When the Chips are Down

In which we contemplate the abyss ahead without cell phones or cash…

December 13, 2015

Before we left NY we planned carefully.  We got unlocked iPhones, mine, used from EBay, was guaranteed to work with any SIM card. The debit card,  new from our bank,  was guaranteed to work in “most” ATM’s in Costa Rica.  This was the planful “map”  part of our blog title.  The “road” is the practice.  Yogi Berra once said, “In theory there is no difference between practice and theory, in practice there is.” So true Yogi,  so true.”

First my phone stopped working after a few call. Bad SIM card I thought. And said “”lets go to the mall and get it fixed. While we’re at it lets get some colones to replace our dollars.”

The mall turned out to be “City Mall, or Supermercardo” We found out later that this “City Mall” is the largest mall in all of Central America.  Quite a few thousand people knew this before we did. It was packed.citymall

Stopping at the first Banco I stuck my card in the Cajero  Automatico.  The machine spit it out. Tried again, same result.  The machine had many words on the screen most of which were “rechazado” or some tense of that.  There was a comment in Spanish to the effect of “We see your card has a chip” in red letters as if the machine were somehow surprised if not politely shocked we should have one of those new cards with a swipe and chip.  I went into the bank holding my “tarjeta” saying “rechazado” and was assured with gestures I needed to stick the card in dos times  “ra…pee..do” it was slowly explained and the machine would recognize the chip.  The bank manager came out to demonstrate.  Rechazado again.   We then apologized  to each other “lo siento”  and I went to a different Banco with my tarjeta . Same thing.  That was it.  In the largest mall in Central America I could not obtain a single colone. This was bad and certainly was not part of the map.

Next Ariana and I went to get a new chip for the phone.  This one worked – for two calls – then, in tiny. letters where the bars would be , explained “no servicio “.  By that time we were ready to leave the largest mall in Central America for the day feeling rather discouraged and asking each other if we could live on our Visa card alone as most small merchants would not  take Visa.

And it was the morning and evening of the second day and it seemed not so good.


Author: talks2trees

I'm a recent writer and retired teacher. Married for more than half my life to Ariana I am content now to travel with her to warm places while snow swirls around our home in upstate NY where we live two houses away from my son, daughter-in-law and three grandchildren. Our daughter lives just a block away so our decision to travel is not without a consequence. However we have taken very few vacations in our married life so this journey, that starts in Costa Rica, is very new.

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