Saturday, April 13, 2002

So You Think We Are Settled?

So, you think we are settled into our new home? Guess again!! Each day is still a new adventure and I do not expect that to happen anytime soon. There are both positives and negatives to that last statement. We have been without a phone or Internet access for the last four days. That is one of the negatives. Back when we moved into our new apartment on February 15th, we had contracted with the realtor to transfer all of the utilities to the business name for a fee of 30,000 HUF (about $108.00). We felt a bit extorted, but the alternative was to stand in long lines at each utility, not know how to fill out the forms, not know what papers we would need, then stand in more long lines. For the number of hours that we would have to spend dealing with this, from the horror stories we had heard from other ex-pats, it averaged out to about $1.50 an hour. It seemed worth it. The agreement with the realtor was that all utilities would be transferred, plus they would change our dial up connection Internet to ADSL, a high-speed connection. Even with the realtor doing these changes, it was still an ordeal. They needed our business papers, our signatures, the signatures of the property owner agreeing to allow us to make the transfers and the list goes on. Around March 5th, when the realtor’s rep called about something, we had asked how long it would take to get the ADSL. We were told that that was something we should handle ourselves and it was “easy” to do. I did not care for that answer, but Ron had taken the call and I did not have the mental energy to call them back and fight with them. I found the website for the company, which happens to be the phone company and called them. They had an English sub-menu and I was able to request the application. They e-mailed me the application with a note apologizing that it is available in Hungarian only. All contracts have to be in Hungarian only since that is the legal language of contracts. Any moaning to Fernando, our Cuban-Hungarian guardian angel about this problem, he suggested I forward it to him. He then called me and told me line by line what I needed to fill in. I printed it out and mailed it out. Now I just had to wait 45 days from the time they received it and viola, ADSL. I am not sure if I was strung out on cold meds that day or what was effecting my thinking, but that was not close to reality. Three weeks later, the realtor’s rep called and said he was at the phone company and they were going to install my new Internet connection. They needed a fee of 4,000 HUF ($14.30) first and he would bring over the bank payment. This was a deposit for equipment. We paid that and he returned the receipt. The next day, there was another 4,000 HUF fee to be paid for modem. We paid that and he returned with the paid receipt. The next day, we received a bill from the phone company for another 1,873 HUF. I took it to one of my schools to interpret and they said it was for an adjustment for a change in our services. We paid it. Still we had heard nothing about when the ADSL was going to be installed. Ron called the realtor’s rep repeatedly and he was waiting to hear from the phone company. On Monday, the rep called and said the phone company was coming that day by 3:00 pm. Ron had to teach that afternoon and I had to leave to teach by 4:30 pm. The phone man arrived at 2:30 pm and started into working on the connection. He did not speak any English, so I went into the kitchen to leave him to his work. My mobile phone rang and it was the rep to see if the phone man arrived. I said he had, but when I looked down the hall to the living room, he was sitting on the sofa and staring at the coffee table. I mentioned this to the rep and he asked to talk to the person. The phone man hung up before I was able to find out what was happening. Fifteen minutes later, a second phone man arrived. The two of them were going back and forth jabbering away in Hungarian. Watching them work, they looked and sounded like a combination of two of the three Stooges and Heckel and Jeckel, the magpies. When they signaled that they were through, there was without exaggeration about 30 feet of wiring piled, not coiled, but piled under my computer desk. Under all of this wire were two boxes, each about the size of a size 7 shoebox. Unfortunately, just about every electrical appliance here does not have a simple plug, but an electrical box that has the plug attached to it. Prior to their arrival, I had a power strip with six outlets on it, but I am only able to fit four plugs into it. The box plugs take up so much space. Now I had two more plugs to worry about. It was impossible to plug in my printer and lamp while having the modems plugged in. The only solution being to buy another power strip to plug into the already existing power strip and piggyback electrical appliances, but I did not need a Fire Marshal to tell me that was not a great solution. My other question was “How the hell do I connect to the Internet now?” I was able to get the question across with pantomime. The Heckel pointed to a CD-Rom that was labeled “Installation”. They also handed me a paper showing that we now had two phone numbers, not just one. This seemed strange since ADSL can be used without disturbing the phone line at all. You can be on the Internet and use the phone simultaneously. It was now close to 4:30 and I had to run out the door behind them to go teach. The installation disk would have to wait. After getting home, we went to dinner with a Canadian guy that I had communicated with on a Travel web group. We had gone for drinks with him a couple of times while he was here and he was wonderful company. He has a great sense of humor and had lived in Slovakia for a few years. Now he lives in Canada and commutes to work in Philadelphia. He lives in Philadelphia Monday thru Thursday and then flies home for a long weekend. By the time we got home, it was after 10:00 pm and I started installing the CD-Rom. It asked for a key code that was supposed to be on a sticker on the cd itself or in the box. No sticker on the cd! No sticker in the box! No sticker in the instruction book, which was in Hungarian only! I tried every number I could find in the booklet, but none worked. It was too late to call technical support, so I put it off until the morning. First thing in the morning, I was on the phone. As I was waiting for the English-speaking support person, I happened to glance at the box that the modem came in and noticed ISDN. When the tech person came on, my first reaction was that there must have been a mistake. I was supposed to have ADSL. He checked the records and said, “No, the realtor’s rep ordered the ISDN.” When I explained that that is not what I wanted, but still I questioned what the charges would be. With ISDN, we would be paying a higher monthly rate for the service than ADSL, plus paying for a second phone line and per minute charges for the phone usage. I told him I wanted this removed. He told me I would have to call another company to have it removed, but transferred me. That rep told me I needed to speak to the original person to have it removed and the ADSL would take another 45 days to be installed if our phone lines were capable of handling it. With ADSL, we would not be restricted to time as there are no per minute charges on the phone line. Rather than call the original company again, I called the realtor’s rep and told him to get this straightened out. He told me that he ordered the ISDN since the company could not be certain when they would be able to install the ADSL since there were no available slots in our neighborhood. I tried to calmly explain that he should not have done this without consulting us ahead of time. This was a real exercise in self-control since I was livid. We would have had him leave it alone until we could get the ADSL. He was to call the phone company, but did not know when they would be able to come out and resolve our problem. Logic would say that all we had to do would be to plug in our phone the way we had it originally, BUT Heckel and Jeckel cut the jack plug off our phone line to wire it into the ISDN modem. To add insult to injury, our kitchen phone jack was no longer working either. Thursday evening, I went to the store and bought another phone wire. The shortest one available was 45 feet long. I only needed about 10 feet. When I got home, I could not get the old jack out of the wall and Ron was teaching his private student in the kitchen, so I could not even have a temper tantrum. When he was done teaching, Ron tried getting the old jack out and had to take it apart to get it out. When we plugged the new wires in, the phone was still pronounceable as dead and waiting to be buried. I am trying to get a presentation together for the 18th when we go to Macedonia and try to find overhead projector transparencies that are specifically for bubble jet printers, but are labeled in Hungarian. In addition, I have to get all of our tax information, my business, the house, and Ron’s, together for the accountant in CA. In the process, I am finding there are things missing like the mortgage tax statement and our stocks tax statements. I am teaching, designing our business cards, trying to work on our website, and a half dozen other tasks, so I threw up my hands in disgust over this whole thing. I told Ron that I did not care if we ever had Internet again. I was overwhelmed, burned out, really pissed. There is an Internet café right next door, so I could live without it if I had to. I ferreted out the phone number for the cable company too, since they offer Internet service in our area. He called once and left a message for a call back. With his usual manner of holding back, Ron made a few cursory phone calls to stimulate the process, but without some venom in his voice, nothing was going to happen sooner than the moon cycles the earth. On Friday, Ron received a call on his mobile from the realtor’s rep. The phone company was coming to pick up the ISDN equipment and fix the phones. This was to happen before three. At 2:33 pm, the doorbell rings. It is the phone company men, so I buzz them in the door. Heckel and Jeckel appear at the door. Within ten minutes, they had both the kitchen phone and living room phone working again. They packed up and we said our good-byes. Waiting for 6:00 pm for our Internet to start, we were back on through the dial up connection. It may be forty-five days, months, or years before we get the ADSL. Unless prompted, it is unlikely that Ron will call the cable company again to see if we can get that service faster and cheaper. If I get really frustrated, I just might sign up for service in Vienna and run a long extension cord. So you see, we are not all that settled in yet!

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