Yesterday I went to pay for the computers that we just received and I think this experience can really express how ridiculous things can be here.
So the money that we collected from all of you generous people in the U.S. came to 18,000,000 shillings and Peace Corps deposited it directly into my Peace Corps bank account (which is how they give me my monthly living allowance). The computer store gave me two options for getting them this money. I could pay by check or cash and seeing as I don’t have a check book for this account, I had to pay by cash. So yesterday I went to the bank to withdraw the money to go pay them. Before I went into the bank I went to the ATM to check my account balance. I knew there would be a fee for withdrawing that much money and I just wanted to have an accurate record of how much money I had in the account beforehand. After that basically I walked into the bank, filled out a withdraw slip and stood in line waiting for an available teller. When I got up to the teller I gave her the withdraw slip and after plugging in a few numbers in the computer she asked for ID. The only ID I had on me was my Peace Corps ID, which is the most unofficial ID you can have. Anyone with a printer and a laminating machine can make one. She promptly made a copy of my ID and started counting money. There were no questions asked and before I knew it I was walking out of the bank with 18,000,000 shillings in my purse, which is the equivalent of about $7200. To put this a little bit in perspective, she gave me the money in 50,000 shilling notes, so there were 360 50,000 shilling bills. Upon finishing the transaction I asked the teller if I could get a receipt. I knew how much money I had in my account prior to the withdraw and I wanted a current account balance. She told me that I don’t get one (go figure!). So in order to get the current account balance I had to go back to the ATM and check my account balance again. It turns out the bank only charged me 35,000 shillings to withdraw 18,000,000 (not bad). Once I sorted all that out I walked down the street to the computer store.
The store is rather small and the man who owns/manages it has a desk that he sits at right in the store front. So I went into the store and everyone in there knew who I was, so I sat down in a chair next to the manager’s desk. I told him I had the money to pay him and I proceeded to dump the wads of cash out of my purse. As he sat there and counted it he had one of the other employees go get us sodas. I guess when you bring them $7200 cash you get a complimentary soda. Nonetheless after he counted the money and wrote me a receipt, I went on my way as if nothing ever happened.
It just blows my mind that this is the way we have to do business here. These people really need to get more up-to-date with credit cards or something. This economy is never going to grow if you have to carry around wads of cash in your purse in order to make a large transaction.