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Entered By: Mark
Entry Date: 2013-06-20 19:03:57
Subject: Summer, Friends and Donkey Deposits

Summer is in full swing here, though technically Honduras started "winter" this month; rainy season is synonymous with winter here. Reynaldo and Cindy both had their graduations this week, Rey from sixth grade (major deal here) and Cindy from Kindgergarten (almost as big). The boys are working most of the day, taking shifts on the weed eater, on the battle that will take until February before a cease fire is signed.

We just said bye to some dear friends, Jake and Caley, and new friends, Zach and Beth. They filled a vital role at the home in our absence. The children love them and we're hoping that some day they will call this place home! (no pressure) Thanks much to all of you, and your world traveling toddlers.

Yesterday I spent about three hours entertaining bank tellers and customer service. I needed to close an account and move it to another bank, after too many mishaps on their part (four misplaced deposits and a debit card that doesn't work). So first stop was the bank that we opened the account at. You would think... that you could close an account in the same place where you opened it. Not so. They said they didn't have enough cash to close accounts, that I needed to go to the main branch. While the trip to the main branch would take another 10 minutes of driving, parking and walking, I wasn't perturbed at this point because of the history of service I've had with this bank. I've always thought of this particular bank, Banco Occidente, as pretty backwards anyway. They opened in 1951 and for all intents and purposes, they remained in that decade.

So I arrive at the main branch ten minutes later, armed with my passport because a Honduran driver's license isn't good enough to handle transactions. I waited in line about 20 minutes, which is a below average wait at just about any bank here. This mainly has to do with so many transactions being performed in paper currency, the face value of which is 95% less than the US Dollar. A lot of bill counting happens, by hand, multiple times per bill.

At the teller, I express to them that I want to close my account. They took it in stride and weren't even curious as to why, which is a bit annoying when you're completely ready, and rehearsed in Spanish, to tell them exactly why. Anyway, the teller and her trainee left for a back office, came back and announced that I had a check deposit that had not cleared yet. I immediately remembered and accepted that fact. I asked them when it would clear. They told me "45 days". "45 days" I asked, just to be clear. "Yes, 45". I asked them if there was a horse carrying my cash from Texas to Honduras, which brought on some grins. They said the check had not cleared yet. After a sigh, I responded by telling them that their bank took the money from my bank two weeks ago (it did). They said the money must be in process. I asked if the horse was somewhere in Mexico, with my cash, though if I had thought to say "donkey" or "turtle", I would have.

So I withdrew everything that had not cleared and walked to the next bank. On a related note, our entire family is in process of becoming "permanent residents", meaning we won't have to re-apply every few years to stay here. This process has thus far taken almost two years. Meanwhile, we haven't been real residents of Honduras since September 2011. So there is a bit of confusion as to where we actually reside, but that's beside the point. Without residency, it is very difficult to anything official here, such as opening new bank accounts.

The next bank verified, that yes, I could not open an account. I pulled out a wad of cash, sighed, feigned counting it and got up to leave, halfway expecting the banker to tell me they could do something since I effectively had a month of operating budget in my hands. That response never came.

At this point I'm very conscious of the fact that I am carrying more cash in my pocket, in town, than some Hondurans make in a year, although we pay a minimum of four Hondurans to work for us, so we have to be a bit liquid. After a ten minute wait in the next bank the account person repeats that I cannot open an account without residency. This time the cash bundle is in her site before I ask, to no avail.

I next visited a cooperative bank (credit union) and told them up front that I have no residency but I did need to make a sizable deposit. They opened an account for me, but the process took about an hour longer than I wanted to spend. She told me that my account had two books, one for deposits, withdrawals, and the other just for deposits. I could not withdraw from the second book until I closed the account. Though I asked her and the teller why I would do that, I never got a satisfactory answer (was hoping for something like "because we'll pay you 30% interest). The only response I got was that I could "borrow" from the second book. In my mind that means that I could pay interest on my own money. They told me the minimum deposit in the deposit only book was $6, so that is what I deposited in that book.

I'm not sure why anyone would bother to read the above mini-drama, and I apologize in advance for taking up a few minutes of your life. Life is weird, and then you die.

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