The Tyranny of Kontur
I know that sounds a little dramatic, but it’s fairly accurate. Everyone in Azerbaijan has a cellphone. And everyone who uses a cellphone must buy kontur (unless your a Nar subscriber, in which case they skip the kontur and just allot you how much money you paid). As in every other country I’ve visited, everything is prepaid and however much you pay is what you get for minutes on your phone or text messages. And text messages are the communication method of choice. It’s much cheaper to use a text as opposed to a call. Here in Azerbaijan, the method for using such services is kontur. I buy kontur, which then lets me make calls and send texts and, if I have a nifty-enough phone, I can check email and surf the net. Needless to say, my phone isn’t cool enough.
The Tyranny of Kontur really comes in when you try to make phone calls. There are ways to get around it with text messaging. There are a lot of programs you can sign up for at Azercell and Bakcell and Nar websites that give you good deals on text messaging. But actually talking to somebody? That prospect must always include the consideration of how many kontur you have left. And if you try calling another service, like from Azercell to Bakcell, then be prepared to get fleeced as you hang up that call. Calling my host brother costs me about three or four times as many kontur as calling a fellow PCV. He’s got Nar, so just a few seconds of talking can run up 100 kontur. Talking on Azercell, however, would take three-four minutes to get that high. That is the Tyranny of Kontur. You know it’s bad when every conversation you have on your phone ends with, “I should probably go, I’m wasting your kontur.” Be prepared to have that phrase enter my lexicon when I return to the US and talk to you on the phone.