Saturday, November 27, 2010

I GOT PAID!!!!!!

That, my friends, is the short of it. I got paid. The long of it is that after three months, four visits to the Ministry of Interior, two visits to the Office of Foreign Workers and one accidental visit to the Jerusalem Municipal Offices (that was a bit of a mix up on my part – I misunderstood where the Jerusalem Ministry of Interior was – the woman looked so confused when I told her I was there for a visa – then she explained I was at the desk where people come to work out property tax issues – something I hope to not have to deal with.) I finally got my work visa. I showed up to my appointment, waited an hour after the start time (of course) and sat down with David, the visa guy.
He looked at my paperwork and told me immediately that the visa the lawyer my firm had hired to arrange that took nearly 3 months would cost my firm an additional 8,000 shekel and that I could get the B-1 for free (should have spoken to Iain – my roommate a while ago). As he was processing my B-1, their servers went out (of course). David told me that if they did not come back online soon I’d have to come back. Thankfully the servers came back to life and I got my visa. It wsa kind of anti-climactic but I none the less returned to my office feeling like a champion. At the end of the day, HR gave me a check for the majority of my last three month’s wages and told me we’d reconcile the rest at the next pay period… no big deal. Finally having the visa resolved (until I need to renew it in 6 months) felt great. What a relief.
Now on to depositing the check. While this task sounds easy, don’t let if fool you, it’s not. That night (Sunday) I got back to Jerusalem at around 9 pm, the bank was beyond closed and my bank does not have an ATM. The upside of the no ATM thing is that I can use other bank’s ATMs at no cost – the downside is that if I want to deposit a check I have to hand it in to the bank. Monday was the same story – left to Tel Aviv at 7 am, and did not return until 8 pm. Tuesday was the day – I finish teaching English at Boys Town Jerusalem at 3:00 on Tuesdays and figured I’d run over to the bank on the way home. You may or may not recall one of my first blog posts about my bank and its odd hours. The short of it is my bank (and every other bank in Israel) keeps odd hours. On my way over I checked my blackberry and realized that the bank’s cashier/teller counter closed at 2:30. I called the bank and they told me I’d have to come in between the hours of 8:30 and 2:30 to make my deposit. This obviously makes no sense as anyone who is working to make the checks that one would deposit in their account is at work from the hours of 8:30 – 2:30. I decided none the less to see if I couldn’t convince them to help me out.
I got to the bank at 3:50, which was good because the bank closes promptly at 4pm. I spoke to my account manager who told me that if I could not come in to the bank to deliver the check, I could mail it in. I looked at him dumbfounded – “If I put the check in the mail it is just going to end up right here.” He understood that but did not want to accept the responsibility of keeping my check on his desk overnight and depositing it in the morning. It makes me wonder how secure the bank is if the account manager fears for the safety of a check on his desk, or even better, for safety sake locked in a drawer. I was happy to hear that someone else could drop off the check for me. Thankfully my brother-in-law had some time the following day and he deposited the check for me on Wednesday. That afternoon I optimistically logged onto my online banking. Like the bank itself, the online banking system keeps odd hours and often does not work. I managed to get online and discovered to my surprise that my account balance was negative 1,000 shekel!
I actually owed the bank about 1,000 shekel (rouphly $273.30 at todays rate o 3.659 shekel/$1). The credit card I was issued is automatically paid off at the end of the month. Many Israelis “live in the red” and the banks allow them to charge more to their accounts for small fees (I was charged 10 shekel). One reason that people live in the red lies in the timing of cash flows. Rents are paid on the first, and credit cards are paid at the end of the month; however, salaries are generally only paid monthly on the 7th-9th of each month, one month in arrears (only for past work not for the future month). This timing can require people that make marginally enough to cover expenses overdraft their cash balances until pay day. Other people just live beyond their means and are allowed to.
At any rate, you can now all rest assured that within a day or two, when my pay check clears, I will back on stable financial ground, able to pay back the loans I took from my kid sister to live and will be able to make my rent payment at the beginning of the month.

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