Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Victoryyyyyy !

Do you know that feeling you get when you are driving along minding your own business and cop pulls up behind you. You get that unreasonable "feeling of guilt" even though you have done nothing wrong, well nothing wrong lately.

In the last 10 years or so I have physically walked into a brick and mortar bank no more than 5 or 6 times. When I do I feel out of my element, a bit of a fish out of water if you will. Strange but true. Well like the police pulling up behind me when I drive it appears that I have that same feeling walking into a bank. With the creepy quietness and all eyes staring someone in here knows something bad I have done... years ago....while in Canada no less... and I am about to be caught. 

Dear Mom, I have never done anything bad in the past so ignore that last statement.

4197.5 very colorful Cordobas
I met Paige for a farewell coffee this morning as she takes that big bird back to cold and snow New Jersey tomorrow. We went to the glorious and without issue ATM so she could get some travel money. Now it was my turn.
I know I am only trying to cash a payroll check but an weird feeling overcomes me. Maybe it was the frowning and very large gun toting security guards that gave me the once over with the magic wand as I walked through the main entrance. Or the Orwellian feeling of being under surveillance by any number of hidden and not so hidden cameras. How about the very confused and quite obvious knowing stares  of  "what is gringo boy doing in here? The tourist banks are downtown. Well I did what any other traveler would do. I put my head down and walked to the teller queue hoping nobody would notice me. Yup, that worked well. I turned to talk to Paige and she was gone! She had bolted for a comfy chair isolated from having anything to do with me. Smart girl that Rutgers grad except we were the only two Gringos within 8 city blocks so you can run but you can not hide Jersey Girl!

Nah, seriously. It was uneventful and I only did one really dumb thing which had to be expected. Normal banking routine. Stand in line and wait for a teller who sits behind what I would assume was bullet proof glass. I hand over my cheque and passport (I hate giving anyone my passport) and noticed her nails were manicured quite nicely with light blue polish. She smiled her bank teller smile and then proceeded to look at the cheque and my passport from various angles. Here is where our hero does his dumb act. She asked me to sign, put my passport number and my address on the back. Easy Peasy. Signature on the signature line, check. She holds up my passport behind the bullet proof but very clean glass partition  so I can see it, passport number, check. Address, no problem (here it comes). I proceeded to confidently write my Canadian address on the back of the check and  with a somewhat cocky push I  slide it back to her. There you go toots! What else you got.

She looks at me with a knowing "you dumbass" look. Do you have an address in Leon she says? As  it in Spanish I need a few seconds to process it and upon doing so realized that a Canadian address on a Nicaraguan paycheck probably would not do. So meekly I said  Una quadra y media Norte de Parque de San Juan. With that knowing smile she leaves her walled world taking my paycheck and passport with her. "Ah man, here is where it all goes down!!" I suddenly think. 

** As an aside, there are no numbers addresses in Nicaragua. My address is what I said "Una quadra y media Norte de Parque de San Juan" or a block and a half north of San Juan Park. The address to the TEFL School is "From San Francisco Church, 2 blocks and 75 meters west". I have no idea how but it works. Mail gets delivered and taxis are always spot on. **

What seems like 10 minutes, but in reality was 1,  my girl comes back and starts chatting with me in a happy friendly manner like I am a real human being. We talk about what I am doing in Leon, how do I like it, have I heard about Montotombo erupting. When she asked me why I was at that bank and not at a tourist bank I told her that I needed to have real world Spanish practice. As the bank is eerily quiet and I most certainly am not, the teller next to my girl either said, "what a great idea, good for you" or she called me a " lost brown turtle". I am not 100% sure really.

I get asked if I want dollars or Cordobas. I say Cordobas because I tell her I would then have to walk to the corner and exchange it with one of the street money men. "They are fine too" she casually mentions. On a personal note the money changers in the street, and there are quite a few, give the bank rate so they are not making money on the exchange. I have used them often and they are unusually polite and friendly. I think that they are paid by the banks directly to exchange American Dollars for Cordobas and at the end of the day give the American dollars to the local banks. There are no transaction records and so a bit of possible laundering takes place. 
Not my Monkey, Not my Circus.

With my cheque cashed and a pocket full of colorful Cordobas I head to the local gringo coffee shop where I buy an overpriced but delicious coffee and a chocolate something or other. I take my treats to the central square where I sit on the steps of the cathedral to enjoy the still cool morning. From there I watch young western back backers staring into their phones oblivious to the world around them (the central park has free WiFi) and  the locals go about their daily business all the while relishing in my banking victory. Not bad for a Lost Brown Turtle.

Thanks for the Inspiration Drama!

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