Last week I was in Africa. I still can’t believe we went. My kids have a 2 week vacation from school every 6 weeks and my husband can’t really leave because of his job so we thought “where should we go?” It’s no shocker that I love to travel and I try to hit up places I haven’t been yet so I can add more countries to my “been there” list. I haven’t been to Africa or Morocco and there were good deals and cheap flights so… why not!
Some might call me crazy. Sometimes I would agree. By myself I took my two boys — ages 4 and 7 — to Marrakech, Morocco, Africa. And you guys…. it was an adventure. I want to tell you because it was a sad, and funny, and crazy and hilarious and I-can’t-believe-this-stuff-happens-to-me kind of trip.
For starters we staying in a hotel that was close to the airport in France so that it would be easier to get to our 6:00 AM flight. The beds were comfy and they left you slippers and it was lovely. I always get the nicest hotels for one night. We woke up and got up and out without a glitch. The taxi driver charged me $30 to get to the airport which I thought was a little steep, but I didn’t think it was going to affect me. Little did I know…
We slept a lot of the way to Marrakech which was exactly what we needed. When we woke up the food cart was coming by and since we hadn’t eaten, and my kids will starve if they miss a meal, we decided to bite the bullet and buy the airplane food.
We ordered it all, started eating and drinking what they gave us as I went to pay. My American card is always a little bit of a mystery to foreigners so I expected that, but I didn’t expect it not to work.
It didn’t work.
The stewardess finally gave up and gave my card back and just said don’t worry about it. I felt so bad. We were totally grubbing on food we didn’t pay for. Little did I know that the Moroccans would make that money back from me while visiting…
Now, my husband and I plan pretty carefully our finances. In retrospect, the way we worked out how I would get money on this trip wasn’t too wise, but it really would have been hard to avoid. We had it set that my spending money would come out of an account with the same card I used on the plane. Ya, the one that didn’t work…
My heart sank. “Oh crap. I am going to be stuck in the Marrakech airport with no money and no way to leave!” The guy reassured me that it was the machine, so I tried to calm my worry. However, the feeling still lingered. The movie “The Terminal” kept flashing through my mind and I was trying not to think through where to sleep in an airport with two kids. “Don’t jump the gun, Natalia. You’re probably fine…” Famous last words.
We arrived and got through customs fine. We walked through and I walked past the first money change kiosks that I saw because I read that they were more expensive and walked on to the others. Went up to the first one and asked to take out money using my card. They don’t do that, he says. Use the ATM machine, he says.
Okay, easy enough. I went over to the ATM machine and tried it out. Invalid pin? Say what? I lost my card back in December and had to get a new one so that might have been it, but man, this was a bad time to find out. I tried at the next kiosk and then the next. No such luck.
Well, I was a responsible traveler, I had brought a back-up card. It was a credit card and we don’t like to use credit cards to take out money, but hey, being stuck at an airport in Africa was not on my vacation ‘must do’ list, so we were just wanting to get things done at this point.
No such luck.
You guys, I spent almost an hour on the phone with Capital One trying to get that card to work. They had put a freeze on it, probably because I tried to use it out of the country. I spoke with person after person doing everything they said and they still couldn’t take the hold off it.
“You’ll need to fax in paperwork.” Weeeeellllll, I’m in an airport in Africa, how should I get that done?
“Okay, the next option is to verify these questions.” Sure, hit me.
Verified. “I’m sorry, that didn’t work. Now your account is locked. We need to you find a bank we can talk to to verify your info.”
Okay, sure thing. I don’t know how they’ll do that in Arabic or French, but whatever, let’s do it. I found the bank, talked to the lady working there, thankfully she spoke French, and she said she’d speak with the Capital One people. So I called them back and the lady told me I needed to call another number. Okay, I said, give me the number. As she starts saying the numbers, I realize is the same number I called to get to her!
To make a loooong (5 hour) story short. It didn’t work. None of it. Capital One did not want me to use my card. It never got fixed and I got stuck with $147 cell phone bill in the process.
We got into Marrakech at 9:15 Wednesday morning. We left the airport at a little after 2:00 that afternoon.
Thankfully, my kids are troopers, self-entertained, and frequent travelers. Yes, my little man is just laying on the ground. After a certain point, you just stop caring about germs and such. I would also like to say I kept my cool the entire time.
But I didn’t.
I might have gotten mad at my kids at one point. I might have yelled. I might have cried and got told my a stranger that I shouldn’t cry in front of my kids. He might have gotten a really weird stare from me because… huh? And then I might have finally threw my hands up, sat down and watched a silent Tom and Jerry movie on repeat for 2 hours.
So how did we finally get out of the airport? My husband had to Western Union me money. Yep. Thankfully they’re on every corner around there, so it worked out, but man, that was a long morning!
We checked into our hotel, found a local spot to eat, the boys swore they wanted to swim (it was warm for France, but still COLD.) They jumped in and then right back out. Which was exactly my plan so we could go back to the hotel and relax. We watched a movie and went to bed.
Day one in Marrakech, Morocco, Africa.
** The other days won’t take this long to tell, but I had to share my ‘stuck in an airport’ story!