Today was a day to remember. Actually it was the last 24 hours that should go down in history. As Staci mentioned here we were having our first major hiccup and needed a plan, stat but here’s the whole story: The other day Swim was preparing to visit the local Belize Bank ATM to get some much needed cash. We needed enough money to pay for the ferry to get to the Belize immigration center, get a 30 day extension on our visa and pay the second month’s rent on our cabana because credit card use in Belize is not as common as in the United States. And we needed to do all of these things within the next 48 hours.
Only one problem. Our debit card was nowhere to be found. At least it wasn’t in the place in normally put it. We tore our little cabana apart searching high and low for the precious card. We found nothing.
After thoroughly examining every possible hiding place that the card could be in, only one place remained – in the ATM. Swim suddenly remembered that he accidentally left the debit card we now desperately needed in the ATM from the last time we needed cash. That was over a week ago. It was way past 5:00pm and the banks were definitely closed (all banks in Placencia are closed by 3:00pm) so we could not go to the bank to see if they still had the card until the next day.
TICK, TICK, TICK….BOOM
The next morning we are at the bank hoping they still have the debit card on site, eager to release it to their rightful owners. After handing over Swim’s passport and waiting a few minutes the teller says the card has traveled to Belize City where it is waiting to be sent to our address in the U.S. But wait! There’s hope. The good news is that the card will be immediately sent back to the bank in Placencia and should arrive in six days. FIVE DAYS TO LATE. We have 30 hours until we need to get a visa extension and the landlord will be knocking on our door any moment for the rent. We simply do not have six days to spare.
The clock, meanwhile, is still ticking. We both know everything will work out fine, but holy crap we are getting stressed. Thankfully Staci has a debit card too so it should not be a big deal to get money using her card, right? Only one problem. No, Staci has not lost her debit card; it’s right there in her purse except she hasn’t used her debit card PIN code since getting the card over two years ago.
So to recap: we have a card but don’t know the pin and we have a pin but don’t have the card. In the words of Charlie Brown, “Good Grief”. In an act of desperation we try every possible PIN combination that Staci sorta kinda remembers might be the PIN number for Staci’s card at the ATM until it reports it as stolen. Do you know what happens if your card gets reported stolen while it’s in an ATM? It gets eaten by the machine! So we now have no debit cards in our possession. We immediately tell the bank staff (who by now must be thinking these two Americas can’t remember crap) the situation and they say we can return later that day to pick up the card. But with no PIN to the card they might as well keep it.
So now neither one of us has easy access to cash and we have to catch a boat in like two hours to get a freakin’ visa stamp. We return back to our cabana to think about what to do. We turn to Western Union to see if they could offer us a solution, fast. We decide to try sending ourselves money to the local bank and picking it up “within minutes” as the website states to ease our worry. The process doesn’t take very long and since Staci remembers her 16 digit credit card by heart (ironic since she doesn’t know her 4 digit pin) we hit the process button so we can pick up our cash in time to catch our boat. Western Union appears to have made the process easy and painless (minus the insane $51 charge to send money to ourselves).We think we are out of the woods.
What could go wrong now?
We were super excited about the process because Western Union says you are able to have your cash mere minutes after processing the transaction, but we are Swim and Staci and nothing is going to happen that easy for us today. We immediately received a message stating that the money transfer is being put on hold until further notice while the transaction is being reviewed and we will be notified by 5:00 local time if the money will be available to us. YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME, we both screamed.
Remember how Staci’s card was reported stolen and sucked back into the ATM? Apparently that put a “red flag” on the card thus preventing us from getting money in a jiffy. Frustrated, we decide we really needed lunch and head to Barefoot Bar in the village. Thank goodness for our credit card (which cannot be used to get cash BTW if you’re wondering why we didn’t just use it to get money) or we would be starving.
While we’re waiting for lunch we emailed our bank 3,700 miles away to give them the update of what our day has looked like and beg them to unflag our card so we can get some cash. It’s now 11am and we are constantly refreshing our bank email waiting for a reply as we eat our chicken salad sandwich. The frustration of feeling that the situation was now out of our hands was the worst feeling we had since first realizing the card was MIA. Finally we got a reply from the bank. After promising that we have the debit card in our possession and that it was NOT lost or stolen, the nice lady at Seattle Bank worked her magic and unflagged Staci’s card. But we still have to wait for Western Union to approve the transaction and send our money.
We head back to our house wondering how we got in this mess and ways to make sure it doesn’t happen again. Exhausted from a poor night’s sleep and a morning full of worry, we decide a short nap is an order. We are ready for nap time when Swim suggested checking in with Western Union just in case before we close our heavy eye lids. Fearing the worst we check in and we are pleasantly surprised that the money is ready and can be picked up right away from another local bank.
Two steps forward, no steps back. Thank goodness.
Finally, we walk the half-mile to the bank praying nothing more can go wrong. Other than a freakishly long line and a sudden rain storm, nothing else did go wrong. We got our cash and headed home.
All feels well again. We can travel tomorrow to get our visa stamped, and we talked with the landlord earlier in the day about our money problems and he was happy enough to give us another day.
We know things could have been much worse and we feel we learned a lot about planning in advance. While forgetting the debit card in an ATM and waiting until the last second to renew our visas (which was a delicate balance because we didn’t want our Visa to run out before we head back to Seattle in mid-December) may have been slight missteps, the experience definitely taught us a lot about our ability to overcome at least minor struggles in a not-so-familiar place. We like to think it was probably just meant to happen this way.
To celebrate overcoming our first international hiccup, we celebrated by doing what any person would do – we ate chocolate chip ice cream. Yumm!