The Log Jams

Wow. I will admit that I didn’t believe life here could be frustrating. The people here are so nice. They smile and inquire about your health at the beginning of each meeting. The customary script:

Sawubona (Hello)
Yebo (Yes, hello back)
Unjani? (how are you?)
Ngiyaphila, wena ke? (I am well, and you?)
Nami Ngiyaphila. (I am also well)
kuhle. (good)

This is required when you pass the night watchman, go into a shop, meet your colleagues at work, any time you encounter anyone…The people take time to greet and exchange pleasantries with one another. They think it’s interesting how fast I walk. I guess my pace doesn’t lend itself to a proper greeting…

So Swazis are very pleasant. So why is getting anything done so miserable here? I am beginning to believe that part of the problem is that outside forces impede their progress. I signed on the computer to buy an airplane ticket. I could not figure out how to pay for the ticket. I had previously bought and paid for a ticket online with the same airline to the same places… I then discovered that, because I had logged on to the regional airline from a Swaziland IP address, I was not being allowed to pay for the ticket using my credit card. The instructions indicated that I print out my confirmation, take it to a local store, create an account there, and pay for my ticket with cash or a debit card at the store. And, there was a warning that fares may change without notice until the itinerary was ticketed. Wow.

I also tried to order a few things from Amazon. Every item I clicked on said that shipment to Swaziland is not possible. There is a FedEx and a DHL office here. Why can’t items be shipped here?

Which leads me to the log jam. It is impossible to transact business here during one visit.  Every transaction requires at least three to five visits. I have had to practice deep breathing because everyone who knows me knows that I have no patience. I wasn’t born with any and have been wholly unsuccessful in acquiring any, though I have tried.

Telephone service visits:
1. I went to the office to get telephone service. I filled out an application and was told they would call me  the next day.
2. They called me three days later to say, okay, now come pay for the service. I went immediately to the office to pay for the service, the same day she called. Unfortunately, it was a Friday afternoon. I was told that mine was a “new order.” It wasn’t on the system yet. They would have to add it to the system prior to allowing me to pay. The office closed in a couple of hours, and though there was nobody else waiting, they told me to come back on Monday.  It was just too late on a Friday to manage…
3. I hired a driver again, and went back on Monday to pay. I had noticed over the weekend that the house address was incorrect on the invoice, listing a post office box number instead of my address. I paid and asked them to change the address. They told me that the address could not be changed until after installation. I could come back then and they could change the address.
4. Eight full business days to installation. They came to the house and had to come back on two successive days to install the internet. The installers do not have the passwords to the routers and have to call in to the office to get the passwords. Unfortunately, the person with the passwords was gone for the day. They had to come back the next day.

5. Finally, I went back to the telephone office to have the address on the account changed because the bank would not open an account for me with a post office box on the bill as my address (standby for the bank nightmare below). The clerk changed the address for me but says she was unable to print out anything with the new address. She said I should’ve asked them to change the address before I paid the bill, then they could’ve printed out an invoice for me with the correct address.

This reminded me of registering for classes at FAMU in the 1980’s. I think, either the system is antiquated or they don’t know how to use it, or both. However, it’s not just the telephone company. It is every single system I encounter.  Banking has been the biggest challenge. It must take at least four visits to open a bank account, but I’ll tell you when I’m successful.

When you go on the online sites for Chase, Bank of America, and Wells Fargo, there is a list of countries to which you can make transfers from your account. Guess what? Swaziland is not on that list. Some businesses do not accept credit cards nor debit cards and require EFT or SWIFT transfers. U.S. banks do not provide these services. They say, you can use EFT if you write a check and they process it with an EFT terminal. Really? They don’t take debit cards so what would make anybody think they would take a check written on a U.S. Bank?  How do I get money to pay a bill here? Please tell me if you know. I have a bill for $3500 for installing air conditioning in my house here. The money is coming from my housing allowance and is sitting in a U.S. bank. It might as well be on the moon.

I’ve done some internet research and have read that Capital One 360 is the best account for foreign banking. They purport to have no international transaction fees or currency conversion charges. Those two things alone would have saved me at least $20 this month. However, I’ll let you know.


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