Published on July 24th, 20126
Only In Asia: All That Glitters…
Just a quick one here as g-knows I have plenty of loose ends to tie up here in Saigon before I head off to… wherever (Thailand and Mongolia for starters, plus a few weeks in Oz and then settle down in…?)
ANYWAY, just another little OIA (Only In Asia) anecdote to share. Rather hard to beat the OIA “underwear” tale, but nonetheless a most delightful bit of OIA serendipity.
So, the tale starts off (as travel stories oft’ do) somewhat acky: My EFL school (ILA) has been dropping my monthly pay into a direct deposit account at a local Vietnam bank (Vietcom). Always in dong of course, and it works just dandy – I retrieve whatever I need via ATMs with a debit card.
But suddenly ILA decided to switch their teacher pay system to Citibank – a colossal behemoth with itchy tendrils entwined in most every dank crevice on the globe. Which is… a rather kind way of saying – I LOATH such huge carnivorous corporations.
ANYWAY, a royal pain to fill out fifty-million papers demanding to know seemingly every conceivable bit of personal data short only of my bra size. Nonetheless, I waded through it and then waited for my shiny new debit card. Granted, a Citibank card (unlike my dear Vietcom bank card which naturally can only be used in Vietnam) can be used at ATMs internationally (say… in Mongolia) But still. I neither wanted another bank account, nor certainly not another chunk of plastic to keep track of (I already have 3 thankyouverymuch, which is good insurance should I lose one, or it gets stolen/eaten by a hungry ATM machine while traveling, but I certainly don’t need a quarter-dozen.)
ANYWAY, so I wait. Over a month. And time is running out. ‘Cuz ILA plans to deposit my last paycheck into the new Citibank account, and I jolly-well want that plastic in my hot little hand before I head out to Thailand and Mongolia.
With but a week to go, I finally had enough. Rather than wait for said elusive bit of plastic to be sent though (apparently leaden) channels, I decided to head down to the Citibank office (lodged in the tallest, shiniest, highrise building in the heart of Saigon, natch) myself. Made an appointment, grabbed a copy of my passport (which was likewise sluggishly making its merry way through bureaucratic gubberment channels, sigh…) for identification, and headed down to get my glossy new chunk of Citibank petroleum.
Armed for battle, I was fully prepared to wrestle the diminutive Vietnamese lass that greeted me at the door. But… long story short, turns out she was ever so kind and helpful. And after a few more acky sign this/swear to thats, I had my new card. But as I was about to dash off to my waiting xe om, she suddenly unveiled a box full of…
Well see for yourself. A velvet box full of glittery baubles. Kindly directing me to choose one as a “gift”, I hesitatingly chose the center ring (in mauve, if only to match my shirt that day.) A bit gaudy for my tastes, I was nonetheless charmed by the gesture.
(I suppose it’s not unlike the Western bank’s notion of giving away a token “gift” for opening a new checking account, but still… The baubles seem so much more genuinely kind-hearted than say… a toaster oven.)
And in this case, the baubles proved especially welcome, ‘cuz… Coincidentally, I’d been lately trying to think of some small gifts that I could offer my ger hosts amid the wilds of Mongolia, so it occurred to me…
I thanked the Citibank lass for the gift and told her that I would in turn, give it to one of my lady hosts in Mongolia. “Oh!” says she, “Then take more!” So I chose 2 more and she insisted I take even MORE!
I ended up with no less than FIVE glittery baubles to give to my nomadic lass hosts (and no doubt fellow yak milkers). Such sparkly trinkets – not exactly something they see every day out on the wind-swept steppes of Mongolia.
And the moral to the tale? Yet another charming case of “OIA” – an acky trip to a beamouth international bank, turned out to be a sweet little global cultural exchange.
I just realized that “Glitters” is my 100th TL post!