Love Triangle: Eskom, Telkom, and Me

Oh the irony. Just as I receive an email, without having to call them, from Eskom telling me that my account has been restored to a more reasonable balance (just briefly: our meter “cycled” over 100 thousand, but their system can only handle 5 digits, so the intelligent person entering last month’s reading just chopped off the last digit, but then their system miraculously added that back to 100 thousand, somehow now able to handle the 6 digits just fine, thank you very much, resulting in a usage of 10 thousand kwh instead of 2 thousand), our phones go dead and our internet stops working. And I was so happy returning back to Africa and its blue skies, after our mystery trip I was bursting to tell you about. Well, Africa for sure gave me its warmest welcome, didn’t it. And, alas it was just MY internet and phone. All of our neighbors were perfectly happy. That is the strange thing about living in Africa. Joint suffering is so easily borne. The robot coming out from our neighborhood hasn’t worked in months. Remember my long story about how I called the City of Joburg to complain about that when it happened the first time? Well, I no longer even entertain thoughts of calling anyone. And I’m sure everyone else feels the same way. Do you realize there is a slight chance that the City of Joburggenuinely doesn’t know it’s down, because out of thousands of people stopping there every day, not a single one has thought of calling them? But not so with our phone. Ours being the only affected household, from what I could gather, spurred me into action. Not that my action did much good, as we have been offline for almost a week. What I really need is another Richard. Just the thought of him warms my heart and makes me fall in love with him all over again. Sweet Richard who always answers on the first ring and gives me the verbal equivalent of a foot massage every time we speak. I need someone like him at Telkom. For now, I’ve just had a succession of customer service reps, one stupider and less-caring than the last – if I’m lucky to get through at all – who usually hang up on me before I can state my case completely. But the question is, can I really handle Richard at Eskom and a new best friend at Telkom all at once? That would be an impossible love triangle. Or rectangle – it now occurs to me that our cable TV with Multichoice has been awfully quiet lately. Not to mention water and trash. This is what a typical call to Telkom sounds like:

VOICE MAIL: Welcome to Telkom. If you are an existing customer, please press one.

ME: [presses 1]

VOICE MAIL: Please note that calls to this number are free of charge if you are calling from your Telkom line.

ME: [Wonders who would typically be able to call from their Telkom line to report that said ... 


Opening a Bank Account in South Africa

A reader asked if it's possible to open a South African bank account as a foreigner (yes it is!) so I thought I should make a blog post out of it. While I've written about going to the bank, I've never actually told you about opening the mechanics of opening an account. Surprise - there is a little more bureaucracy involved than you might wish for.


How Many Cattle does your Household Own?

As I was recently filling out our South African Census 2011 forms – these tasks at the bottom of our family’s motivational pyramid inevitably land on my pile – I couldn’t help but laugh. You would not find animal dung as a heating material choice on an American census form.

I especially loved the admonition that “wood, coal, and animal dung cannot be used for lighting” whereas “candles cannot be used for heating or cooking.” Who would have known?

Also, I felt a bit disappointed that I couldn’t come up with anything for the livestock section, ...