Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Stuck in Stage Two: Part One

Anyone who travels from one culture to another (within the same country or internationally) has experienced some kind of culture shock, says I. It is basically understood that there are four stages or phases of culture shock: honeymoon (1), negotiation (2), adjustment (3) and mastery (4).
My honeymoon phase with the Dominican Republic happened before I even arrived. Most of you shared that with me in all of my excitement and unknowing. And my husband, ever-wise about the important things, anytime I complained about something stateside said, "It will certainly be more difficult where we're going." Ah, yes.
So here I am. In stage two.

There are several purposes for this blog: sharing our lives with friends and family, giving some insight into the process of adapting to a new country, culture and language and entertaining the random passer-by. I've tried to keep a lot of this "light", but have realized that if I'm going to truly show what we're struggling with, I'm going to have to put on cyber-paper some more of what else is happening. Because, honestly, its tough here.
Some things are just maddening. Pull-your-hair-out-frustrating. And I'm never quite sure whether to fight in certain situations or to be detached or to find the place between. I've been in situations here where I just watch to see what the Dominicans do. Some of them fight. Some of them accept defeat. And most just look straight ahead. So as a fighter in my own culture, how do I fit in here? I've lived here just long enough to have tried it all: fighting, accepting defeat and looking straight ahead.

It went like this. I picked up my last paycheck from the university, but wasn't able to cash it on the way home as I have for the last two paydays. I don't have a bank account, but Josh does. I have to cash my check, then get my month's income to Josh who deposits it into his account (his part-time job allowed him to have an account, but my part-time job did not come with such perks).
I found myself at a branch near our house right before we were to leave for a beach trip with visiting in-laws. What was meant to be one last quick chore became a two-hour ordeal. This is normal. I surprise myself each time I plan for things to go swimmingly. Living here is like having a newborn or three. Everyday activities just take far longer than you expect them to. And the end of the day comes suddenly leaving you wondering, what did I accomplish today?!

I finally made it to the front of the line, pulled out my check and my passport card. I signed my check.
"This is not valid identification. Don't you have a cedula?" BankLady asks.
"No. I don't. This is my passport, my identification which was issued by the United States government," I respond, calmly but preparing for things to take slightly longer than planned.
"Let me check with my manager," BankLady took my passport card with her and left.
At this point the woman who sat next to her (A supervisor of sorts? A trainee? Its unclear, but she was older) asked: "You don't have a cedula?"
"No. But I have a passport." Now I'm actively trying to be calm. Don't they know that there are a great many people in this country without a cedula? We still count as people! Even if we don't have that special number.*
BankLady came back, "I'm sorry. This is not valid identification."
I lost it.
"International governments, Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean where we are now," I pointed the passport card at BankLady and enunciated each syllable carefully, "accept this as valid identification. The government of the Dominican Republic accepts this as valid identification. I can enter this country legally with just this piece of identification."
BankLady nodded acknowledging what I'd said, "We don't."
"The entire point of requiring identification at the bank is to verify who a person is," I continued speaking in the same way. I held up the check and pointed to my name with one hand. In the other, I held up my passport card, pointing to the picture, "I am clearly the same person on this passport card and this check."
"We can't accept this as valid identification. We do accept the passport book," she responded, attempting helpfulness, I assume.
"And what is the difference between the passport book and this passport card?" I asked, in vain.
"Well, we have certain processes that allow us to verify the validity of the passport book," said BankLady's sidekick.
"Oh," I said, sure I would be able to prove that my passport card had the same features, "what are those?"
"Well," she stalled, "we're familiar with it."
I threw my hands in the air. And then I made my big mistake.
"So, you're seriously going to have me make the trip down to the other branch and cash my check there?! Because I've cashed my last two checks there with this exact identification."
"That is not valid identification."

Gahhh! I made a dramatic turn, breaking one of my earrings which went flying across the floor, and walked out.

I stormed across the street, caught a concho and marched straight into the other branch, cursing the absolute stupidity of it all. They were waiting for me. Long story short, I looked straight into the eyes of the sweet, chubby-faced man who had cashed my check twice before with the passport card and he told me: "I've never accepted that identification before. Our bank does not accept that as valid identification."

*Another expat tried to order Dominoe's pizza online once. You needed a cedula number to do that too. It wouldn't even take a made-up number. You have to be a full-on resident or citizen in this country to order pizza. I think they ate noodles instead.


  1. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!!!! I so understand your frustration!!!!!!!!! :) Those people are impossible sometimes!

  2. haha! they wouldn't accept my passport at Progreso once - told me that because the picture was "so old" (8 years) they couldn't tell if it was really me. 1) I look the same as a i did when i was FIVE (really, i'll show you pictures) and 2) amalio's picture for HIS cedula was taken when he was 18 and he's now 34... but that one is, of course, valid. and you wouldn't even recognize him with his no-stache mustache and he weighed like 4 pounds.

  3. Brings back memories of Costa Rica lol. Pura vida ;)

  4. My last day of work in Mexico they gave me my final check. I was scheduled to leave for D.F. that night for a flight. No funds in the bank. Sorry. Thanks for telling the hard parts. It is also interesting to hear.