Sunday, October 14, 2012

Welcome Home!

We're back and it's time to resume the blog about our experiences here. Today's blog is not meant to be a rant about how rough it is here nor a whining session; you all know that we love it here. There are sacrifices to be made when living in a third world country, and on an island to boot. This is intended to catch you up on what has been happening with us.

We returned to the island one week ago and, as usual, we were beset with a number of small inconveniences and annoyances including: no internet, no working phones, cooling fans in car not working, deck ceiling fans not working, certain lights not working, one toilet not refilling, the other  leaking. It was hot and very humid...that always takes a bit of getting used to after a long absence.  On the plus side, we returned to a very nicely cleaned deck and house, with all the deck furniture out, clean sheets on the bed, and the refrigerator cooling, thanks to our church friend, Maria and her children. And, our friend, Bob Cowan, met us at the airport and graciously took the time to let us grocery shop for some essentials on the way home.

Our car was parked in its usual spot and a neighbor who had the key was not home. We did find our spare key and Don was delighted when the car started right up. The young woman who has borrowed our car for the past 3 years when we've been off island, left to return to the mainland of Honduras 4-6 weeks ago, and the car has just been sitting.

Don took down the hurricane shutters from the windows that face out onto the deck, allowing us to open the windows and draw some fresh air through the house. It was very hot inside. We managed to unpack and put away in record time, shower, and head down to a favorite beach restaurant for an early dinner (we had had no lunch). We were in bed pretty early, sleeping with the a/c running (a rare event).

We had hoped that our internet provider, Hughes Net, would have restored our service, after all, I did exchange 3 emails with them during the week before our arrival. No such luck, and not at all surprising.   They had asked me to call them when we returned and they would have a "technician call back and walk us through it." Really? When I know that you can, and you have in the past, simply flipped a switch or something on your end, and "zap", it's back on? But they didn't, so we would have to call them...once we had working phones.

Here's the saga of the phones:
Monday - took our phones to the Claro store in French Harbor to "register" them, something new the country started requiring just as we were leaving in the spring. This meant we both needed to produce our ID, get new SIM cards in our phones which gave us new phone numbers, and we lost all the contacts we previously had in our phones. The Claro people were not able to remove my old SIM card and told me to either pry it out with a knife or try heating it up with a hair dryer and then prying it out! Don also got his internet modem stick recharged since we still had no Hughes Net satellite internet. At home, we found that the modem stick worked well, I was able to use a hair dryer to heat the glue holding my old SIM card, remove it and replace it with the new card. I was also able to load minutes onto my phone, but could not with Don's because the phone cards we had just bought were "invalid numbers"!! Whaaaat???!!! Well, at least we had one phone, right?

I sent Hughes Net another email, telling them that we were back on the island and would certainly appreciate it if they would reactivate our service and gave them our new phone number.  The next afternoon, when we came home after tutoring, Hughes Net was back on. Ta da!! Progress.

Friday - back to French Harbor with the "invalid" cards and our phones. Don accidently left his phone in the car that we had just dropped off to have repaired. Oops. We were told that one "invalid" card was actually still valid, and I asked them to add those minutes to my phone (just to make sure it really was valid).  The other card was not and was replaced with a new number to enter into Don's phone later. We stopped on the way home (in our rental car) and retrieved Don's phone. I was able to load his minutes. So far, so good. Later that afternoon, I pulled out my phone to make a call and the screen displayed "no service." Whaaaat?????!!!!! Good grief.

Saturday - back to French Harbor (which is about 12 miles away) with my phone still displaying "no service." I get the same employee who helped me yesterday. She checks it over, pulls out the battery and SIM, puts them back in and says that I have service and lots of minutes. Problem solved.
We went next door to check out a new department store, Lady Lee, and were pretty impressed with their selection of appliances, housewares, toys, linens and Christmas decorations.

As we got into the car to leave, I decided to check my phone one last time service!!! Back into the Claro store where I was immediately told that they could do nothing more, I would need to buy a new phone. Ok. I had exactly one phone to choose from, which simplified the process; it cost about $25. I could pull my SIM card out of my old phone and put it in the new phone, but I would invalidate the warranty, otherwise, I would lose all the minutes in my account. I wasn't too worried about losing the warranty on a $25. phone, but I didn't want to lose all those minutes.

On the way home, I pulled out the new phone. It certainly is a feature-packed, complicated little device with a QWERTY keyboard and all instructions in Spanish. I had to type the instructions into the Google translator to understand much of it. It has a camera, an FM radio, various texting options, internet capability, music, voice mail????? No, apparently not. It was also not easy to make a phone call or add a phone number. I had to play with it for quite awhile before I was able to switch from the letter keyboard to the numbers. Mercy. I just wanted a simple phone. Oh well, at least it works!

Stay tuned for adventures with the kids....

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