Saturday, February 23, 2008

Well, my excitement for the morning has passed. I woke up to find my cell phone service cut off and, upon further inquiries, that I owed almost $400.

After paying enough to get my service back, I was able to investigate my online bill. Seems like the main problem was that I was being charged $1.49/minute for my calls to the UK instead of the better $0.08 rate that I pay a little bit extra to receive. And, since that's the difference between $8 and $150 for my recent calls, it was dramatic. Customer service was great and fixed everything right away.

So, yay for AT&T and your service (although I may be shouting about a reactivation fee if I see one, for the bill that I never received)!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Happy (almost) Birth-day, Kosova

God, I can't believe that it's finally happening. For years and years, I've been teasing my dear, favorite Kosovar, asking him when his wee, little fake country was going to get it's independence and today (because it's already 5 am in Prishtina), it probably is. For reals. And I know it's not my country, but I feel immense pride on Behar's behalf and I am so, so glad that he and a whole lot of other people will no longer be stateless (de facto, not de jurie, of course). I'm happy that he'll have a real passport and that Kosova will be a real place on the map, and that it'll have the might of the EU behind it and helping it grow.

Kosova was so beautiful when we visited last summer. It seemed like a place that was so looking forward to the future, but one that needs someone to help plan and control the explosive growth that is taking place. I hope that the beautiful, forested mountains won't go the way of Macedonia's (away, in other words). I hope that Kosovars can honor their past and their dead and celebrate their freedom in ways that don't threaten the beautiful and sacred places and the lives and safety of Behar, his friends and family and everyone else.

I have a special hope that the Serbian Orthodox monasteries will be alright. Especially Decani, which was one of the most beautiful and peaceful places I have ever visited (although the monks were creepy). I felt honored to be there, but sad knowing that I could only visit because of my foreign passport. Behar would never have been able to go, but for a bit of luck when the NATO troops accepted his US driver's license as ID.

But, anyway, well done Kosova and enjoy your independence. You've suffered for it and been in limbo for so many years, while the international community argued over your fate. Also: do you guys get to be in Eurovision now? Because that would make me super happy! Happy Birthday!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Flatpack Princess

I would like to admit a secret love for the Ikea flat pack. For some reason, their directions and I just understand each other. I can get in the zone and hours go by while I insert wooden pegs and tighten screws with the little wands. I'm just sad that I have very little furniture left to assemble in my new place. I would also like to volunteer my mad Ikea skillz to my friends.

All this is by way of saying that I finally have a bed and a mattress! After a call to customer service to have the directions e-mailed (they'd been left out of the box) and a trip to the store to buy the midbeam support that I'd forgotten, it was done. And so I got to sleep on a real bed for the first time in several weeks. Awesome.

I'm also looking forward to today, because of the chance to see lots and lots of friends, some from the stamp collecting world and others from LSE. Tomorrow's the rugby and I've just gotten word that my wonderful, wonderful Boy has booked his early-April plane ticket!

Plus, I am officially admitted to American's law school (there was some mix-up that involved my notification being sent to South Africa)! w00t!

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Washington Gas Sucks

I am so incredibly steamed right now. After making me go in to see the gas company customer service people in person (which they then told me was completely unnecessary), we scheduled the installation of my gas meter for this morning between 7 and 12. After hauling myself out of bed to get dressed after being up with election returns until 2, I've just waited and waited. I even put a note downstairs on the call box with my cell phone number, since the box doesn't work (probably because I don't have a phone).

Finally, at 12:45, I call the same people who made me go to the office in person and they explain that the technician had been there at 11 and left a note on the glass door. I go downstairs and there's no note. I walk up and down the sidewalk, checking the flowerbeds and there's no note. There was no courtesy call, as there was supposed to have been. I think the chumps saw that my street was under some construction (replacing lead pipes, I think, which seems like a noble undertaking) and decided not to bother. So, now, the only option is to reschedule for "between 8 and 5 tomorrow," which having wasted today already, I'm rather upset about.

So, while there aren't any other options, I would like to alert the world to the fact that Washington Gas sucks and has terrible customer service. I hate monopolies, 'cause I'd sooooo take my business somewhere else.

The great irony of all this is that I HAVE gas already (apparently for free) and the gas company seemed shocked as hell about it. Muppets.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Life in the US

I was talking to the Boy tonight and giggling gleefully about all the craaaaazy new contraptions I’ve discovered upon living, really living, in the US for the first time in two and a half years. And now, I understand why people think this is the land of milk and honey: we have everything! And it’s moderately priced (as long as I don’t multiply prices by 7 to put them into rand)!

My new apartment, while located ages from a metro station and in an amenity-less “emerging” neighborhood, has enough gadgets to keep me SUCH a happy bunny. I have a dryer!!! Which means that for the first time in ages I have my very own, completely dry fluffy, big towels! This might seem like a little thing, but after London, where nothing ever dries properly, and South Africa, where I used those horrible travel towels the whole time (because buying proper ones seemed like an extravagance), it feels like the world’s biggest luxury. And, although I can’t imagine needing it for just one person, I have a dishwasher and A MICROWAVE (we didn’t have one in London, so I’m kind of in awe of not needing to spend 10 minutes heating up some soup and needing to wash the pot afterwards). OMG.

This last thing’s the best though. The Boy was thoroughly amused and a bit patronizing about it, but I refuse to be deterred. So, I have two window units, one in the bedroom and one in the main room that are both heaters and air conditioners (A/C! Be still my heart!). And they operate by REMOTE CONTROL!!! So, I have this plan to wake up with my alarm, turn on the heat, push the snooze button, then get up when the heater’s had 10 minutes to take the frost off. Pure luxury. Only in America.

This is all, of course, in addition to my tendency to wander around stores, particularly the grocery store, in a daze wondering where all of this came from and why on earth we need so much of it. In the recent past, I may have had a short freak-out over the need for 10 ft. of shelving devoted solely to pickles. Seriously?! I’ve also been acting like a bit of a n00b, as I bumble my way around DC and the metropolitan area. What’s startling is how willing people are to help and how many strangers strike up conversations with me.

It’s one of the things I’ve noticed about myself since I got back from the Peace Corps: I feel much more willing to strike out without a plan or directions. And, more importantly, I’m willing to have conversations with perfect strangers. It was always awkward in SA and still is (a bit), but I feel more willing to be open and more willing to hear their stories (and met some very cool people as a result). I feel more confident in places that probably would have sketched me out before. I think this will sound weird, but I feel even more comfortable around persons of color than ever before. I think living in South Africa made me super, super aware that despite differences, people who live in the United States have more in common than we often realize. And for some reason, I seem to have a bit of serious street cred, because I lived in Africa.

I do, however, have to fight the urge to call every older woman, especially the African-American ones, I meet “ma’. I think that might get misinterpreted. And, after three weeks, I’m finally ready to cut back on the root beer. Hurrah!