It has not been easy to sort out our finances in Lanzhou.
Organising our finances is very important to us, mostly because we are foreigners, and, like most foreigners here, we need to send a fair portion of our hard earned cash home.
A couple of banks had been introduced to us by others, and we expressed an interest in them, but our little Chinese fixer ignored our requests and took us to a couple of other banks instead.
These were banks which we didn’t think would be able to help us regarding transfers, and online banking and a handy little WeChat app.
Everyone in China uses WeChat. And so do we, now. There are 3 or 4 WeChat groups that we are required to belong to within the school (English teachers, Foreign teachers, Happy Family(?), and a social group called Maki Saki – only South Africans will understand that one).
WeChat is also invaluable when it comes to paying – you can pay for just about anything with your WeChat app on your phone here – groceries, coffees, restaurants, online shopping (TAO BAO- an online store where you can buy ANYTHING, but we need a Chinese person to help translate) and taxis. We were feeling left out. We wanted to be able to use WeChat too.
For a few days it seemed that getting organised at the banks was going to be an impossible task, but, eventually, at one of the small banks we were taken to, we were both issued bank accounts, and money was deposited.
We became brave (read desperate) enough at venture out to the bank alone on a Saturday. It was the fixers’ day off.
No problem. We decided it was time for us to use our Chinese translator app . Which is what we did.
L spoke into his phone as he stood on his side of the glass partition, and held it up against the window to show the bank staff the Chinese words that appeared on the screen.
The two sweet bank personnel did their best. They answered our enquiries by using an app of their own and showing us their English translation.
On both sides of the glass, there were many smiles and a little laughter.
We all understood each other a little, but even so, after a while, we had to be told to come back on Monday.
A sweet bespectacled Chinese man in the foyer of the bank had enough English to help us locate the English button on the ATM, and we could at least check our bank balance.
So we went back on Monday – this time with our fixer with us.
The bright youngsters at the bank looked up at us and smiled. We greeted each other – they tried some English words – we tried some Chinese.
It felt like we were friends. They certainly were very helpful.
Today L went forward first, sitting in the comfy black chair in front of the glass, into which a shiny little speaker was set. He came away gleeful and hopeful.
When it was my turn he moved and sat on some seats behind me. I could see that he was intent on his cell phone. Did it all work?
I sat in the comfy black seat. The sweet lady teller worked away on her computer.
I received a few very pretty Chinese messages on my phone. In between the picture writing, I could pick up some Roman Numerals, my ID number…
On the little screen pad in front of me on the counter, I punched in codes as I was instructed and pushed the little green button…
And then I moved back and waited in the waiting seats where I have waited before. I watched the new advertising video on the big flat screen mounted on the wall.
I enjoyed it – I had seen another advert at least 20 times before – during my other visits – when I had also waited. Waited and watched the staff employed in the bank.
– Nee how –
to the security guard, with military hat, grey uniform and wide white belt.
– Nee how –
to the cleaning lady as I move my feet so that she can mop the floor…
– She she –
to the bank assistant as she brings me a paper cup full of hot water from the water dispenser
And then a victorious little cheer from L beside me
– It works!-
Everyone was happy. The two sweet faces on the other side of the glass broke into happy smiles. There was a chorus of…
– She she –
(from us) and thank yous as well – just in case we had said it wrong.
A thumbs up, a wave, a…
– You are welcome! –
said bravely by the pale young woman – it was the most English she had ever dared to say.
We like our new small and friendly bank. We like our new young smiling friends behind the glass.
Ever Bright Bank.
On the street, the signage is in purple.
We like that too.
A day later, just when we thought we were done with the Ever Bright Bank, for the time being, a contingent of 7 bank employees arrived at the school. They had come personally to help sort out our online banking issues. We met in one of the meeting rooms but soon moved to the foreign teachers’ office when all the men and women poured over L’s computer and we observed from the outside while the room was filled with the sound of many voices talking together in Chinese – dedicated to solving our problems!
This took service delivery to a whole new level! Talk about personal attention!
Everybody seemed quite happy and excited – perhaps they were all learning something new whilst helping us.
Unfortunately, after all that, our problem was not solved.
We appreciated the effort made by all.
Oh well – back to the drawing board.