Wallet Full of Benjamins
Trip Start Aug 25, 2010
286Trip End Jun 29, 2011
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Our student helper, Wu Yue, is more than competent and has a good sense of humor, but he's afraid to push too hard, which is why I couldn't send my books home the first time I went to the post-office. The postman told Wu Yue that because there can be problems at customs when sending books, I shouldn't attempt it. I told Wu Yue I didn't care and wanted to send the books anyway, but somehow, in the end, I wasn't allowed.
Yinchen's mom's tactic is just to keep talking at people until they're so flustered they can't help but agree to anything she asks. She's truly amazing and I'm not being ironic or making fun. She gets things done and she's as sweet and generous as can be.
After the post-office, Sam and I had lunch at our favorite chao mian stall for the last time. The noodles were as delicious as ever.
We rested in our rooms for a while then went to the bank with Wu Yue. We had to convert our cash in yuan to cash in dollars and pounds. My transaction went smoothly and took less than an hour, but Sam had a bit of a problem because he'd left his debit card in an ATM earlier in the day.
Ordinarily, in any other country, this wouldn't have been an issue. Sam could have given his account number to the banker and the banker would have rightfully given him his money.
But in China there's no way to take money out of the bank without a debit card. An account number isn't good enough. Sam left his card in an ATM a few months ago and when he got his new card, the transaction took only 30 minutes. But for some reason, the bankers at the main ICBC branch today said it would take seven days for Sam to get a new card. They said that when people lose debit cards in China, they lose all access to their account for seven days. If it means they have to borrow money from friends, that's just tough.
At one point in the commotion, it seemed as though Sam might have to leave all his money in China and forget about it. Neither he nor I thought it would actually come to that, but the banker hinted at it.
Eventually, the bankers at our bank, ICBC, told Sam he could go back to the Bank of China where he'd left his debit card in the ATM and ask the bankers to open the machine. This is what he did in the end and after five hours of running around to three different banks, Sam got his money. What a struggle for something so simple. Charles would say, "this is why China will never take over the world," and he'd be right.
For dinner, Sam and I went to our favorite Sichuan restaurant across the front gate for the last time. We had gong bao ji ding, hui guo rou, and ba si xiang jiao. There was a little girl there about two years old who was fascinated with us and spent about ten minutes playing with us. She'd touch her nose, then we'd touch our noses, and she'd fall out laughing. She'd point to the ceiling, then we'd point to the ceiling, and she'd fall out laughing. She liked Sam even better than she liked me and did quite a bit of flirting with him. Sam thinks we may have decided the course of the rest of her life tonight. She might be an interpreter or an English teacher because of our interaction. At the very least, she won't point and stare at foreigners when she's an adult.