I spent a good part of my weekend feeling frustration at the local phone company; justifiably yes, but life overseas is easier and calmer if you can somehow make yourself not notice or care about things like people turning left in front of you from the right hand lane, without even glancing back, or people not wanting to wait at a red light so driving up into oncoming traffic, thereby creating an absolutely pointless traffic jam.

Ok, I’m not going to vent; it was just a difficult day on the streets of Nouakchott. And I care. I don’t want my kids’ childhood memories to consist of me yelling at other drivers all the time, every day. On the other hand, some part of me thinks that maybe if the other drivers get yelled at, they will somehow get a clue, and maybe next time will reach down deep inside themselves and find a place that will help them wait for a red light, or not park sideways across 3 spaces, or not drive on the sidewalk. On the other hand, maybe not.
But back to the phone company, which is the actual topic of this post (no really; go check out the header). We recently, after a year and a half of requesting and 3 months of being told “next week,” got internet at the house. YAAY! It was a joyous day. Our first phone bill afterwards was double what it should have been—the phone company had charged us twice for our new internet. The total mistake was approx. $100.
Donn went to the phone company to fix it. “Just pay the extra,” he was told, “And you’ll be reimbursed in Sept or Oct.” When he refused, they sent him round various offices in various parts of town. In each, he was told that he needed to go to the office he’d just been in. Finally he found a woman who fixed the problem temporarily, but told him he would need to come back every month and remind them that it was their mistake.
Now realize that this company is computerized. All that’s needed is for someone to click a few buttons. But does anyone care enough to do that?
Apparently not. Today (Mon) is the 6th day since our phone was cut off again, this month, after we paid what we actually owed. Donn has made myriad trips, again to offices all over town, in search of someone who cares enough to do their job. At first we had no phone but we did have internet, but now that has gone too, after some woman, fully aware that we don’t actually owe them any money, realized we still had internet so cut that too.
I was sharing my frustrations with some students today who were wondering why I hadn’t called them to tell them their thesis papers were ready. I told them that nothing will change until they, personally, and everyone else, personally, decides that they will treat all people the same (instead of assuming that rich Americans can and should pay more than everybody else), that they will do their jobs without requiring bribes, that they will be honest, that they will be competent, that they will not hire people because of their tribe or family but because of their training and competency. It has to come from the grass roots; it won’t matter if government changes unless it changes at the level of everyday life. They agreed with me today. I hope they will remember.

…Hey I can update this before I even post it! Such is the magic of Mauritel (name of phone company) Today (Tues) my poor husband spent 4 hours at the phone company, in various offices, without accomplishing ANYTHING! Yep. He’ll be going back tomorrow—they told him to come at 8 a.m. but no one is ever there before 8:45. Maybe something will happen; maybe not. If you’re reading this, you’ll know it happened eventually…which it did after 5 more visits on Wednesday.

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