Sunday, July 26, 2009

Fingers Crossed

One of the last things that I had to take care of before leaving Cuenca was getting my last paycheck, paying my host family for July, and closing my bank account. I started asking my director in my department a couple of months ago to help me get my last paycheck early. It was tough at first, but she was finally on board to help out. I had to continually check in with the secretary, but she always reassured me that I'd be paid early on the 15th of this month. The 15th came and went, and still I was unpaid.

I went down to the university and asked what happened, and she calmly explained that they couldn't pay me early, and that I'd be paid on the 20th. The 20th came and went, and still I was unpaid. Again, I went down and complained, and the secretary told me that the money would be in my account the next morning. But I was beginning to see that she had no idea what she was talking about and would say anything to get rid of me.

So on Friday the 25th, with still no money in my account, I decided to do something about it myself. It would be impossible for me to close my account, and I didn't want to forfeit my last paycheck and pay out of pocket. So instead, I offered to transfer over the bank account to my friend Jamie. Jamie is going to stay in Ecuador for another year or so, and she has citizenship here, so it wouldn't be too difficult to arrange it. We went into the bank on Friday morning and asked how to do it.

Surprisingly, the woman at the bank was extremely helpful--maybe the most helpful person I've met in this country so far. She helped us figure out the paperwork and told us everything we had to do, which was nothing more than make some photocopies of our identification and hand in a copy of some bills. Then we signed about 10 different papers and Jamie was added as a co-signer on my account. The idea of this is that in the event that the university didn't pay me until I'd already left the country, Jamie would be able to withdraw the money for me and then transfer it to me, either in my American bank account or through a money transfer. And once all of that money was withdrawn, the account would be left for her to use.

After we figured out the bank account situation, we went down to the university and I went to the financial office. They tried to tell me that I couldn't be paid early because the boss was at a conference. But all of the checks were there on the table, and they said they couldn't give me one because I'd already requested to have the money earlier. So when I complained long enough that I was leaving and needed to close the account, the clerk went upstairs for 10 minutes, then came back down saying that the money would definitely be in the account on Monday morning. I'm not completely sold, but at least I did what I could.

I'm glad that I was able to find a way around the bureaucracy and get a solution to the problem with the help of a friend. And now I just need to hope that they don't try to burn me on the last check because they know that I'm leaving. So tomorrow morning is do or die. And hopefully it works out alright.

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