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Published: September 13th 2014
Day two (Thursday) is a long one—three classes starting at 8:00 and finishing at 3:20 with a 2-hour break in the middle of the day. Still very hot and humid and even the locals are commenting on the humidity in particular. I am in the break period in the foreigner’s office, which fortunately is air-conditioned, although it still feels very ‘moist’. Apparently, it will continue like this for another couple of weeks….
Yesterday was “interesting’ as I had more or less run out of cash and I had been trying various ATMs around the city to no avail: I used the ones from last time, which worked fine two years ago but for whatever reason, no luck, no cash.
I thought I would try Western Union transfer to China, but no luck there either—at this point, not sure why. Mary also tried it from her end, but continued to be ‘declined’. Not panicking exactly, but definitely getting edgy…finally, a nice chap from MasterCard called Mary to confirm what and why she was attempting to transfer money to China via Western Union.
It turns out that 80%!o(MISSING)f credit card based wire transactions originating or ending in China are fraudulent, so MC and VISA decline transactions as a matter of routine until they can contact the cardholder—phew! The transfer finally went through and only took a couple of minutes, if that, to actually complete. So that was the easy quick bit…I had figured out that I could pick up the cash at the Post Office Savings Bank of China—great concept—and I had discovered a branch right next to my bus stop, so I went there to pick up the cash on the way home from school.
Apparently this is the commercial branch and was really quiet—quite nice not being elbowed out of the loosely organized ‘line-up’ by a gang of Chines seniors…I was ushered through to the back VIP Office on the Executive Floor into a little room that I would normally associate with dropping off a shipment of (probably illicit) uncut diamonds. I shoved my now sweat-stained piece of paper and Passport through the secure slot to a 13-year old girl who then processed my ‘Application For Conversion Of Foreign Inferior Currency into the Utmost Powerful Money of The Peoples Republic of China’ or some such thing.
After much frowning, whispering, re-checking my documents and consulting (very) superior post office officials, I eventually ended up with my bundle of Yuan, which is currently burning a welcome hole in my pocket.
It went something like this:
‘Please write name’
‘OK—signature or regular name?’
‘Regular name: can’t read signature’
‘Please write phone number’
‘OK-anything else? Gender?’
‘Yes’ (pauses)-looks at me again (prompts)
‘Male’ (as if to be crystal clear)
‘Yes, thanks for that--yes, I knew that…’
And so on…
The really interesting bit is that the ‘secure’ room is also where they keep all the serious money, which two post office minions were sorting stacks into bundles of 100 yuan notes, 200 to a bundle. There must have been at least a million yuan just sitting there waiting to be bundled…it looked like a scene in a drug gangster movie where the rival baddies are counting money using those sorter machine things…I was waiting for Scarface to burst in at any minute complete with slashing machetes and blazing AK-47s…awesome!
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