Tuesday, September 1, 2009

I already had to be rescued by a Marine

On Sunday, the day before I was leaving for Garm, I went to the ATM to get money out for rent for my hotel in Garm and for living for two months. There is no ATM in Garm so I knew that I would need to take enough cash with me. I also needed to get money out to pay for the rent at the hotel in Dushanbe. I had about $150 in USD and like 100 Tajik Somoni and that wouldn't be enough to pay for much of anything.

My plan was to go to the ATM at the embassy, but the person who was supposed to go with me suggested that I try the Hyatt ATM first. I needed to go to the Hyatt anyway to charge the battery in my laptop. I already burnt my external speakers with a 220 volt charge and when I went to plug in my laptop to the outlet a huge spark flew out of the socket. I figured the Hyatt wouldn't let foreigners burn up their electronics.

I digress. So the ATMs at the Hyatt dispense U.S. dollars and Tajik somoni. I went back and forth between the two ATMs taking out the max allowable for those machines. I managed to get out $500 USD but I needed $1000 and I needed MORE money to pay for the hotel in Dushanbe. The machines all of a sudden said something about insufficient funds and wouldn't dispense any more money in USD or Tajik somoni. I KNEW that the insufficient funds weren't on my end so I thought I had emptied the cash machine. I was about to get frustrated because I had a cell phone but it wouldn't be working for like 3 days (don't ask) and I couldn't make a call. Just then, Robert, one my JAG dads walked into the lobby where I was. I explained to him what I was trying to do and at that point another guy walked up, someone I hadn't met before. He was a young man named Christian and was with my JAG dads. He suggested I call my bank in the U.S. because they might have a limit on the amount of money I can take out every day. I never thought about that. I told him my phone didn't work and he offered to let me use his cell phone. I kept getting a busy signal every time I tried to call the 'outside the U.S.' number. Christian also tried and also tried the 'in the U.S.' number and neither one of them were useful. I asked if I could use the internet somewhere because I could probably get another number for international calls from there. Christian offered to let me use his internet and laptop, too, to get some information. I couldn't find anything online so I asked if I could use his cell phone to call my mom in the U.S. and see if she could call the bank and then send me an e-mail. It was about 6 a.m. on Sunday morning in Florida but the number on the card said it was 24 hour service. I called my mom and it was so good to hear her voice! I told her my situation and she said she would call and send me an e-mail. I didn't hear back from her for about 20 minutes so I called her again (using Christian's phone and who knows how much that cost!) My mom said that the number she called was only if my card was lost or stolen and she would have to call back on Monday morning at 9 a.m. *sigh* I was leaving for Garm on Monday morning at 6 a.m. (not to mention that I'm 9 hours ahead of Florida). I called my Tajik contact to see if we could leave later on Monday or on Tuesday. She said she couldn't make that decision and I would have to call my CAO from the embassy. My CAO said that we had to leave at 6 a.m. So I called my local Tajik contact again and asked her to call someone in Garm to see if I could get a cash advance on my credit card at a bank in Garm. It turns out there are about 10 banks in Garm and cash advances are not possible. Then she told me that I could pay $250 at the beginning of the month and $250 at the end, so I don't need all the cash up front. AND she said Firdavs, the director of my program, goes to Dushanbe twice a month so I can ride with him next time and get some more cash.

I was so gratful that Christian was there and offered to let me use his resources. I'm not a diplomat or an official so I don't get very many perks. I have to go somewhere like the Hyatt and just hope that there are any guests there! Christian let me use his cell phone to call my mom, his hotel phone to make local calls, his internet, and he gave me a English-Tajik dictionary for Garm AND he hooked me up with another shape shifter for my electronics. I wasn't expecting to get so much help and I'm thankful for his generosity.

Crazy and frustrating things like this happen to me whenever I leave the U.S. and I wonder how I get by. Then I remember good people like Chrisitian, Robert, and Steve and thank God that there are still good people out there in this world and that somehow I found them in Tajikistan.

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