Friday, August 17, 2007

El Banco

By my second full day in Colombia it was time to open a checking account. I had exchanged $100 in cash the previous day for 180.000 Colombian pesos. (Note: Colombians use a period where Americans would use a comma for money - so 1,000 pesos would be seen in a store as $1.000. But I´ll use a comma in order to make it clearer.) I exchanged it with Luis Carlos´s son because he gave me more than the bank would have. The previous day we had looked at the exchange rate, which was 1,750 Colombian pesos to the dollar. I saw on television that the U.S. dollar had risen. I think this was part of the reason I had such a favorable exchange rate at the bank. But the difference didn´t seem possible. It was now 2,017.60 for a dollar. Maybe it was because I had traveler´s checks. Although I doubt it. I´m still not sure. No one spoke English. I had to rely on Luis Carlos and what little I could decifer. The bank I went to was called Bancolombia, the most popular one in the country, and recommended by Luis Carlos. Because I didn´t have a credit card or job certificate or proof of Colombian residency, I could not open a checking account. At least this is what Luis Carlos had told me after talking with a woman in charge. The girl who exchanged my money was smiling at me. Luis Carlos said that she is a beautiful girl for me. So I told her she should come to our place for a party that night. She never stopped by, but she did hand me a stack of $1,614,080 pesos ($800) in demonations of 20,000 and 50,000. I told Luis Carlos that he had to be my bodyguard on the way out. But this was Chia; there was very little crime.

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