Aug 07 2013

Changing money

Banking seems such a mundane task, that I rarely even take notice of the surroundings.  Our last admin before leaving Zambia was to change the last of our kwacha into US dollars or Tanzanian shillings.  Despite being so close to the border, this was quite an undertaking!

First stop: Finance Bank in Mpulungu.  The time travel begins!  I stepped back in time a good 40 years, to the days of wooden panels and wooden counters.  The room was enormous, with a small area for customers in the front, and full visibility of activities behind the counter.  There was no glass separating cust0mers and tellers – you could actually talk to each other!!  They did have computers, thought, and receipts for transactions were printed.  They didn’t have any US dollars, so on I went.

Second stop: Barclays Bank in Mbala.  Time travel forward to the present.  Although it was a tiny branch with only 2 tellers, it could have been anywhere in the world.  The characteristic teal-blue and white decor; the modern counters; the big posters advertising financial products; the separate room for branch manager. Sadly, they didn’t have any us dollars, but did have euros and British pounds if we couldn’t find anywhere else.

Third stop: Hardings fuel station (Puma) in Mbala.  We had heard we could get Tanzania shillings from a guy here.  Viking Explorer went into the service station and a wad of notes appears on the counter – as though he had asked for a pack of cigarettes!  A calculator appears and calculations were done.  Yip, that is the truth, but he had only a small amount of shillings, so our search continued.

Fourth stop: Cavemont Bank in Mbala.  This time travel trip went even further back in time.  The room seemed oversized for the number of staff and customers.  There was an enormous safe in the back which was opened with a long key – not time delay locks here!  The floor was covered with aging linoleum, and the long counter extending the width of the room was the same dark brown wood panelling with wooden counter.  I wasn’t really sure there were tellers, it seemed that everyone talked to customer service and then was redirected elsewhere.  I was sent behind the counter where I was told there were no dollars.  Then the branch manager stepped in and I was taken to her ‘office’ – a raised platform up 2 steps which seemed to be help together with duck tape!  But here I was told there was US$100 – which was all I needed.  The transaction then took place – and despite there being a computer on the desk, everything was done on hand written receipts!  But, it was also old school service and I was treated with respect and courtesy even though I was passing through and only changed US$100.

Time travelling complete – and an hour of actual time in the present having passed in Mbala – we could continue.

What a giggle!!


  1. Vic

    Hilarious… Eish…

  2. Margie Blake

    Really enjoyed this post – it’s a delight!

    1. African GirlChild

      Margie – it was absolutely hilarious! Good thing we weren’t in an actual rush to get anywhere ;) At least everyone tried to be helpful. xx

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