…more than two bits…
The Internet is being strangely cooperative this morning, after absolutely refusing to function last night. Ah, those little mysteries that make life so interesting!
Anyway, yesterday featured a lot of work on the online class, which is now mostly ready from my side, and then a trip into town with Djibi. Along the way, I got my usual summer haircut from a guy who works next door to Maty’s brother Pap’s jewelry store. The results you can see here (I am standing next to Djibi, who perhaps has not yet appeared in a photo):
Kind of brutal, but a whole lot more comfortable than the thatch that I had before. And pretty much all men here have really short hair. The cost of the haircut was about $6, not too much less than I would have paid in the US and no doubt an enormous overpayment. Ah, well.
Pap is kind of the patriarch of the Diop family, and everybody else seems to work for him. They have a little jewelry store in the old downtown area, with a bunch of quite nice silver items on display. They seem to do the same sort of work as I saw in Mali in the old days, with the tiny braided wires.
My phone has been giving me trouble with acquiring GPS signals. It takes at least half an hour for it to find the satellites. I went to the technician at Telmob, the state cell phone company, and he was polite but unhelpful. He said maybe I was having trouble with mobile data, which seemed not to be the case. In any case, I don’t think GPS depends on mobile data. Then, I went to see the guy who sold me the phone, who gave me a new battery, which seems to be his answer to any phone problem. And finally, after getting my hair cut, the GPS worked for an hour or so and I was able to see my location on a map and in Ingress. Since my phone has two slots for SIM cards, Djibi suggested that I could get a SIM card for the other cell phone company and switch back and forth to see if that improved my connection.
Africa has enthusiastically switched over to the cell phone as the principal means of communication. Everybody has one, even very poor country people that I see in the market. There are more subscribers than population in the country, according to statistics, and I’m not surprised since many phones have two SIM slots, like the one I bought, and there are three or four companies competing for people’s business (the state phone company, ONATEL, doing business as Telmob; a global company not found in the US, Airtel; the Zimbabwe phone company Telecel; and one other that I’ve seen a couple of signs for). For most people, service is prepaid, that is, you own a phone, and you have an account that you charge up through the phone by sending USSD messages with PIN numbers off cards you buy from any one of a legion of street vendors. Probably most people have at least two accounts that they switch back and forth freely. I’ve seen several people, in conversation or just on the street, open up the backs of their phones, slip out one SIM, and put in another, indicating that presumably they have at least three accounts (because if it was only two, they could switch back and forth automatically).
But because there are so many people trying to use the network, and the bandwidth for connections with the outside world is tiny, the system doesn’t work too well. People “se debrouille”, they figure it out. But my first-world annoyance with the cell phone system in America is even more pronounced here. Hopefully, as I become more accustomed to African life and time ideas, I’ll be able to relax and laugh when there’s no connection.