|Atenas Branch of Banco Nacional de Costa Rica
Okay, I’m moving to a new rental and they need a deposit plus first month’s rent (in other words 2 months rent) which is expected – no problem – except my French Canadian landlord wants it all in U.S. Dollars Cash! After this I can pay my rent online through my local Costa Rica bank online, but not now. So what’s the big deal you ask?
The ATM is called “Cajero Automático” or loosely translated “Automatic Cashier.” They are scattered around town and operate just like in the states except they are more security conscious and have a limit you can get out in one 24 hour period. So to get my new house keys Thursday, I need to make withdrawals on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday from an ATM that gives out only Costa Rica colones of course. Then after my Wednesday afternoon third withdrawal, I take several hundred thousand colones into the bank to have them converted to U.S. Dollars for the next morning event. And another interesting fact is that the largest colones bill is just c20,000, which is about $40 USD. I’m talking about big wads of money needed before I can trade them for $100 bills in dollars. Glad I feel safe and secure here!
I did go inside with the musical chairs trip to a teller and learned I can get the money all at once from my U.S. debit card at a 3% fee which I refused to pay. (I’m beginning to wish now I had paid and gotten it over with!) So I went back outside to the Cajero Automático and got my first of three installments. In the meantime, I told myself that this is crazy when I have a local bank account but still have most of my money in the credit union in Nashville. So I got the form Erik gave me from the credit union to wire a large amount of money to my Costa Rica account. Should have already done this but been busy.
So today after the second installment of cash from the ATM I went inside the bank for a game of musical chairs twice! If you missed my earlier report on the bank, you wait in line for a teller or desk agent by sitting in a row of chairs. When the next person is served you all get up and move over one chair towards the front of the line. Really! (One time I sat in 24 chairs before I got to a teller.) Well, I headed for Ricardo’s desk who supposedly speaks English and helped me open my account. He was at lunch, so I read a chapter in my Happier Than a Billionaire digital book on my phone’s Kindle App while others wondered what I was laughing about. I finally get to Ricardo and he has suddenly forgotten how to speak English. Seriously. This time he only spoke in Spanish and acted like he did not understand what I said in English. I think he misunderstood and thought I wanted to wire the money from the account here and told me I didn’t have enough. But anyway, after a bit of charades and broken Spanish from me, Ricardo sends me across the lobby to another desk where I start the musical chairs game again! I’m only number 3 in line this time, but the customer being served (who looks like a woman prison guard) has some complicated business that takes another 30 minutes while a read a couple more chapters in this book. (I’m taking a break from Lord of the Rings with something lighter and funny about Costa Rica). At least the second customer ahead of me didn’t take very long and I’m up again with another Spanish only person. “Necesito dos números por favor,” pointing to the empty spaces on the form for a Swift Code and an IBAN number. She has to take the wire transfer form back to another office and talk to someone, then returns and asks if the money is going into my colones or dollares account (Yes, I have two accounts here.) which I’m able to answer “dollares.” Then back into the office she goes and returns later with a computer printout of two numbers I can use for the transfer, so next month’s rent can be paid from my local bank account, assuming these numbers work! Whew! Another exciting afternoon! Everything’s an adventure!
But you know what? I’m learning the systems around here and even though it may not sound like it, life is simpler, more relaxed, and much more spontaneous. The birds are singing happier today it seems, maybe because of the rain. And a flock of squawking parrots just flew over! What a place!
It is also cooler since Sunday’s first rain of the season. It looked like more rain today (Tuesday) but hasn’t happened yet. And today’s laundry is already dry! 🙂 Hey! By Thursday I’ll have an electric dryer! Let it rain!
More adventures to come! 🙂