So the first day I arrived back in Morocco I managed to get my hands on some cash. Great. No need for a bank machine when I had hives and jetlag.
Two days later I needed to get some money prontosaurus because my sister and niece were arriving and spending would ensue. So off I go to the closest machine in the heat of the day and didn’t I forget my PIN number. Now I knew I had it recorded in a super secret place in my phone and as soon as I looked at I thought ….”Nope. One number is wrong. Don’t know which one but it’s not right.” So I tried the one I had recorded and my card disappeared. Inside the bank I trundle, freshly back from months of not even discussing language of any kind, and I try to use groggy hand signals to tell the person that I was not only hot, tired and in a hurry, but I needed my card back. The security guard gives it to me and they mutter something about the machine being out of order. Not my card – the machine. Well, no way in hell am I going to be using that machine with my Canadian card which I protect with my life. So I race back to my home, and forget getting cash until later. Bank machines are not close together here so it was a mission in the opposite direction I was not willing to undertake.
I spend the next few days using money that I retrieved from my Canadian account. Now, it should be noted that I had panicked right before I left Canada and transferred a boat load of cash to Morocco. I can’t remember why now. Maybe I was drunk. So now I have dwindling precious Canadian funds – which I need for western payments, and this sac of cash of Morocco that I can’t get to. ACK.
Fast forward to the trip back from Essaouira on Monday of this week. We stopped to use the toilet on the outskirts of Marrakech in a suburb called Massira. The girls got out and went inside a cafe, I crossed to the Societe Generale and tried to get some cash. My card is taken. It’s Monday but it’s also a holiday of some unnamed origin and the bank is closed.
I return to the van defeated and make a note to work this out later.
Later came on Thursday when I happened by my branch in Gueliz. I went inside and went straight past the tellers to the managers offices which is where I typically end up conducting all my business. There is usually a man there that speaks English and helps me out. He opened my account at the start and he knows I have a Moroccan protector so I am happy to work with him. He’s very professional. But not there. So I sit with a female manager who says “yah, no, you have to go to Massira to get your card,” to which I reply, “can you call them to see if they can return it?”
She does. And she is pretty put out by it I might add. She calls and it takes time and she sighs a lot and whatever. She finally gets off the phone and she says “yah, no, you have to go to Massira to get your card. But they have it there. See the man wearing glasses,” and she points to her own glasses to be super clear I understand.
Friday arrives and I pack up my things and head off to Massira. I had a small breakfast but I really wasn’t very hungry because its hot. You know that kind of heat that builds up after a long hot summer and you wonder if the leftover heat doesn’t add 5 degrees or so. I’m up for the adventure though. Just take it in steps and go.
I walk out to the street I live near, of which I still don’t know the name, and after a few failed attempts I get a nice taxi. There is an old man driving and a younger fellow in the front seat. I say “Bheeti n mshee Massira” (take me to Massira) and the young fellow says “Sure, get in” like he’s the boss. Well maybe he is the boss, or the translator, I don’t know but he never got out of the taxi while I was there.
So off we head to Massira. It takes about 20 minutes. We stop along the way and there is a long talk with a Moroccan woman and mention of a pool of some sort. Hands wave and things are said, and then she gets in. So I skooch to the other side and off we go. She gets out and the older man looks back at me and says words. I take it to mean “settle down whitey we haven’t forgotten you.” A few more minutes pass and we arrive. The meter reads 16.32 dirham which is $2.13. I hand him a 20 and tell him “safi” (that’s it – keep the change). A 20 minute ride for $2.62 is my pleasure.
I head on over to the bank, walk in, and who is there in the managers office, wearing glasses as promised, but the man from my branch in Gueliz that was missing yesterday. He’s been transferred. I offer the appropriate greeting, he searches for my card, I hand over my passport, and then he says…….”I recognized your name on the card, and I was prepared to send it back to Gueliz, but when Majda call-ED yesterday, I kept it here.” REALLY. Good call you and Majda made on my behalf to keep it here and have me run all over town looking for the card.
“I need to change my PIN number,” I said. “Can you show me how?” Because in Canada you go to the ATM and bam, done. No, no, no. “You will have to go to your branch in Gueliz and ask them to send you a new one. It has been cancelled. There is no other way.” REALLY? Because I think the other way would be for the girl to have requested the new PIN when I was in her office yesterday and then to have requested you send the card back to the branch. Or one of those choices, or the other. See! PLENTY of other ways.
“Ok, well can I take money out at your teller then, so I have some cash to get back to Gueliz, and maybe a little lunch. Running low buddy.”
He says, “you can but it will take much time because they have to FAX your branch to ask for permission to give you the money.”
Now its pushing 3:00 ish on a Friday afternoon. I’m in Massira. I know I need to hightail ‘er back to the bank to get cash. Its a weekend and I need cash because I really can’t take any more from Canada when I have that cash earmarked for a payment next week, and I have all this cash in Morocco that I can’t seem to access. And I’m hungry now. And thirsty. Like sit on the side of the road and cry hungry.
I cross the road. At this intersection there is a giant rompah (round about in English, rond point in French). (Showing off now). I cross the giant intersection and spot the line of taxis on the other side. Shit. It’s a Grand taxi stand. This means I either play the game or I walk for several hundred meters in a different direction to hopefully avoid this. “I’ll play Bob”. I walk over and there is a man standing to one side on his phone and several others sitting under a tree. I hear “Bab Doukala. Bab Doukala.” (A destination I am not going to). I say “La, Gueliz.” He points at the open door of a small (please note this adjective) car/van. There is one woman in the front seat. And we wait.
This goes on for about 5 minutes. The “pssst, Bab Doukala” to every passer by. This is not a highly foot trafficked area so I feel defeated. Long story short, I got out of the cab and into a shady spot, waited, and in short order they had collected 7 (SEVEN) people to go to Bab Doukala. I get in the geographical center of this vehicle. He had initially pulled down the seats to indicate that two people needed to crawl in to the back and I stepped away and said No. Not doing it. Not today folks.
We start moving and this crazy game of coin toss or find the pea or “I give it to you, you hand it to him, she gets one, you take this” takes place all around me and I realize it’s not a magic show – we have to pay up front. To the lady beside me – “how much?” She has headphones on and those have to come off and she’s annoyed, so the man I’m trying so hard to ignore on my right says “5 dirham.” I pay my $0.65 and not another word is spoken until I get out.
Now of course this taxi is going to Bab Doukala so whether I like it not, pay more or not, I am dropped on the far end of the main strip from my bank. It’s now around 3:35 and I need to get to the bank. I could waste 15 minutes trying to get a cab that will not charge me 20 dirhams in this high tourist area for a 3 minute ride, or I can just walk the 7 minutes to the end. Worked out that I was able to make a stop and get the baking soda that I need to clean my drain (which you can only get in para pharmacies here – not grocery stores, not a pharmacy but a PARA pharmacy. And I arrive at the bank, starving, hot and thirsty.
Now I have to stand outside this woman’s office for 10 minutes. She finally takes me in and this is what happens. I hand over the card that I spend an hour retrieving. I hand over my passport, she fills out a form, I sign it. “Ok, please come back here next Thursday with this form and I will give your PIN number.”
THEN I go and stand in line at the tellers for another 13 minutes waiting to give him….no not my bank card, its only for the machines, but my passport, and the little card with my account handwritten on it (don’t lose THAT piece of paper).
I pop next door for lunch / dinner. And now I’m home. Flush with cash and a new PIN number coming on a boat from Turkey apparently.
And you wonder what I do all day to pass the time……