Monday, August 21, 2006

Deadbeats by Accident

The phone hasn’t worked for almost a week (which means we’ve had no internet service either). I thought at first it was city-wide, but when our phone stayed out day after day after day, David finally figured it must be something else. We talked to our realtor, and she investigated for us. Turns out we had a phone bill we hadn’t paid, so they cut off our phone service. Same thing happened for the water service to our house last month. Just as we did with the water bill, we gave our realtor the money and she has paid our phone bill for us.

So I still don’t know how we are supposed to a) know we have a bill; and b) pay it. There is no house-to-house mail service in Sudan, so nobody sends bills. I guess you just know that you have to pay it every month? And in Sudan there are no checks, no credit cards, no ATM cards, no account-to-account transfers. You face someone across a counter and pay them cold, hard cash. So I still need to figure out where to go to pay phone and water bills.

Electricity I have figured out. You pre-pay (with cash) at the Electricity Building. They give me a code that I type into the meter, and it keeps track of how much I have used. We go once a week to buy electricity. Isaac loves to go with me because their lobby is very well-air-conditioned and has comfy seats. He sits down with all the old men who are resting there and waits while I buy power.

The way the water bill is assessed strikes me as odd—especially for a desert country. Every building pays a flat rate for connection to the water system. That means that our building, which now has only two tenants since the lady downstairs passed away, still pays the same rate even though our consumption has been cut dramatically. If the people upstairs were to move away, our water costs would double although the consumption of water would fall even farther.

No comments: