Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Poco a poco

It means "little by little" in Spanish. Which is how we've been tackling all that needs to be done since we made it home Saturday night.

I'm a couple months behind with the expense reports (surprise! surprise!) and there are people to see and things to do. Like laundry, housework (how does a house get dirty even when no one is home?) and paying bills...

Some of you may still send checks through the mail to pay bills but I'm guessing more and more are using the online bill pay method.
But not us.  
We'd love to be able to, since it would make our lives much simpler and free up valuable time for other things.

I am not even kidding when I tell you my poor husband spent almost three hours trying to pay ONE BILL this morning.
Three hours he's never getting back.
It's one of the joys of living overseas.
Where we can't get a local checking account.
Or even a local credit card.
So we have to pay pretty much everything in cash.

Paying in cash is expensive.
The ATM only allows us to get out a small amount each time.
We can stand at the ATM and take money out up to three times in a row,
but only for that set (small) amount EACH AND EVERY TIME.
The ATM here charges us the equivalent of $3 U.S. EACH AND EVERY TIME.
Our bank back home charges us $5 U.S. EACH AND EVERY TIME.
And somebody somewhere charges us a 3% "foreign exchange fee" EACH AND EVERY TIME.
You don't even want to know what we pay for banking fees every month.
It's especially painful for someone who always had checking accounts without fees.
And credit cards without fees.
Because it is against my nature to pay for what I think should be FREE

You know what I think about the most? 
I could buy a lot of chocolate with those bank fees. 

Anyway, back to paying bills...
We stand in long lines at Rapipagos or in offices (I use the inclusive "we" but it's really Ivan, and only Ivan who does this, for which I am very thankful because standing in line to pay bills would probably send me right over the edge where I already hover dangerously close).
And often when it is our turn (again I use the inclusive because I join Ivan vicariously in this experience) we discover the computer system is down and it will be necessary to come back at a later time. 
It's also not unusual to find the bill has been delivered late so we are already behind in a payment. 
And will be required to pay a LATE FEE.

Don't even get me started.

Oh yeah, too late for that.

Ivan thought he'd get ahead of the curve and do his level best to pay the phone bill online with a credit card.
He's been able to pay the cell phone bills online recently and he thought surely he could do the same with the fixed phone line. 
Since they're owned by the same company and all.
You know where I'm going with this, right?

But one of Ivan's qualities is PERSISTENCE.
The online service wasn't working so well. 
It kept telling him our credit cards did not have viable numbers.
So he called the phone company.
He was on hold a really, REALLY, REALLY long time.
When he finally talked to a real person, they acted like they were going to help and then they hung up.
He called again.
And he was put on hold a really, REALLY, REALLY long time again.

It took multiple calls and a lot of patience...
...but he did get the bill paid eventually.

And when it was over my eternally optimistic husband cheerfully said,
"Now that I know how to do it, it shouldn't take so long next time."

Yeah, right.
I'll let you know how that goes.


Mari said...

Aaagh! It's bad enough to pay bills, but that certainly adds to the pain!

Christy said...

OH MY WORD!! All those fees... that would drive me crazy. I think you need a little bite of chocolate right about now. And because I am feeling your pain, I think I'll have some, too...

Betty said...

Sorry, but I actually laughed out loud, reading this!! I thought you lived in a civilized country compared to Paraguay..... because here it´s the same thing! We´re just lucky to live out in the boonies, where we have our Coop that does all the bill sending and we can pay them there too. So much easier!

rita said...

I had no idea.
I grew up there, but obviously never had anything to do with bill-paying.
Thanks for sharing the frustrations of missionary life.

The Bug said...

I had a bank account when I was in Zambia (I still have my checkbook - in my scrapbook), but I don't think I ever had bills to pay - I just used it to buy stuff. Isn't that interesting? Wait - I know I had a phone bill - but I think the mission paid it & I reimbursed them for my overseas calls. I do remember using my time in the line at the bank to people-watch & practice patience :)

Sharon said...

I find it ironic that "Rapipagos" means "fast payment"

SmallTownRunner said...

I think I would go insane.