the people I work with in the community experience, but it was a very humbling experience. I unfortunately do not have much time left to write this post (I am borrowing money to even get online!). I would have loved to explain how this experience truly affected me but I will have to write more later.

A question to my audience:
Have you ever experienced a time (more than a day) when you have not had any money and had to constantly borrow money for everything you do from a friend? How did it make you feel? Can this tell us something about international aid? Is there another way to help these people without possibly making them feel like a charity case? What are your thoughts?


  1. It was hard to find much information seeing as Google was much less helpful than usual...but I think this should help:
    Dialling 913 in Uganda should send you to an operator that provides international assistance. From my research on Peru, this type of operator should be able to give you a few toll free numbers that you can use to make collect calls to Canada, and using these you should able to call your bank with them accepting the charges.
    Another way to do this, that I have already used myself and found to be fantastic, is call over Skype...however this would require you to have Skype downloaded to the computer you use, a headset, and a high speed internet connection. If you have all of these and a Skype account you can put money on the account and call anyone in Canada over the internet for a very low rate...from Peru to Canada its 2.5 cents a minute.
    Good luck!

  2. Yes, I went on a date once when I was 17 years old. We went to an expensive restaurant in Toronto and we lived in Mississauga. The young gentleman brought enough money to pay for dinner at the expensive restaurant that he brought me to but he did not have enough money to take us home by either GO train, taxi or any other means of transportation. As was the time, women did not pay for dates, so when he finally got up enough nerve to tell me we were stranded downtown I checked my wallet and I had a whole 5 cents. I went to a pay phone and called my parents, collect, and they had to come and pick me up, 40 kim's both ways. They also gave the young gentleman a ride home as well. As of that time, I NEVER leave home without some cash in my wallet.

    Anyways, you have a place to sleep and eat. You will be fine. GMa has your power of attorney and she is going to the bank tomorrow to try to work things out for you. The bank opens at 9:30am so I told her that she can call me if she needs some help talking to the person at the bank because,as you know, I do understand how banks run and what they can and cannot do as I was, once, a bank manager.

    Love you xo

  3. Thank-you David! I'll try that!

    Hahahaha thanks for the story Mom. That made me laugh!

  4. Very insightful... way to turn this into an important learning experience... I'm interested to see what thoughts you have afterward.

    One thing I really dig about The Working Centre is you don't go in to "serve" the "poor people"... you go in to be part of a community. It's about solidarity, not charity.

    You're so smart :o)

  5. Hi Jacquelyn!

    This sounds horribly frustrating. As I was reading I was thinking that I've almost been in tears HERE when I have an unexpected bank problem, even though I know I can just go down the street to the bank. So I can't imagine this day. I hope your days have improved since this post, and the other bad day post.

    Looking forward to reading more!