Transferring Money By Myself

I had talked about my multiple attempts to transfer money from China to the US. Now I was going to try the “easy” way.

Setting Up Online Banking

Our coordinator (who had convinced me that transferring money would be easier and cheaper if I did it online) took me to the bank because each time I had tried to set up my online banking the page opened in Chinese, stopped working a few minutes later, or didn’t open at all. Once inside, the coordinator spoke in Chinese to one of the tellers who was texting, the other one was having a conversation on the phone, but they both were “helping” me set up my online account. They didn’t invite us to sit at an office, we were all standing at one of the counters, cell phone in one hand, and a kind of pager they gave me in the other hand. Clients came, they talked to them, then came back to the coordinator, who at the same time, gave me the short version of what they were asking. “Enter your password,” which I had to do about 12 times, then check for a message from the bank on my phone, enter that pin, and the numbers they sent to the pager. They warned me I needed my phone and the pager every time I wanted to make an online transfer . They logged out and asked me to log in. And it worked! But everything was in Chinese. The coordinator said I could change it into English and do my transfers online from now on. “So I don’t need to come back to the bank!” I said excitedly.

-No, you still need to come to buy dollars.

-And how much can I buy at once?

-$500.

“Then this was a waste of time. I’ll still need to come to the bank twice before I can send money to the US, by then it will be at least the 12th of the month and the transaction takes 3 to 4 days!” I almost yelled. “Yes, but you won’t have to pay as much and you won’t need a Chinese teacher to come with you!” The coordinator almost yelled back.

It was the 10th of the month so I told them I needed to buy the first 500 dollars immediately. “You don’t have enough funds.” “But it’s the 10th! The school has to deposit our salary on the 10th!” The coordinator said they would make the deposit later that day.

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The First Transaction

Saturday afternoon I went to the bank to buy the first U$500 with a feeling of independence, knowing I wouldn’t need any help or intrusion again. I filled out the two forms they gave me, then sat in front of the clerk’s window, gave her the forms, passport, and bank card. She grabbed everything together, wrinkled the forms, folded my passport, then tossed everything in front of her. I swallowed. That’s my passport. She reviewed every page for a long time, opened my passport, the American page… the Chinese visa… and tossed it again. “Sorry, again this paper, please.” She gave me back one of the forms. When I gave her the forms back, she didn’t shred the old one, just tore it up in half. She kept looking at my passport, her computer screen, and occasionally talked to another teller. “You changed your passport?” She asked.

“No this is the only passport I’ve had.”

“You renewed your passport recently maybe?”

“No, this is my only American passport, never changed it, never renewed it.”

“Sorry, there is problem. Please go next teller.”

The Next Teller

The female client seated at the next counter was open-mouth chomping her lunch hard while watching a loud video on her cell phone, no earphones. The client that had the next number stood quickly in front of me and I moved to the side anticipating a fight. Fortunately, her number began flashing on the other window and I could have access to the teller who repeated the sequence. Looked at my passport, turned the pages, looked at the screen… In the end, the purchase of the first 500 dollars was successful. I left. Tired.

The Second Transaction

Our coordinator let me go to the bank on Monday morning. I arrived twenty minutes before they opened. I was alone standing at the bank gate when the bank’s armored truck parked in front of me. After they were inside for a few minutes I risked to enter, but one of the tellers told me to wait until the guards finished unloading the money. They left and three more people came and stood behind me. I appreciated them respecting me being there first, until the woman who was second stepped inside the bank. I yelled, “Hey, I was here first!” She stepped back, but stood in front of me. I looked at her and told her again, “I was here first!” signaling to stand behind me with my left thumb. She nodded, but didn’t move. Immediately after we got the green light, she rushed to the ticket machine, printed ticket number one, gave me ticket number two, and sat down! I was astonished! How did she dare!? I wish I knew the Chinese words to tell her to f#@&#$ herself!! But, I don’t curse, so I’m glad I know so little Mandarin right now. For a moment I thought, they’d open at least two windows so we’d make our respective transactions at the same time. But they only opened one. She went first, and she had a big withdrawal to make. I saw the packages of money being given to her and I was seeing red because I couldn’t believe this woman had cut in front of me so “smoothly.” My turn came twenty minutes later. I could buy the $500, but I was furious.  I went to the gym and after that, I needed a little retail therapy.

The Transfer

I opened the bank’s website, but as in previous attempts, it closed a few minutes later. I was using my VPN (the one I need to make my internet access private and be able to open Yahoo and Facebook), but since it was a Chinese site I decided to open it without the VPN, and it worked, but it didn’t accept my address, ergo, I couldn’t make the transfer. I asked our coordinator for help, she changed the language to Chinese and started to type, which made me feel I had lost control again. It didn’t work for her either. I had to make 162 progress reports, print them, and sign them, I really didn’t have time for her to try, and try unsuccessfully. I told her to stop though she truly wanted to help, but it was precious time I didn’t have.

I went back to the bank with my laptop. I was standing when one teller opened the site for me. The other tellers came by the bucketload to see what she was doing, comment and laugh among them. Another client came, he started making his transaction, I moved my computer to the side so this client wouldn’t see my information, but the teller didn’t catch on that as she even showed this client that she was trying to do my transfer. I was transpiring and breathing fast. The lack of privacy in China is unbelievable.

The transfer was done, but the fee was the same as if I had made two transactions. In other words, having online banking is worth nothing, I went to the bank 4 times, wasted money and time, stressed out… Why on Earth would my coordinator tell me it would be cheaper and easier?

This is too much. I need to go back to work now, but this weekend, more retail therapy it is!

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Homesick But Making Progress

When you are planning to leave your home to”see the world” and have all those experiences you believed you’ve dreamed of, but couldn’t achieve because of age, inexperience, budget, and various excuses, you are not really thinking about what you are leaving behind for an entire year.

Loneliness

Suddenly after all the excitement settles in, your routine bores you to death, and you need a friend, you realize you are in a city of 7 million people and you are a part of the very tiny small percentage of foreigners who looks like a giant, is too dark, speaks strangely, and acts in a ridiculously different way… The whole sky opens up, you fall down on your knees with arms wide open and scream, “What am I doing here!!??”

Friends

In China people take pictures of you wherever you go, but they don’t pursue your friendship, they only want to post on social media that they’ve seen a Laowai (foreigner).

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Goofing around with Hussam and Darcie

I developed a good friendship with two foreigners though, but one of them had to leave because his visa expired. Now, with my only close friend, our schedules rarely match and finding time to spend with each other sometimes becomes as painful as not having my friends from Charlotte nearby. Speaking of schedules, she will be flying to her vacation for 6 weeks soon, while I’ll have to work because my break comes much later and shorter. I’m going to have a long hiatus to… meditate perhaps?

Boomer

Oh my dog! How much I have cried for my faithful companion. It seemed so unreal to say goodbye that rainy morning in NY when God found him the most fabulous family in the world. But as fabulous as they are my heart broke in small pieces when I kissed Boomer’s little face for the last time. I lied down depressed for weeks, and I still cry when I see him in pictures. He looks… sad, disconcerted… Or it’s because I see him with mother’s eyes and wish I had telepathic powers to let him know how much I still love him. Not having him with me torments me at times.

Church

At least during the first month I was trying to find a place of worship. I had read that people don’t talk about religion in China so I tried to be cautious; until I saw a post on WeChat. One of the Chinese teachers posted something about Jesus. It was in Mandarin, but the picture accompanying text was pretty clear. I looked for her during lunch. She said she attended services in Mandarin, but told me other teachers went to an international church. That was such great news!! I met with one of the teachers at the mall close to us on a Sunday, we rode the bus for a while, then the train for another long while. It took us about two hours to get there. Wow… In Charlotte it was so easy to jump in the car and drive to the morning service. It usually took me 10-15 minutes. How much do I appreciate to be able to worship in a communist country though. I had heard terrible stories, but so far we  have been able to have fellowship in peace here. Amen!

The Art Circle Starts to Open Up

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Cavon Ahangarzadeh -ISN Head of School

In Charlotte, NC life was accelerated. One event after another, poetry readings, commissioned poems, fashion shows , every week there was so much to do, visit, perform, party, celebrate with friends, awesome friends everywhere… In China I came to a full stop. Zero. Nada. Nichts! Nevertheless, I started small, showing part of my heritage first, dancing cumbia during a festival at school. Then donated my books In the Prism of Your Soul and The Fragrance of Water to the International School library.

After about 2 months I created my own event. I had to! Like a fish has to swim! People came to my apartment to listen to my poetry and one of the attendees delighted us with Navajo chants! I felt so alive! At the same time the Mint Museum of Charlotte asked me to send them a video reading one of my poems to celebrate Candle Day! I’m so thankful with Rubie Britt Height and Claudia Soria for making me feel I’m still part of the artsy life back home.

Shortly after my event I was introduced to a Kenyan art teacher, we have to meet yet again to plan a collaboration, and I found a lovely couple which performs at the Shangri-La Hotel weekly. I was reading about them on Ningbo Focus Magazine where I learned Diane is Colombian (Yay!!!) and Vladimir is from Bulgaria. I contacted her immediately and we have been corresponding since. I’ve even asked her if they would let me share some of my poetry during one of their performances… Let’s see what happens 😉

I’ll be back home soon, changed by this experience, maybe wiser, but definitely much more thankful and appreciative. I promise never again take anything for granted. I love my friends and family more than ever now that I don’t have immediate access to them. Distance puts everything into perspective…

The thing I’ve learned about watching artists is that they’re willing to indulge following what’s interesting without knowing where is going to lead. They trust that is going to lead somewhere and even if in that day or that week or that month it doesn’t get interesting they have this, ‘It’s going to get me somewhere interesting’ ~Vicky Taylor, Anthropologist