Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Dealing with banks could be a pain in the ass, especially for foreigners. One example is that foreigners’ bank accounts are frozen on the day their ARC expires, leaving them unable to use their bankcard outside of Taiwan. So even though that's their money, they can’t touch it unless they come back to Taiwan.

Banking isn't any easier for a Taiwanese when it comes to foreign currencies. I wanted to deposit USD in cash to my foreign currency account in Entie Bank Tainan branch. The clerk looked at me reluctantly and took the money to her supervisor for instruction. One minute later, she came back and told me that due to the fact that they had too much US dollars in cash at their branch so they wouldn't let me deposit the money. I was stunned, this was the first time I had been rejected by a bank with such uncomprehensive reasoning. So I made a phone call to their headquarters in Taipei to clarify the authenticity of the reason that the branch used to reject my request. After explaining to the headquaters, they asked me to pass the phone to the manager of the Tainan branch and a few minutes later my deposit was approved.

I asked the clerk why the same request was accepted after the phone call; she couldn't give me the answer. So I made another phone call to the headquarters to ask for an explanation. This time they sent the manager of the Tainan branch to talk to me. At first, he came to me with an attitude trying to waive me off by using the same reason and telling me that my deposit had been taken care of. I pestered him with the question of why the reason he used to reject my request still remains and yet the deposit could be made after a phone call to their headquarters. He stood there speechless. It was a bizarre experience to watch a bank manager standing in front of you surrounded by all his subordinates and speechless like a kid who did something wrong waiting for some punishment and yet wouldn't simply soften his attitute. I told him either he could find someone to give me a reasonable explanation or I would made a phone call to the headquarters myself.

Finally he came out with an excuse that he misunderstood the policy regarding foreign currency deposits in cash that was made by the foreign currency department and he apologized for the manager of the foreign currency department. I couldn't figure out the logic and started to realize that the pursuit of real reason in why he rejected my deposit in the first place or an apology from him would be futile. I accepted the apology from "the manager of the foreign currency department" and got the word from the manager of Tainan branch that it won't happen again and left the bank with an attitute of vindication.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Que pensez-vous du Vietnam?

On my way to the airport, I waited for the staff from the hospital to pop up with the question: what do you think about Vietnam? It’s like Sunday always comes after Saturday, no exception, they always bring up this question on my last day in Vietnam. Maybe it’s because they want to make sure that I have been treated well during my stay or they really want to hear different perspectives on their country from a foreigner’s eyes. I never know how to answer this question. I enjoyed and hated their overwhelming hospitality even though it’s built on benefits from this co-operative project. I am impressed by how fast their economy blooms after the government opened its doors to the world--motorcycles (both in number and type) in the street reflect the economic fluctuations yet I am also worried about the intensifying conflicts between traditional cultures and westernization in the communist society. I felt frustrated on their attitudes toward new technologies that we introduced and sorry for the conditions that compel them to earn a better life. There are too many emotions and I can’t simply put it down in one sentence, so even though I was prepared for the question, my answer was still vague.

I was surprised to see a mini-demonstration in HCMC. April 11, a group of people, around 20, wore little flags on their heads holding red banners with white words on them, surrounded by lots of tourists and security, it caught my attention. They were standing at the circle on DL Le Loi and it didn’t take long for police (in yellow-pink uniforms) and tourist security (in green uniforms) to escort the group to the park in from of the Municipal Theatre trying to contain the chaos. The wailing of military sirens intensified the situation and troops came from nowhere in minutes. Police started to open the congested roads whereas tourist security kept their eyes on tourists to stop them from taking pictures of the event. I was amazed to see a woman shouting at a police officer in such tense circumstances and I have no idea what this demonstration was about since my skill for Vietnamese is zero. I didn’t know how this incident ended and it was not surprising that there was no info regarding this event in the newspapers the next day.