Credit cards work for everything except…

January 18, 2009

Figuring out how to deal with finances in a foreign country is a challenge for anyone traveling. As is figuring out the details of driving. Add the two together and you have another Augustine adventure this evening.

We were going to pick up our kids from the Passaro’s and Kristin was about to take her first “real” drive…onto the highway. This confident post from earlier was driving 0.5 miles to an empty parking lot…not a real test of driving skills.

As we were leaving our neighborhood, I pointed out where the petrol station was and noticed that we had less than 1/4 tank and suggested that maybe after we got the kids we should fill up. Kristin wondered about filling up while it was still daylight and we only had Ruthie in the car and we were only a few hundred meters from the station. So off to the Total Petrol station in Scottsville.

First challenge: We asked for “regular unleaded” which received a quizzical look from the attendant (no self serve here). It turns out that they have two options, unleaded and metal added (lead?). So after filling up R299 worth, Kristin dutifully handed “Lucky” (that really was his name although the remainder of the story will make you wonder if his parents might have chosen something different) our credit card.

He stared at the card. Turned it over once or twice, hesitated.

“Is this a debit card”, queried Lucky?

“No. Credit.”

“We don’t take credit cards, but we do have an ATM and you can get cash”

Two problems. (1.) our ATM card does not work here, (2.) we have no idea what the pin number is on the credit cards because we have never taken a cash advance out. And besides, MasterCard and Visa are accepted everywhere in South Africa…except at petrol stations (and about 15% of the other places that we have discovered.)

I suggested that we go home and get some cash and would return. Lucky called his supervisor. No dice. He said only if I left my credit card. I said no dice. Then I suggested leaving myself. Surely a Ph.D. chemist is worth more than $30. Lucky was not so sure but agreed to it.

Now Kristin was about to find out if she had been paying attention to how she had gotten to the Total Petrol station, because she had to drive back to the house, get the R300 and then return. Did I mention disarm the alarm for the first time by herself and wonder whether she should get Ruth out of the car for the one minute that it would take to run in, disarm the alarm, get the cash, reset the alarm, lock the house and run back out.

Meanwhile Lucky and I chatted about America and petrol stations and the lack of credit cards therein. I also skimmed the news about the soon to be president’s legal problems (Jacob Zuma not Barack Obama) while Kristin navigated her way back with the help of a Garmin GPS that was telling her to go one way and her instinct was to go the other.

Ten minutes later, Kristin, Ruth and the Merc returned to Total Petrol in Scottsville, we paid Lucky and we were back ready for “the first big driving test”.

It was now getting dark and was raining.

We made it. Kristin did great. That healthy glass of wine really did help to calm the nerves–Kristin’s not mine. None for me, thanks. I’m driving.

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3 Responses to “Credit cards work for everything except…”


  1. […] 18, 2009 in Uncategorized | by kristinaugustine A glass of wine and one tissue later… Augustine Family […]

  2. Dad Van Housen Says:

    H Honey,
    We are glad that your are adjusting so well to your next-7-month-home! How are the girls doing? Did Rebekah have a “bug” or was it jet-lag? We are doing ok here. Kylie and family are still staying with us until the “smell” is completely out of their house. We plan to go to Children’s hospital in Pittsburg tomorrow to see
    Davanna. Then on Tues we plan to help Kylie clean up the remaining things that have the odor of kerosene in their house and hopefully then help them move back in. Well I need to go. I have a 9 am, appointment tomorrow. Love, Dad

  3. Bill Cash Says:

    I just stopped by your blog and thought I would say hello. I like your site design. Looking forward to reading more down the road.


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