14 August 2014

Getting Money(!) | South America 2013

30 December 2013

Now we come to it. For those who have wondered why it's taking me nearly a year to write about my fantastic international vacation, we have come to the answer.

I loathe this story. I don't like thinking about it and I don't want to tell it.

When people ask me how I remember what even happened in South America, I remind them that I took notes. I usually don't tell them that I think about the trip often - because I did have a lot of fun. But every replay brings me to this day - the day I finally got cash. I scowl every time. I know I could skip it. I'm well within my own rules to write "we went to Western Union and I got cash." But that doesn't say anything about what happened. And you can rest assured that something happened.

I sent myself money via Western Union. I took out enough for a week of frivolity. I checked and rechecked the retrieval process. When Monday morning came, I was ready. Ang & I arrived. The line was minimal. I felt really good about the smoothness of the process. I was positive I would be able to support myself through the rest of our trip.

I was refused at the window.

I needed a copy of my passport to leave with Western Union. Fortunately, there was paper shop across the street. I had enough change to get a couple of copies made and was quickly back in line.

I was again refused at the window.

The name of the recipient did not match the name on my passport. I explained to the cashier that - when filling out the form online - there was no box for a middle name. I pointed out that the name of the sender and the recipient were the same, that I had the card used for payment and (again) that I was never prompted to add my middle name.

I was still refused at the window.

The cashier - who was really just doing her job - told me she couldn't release the funds to me. She suggested I go back onto the website and edit my transaction. I told her I didn't have a South American data plan. She directed me to an Internet cafe two blocks away. I told her that I could guarantee no one else with that (my) name would be coming in to the collect the funds. She said they would be refunded if no one claimed them within a month.

I walked away in defeat.

Ang suggested we just leave and get on with our day. My logical brain understood why - no one goes to Argentina to sit inside a Western Union. Too bad my logical brain was otherwise occupied. I was almost speechless. I saw walking away from that Western Union as condemning myself to an interminable lack of resources. I would be incapable of impulse buys - from shoes to bottles of cold water. I would be forced to ask for every little thing. I'd be a child vacationing with a parent instead of an adult experiencing a different part of the world. I knew Ang was annoyed and I didn't begrudge her that annoyance. But I had an opportunity to finally be on vacation and I could not let that go.

I told Ang she could leave, but that I was not giving up on my one chance to get cash. Had our parents heard me, there would have been stern objections. But I couldn't. I had been having a personal crisis with intense imagined severity for two days. I could not continue with that hanging over my head.

I went in search of the supposed Internet cafe, but I never found it. Instead, I happened upon a cafe with WiFi. I tried to move as quickly as possible knowing Ang was waiting, but of course no one else appreciated my agenda.

There is no way - once you send money via Western Union - to retract it. I could not cancel my order. I could not change the name of the recipient. All I could do was send myself another bunch of money.

Of course there were loading errors and the site froze and I didn't have enough bandwidth to download the app. I had to have been gone for a half hour. When I went back to Western Union, it was packed, ร  la DMV. Ang was in line, holding a place for me. The line slowly slithered until it was my turn. I had the same cashier who seemed to be pleased that I was able to work it all out for myself. 

I received cash at the window.

I could have cried. If I weren't so worried about Ang's mood, I probably would have. Instead, I scooped up my cash and turned to finally take in my surroundings. I then realized we had been in the wrong line the whole time. The line for money transfers had remained empty all day. That seemed perfectly fitting. 

Then I went on vacation.