Back Online, With a Lesson in Infrastructure in Tow
I’ve probably mentioned here before that infrastructure in Azerbaijan is not the best. You could say that it’s in fairly bad condition. Electricity regularly goes out, gas can be unpredictable, roads are not maintained well, and so on. Being in one of the more developed cities in Azerbaijan means that things don’t break down quite as much. However, the fact remains that after something is built here, the skills and diligence to maintain that thing are nowhere to be found.
This knowledge of the poor infrastructure has left me with two important lessons. First, you can never trust that the infrastructure is going to hold up. The most recent example caught me by surprise when the phone line stopped working. After nine months here, I’ve never experienced phone-line issues. Friday night, the phone line to the house stopped working, which also meant that the internet stopped working (it’s run through the phone lines). You can see that this is going to be a big deal already. After we made a few (cell)phone calls to well-connected community members, we figured out what had happened. Apparently, the electricity that was going through the phone line burned up the entire thing. That left 10 houses phone-less last night and through today. And we have been internet-less for an excruciating 24+ hours (Oh! The horror!). Don’t trust the infrastructure.
The second lesson is that it pays to know well-connected community members here. Within hours of the phone line burning up, we knew what had happened. Jamila, a student here who has just returned from a year-long exchange program in the US, helped us out, as her mother knows a guy who knows a guy at the phone company. Today, after more calls to Jamila and Samir, Eli’s counterpart, the phone company had been hounded enough to send people out here to fix up the lines. At first, they told us the line would be fixed on Monday, probably Tuesday. Apparently the phone company had no extra cable to fix the problem with. The phone line guru told us that if we gave him money, he would go buy the cable himself and fix it today. That seems ridiculous, no? So, a few phone calls later, he left and came back with cable provided by the phone company and a few extra folks to help him fix it up. (Also with a few complaints about how Saturday is a weekend day, not for working; but, everyone knows that, around here, Saturday is a working day unless you work at AccessBank.) After fixing the line, he asked for 30 Manat, which we refused to pay. We said we’d give him two for the taxi he had to take here. He refused that two Manat, and was not happy that his bribe request went unfulfilled. Both Samir and the friend of a friend of a friend said that service should be free.
In the end, I reap my lessons about infrastructure and knowing people. And in the process, the 10 houses around us got their telephone lines back quicker than expected (and us our beloved internet), without paying the expected bribes (as far as I know). This should make everyone happy, right?