Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Fairly long day in Quito after being robbed.

This is an email that I sent my parents about today. I was robbed on Saturday night of my entire backpack. Computer, camera, cash, credit cards, passport, pens, all of it.

Temporally, this is out of order. There is more that has happened in the last week. Still, here´s the day.

"So, I just made it back home. Here{s the odyssey.

I take the metrobus (.25$) to the last station north at about 9:15 AM. From the map I think I´m only a few blocks, maybe a kilo away from the embassy. I walk and I walk and I walk. I continually ask passersby (which are scant along the way) if I+ve arrived yet. Each one says really far, really far, bus this bus that. I decide to walk, knowing that by the time I arrive at the Embassy, I´ll look like something the cat dragged in. Ends up being probably about 5 or 6 kilos, and I definately looked haggard and wan.

Arrival is nice, though I´m early and have to wait. In the meantime, I walk down the hill to find a panaderia, thinking bread is probably the thing to grab...cheap, filling, and pretty damn good in fact. Of course, any damn European will bitch and moan about it, waah, the bread in (fill in European country) is so much better. Yada yada yada.

On the way down the hill, I spot a Domino´s Pizza. Fuck it, what can it hurt. By now I´ve decided that the magnetic strip is bullshit, which is backed by the multiple attempts made by the pizza man. Finally, I suggest that he type in the numbers, which he does without problem. He types in the 15 digits, and voila, we´ve got pizza. In fact, we´ve a small salad and bread sticks without the cheese. But you get the point. Okay, so we´re on board. We simply need to request from vendors that they type in the numbers, and we´re in business.

As I eat, which probably wasn´t a pretty sight to see, I´m thinking about the interesting circumstance of my poverty. Most places I cannot even enter, for there is no way in the world they would serve me. These are the small, hole in the wall places with the best Ecuadorian food. Rather, I have to look for the biggest, most heartless, most corporatized, and generally most expensive spots to enter. After miles and miles of road traveling, I´m looking more like I belong in the hole in the wall. Which is where i wanna be in the first damn place.

I head back to Embassy row and am happy to find that I´m third in line (some things went great today). After a few minutes waiting, inside and out, I talk with a nice lady at window 11. I explain the situation, aided by the detail of a sweaty brow, with convincing passion (I imagine). I also try to hide the fact that I´ve just minutes before stuffed my gut with bread and salad, and a free sprite to boot (burps aplenty).

She says that the Embassy is no longer able to provide citizens directly with money. I tell her that I´m pretty close to being able to draw from my AMEX, if I could only use the phone (puppy dog eyes). She connects me and we go through the BofA tree, which I´m convinced rivals that of the family tree of the human race.

Finally, we get to the right lady, and she asks for two small pieces of information. Bank account number and routing number. Lady, I lie, my checkbook was stolen along with everything else. Especially the routing number. She puts me to another lady. Lady two has a little more pep in her step and is game for some investigative work. I resist the urge to call her dick, realizing that her being willing to help might be more fragile than my sanity, which at this point is a chandelier, or perhaps a lovely piece of china, devoid of any food or solutions of course.

Finally, we discover the bank´s routing number. Funny enough, I remember the bank and opening my account, lo these many years ago, because I remember how stupid my dreadlocks (I guess they deserve that name) looked in the picture. Little did I know, nearly ten years later I would still be showing that picture to friends and neighbors.

With this information, we complete the transaction. Done. The card will give me money. I decide that, even if the magnetic strip is junk, I will simply enter the bank for a withdrawal. Ha, winner. Just as I´m thinking this, the nice lady comes back into the room, on the other side of the window, of course. She´s had a nice 30 minute break. We were friends until, when I proclaimed my lack of faith in anyone mentioned above, she responded, "It´ll work. It´s gonna work." I should have gotten her address, just in case it didn´t.

Second order of business, and second hour in the Embassy, I attack the Bank of America debit card issue. I´m trying to get an emergency card or emergency cash, of which you can choose one, sent via DHL or FedEx. We climb the tree again, and finally get issues resolved. At last communication, I´ve chosen to have an emergency debit card sent to me at a DHL office here in Quito. It should, if things go right (ha), arrive on Friday. That would give me instant cash from any cash machine, for a pretty charge of $5 bucks. This is going well.

Finally, the Passport. The office is closed tomorrow and the rest of the week until Monday, in observance of some sort of important date. Who the hell knows these days, anyway? I will arrive on Monday, with necessary documents in hand, photos, police report, etc...and we´ll commence the emergency passport application process. This process can be done in minutes, which means days. Hopefully before the 15th. I got the feeling from the people I spoke with that it wont be a problem to get at least the emergency thing by the 15th. By this point, however, the feeling I get from people is probably about as valuable as the proverbial fart into a windstorm.

Embassy done.

I take a cab, fat and sassy, to the last stop on the line, Rio Coca. The dollar and a half kills me, but a few cents less than the hike did on the way up. Worth it, at the time. From the station, I head back, fatter and sassier, planning to stroll victoriously to the Banco de Guayaquil to get me some dinero. I have decided to do this close to the Hostal so that I´m not carrying half a thousand big ones. By the way, the AMEX withdrawal is a one-time thing. From a buck to five hundred, once. Only once. Guess that settles it.

The ATM at BdeG says, "Sorry, I´m a fucker. Come back in a few minutes, and I´ll tell you the same...but don´t you wanna see for yourself." I go across the street, thinking the largest hurdles have been cleared, and purchase a bottle of water and a 20 cent granadilla (a really nice fruit, similar to passion fruit). I return to the fucker, and he repeats his mantra. I walk down the street to another BdeG. He tells me, "Your card is a shit. It doesn´t care if you eat or if you sleep in the street. It wants me to say ´fuck you.´" Wow, quite direct. Not beating around the bush.

I return to the first BdeG, thinking I´ll just go through the line to fix the problem. Easy, piece of cake stuff, no? No. They can´t make withdrawals on AMEX cards at this branch. "Colón y Reina Victoria."

Back on the metro I go (.25$), headed to where I´ve just returned. I walk for a while and finally find the building, which I actually spotted up in the sky as I exited the Metro. Fancy, maybe the central Quito branch. That´s like Madison Avenue or something. At 5:45 PM, I enter the large bank, just happy that I´m allowed to enter. I speak with a lovely lady who agrees to ask the jefe if my Certificado de Visacion (the only identification I have at the moment) will be sufficient to make such a withdrawal. She returns with good news and a ticket with a waiting number.

Lovely, I´m thinking, this will give me time to reflect, relax, and write a little bit. Besides, the building is nicely air conditioned, which is welcome by me almost any time of the day. After about thirty minutes, the little guard walks around the group of us and proclaims that "the system is off...nationally. No more business today. See you all bright and bushy-tailed in the morning. Deal?"

I walk through the Mariscal, a very touristy spot, yet am unable to find a place that will accept AMEX. Well, there were a couple, but I didn´t really feel like going to Galapagos or buying a tent. Specifically, the Indian restaurant there didn´t accept cards. Crap. Back to the Metro I go (.25), not having enough to make it home by cab. I´m entering the lair of lions, which is to say thieves, who love to lurk on the Metro around dusk, catching people on their cross town sojourn, tired, defensless, unexpecting, white. I want to have a sign that proclaims that "Man, I ain´t got shit." But really.

We make it back. I´m likely aided by the combination of the following in looking more menacing than ever: my musk, my general but powerful and visible filth, my molester glasses, my beard, and the ever present sweat on my brow. No problems.

I decide to try a few more places, knowing now that the solution to all my problems is simply that the vendor type in the entire number of hte card and hit enter a bunch of times. I start at a place that sells rice, beans, fried plantains. Their "machine doesn´t work like that," they say. The next spot tries, but only about half of the numbers. He tells me it doesn´t work. The third place is down, but would literally cost me $20.00 for satisfaction. No dice. How about the supermarket?

No dice. It seems Ecuadorian vendors have a real fear of doing it the old fashion way, which is sort of an interesting thing to think about.

In the time I´ve written this email, which isn´t actually as long as you might think, Don Jose, the jefe of the hostal has, without telling me, cooked me dinner. He´s not much of a cook, but he has just presented me with a huge plate of white rice, topped with some fried egg omelet thing. This is one of those times, I believe, when you just eat the fucking thing. I´m continually impressed by the hearts of those around me who I´ve met. I can only think that maybe this proves I´ve had some positive effect on them.

So, as we stand, we´re getting full of food. We´ve got a trip to BdeG tomorrow morning to try and get the 500 out. I´ve printed a copy of my passport, so that should work better than the Certificado de Visacion. I´ve got about 4 liters of water, all of which I need after today. I also have a plum, two pears, and two tomatoes. So we´re set for the next few meals...though I´m waiting for the splurge.

By 10 o´clock tomorrow morning, I should have money in my pocket. I just hope that by 10:15, it´s still there."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

savor the savage scenario

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