Saturday, April 27, 2013

A New Phone That Almost has Internet, a Nonadventure, and Moving On

So I have entered the 21st century.  I have a smart phone.

A friend of mine had an "old phone" he wasn't using anymore, and so he gave it to me.  I don't know if I ever shared what my original phone here looks like, so here it is:

It was your basic candy bar phone, and it's the phone I got the day I arrived in Chile.  (February 18th, 2010) It has the basic functions of making and receiving calls and texting, and I had a plan of 75 minutes and 75 messages for $10.000 pesos a month (about $20).  As you can see in the picture, the keys have all fallen off.  The phone has been with me during my trips all around Chile, Argentina, Peru, Colombia, Bolivia, Uruguay, and back to the States.  It has served me well, but it was time to move on to a new phone.

So here it is:

It's a Sony Ericsson Xperia.  It's about the same size as my old phone, but it's a bit thicker.  It has a touch screen and can connect to the internet to check email and such on the go.  Why is it thicker you ask?  This is why:

At first I didn't think I was going to like having a keyboard like this, but it is actually really convenient.  I got used to having to press a key multiple times to scroll through the letters associated with each key on my old phone that I sometimes press a key twice because that's what I'm used to having to do.

So after getting the phone, I set out on a quest to get internet on my phone.

Prior to this I had tried getting a smart phone through Entel (my current company) or Claro (another phone company here), but to no avail.  In order to get a smart phone with a plan, they wanted to see a Chilean credit card, checking account, or paychecks for the past 3 months showing my income through an institute.  I haven't had those things before, but I figured now that I actually had a smart phone on my own that it wouldn't be a problem to upgrade my plan.

Well, I was wrong.

I went to an Entel store explaining my situation, and they told me the same requirements as above.  I then asked if a US credit card would suffice, and the woman told me that would be fine, but that they can't make plan changes at that location.  She gave me the address of another store, and so I headed there the next day with my US credit card.

Here's an important lesson that it has taken me 3 years to learn about things in Chile:

Don't trust what any customer service representative tells you under any circumstance, especially if it seems like it will be easier, faster, or more convenient than anything you've heard before about said situation.

So I got to the Entel location the woman indicated with new phone and US credit card in hand.  The guy that helped me check in assured me that I wouldn't have a problem getting my plan upgraded when I told him that I've been here in Chile for 3 years.  (Refer to important lesson above again)

After waiting 15 minutes until my number was called, I explained my desire to join the 21st century.  My US credit card was shot down, along with me sharing the misinformation that I was given.  I walked away pretty frustrated.

A bit later in the day I was talking with a Chilean friend, and he told me that you can get bolsas (literally bags, but more like packages or add on services) for internet on your phone.  There are prepay bolsas for which you pay a flat fee and the money deducts until nothing is left, and there are monthly bolsas which renew for a set fee per month.

One of the things that drives me crazy about here is that if you are in a situation like mine, it seems like customer service won't willingly tell you about viable alternatives like these unless you ask for them.  It seems kind of counter intuitive to not tell a customer about an alternative solution, but perhaps that's just me.

My next adventure turned out to be a nonadventure.

I booked a bus ticket to go to Mendoza this weekend, as a friend is going to be living there for a month.  Buses used to leave overnight going from Santiago to Mendoza, but for some strange reason night buses only run from Santiago to Mendoza now.  There are only morning buses from Mendoza to Santiago, which complicated my plans to go for the weekend.

In the end, I decided to get a night bus on Friday night to arrive on Saturday morning, and then I was going to catch the Monday morning bus to get back to Santiago on Monday afternoon.

Well, it turns out that on Thursday night the border was closed due to snow.

I got a text from a friend Friday morning telling me about the situation.  I took some time to think about it, and I decided I didn't want to risk getting stuck in Mendoza on Monday and then possibly missing new classes on Tuesday.  So I decided that to cancel my ticket and not to go.  I stopped by the Turbus office where I bought my ticket, and I explained the situation.  They told me I could get an 85% refund at any Turbus office, or a 100% refund if I go to the Turbus customer service office at the bus station.  She told me that I need to have my ticket to process the refund (I didn't have it on me at that time), and then I asked her what the time frame was for getting a refund.

She asked a coworker, and then she told me that I could get a refund of 85% or 100% as long as the bus hasn't left yet.

Refer back to the lesson earlier in the post about not believing what people tell you.

I'm glad I didn't listen to her, as when I got home I read the ticket and you only have until 4 hours before the bus leaves to receive a refund.  I would have gone to the bus station for the full refund, but with running from one class to another I was only manage to go to one of their offices in a metro station for the 85% refund.

I'm a bit disappointed about not going to Mendoza this weekend, but I do have to admit it will be nice to take it easy, catch up on chores, and get a bit ahead with lesson planning.

Perhaps one of my biggest life changes happened this week.  I resigned from Grants English on Monday, April 22nd.

It certainly wasn't an easy decision and not one that I took lightly.  Grants has not only been my job for close to three years.  It has been a place with bosses and coworkers that care about me.  I've met some great teachers and made some great friends there, and it has an atmosphere of collaboration and sharing that you don't necessarily find in other places.  It has become a bit of a safe haven for me when I was feeling sad or having a bad day.  I taught classes of various types and levels, and it has really improved and challenged my teaching abilities.  Over my time there my bosses have helped me through the temporary residency and permanent residency visa process, written letters for my student loans to get deferred, guided me through the process of securing my apartment, and given me opportunities to run workshops to share teaching strategies with other teachers.  I feel that I've become very comfortable there, but that's not always a good thing.  I don't feel that there are any more opportunities there for me to grow or develop professionally, and as hard as it is I think that's a sign to move on.

I went into the office on Monday morning, but my bosses weren't in.  I called one of them over the phone and told her, and she took it very well and was very nice about it.  I made plans with them to stop in on Friday morning to drop off my speaker and to take the last of my materials I was storing there, but unfortunately they were running late with covering classes.  I did get to talk with the office manager and secretary, and it was sad.  I also saw one of my bosses on my way out, and we're going to catch up over coffee sometime next week.

They told me that I'm welcome to stop by the office if I'm in the area, and I have the sense that there are people that I'm going to be in contact with for a while still.

If anyone who has worked or works at Grants is reading this, thank you for the smiles, collaboration, conversations, good times, and laughing at my jokes, no matter how bad they were.

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