Saturday, April 3, 2010


The banks in Bhutan are only open until 4pm on weekdays, and only noon on Saturdays (and, for some, apparently only 11am today). Since most people work till at least 5, that means that on Saturday everyone goes to the bank, and that early closing time means that half of the populace is unable to use the bank for an entire week. When I lived in Grundy, the bank was only open on Saturday till noon as well, but that was in a 30,000 person county. Thimphu has (depending on what estimates you use) 60,000 to 100,000 people, and is the capital of an entire country. It's effing ridiculous.

So yeah, Jon and I come into town, visit Bhutan National Bank a couple minutes before 11 - we've heard that it closes on 1:30 on Saturdays, so we think this should be plenty of time to open an account and cash our first paychecks. Nope, the bank is packed to the gills with people so badly that the police are standing at the door and not letting anyone in - "The bank is closed," they say. Jon and I are already 3 days late on our rent, so we hurry on over to Bank of Bhutan to see what the situation is over there. BOB fortunately closes at 12, but in order for us to open accounts, which we need to do to even be able to cash our checks, it turns out that we need our passports, 2 passport photos, a copy of our work permits, and the signature of a person with a BOB account. We rush off, pay 100 ngultrum to get our stupid pictures, pay someone else to photocopy our work permits, and then we return back with 20 minutes left on the clock. We successfully manage to negotiate away the passport requirement (which was ridiculous anyway, you need a passport in order to get a work permits) but we can't get them to do away with the signature of a BOB account member requirement (what? what does this accomplish? Yes, I am Karma Tenzin and I vouch for this person, I promise he will not abuse his bank privileges by stealing his own money). By only the sheerest of luck, one of Pelkhil's teachers has an account and is close by enough so that she can rush to the bank and sign before Bhutan's economy signs off.

Again, only by the purest of luck does one of said teacher's students work at the bank, which allows us to take an extra 15 minutes and actually deposit our checks, which is entirely necessary to do today because, guess what, you have to wait 2 days before you can withdraw money and the bank's not open tomorrow. If we didn't get to deposit today, and if we played it straight, because the only day we can go to the bank and not miss work is Saturday, that would mean wouldn't actually get paid until April 17. As it is, since we want to still have a place to live, we're going to wait until we have 2 free periods in a row (which for Jon is fortunately Tuesday, for me it's not until Friday) so we have the time during work to pay 50 nu for a taxi, drive down, do whatever new BS they dream up, and pay another 50 nu for the drive back.

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