A Bank Run

When I lived in the US, I liked to use the phrase, "I think I'll just run to the bank."   Now, I sure didn't mean that I was going to physically run.  The phrase meant I'd be taking a quick trip, a few minutes at the most for an ATM or deposit.    I distinctly remember a day where my 'run to the bank' turned into a 15 minute wait behind 2 other cars who were taking their sweet time.   That day, I thought God was teaching me patience.

Yesterday, I learned what it means to be in God's classroom learning patience.

Here in Puerto Lempira, there is one bank.   There are no such thing as ATMs or Debit machines that give cash back after a transaction.   There is a line and 3 cashiers - one for elderly and pregnant women, one for single transaction folks and one for multiple transaction folks.   There is also a business desk, if needed.

Three armed guards stand at the entrance to the bank.   Inside, the bank is tiny, but it is air-conditioned.  Since it is the only place in town with A/C, it feels very different than any other part of Puerto Lempira.

Oh... one more thing,  each person is only allowed to take out $250 max per day, per account.   Now, $250 seems like a sufficient-enough amount, I'm sure.  However, when you have to pay $750 for a 'new requirement' on your VISA application within 2 days, the panic sets in. 

Oh... and I forgot to mention - the line for this bank begins before sun-up and wraps around the bank, and it is longer at the end of the month.

Up to now, Alex found a certain time of day that 'worked' for banking - right before lunch.  He could waltz in and do our banking and waltz out.    But this week, we had Armed Forces Day on Monday and the lines have been horrible each morning and afternoon.

Today, we had no choice.   We both had to go to the bank, wait in line and see if we could each get $250 out with the hopes that tomorrow we could get an additional $250 to total out the $750.  

Leaving my oldest 2 children to homeschool themselves, I headed out with Alex to drop off the little guys and go to the bank.    Alex left me in the line at 8:00, the bank opened at 9:00.   I was 10th in line and fairly certain that I'd just landed us a quick hour trip to the bank, followed by a nice, leisurely stop at the gringo store for a Dr. Pepper.

Around 8:30 a.m., the guards arrived, along with the employees.   All of the sudden, the line became 3 times as long as what seemed like 30 people rushed up to 'claim' their places in line in front of me.   I was trying not to 'be the gringa' and, while not smiling, I did at least limit my comments to 'Horible' (horrible) muttered under my breath.    My dreams of a can of DP began to collapse.

Alex arrived and we laughed a bit about the commotion and decided to enjoy our time together by purchasing a newspaper and hanging out standing together in line.   Oh... one more thing.   Entrepreneurial kids go early in the morning and stand in line hoping to sell their place in line to the highest bidder.  So, amongst all of us stinky, sweaty adults, there are interspersed children of various ages.

About 30 minutes later, we had moved up to the point we were just about to be 'inside the bank.'   As I'm leisurely reading about the 'social circles' in Tegus, we get a call from the boys' school... Adam has thrown up all over himself and friends.   Really?   Today?

Thankfully, we heard our friend and administrator at the House of Hope, Osiris, drive up on his motorcycle.  Osiris knows everyone in town and jokes that the people at the bank know it is 'his bank' and he can get in when others cannot.  We hear him trying to persuade the guard that he must go in right then.  The guard is having none of it.    Osiris turns to us to ask us to do his banking for him.   Hmmmmm.   As luck would have it, Osiris' daughter goes to the same school as our boys.  So, a bargain is struck.    We will do his banking and he can pick up Adam, deliver him back to the House of Hope and get him settled in his bed.

Two HOURS later at 11:00 a.m., we emerge from the bank.   So, a total of THREE HOURS at the bank.   One beautiful thing... we were able to use 3 different cards and get all of the needed money out at once, so we don't have to go back tomorrow; unless, of course, we are just gluttons for this type of punishment.

While this situation was frustrating to me, I will admit to feeling immensely sorry for the people who live here and do this regularly.   It is the ordinary person who also waits 3 hours or more to do his or her banking.    Month in, month out.

The Miskito people are much more patient than me, right now.  But, perhaps, after God is through with me, I'll be more like them!


Holly (me.) said…
Eesh. I am grinning at the idea of my impatience with my much-shorter errands around Pleasant Suburb. Ah. Your shared experiences are adding much that is good to my own perspective.
Laurie said…
It's not better in Tegucigalpa. We have lots of banks and lots of lines. One can grow old in line at the bank. And Comayagua? Lines wrapping outside like yours. The problems is that banks serve as payment centers for cable, telephone, electricity, cell phone plans and even car taxes due every year. And then all of the people who get remittances from the States are there too. I pity the tellers who have to learn all of those systems.

Glad you got your money. Welcome to the land of adventure!
The Herd said…
Russia was known for lines...makes me smile to read your comparison patient stories...such perspective! Thanks for keeping our eyes on the Lord and His character!

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