• ashirk@gmail.com
  • Kijabe, Kenya
ATM Saga

ATM Saga

The worst feeling.  You are at the front of the checkout line and reach into your wallet to pull out a credit card.  And it’s not there.  Your stomach drops.  You dig around for a minute, and yes, it’s definitely gone.

Now imagine this happens at an ATM in Africa.  After you receive a phone call saying the work visas you have been waiting on for 6 months are finally ready.  But you have to pay today.  In 15 minutes, the worker leaves for Nairobi and needs 30,000 shillings.  You stand at the atm and realize you have no money, and no way of getting any!

Not my favorite moment ever!  I rushed home, grabbed Arianna’s card, and we discovered what we already knew was certainly true, we have no idea what the pin number is.  So it could buy groceries, but not access cash.  All the other cards, no luck, as they don’t have the new microchip technology.

Plan B, beg!  Call the bank, nope, they can’t authorize a new pin over the phone.  Call friend A, no answer.  Call friend B. . .answers and has cash and says I shouldn’t be embarrassed, this is Kijabe.  Miracle!  Run to the house, grab it, run to the hospital, hand it over, go home and try to figure out what happened!

Got money from the hospital ATM on Saturday, this is a Monday.  Haven’t done anything or gone anywhere since.  Card must be in the machine.  Return to hospital, talk to the security guards, find the ATM workers will come the next day.  Plan to meet them.

Tuesday, hang out at the hospital all morning, paranoid of missing the ATM workers.  They finally arrive.  David Shirk on your security badge, yes your card is in the machine.  Awesome!!  No, you can’t have it, we are not authorized.  Deflated!  You can go to Limuru to get it.  When?  Maybe Thursday, maybe next week?  Stand around looking dejected, maybe they will take pity.  They sort of do.  We will be at Limuru later today, go and it will be there.

Tuesday afternoon, drive to Limuru.  Arrive at bank 15 minutes after closing (4:15).  Give up and go home?  Or better yet, peer in the window and look pitiful – it works!  Speak with manager, he pulls out a pile of cards, but not mine.  Deflation again.  Leave him my phone number and head for home, no card and no cash, and doubtful about what to do if I don’t receive a call.

Next morning at 8 am, a phone call from the bank, come back to Limuru.  Make the drive, get the card, give a mango as a thank-you present, call the bank at home, unfreeze the card, try it, momentary freak-out that it doesn’t work, drive back to Kijabe and it finally does.  All is right with the world, get cash, pay for Swahili lessons and buy groceries!

We have been very fortunate that we haven’t had to stress about much in Kijabe, but during this crazy three days, I felt so utterly helpless.  Not the best feeling.  But it was good to see that friends will help us if we are stuck.  And that people are doing their work with integrity and following protocols.  And a bank worker actually taking the time to follow up with me, absolutely wonderful of him to spend his personal money to make a phone call and help a stranger (hopefully the mango was good repayment!). . .extremely kind.


Completely unrelated to this event, a couple of pictures of us to prove we are alive:


The girls wearing green for St. Patrick’s Day.


Headshot for Arianna to be faculty on a new Peds Emergency Medicine fellowship at Kijabe.



I’m giving photography lessons to a couple of hospital workers, so I had to be the model for lighting lessons.




Arianna’s birthday yesterday, hopefully the first of many in Kenya!

2 thoughts on “ATM Saga

    • Author gravatar

      I get so excited when I find you have posted an update! Sounds like you are getting along well, and I am so happy about that.
      What a lucky couple to have you fly to NOLA for a wedding shoot. We treasure the beautiful photos you took for Joy & Michael.
      I wish I could be in on one of your lessons. What a privilege to be taught by a master of the camera!
      Your girls are adorable btw! God Bless you on your journey!

    • Author gravatar

      trials come and go, isn’t it grand that there is one thing we never have to worry about – God’s love and protection

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