Monday, April 14, 2008


We need to open a bank account here. Try as we might, electronic life doesn’t cover that much in a cash-based society. Trying to be a loyal Citibank customer, I inquired about a local account. They responded:
Thank you for your recent message regarding Financial Centers located in your area. The branches we have in Africa are located in Egypt in several different areas. Theses locations are Azarita, Dokki, Garden City, Giza, Heliopolis, Maadi, Mohandessin, and Zamalek. You would need to go to theses branches to further discuss opening an account with them…

While indeed on the same continent, Tanzania to Egypt is about 2,600 miles. Citibank must not incorporate geography in its customer service training.

To open an account at Barclays, we needed a letter of reference attesting to our character and residency visas. I wrote a glowing character reference (something like “uniquely gifted and outstandingly honest”), emailed it to Hillary, who had one of her subordinates sign it, attesting to her boss’s character.

We just received the residency visas. A quick aside – Hillary is treading lightly on asking me to do any shopping or errands during the day as she knows that my ego is a little housewifely-precarious right now. I took Hillary’s work visa and my visa to the bank. The Ministry, however, cares nothing for my ego. My visa has handwritten across the bottom in big block letters, “DEPENDENT HUSBAND”.

Even though it is Barclays, the branch here is a very old fashioned operation. One needs to see the teller for virtually all transactions. We go to Angela to deposit checks. We go to Angela to pay our water bill, to put money into our bar tab at the Yacht Club, and to move money from the dollars account to the shillings account. Angela is often busy talking to her colleagues and I feel badly having to interrupt, sometimes clearing my throat five or six times, before she acknowledges me. Sometimes she’ll get up in the middle of a transaction, suddenly seeming to remember an urgent matter in the back of the office.

I’ll admit my ego is indeed fragile right now. One saving grace is that I don’t have to worry about troubling Angela with yet another task, something burdensome like having to deal with a second monthly paycheck for us.

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