The one with the lost debit card

So, I lost my debit card. (Again.)

I was in a neighboring town, Vinica, after a long day and the moment I put my card into the machine, my mind went blank. I couldn’t remember my pin.

After a few panicked moments, staring intently at the keypad, I tried four digits. Incorrect. I cocked my head, closed my eyes, and ran through the possible combinations. I tried again. Incorrect.

Dang it.

I turned to my friends and sheepishly explained my plight. Then I tried one more time. Incorrect. The transaction ended, but my card didn’t reappear.


I was thankful for the security feature, but I wanted to put my face up to the tiny camera and say, “It’s okay guys! It’s really me!”

My friends loaned me cash and the next day I called my bank, Stopanska, to report my stupidity. I explained my predicament: the UNIbank ATM ate my card.

They said they’d call me when they knew something.

Three days later, I called again. An irritable man told me not to call them. They would call me.

A week went by and I called again on a Tuesday. This time, they said my card had been recovered. (Yes!!) It’s in Skopje. (Wait, what?) When I explained that Skopje was a nearly three-hour bus ride away, they said they could send it to the closest bank in Kocani. It might even be delivered that afternoon…or maybe the next day. Or possibly Thursday. (Leleee.)

I had a meeting in Skopje on Friday, so I offered to pick it up then. They agreed that was probably the best option. They said absolutely anyone at the main branch would be able to hand off my card. (Foreshadowing.)

I arrived in Skopje with about 100 denars in cash left ($2) and about three hours until my meeting. (I worried this wasn’t enough time.)

I waited in line for a teller for about 25 minutes. At my turn, I handed her my ID and said I was there to pick up my card. But she couldn’t help me.

I had to exit the bank, go up to the next level of the plaza, and then go back in through another entrance. (Oh, of course.) Thirty minutes later, I once more said in Macedonian that I was there to pick up my card.

The man helping me typed with two fingers. I put on my има време (there is time) game face and waited. Type, type, type.

They didn’t have my card. I explained that on Tuesday a Stopanska employee assured me the card was there.

Type, type, type. Nothing on my account. (Sigh.)

He checked a few other places. Deliveries from Kocani. Deliveries from Vinica. He made some calls. Type, type, type.


I retold the whole story. I didn’t know what else to say. His совет (advice): just order a new card. (Sigh again.)

It would be ready next week,  but for Kocani delivery, a few days more. (Deep sigh.)

Може. Fine.

Type, type, type.

Then the phone rang.

“Da? Taka. Da, od UNIbank. Eeeee taka. Dobro. Dobro. Tamu? Ajde. Gotovo. Gotovo.”

Yes? Right. Yes, from UNIbank. Ahhh, right. Good. Good. There? Okay. Done. Done.

My ears perked up.

The patient bank attendant explained that he was correct. Stopanska definitely didn’t have my card. BUT it was just down the street at UNIbank and I could pick it up there.

He had no idea why it wasn’t listed on my account, or why no one told me, but тоа е тоа, не ли? (It is what it is, right?)

I said thank you and plodded across the city toward UNIbank.

Cautiously optimistic, I walked up to an attendant and summed up my tale. She asked for my ID. I handed her my special, blue ID card and her eyebrows scrunched.

“Oh, if you aren’t Macedonian, I need your passport.”

(I’ll give you two guesses as to where my passport was, but you’ll only need one.)

I apologized, and in my most sympathy-inducing Macedonian,  explained that I was American, but I lived in Macedonia and the ID was government-issued. I said I worked as a teacher in a village outside Kocani and I’d  been without my card for two weeks.

I asked if she could simply confirm my card was there. I said please with big, sad eyes.

She smiled. She would check. Then, still turning over my ID in her hands like I was trying to con my way into a nightclub, she asked a colleague to check for my card.

I continued explaining my plight as she searched, reinforcing that my ID was legit. And then I saw my name.

Tamu e! Mojot ime! Tamu! (There it is. My name. There!)

Her colleague said, “Let me just make a call.” And then I waited, sitting with the attendant, who had clearly joined #TeamRebekah.

She asked about volunteering and living here. She said my Macedonian was great. And then our heads cranked to the side as we heard “може.”

They decided to let the passport slide and photocopy my ID instead. I was unabashedly dramatic when she handed my bank card across the desk.

“Zdravo, staro prijatel!” (Hello, old friend.)

After profuse thanks, I walked out the door. I had enough chill to not have a celebratory dance party on the sidewalk, but just barely. After a successful pin entry at the ATM, I did let the dance party happen.

As I retold my harrowing tale of waiting and confusion to a few friends I realized that local language was probably the reason I had my card. I found an ally in the woman at UNIbank speaking in Macedonian about my life here. I also realized that after nearly two years, spending almost two hours tracking down my card wasn’t a big deal.

This is home. And after all, ima vreme (there is time), right?


3 thoughts on “The one with the lost debit card

  1. I feel your pain remembering pass codes, pins etc. There must be an app to hold all these! This has been the most pleasant thing I have read all week so thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

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