Payoneer: A Banking Alternative for Expats

Finances in a foreign country can be awkward. Since I don’t go back to Canada much, I need something that I can manage from here. On top of that, I often need a method of payment in the US so that I can receive direct deposits from places like Amazon. Not being American was a bit of an issue when it came to that side of things. The alternatives were to have checks sent to my mom and have her deposit them and do an international bank transfer or to have a check sent here and probably get lost. Either way, fees were a pain.

I read about Payoneer a while back and it sounded like a decent idea, but I figured it was just a scam. Then, just over a year ago, I found some more info on the Kindle Boards about the company. They had a representative who answered everyone’s questions very quickly and even handled some customer issues right there on the forum. I was impressed by the level of service, so I looked into the card.

Basically, Payoneer gives you a US bank account. You get a Mastercard card that works like a credit card in stores, but it is essentially a debit card, pulling funds from your Payoneer account. You can withdraw from ATMs, as well, though the exchange rate isn’t as great if you do that.

For me, this works very well. I have a Canadian Paypal account where some websites pay me. I used to transfer this money to my Canadian bank account and then my mom had to transfer it to my bank here in Guatemala. A pain in the neck and useless for anything less than $200-300. Now I can simply pass the money directly to my Payoneer card. It’s usually there within a couple of days. Direct deposits from Amazon’s affiliate program seem to go through right away.

Now for the downsides. They take a flat 10% of the money (as well as a small annual fee). This ends up being less than my fees if I were to do all the transfers and exchange rates, so it’s worth it. Also, it’s the same for small amounts of money. If I pay $25 for every $100 check that I deposit here or $40 for a transfer, I will only pay $10 to move money to my card. Obviously a better deal, particularly since I don’t usually have that much to transfer.

The other downside is that Visa is the card of choice in Guatemala. So it can be tough sometimes to find places that will take Mastercard. In those instances, I will take money out of an ATM instead. That works fine for the market, etc.

Payoneer will ship around the world and right now they are offering $25 to anyone who signs up for the card and loads it with their first $100. If you’re looking for an alternative to other cards, you might want to check this one out.

Disclaimer: If you do sign up through my link and get your free $25, I get some cash, too. However, I’ve tried to be completely honest in this review.

The Naked Stage

Dominic has reached the stage of toddlerhood where he simply has no use for clothing. It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or sunny, clothes should not be on his body. As soon as we put him in sleepers, he unzips them and peels them off. The diaper frequently follows. He can’t always get his shirt off, but anything that can come off, does. Except shoes. He loves his shoes.

I’d forgotten about this stage, to tell you the truth.

Dorian never went through it. I suspect he was so traumatized by his many surgeries and medical procedures that he figured he was safe if he had clothes on. It wasn’t until last year that he finally agreed to take his shirt off for short periods of time on very hot days or while painting. Most days you will find him with long sleeves or even in a button up shirt with every last button done up.

Dante, however, Dante went through this stage. I’d forgotten, but Dominic’s distaste for clothing has brought it all back.

You see, in Guatemala, a naked kid is nothing short of scandalous, particularly for my in-laws. I would dress Dante nicely in the morning and he would run off to play with his cousin. Between our house and theirs, he would lose every single last piece of clothing and show up buck naked on their doorstep. You can imagine the irate phone calls.

“Dante is here.”
“Yes, I know, he said he wanted to play with Zanelle.”
“He’s NAKED! Come and get him and bring some pants!”
“He had clothes when he left here!”
“Well, he’s naked now. Hurry!”

It took him a long time to outgrow that stage. I think he enjoyed the shrieks and overreactions to his state of undress. But I remind myself that this time I’m ready. This time, I have a gate so no naked toddler can escape my yard. This time, I know the stage comes to an end at some point.

Saying Goodbye: Death in Guatemala

My first funeral in Guatemala was for a little boy I knew from Hermano Pedro, a hospital where I volunteered. He and his adoptive mother had some bad seafood and became quite ill and this sweet little boy didn’t make it. The funeral procession was simple, with his mother in the hearse and volunteers and nurses from the hospital bringing up the rear. I remember it being so shocking when the tiny casket was slid into place in a wall of holes and right then and there, a man bricked it up.

It was so final. So abrupt and so very done.

Death is different in Guatemala. Or rather, the reaction to it. Here, death is something natural, something that people know is coming.

Irving’s aunt, the one right next door to us, has been sick for a while. We don’t get along with the family, so hadn’t talked to them, but I saw her stagger out of the house a week ago and she was so drawn and thin that I told Irving I was certain she had cancer and she wasn’t far from the end.

Tonight, Irving’s aunt died. Within minutes of her death, people were notified and a large group of family and friends had gathered at the house to pay their respects. And this is where it differs so much from North America. Here, the dead is laid out overnight. People come to talk, drink and eat. They play cards, too, apparently. The deceased is there with them through this first night and the next morning, there is a funeral.

While there are exceptions to this, nearly everyone is buried the very next day after their death, many without ever seeing the inside of a morgue or funeral home. The family dresses the body and prepares it for burial. There is no autopsy. In our town, the funeral is announced over the town’s loudspeakers.

It still surprises me how quickly it all moves here. Irving explained that they have to move fast. It’s a tropical country and there are no cold storage facilities for bodies, even in most of the hospitals. People need to be buried rapidly. It’s practical.

There are nine days of mourning after a person dies. Then life returns to normal, or as normal as possible for those left behind.

Irving’s Tia Flori left two half-grown children, a boy and a girl. While I didn’t get along with her in life, I feel so bad for them. They’ve lost their mother and that’s something no child should have to experience. However, here, they will be cared for and loved by their extended family, most of whom are right here in this same town, all within a few blocks of each other. There is a bond that unites them, even when they’re fighting. It doesn’t take away the sting of death, but the people here are so much more practical about death than those of us in the north.

I still haven’t decided if this is a good thing or not.


Kids Say the Darndest Things: Episode 64

A video on Netflix was very pixelated.
Dorian: “Why is this so Minecrafty?”
Dominic pulled Dante’s hair.
Dante: “Oh my goodness! He pulled out my hairpiece!”
Dorian: “Mama, I know how you can not be fat anymore! I just saw this machine on TV, you just have to use it and you get a FLAT stomach. Just like that! I saw it happen.”
Me: “Can you say garbage?”
Dominic: “Garbage.”
Me: “Can you say zoo?”
Dominic: “Zoo.”
Me: “Can you say giraffe?”
Dominic: “Giraffes.”
Me: “Can you say elephant?”
Dominic: “Can ‘oo say teeth?”
Dante: “Please tell Papa not to put this cape in the wash. It’s not a shirt, it’s cardboard.”
Me: “I think he’ll notice that it’s not cloth.”
Dante: “Yes, but I want to make sure.”
Overheard in the kitchen.
“Okay, you be the dad and I’ll be the pork chop.”

Dance, Dance, Baby!

Dominic is nearly 18 months old and he’s a real live wire. He never stops moving. He sings and dances and climbs like a monkey, but mostly he just wants to be like his big brothers.

Here’s a little video showing a bit of his crazy energy!

Door to Door Services

One of the things I love about Guatemala is that people are quite innovative in earning money. It’s not uncommon to see people walking up and down the streets of a town with wares or services on a daily basis. Some of these guys are packing huge metal shelves or wooden furniture on their backs. Others carry boxes with pressure cookers, blenders and pots. They either call out their wares as they walk slowly along, waiting for people to come out, or they knock on doors. Door to door salesmen are very much alive around here!

Services are probably the most marketable, apart from food. My favorites are the knife sharpeners. They carry their whetstone with them and stop wherever needed, right there in the street, to sharpen knives and machetes that people bring them. What a great service! Unfortunately, they never show up when my knives are dullest.

knife sharpening Guatemala

Other services include pot repair (they weld handles back on your pots, which I really need right now!) and shoe repair. This is a very useful service to have show up at your door. They carry everything they need and simply sit down on a stone or sidewalk and get to work. On top of that, their prices are crazy low, so there’s no good reason not to use them.

Kids Say the Darndest Things: Episode 63

Watching beatboxing on America’s Got Talent.
Dante: “That’s called talent?”
Dante: “Mama, Dorian scared me so bad, I fell on the floor!”
Dominic: “Boom!”
Me: “How did he fall?”
Dominic: “Like this . . . BOOM!” complete with hand motion.
Dorian: singing “When can I see you again?”
Dante: “Dorian, stop it!”
Dorian: “What? I just want to know when I can see you again.”
Dante: “Never! You’ll never see me again!”
Dorian: “Aw, that’s so sad. Never? Really? I want to see you again someday.”
Dorian: “Wait a minute . . . I thought you made these ice brains with a chisel or magic or something. And now I see that you just use a mold.”
Dante: “You know why all that stuff is on the other side of our wall? It’s because I built a robot and when I looked, it was alive. I went to sleep and when I woke up, he was on the wall and about to fall because a spider was pushing him. And then he fell and broke and that’s why there’s so much stuff over there.”
After a long night of vomiting, Dominic finally felt better.
Dominic: “Mama, no poke!” (no puke)
Me: “What’s Dominic doing?”
Dante: “Um, he’s just breathing.”
Dante: checking his eye teeth in the mirror for the third day in a row. “Yes, it’s true. I really AM growing vampire teeth!”
Dominic: upon finding a basket of potatoes “Oh, there you are!”
Dorian: “Wait a minute! I didn’t do school today!”
Me: “No, it’s Saturday.”
Dorian: “Well, that would explain why I’m so bored today.”

Changing Things Up a Little

Well, I’m back, if anyone is still reading this blog!

I’ve decided to change things up a bit. I want to post more useful information and quite frankly, I’m tired of not being able to share my kids with anyone. So, the focus of this blog will have to change a little bit. I plan to mix a little personal with a lot more kid activities and homeschool info, along with expat life and information. Hopefully it will all work out!

Over the past couple of months, I’ve spent a lot of time with my family, as well as working. There are things that needed to be done around the house, so I’ve been trying to get those done. From gardening to yard work, we’ve been busy. There have been a lot of ups and downs lately, but life goes on. It would be boring without the roller coaster, right?

I hope you enjoy the new blog format.