Most of my posts here have been about the good experiences I have had in Madrid. Through the video and smiley pictures of me, I was going through a lot… financially at least.
It all started when I finally found the apartment I was going to move into. I liked the land lady, she liked me as well. She had agreed to create a contract for me just as I had asked. She sent it to my email, I read it, translated it from Spanish to English with a friend, printed it and all that was left was for me to make the deposit to her.
At that moment everything seemed to be in place; I had started working, I had found a place, I was happy. “I would just withdraw the amount for the deposit after work” I decided. After work, I got off the metro to head to the nearest ATM machine I could find. In Madrid, there are tons of ATM machines while walking about in the corners of buildings and so on. Since I was withdrawing a larger sum, I figured it might be safer to do so in the metro where there were the security workers. I inserted my card in. “ERROR” it read. “What’s wrong, didn’t I make the right currency conversion to euros”, I thought to myself. The machine returned my card back without any amount. “Ok, that’s weird” I said. I inserted my debit card again. “Please insert your card” read the ATM machine. But it is already there… “What is happening” I said out loud in frustration. The ATM wouldn’t function, it kept demanding I insert my card when it was already in there. I quickly realized to my horror that my card was swallowed.
I found it very odd that I was very prepared to protect myself from pickpockets, but being robbed by a machine was the last thing I thought could happen to me here.
I walked over to one of the metro officials who stood by the machine to try to explain my situation. At this point I couldn’t think of constructing a decent Spanish sentence. I was speaking entirely in broken or pidgin Spanish if you might. The man I walked to gave me a number to call for the bank in charge of the ATM machine. When I called, the annoying customer representative kept telling me that there was nothing I could do as they destroyed all foreign cards. Out of anger I hung up the call because of the inefficiency of the service. Out of no where I started bursting out in tears. I couldn’t believe this was happening of all days. I was happy initially and everything was going well prior to this moment. It was a lot of trouble finding an apartment and now that I finally got something I lose my card. The guy at the metro tried his best to help out and gave me the ATM machine number to go to the bank the next morning to solve this issue. One thing about Spain is that their banks open at 8am and close at 2pm from Monday to Friday. So one can’t simply walk into a bank in Spain whenever they please. I had just started work and couldn’t go into the bank the next morning.
I got back to Margarita’s house crying. She kept consoling me telling me it would be alright. We went to a Locutorio to call my bank. My bank canceled my card and ordered a new one to be sent to my address in Spain.
One of the British guests offered to borrow some amount but I declined. I later called the land lady of the apartment I was to move into the next day and explained my situation. ” I understand and trust you, you can still move in and pay me when you get your card settled” The land lady said. This was a huge relief for me.
The next day I moved in and thanked my landlady graciously. I was lucky that I had a little cash that I had saved. This helped me for a while. The moments I had without my card were one of the hardest moments of my life. There were many times I just wanted to go to a nice restaurant to try their food or check out something new in Madrid but couldn’t due to my constraints. Whenever friends asked me to hang out, I would make up something as to why I couldn’t go or if I did go out we would go do something simple like walk around the park.
Despite this crazy time, I learnt a lot. I learnt how to make the best out of being broke. Being broke made me realize that we don’t have to spend much to have a good time. I learnt of new ways of doing things with little or no money. Going to the parks were my favorite activities and still will be broke or not. Best of all I learnt how to make money from nothing. You see, being able to speak English in Madrid is an opportunity in its self. I started giving private lessons and earned money. It took my mind off the financial hardship I was going through especially fighting with my bank to get my card to Spain on time.
It took nearly a month for my card to finally arrive and I haven’t really used it since then. For me, my worst day in Madrid opened my eyes to other alternatives of financial satisfaction. It has definitely made me become wiser financially and also careful. But I would be lying if I told you that I am not still frightened by ATM machines.