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There is always this discusion about whether Argentina is a 1st or 3th world country. A lot of people think this is a 1st world, but once in a while we wake up from our dream and realise it is 3th world. How do you measure this? What does a country make 1st or 3th world?

Maybe communication is an important criterion. Communication is a part of our life. We have many ways to communicate, through cell phone or fixed phone, we can send text messages or e-mails to phones or computers. When someone is on the road and you need to tell him something urgently, you can. 24h a day, wherever he is. Fortunetaly you can switch the phone off if you don’t want to be disturbed.

Here in Argentina there seems to be no difference in communication. Huge bill boards with “Claro”, “Personal” and “Movistar” cover the city, on every corner of the street you can buy cellphones, and everyone seems to have one. iPhones, Blackberries, everything is sold here. Everything is possible, there seem to be no limits. So yes, this seems like a 1st world country. Until we decided to actually use these phones here, on one of the local providers…

Here’s my story :

A few years ago we got ourselves a local number with Movistar, on a very simple program : you just “recharge” your phone when you have used up your minutes. That worked just fine, as we only came here a few weeks a year, we still had our Belgian phones to call abroud if necesary. But after a while it seemed my husband wanted more. He needed to call abroud, he called a lot within Argentina, and got sick of having to recharge all the time, so he asked Argentine friend/socio (as he didin’t speak Spanish)  to arrange a ‘post paid’ phone, which he did. We now got a monthly invoice, and we thought, Yes!! that’s it!!

Yes, that’s it. First of all the Argentine friend had to put the numbers on his name as we don’t have DNI, and secondly, after half a month or so, the phone stops working and you need to buy… more credit!!

And then we moved here and decided to switch off our Belgian phones and use our Argentine phones only, get a data card, get numbers for the kids etc., so again my husband went to the movistar shop with his socio, and when they got out he called me to say everything is arranged. Yes. Sure. Arranged.

They arrived in the office, tried to activate the numbers and spend half a day on the phone with movistar. The man in the shop had said a lot of things, but didn’t do much, and the man on the phone said that what the man in the shop said was wrong, he knows better programs etc. It all got very complicated. In the end everything worked, but nothing as it should. Although we are supposed to have ‘unlimited local calles’, we must buy more credit, all the time!!! You know where you start but you don’t know where you end…

Communication through internet is a similar story. It is extremely slow, some people say it is even slower in the connection with Europe then with the north of America, but who knows.  Watching Youtube (which the kids do all the time) is very difficult. We have 2 internet providers, one over the phone and one over the cable.We have to switch between both almost daily, as one of the 2 falls out for a (short or long) while. Skype does not always work or the connection is so bad that we hardly understand each other. They have no idea how to get wireless in the childrens rooms, the walls are too thick and they really don’t understand why the kids would need internet in their rooms, so they don’t look for solutions. On the other hand we are quite happy with this as we now all sit together on our laptops, and we have a much bigger ‘family feeling’…

Well, considering all this, I would say to myself : “Welcome to Argentina!” First or third world country, we intend to enjoy it, no matter how difficult communication is or will get…we’ll get used to it, I suppose.

To be continued.

update 14/04/2010

We are now 5 months after I wrote this article, and we have been living here for over 7 months now, so I thought the time is right to write a follow up.

I realised that, although I thought I already knew, you need a lot of patience here. Patience while looking for the right person to fix your problems, and patience until that person finally comes and actually fixes everything. Above that you  need to speak Spanish, so you don’t have to take a no for an answer. My Spanish certainly has improved a lot in these last few months!

So I have been working very hard to find the right people…

Our internet now works perfectly, although still slow at times. It is still dificult to watch YouTube in the evening but then my kids are in the middle of their schoolyear so they don’t have much time to spend on YouTube so that is not really a problem. Even at the other side of the apartment we now have internet. We use to have 4 routers in the house (and hardly internet), now we have 1 router and one ‘fortifier’ and all is fixed.

Our Mobistar accounts are now also working well, without having to recharge all the time. I had to go to Mobistar a dozen times, and after a while I realised I always have to ask a print out of what they are selling me, as often the salesman don’t know what they are talking about and you are fooled… Every month I pay the bill, I only need to recharge when I have gone abroud and called too much. A big difference with Belgium is that here I have unlimited internet access, for only 125$ a month. Unlimited!  I send much more mails now and hardly any SMS.

In the beginning of summer we spend a lot of time in the dark -with absolutely no electricity-. That seems to be normal, as everyone is putting on their air conditioning. I suppose we have to learn to live with that. Only once we had to emtpy our freezer, that was the only real damage we had.

We didn’t get our Belgian TV’s working. They are PAL instead of PAL-N. We have a converter but the quality is really bad, as if we watch TV with an antenna, and not with an HDTV. Looked everywhere for a solution but it is not posible. Now we only watch DVD’s which is OK. Up to now I din’t miss it, but maybe we will once  it gets winter??? We”ll see…

On the other hand I was surprised by the service of Apple. My daughter dropped her Macbook and damaged the harddisk. I had contacted Belgium and they said that is total loss. I called the insurance (in Belgium) but they needed a written statement that it was total loss. So I went to the local Apple Store, where they said they will have a look at it. I told them they don’t have to repair it as the Belgian insurance probably won’t accept their invoice, they only had to look. Less then 24h later they called me to say they had replaced the hard disk, in guarantee (although she dropped it), and put all the data on the new disk. It cost me nothing. That is more than 1st world service. I am sure.