November 26, 2010
November 19, 2010
All this is going through my head when the cop walks up to my window.
I hand him the German license, which he eyes suspiciously, wanting to know if it's an international one. I'm sure I could have said yes, but just to humor him I also hand him the international one. Mind you, the two don't match whatsoever, since I obtained the international license in the U.S., but he doesn't seem to notice. So far so good. Then he asks whether I have my traffic register number. I remember it well: This is the thing all foreigners have to apply for, but you can only get one if you have a permanent visa, which is why I actually couldn't apply for it, which is why this car ended up in Noisette's name. But of course I don't carry this number on me, and he doesn't press further. I'm making a mental note to put a copy of it in the car. But I'm not off the hook. Do you know why I've stopped you, he wants to know. I'm still being polite, which is why I don't state the obvious, that this is a freaking roadblock where they stop whoever they please! No, I say humbly, I have no idea. Well, I've stopped you, he informs me, because your car has a radar jammer, which is illegal. I silently curse the car salesman from Benoni (whom you might remember from my car purchase odyssey) who was so very proud of said radar jammer, while I shoot up my eyebrows in surprise. You don't say, what is this thing, I want to know. He makes me step out of the car and walk around, and there, lo and behold, are two fat boxy things glued to my bumper, front and back. My outrage to discover this is very real, as this actually IS news to me. I'm well aware of the jammer IN the car, which I've made use of quite frequently, but I had no idea there were such telltale signs on the OUTSIDE of my car.
The cop goes on and on about my grave offense, and how he could arrest me, and how that would really make for a bad day for me, wouldn't it? I can now see where this is leading. Noisette's cop (whom you'll remember he shared the entire contents of his wallet with) used the same line. I agree that yes, it would not be nice to be arrested, especially in front of all these kids, but of course he makes no move in that direction. He doesn't even have a ticket book or anything. I continue to be outraged that such a contraption could have been snuck onto me without my knowledge, and offer to take it off then and there. I even tell him that I've already gotten a traffic ticket for speeding (sadly this is actually true), which must be proof that I'm not using my jammer at all. I'm also making another mental note that I should keep a copy of that ticket in my car for future reference.
Now he starts asking me where I work, and whether I have my own company. When I say no to either, he wants to know where my husband works. I'm really quite slow on the uptake, and this cop is clearly despairing, but honestly I'm worried about my field trip and all those kids in my car, and I just want to get going. I don't get all these covert hints. Surprisingly, he lets me get back into the car, and then, through the open window, asks me: "Have you brought anything for us today? Coffee, or anything else?" At this point, I see it all clearly. His hopes of stopping a big and expensive car and cashing in very nicely are now reduced to maybe getting a small tip, and the indignity of actually having to ask for it. But I have no intention of bribing a police officer in front of 50 of his colleagues, so I smile, apologize for the lack of foresight about the coffee, and drive off.
I don't quite get it. Either my offense was actually not a reason for arrest, or if it is, taking me in to a police station would have been such an inconvenience (and forced him to give up his lucrative business of stopping cars) that he chose not to pursue it when I called his bluff. I have to say I was quite pleased to be let off the hook (a feat that has eluded me on all the occasions I was ever stopped by a cop in the U.S.), but it makes me mad that there is such overt corruption in this country. The fact that this guy was very comfortable asking for money in front of half the JMPD force (I'm telling you, it was a HUGE road block) goes to show that this is the norm, not the exception. All of my South African friends are equally outraged and refuse to pay bribes, but it must happen often enough to keep the system going. So, all you expats out there: Do NOT pay bribes. Chances are very good you'll be let go without having to pay anything, and you'll be doing this country a service.
November 15, 2010
JHB INT MAIL CENTRE (HUB)
Item accepted by branch
Arrival in Overland Park: Nov 12 or 13. Oh, and on that website I also saw that I could renew our annual PO Box subscription online.
To be fair, I should now probably conduct the experiment in reverse to see if that works equally well. As I've said elsewhere, I've heard rumors that Amazon had blacklisted South Africa at some point in time because so many packages were 'lost." And our neighbor looked at us in shock the other day when the discussion turned to bank statements and we revealed that we received ours in the mail. How could we be so foolish? Our bank account would be depleted within weeks, he was convinced.
November 12, 2010
November 7, 2010
November 5, 2010
I left it off where I was going to take my anger about months of unjustified interest charges and power disconnections to the Rivonia office, having obtained an actual address. I found it, parked, and stood in line. Always carrying my Kindle in my purse for just such occasions, I didn’t mind. What I did mind, though, was when the lady who finally saw me had no clue what I was talking about, threw up her arms, and told me to come back another day to speak to the customer service rep I’d dealt with over the phone (who, you’ll remember, was only competent in dishing out new reference numbers).
I wasn’t so easily appeased, however, and hung out at the reception on my way out until another lady came by who looked a little more knowledgeable (when you've lived in South Africa for a bit you'll become very proficient in judging who can and will help you just by looking at someone). I accosted her, and was successful in that she took me upstairs (upstairs! An improvement for sure from the minions downstairs!) to her office. She was fuming at the incompetence of the first lady who she said knew perfectly well what I wanted but was too lazy to deal with it. What she then tried to explain to me made sense in a way, but I’m not sure I completely understood it. Apparently, the previous tenant at our address had quit paying (as I had already correctly identified as the root cause of all our woes), and so Eskom took out their security deposit to apply to the outstanding charges. When our landlord then paid the account to make it current, Eskom didn’t reapply it to the security deposit account and proceeded to charge us interest for the missing deposit. That still doesn’t explain why it was a different charge every month, but I was so happy that someone even understood my problem that I was ready to jump over the desk and hug this lady. She did some magic on her computer to re-allocate that deposit and declared my problem fixed going forward. What she couldn’t fix, however, was giving me a credit for what we’d already paid, and reversing the reconnection fee of R495. But she promised that she had forwarded the request to the correct department and would personally call me with an update.
Needless to say, that call never came, but I was still reasonably happy to have made some progress. All I had to do was wait for my next invoice and see everything fixed. Or so I thought. I wasn’t even holding my breath for a credit, I just wanted no new interest being charged.
But before we even got there, a whole new set of events unfolded. While I was in Cape Town (a most beautiful place which will warrant its own blog post in due time), our power was once more cut off, as Sibu informed me over the phone, lights working but no outlets, as had happened before. What else to do but call Eskom again? It wouldn’t even have occurred to me that something else was at fault. They actually did come, fixed the problem, and informed me thereof. When Sibu still didn’t have power, she summoned them again, but they refused to come, saying there was power at the box and to get an electrician. Nothing left for me but doing exactly that the very next morning. And this is where I seem to attract plain bad luck: I couldn’t reach the owner’s electrician, so I called another one from the yellow pages (plus it came recommended by Corporate Relocations!) and when they finally got there, they blamed some sort of earth leakage and an “unbalanced circuit board” and billed me R5,900 for half an hour’s work. Now, in perfect hindsight, it seems clear to me that I should have sent them packing and never have paid such an outrageous amount, but when you’ve just come back from a trip and your freezer is oozing a greenish substance, similar in color to what once was a beautiful pool, and having spent a day on the phone with Eskom (who for once was perfectly professional and even sent me a confirmation text message, I have to admit), then your judgment might be slightly clouded. I am now battling to get a portion of that money back, but as it turns out, another annoying thing about South Africa is that you cannot stop a credit card payment BEFORE it goes through, just AFTER. Then you fill out a lengthy form and hope for the best, which means that you will never hear back again.
Where was I? Oh, still waiting for a new Eskom invoice. Which did arrive last week, and I actually had to sit down when I saw it: There was a new “interest on overdue account” charge on it, but that wasn’t the worst – the bill was for R42,500! That is over $6,000! Just as I had resolved not to worry about those old charges, as long as going forward everything would be fine. But $6,000 for a single month of electricity? You can’t just keep paying. I was already mentally preparing for an entire life without electricity, and thinking back fondly to Mosetlha Bush Camp and the donkey boiler as I called Eskom yet again. But for once the Gods seemed to be with me, and after only 10 minutes of waiting I was informed that the bill was a mistake, that the new one was only R4,000, and that it would be emailed to me shortly. Whew!
It will come at no surprise to you that no email ever arrived. Concerned about the due date of said invoice, I called again today. And was informed that it was indeed R3,956, but it would not go out this month, since corrected invoices only go out in the following month. Great, I said, so the due date is next month? No, I was told, it is on the 13th of this month. Okay, I said, but then I would like to have the actually invoice black on white. So sorry, they said, not possible. I suppose I’ll just have to add that to the Eskom stupidity account. And guess what I was given as a consolation for the missing invoice? You guessed it: A new reference number!
The moral of the story is this:
a) If you think it’s bad, it can always be worse.
b) Never EVER use AAA Electrical for your electrical needs around
c) When you first move to
d) Figure out what the meter reading date is at your house (ours is the 12th of the month), go out to your power box that day, read the meter, and call Eskom with the reading. They will then bill you with that number. They are quite happy not to have to come out, and you will know what to expect.
I hope this was my last post about Eskom, with the possible exception of reporting about a happy ending and everybody living happily ever after.
|The only thing to go an do after a frustrating session with Eskom on the phone.|
Let's just say I drank a LOT of coffee from 2010 to 2013!
Let's see how the postal service "aspiring to be number 10 in the world" will do. I'll keep you posted (no pun intended).
November 3, 2010
These trees, together with bougainvillea in bright pinks and purples, make Joburg look absolutely beautiful at that time of year. You feel like wandering through a fairytale when you walk through these humongous tunnels of purple, and after the first rains towards the end of jacaranda season it is even more magical when you wade through a sea of purple blossoms covering every inch of pavement.
Another great, if not better, place to view jacaranda trees in bloom is the capital city Pretoria, not far from Johannesburg, which even has been nicknamed "Jacaranda City."
What's interesting about these jacarandas is that they are not indigenous to South Africa. They were imported from Argentina or Brazil in the 1880s but through their sheer numbers have become a South African icon. However, the South African government has passed new laws targeting invading plants to secure the survival of indigenous species, and the as an exotic tree the Jacaranda falls into that category. Fortunately they are not among the group of plants that have to be removed, but no new ones are allowed to be planted, and if any existing ones die, they cannot be replaced. Let's hope the over 40,000 Jacaranda trees in Pretoria alone will survive for many generations to come!
Read about my Jacaranda Photowalk with the Joburg Photowalkers, where you can view many more beautiful jacaranda pictures: Purple Explosion.
View spectacular images of the African sky: Africa.