Monday, May 24, 2010

A Long Story

I got Internet installed at my apartment…. That one sentence leaves
out a lot of backstory though. I'll fill in a few details.

October 2009
I remember that the volunteer nearby named Scott has a wireless modem.
He's also going to be leaving in a month. I call up Scott and ask for
the modem. He says he just promised it to Britt. BUT he happens to
have two. Something about one not working for a while. But now they
both work. He'll give me the spare.

November 2009
Scott leaves and I realize that I never talked to him about HOW I
would get the modem. It turns out he left it in Shymkent with the
volunteers there. I can get it whenever I want.

December 2009
I finally go to Shymkent in order to speak to the Bilim center. While
I'm there, I get the modem! Modem received. Now I just need to get
KazTelecom to come by and hook up the DSL. I look at my bank account
and I think about the 7000 tenge installation fee. Since I just bought
a washing machine in November, I decide to wait until the new year
(and pay day) to get Internet.

January 2010
Now the fun begins. I call up my landlady and tell her I want to turn
on the Internet. She agrees in principle and says we'll talk about it
next time she gets the rent. That's not until the 20th though. I agree
to wait, because I don't think there's anything else I can get her to

I go by the phone company's office (Megaline is the brand name) and
ask what I need. She tells me the name of some document. I don't
understand so I get her to write it down. I still don't know what it
is; something to do with rights to the phone and who owns the

I call my landlady back and tell her that she'll need to bring this
one document when she comes for the rent. She says okay, but doesn't
agree to bring it. She says she can only come on Sunday. She comes for
the rent without the document. We talk about it. She explains that she
can't come into town during the week because her grandson is sick. The
mom works and she has to be at home with him. She apparently also
can't take him to the phone office (?).She also doesn't trust me with
the document. Only she will give it to them. She tells me to wait
until the grandson gets better.

The phone company is not open on Saturday or Sunday, so there's no way
I can sign up for Megaline. Then I see that there are some private
dealers for Megaline. I go and talk to one. Are you open on Saturdays?
Yep, they are. I call my landlady. She doesn't trust them, she says.
They'll copy her document, forge it, and then she'll lose her
apartment. I tell her I don't think that's true, but she won't believe
me. I'm stuck again.

February 2010
I keep calling the landlady about once a week. Finally, the grandson
gets better, but she falls ill. She goes to the hospital. In
Kazakhstan, this can be serious or not serious. I don't know. But I
don't pressure her. Okay, you're in the hospital, I guess I can wait.

Finally, at the end of February, she's out of the hospital. Can you
come to the office now? No, she's still weak. I give her a week. She
finally agrees to come.

March 2010
We meet at the Megaline office. Signing up takes about five minutes.
That's it. She gave them her document, they made a copy, and she
signed something. Two months for this? Okay, so when will I get it.
Megaline says they'll check the quality of my phone line (they send
Internet through the phone here rather than through cable) and call me
in a week.

A week! A week until the Internet. I wait a week. Megaline has not
called. I go back to the office.

Oh, they checked the line. It's not good. They need to change it. How
long do I need to wait? The woman in the office doesn't know. I should
go ask someone else.

I go next door to the other offices of KazTelecom and see the Megaline
specialists. They tell me to call a number and talk to someone. I
don't like phone conversations with random people in Russian. I decide
to wait a couple more weeks.

A couple weeks, pass and I go back to the office. The woman knows me
by now. She calls a guy, and he says they still haven't changed the
line going to my building. I ask her, when? When will they change it?
In a year? She laughs and says no. A week? She once again laughs.
Okay, so now I have a time frame. Somewhere between a week and a year.

I decide to go back once a month to keep checking on the process.

May 2010

I go back the office. She says she still doesn't know when, but I can
ask the guys in the other office again. That didn't go so well the
first time, but I'll give it another try.

I go next door and I take my number. They actually have a really
efficient waiting room system. You pick the service you want from a
machine, then it spits out the number you are. You have to wait in a
lobby area where a screen will flash which customers are currently
being served. For Kazakhstan, this seems revolutionary.

Finally, my ticket is called and I go talk to the guys. The Megaline
office has four desks set up where clients can talk to a service
representative. Two of them are un-staffed. I sit down across from a
younger guy, while another guy sits at a desk without any clients. I
start telling my story. He checks the computer and confirms. Yeah, my
line is bad. They're changing it. They don't know when.

When, when I implore. I've already waited two months. When will they
change it? Can't they just give me a time table? He talks with the guy
next to him for a while. Looks something up, then says, we can maybe
give you WiMax. WiMax? What the heck is WiMax? I've heard of WiFi, but
not this.

He explains. They'll put a satellite dish at my apartment. They'll
beam me the Internet. Not everywhere has signal, but he thinks my
house will. I give him my number and he says he'll call me in a couple

A couple days go by and still no call. I go back to the office and
speak to him again. They greet me warmly, remembering the American who
wants Internet. He makes a few clicks on his computer and says, yep,
there is a signal at my house. I should be able to get WiMax. What's
next, I ask. They'll send someone by my house tomorrow morning to
install it.

Then they ask me how to get on the roof of my building. I tell them I
don't know. I live on the fourth floor. I don't know who has the key
to get to the roof above the fifth floor. They say not to worry. They
can put the satellite on the balcony.

So the next day, I'm waiting at my house for the installation guys.
Amazingly, they come on time with no waiting or delays. They
immediately ask me how they can get on the roof. I tell them I don't
know, so we call my landlady. She says the neighbor has a key. We
knock for a while, but the neighbor is not home. I was so close. They
were ready to turn on the Internet! But alas, I was once again denied.
They tell me they can come back the next day if I get the key. I
should call them in the morning to let them know.
I go to my neighbor's house that night and leave a note. The next
morning, the note's still there. So still no key. Still no internet.
That night my neighbor calls me. She asks what I want to do on the
roof. I tell her I want to turn on the Internet. She asks if they will
drill holes in the roof. If they drill holes, then the roof will leak
and there will be water in her house. I don't think this is true, but
how can I really know? I don't know how they install this Internet
satellite. I can't make any promises. I won't give you permission she
says; I won't give you the key.

The next day, I go back to the guys at the Megaline office to explain
the problem. I just wanted them to explain what they were going to do
on the roof. Maybe they could qualm her fears. They sense that this
could be a problem, so they talk among themselves for a bit. Then the
guy says to me, we can turn on regular Megaline, but it may be a
little slow. How slow, I ask. About 1MB per second. 1MB per second?
That's blazing for Kazakhstan. Yes, yes, yes. He says he can do it
tomorrow. Then he realizes tomorrow is Saturday. He asks if I can turn
it on myself if he guides me through the steps on the phone. Of
course, I assured him (not knowing what that meant really). He said he
would call me later that day in the afternoon.

Friday I waited eagerly all day. I went home from work a few hours
early to wait for his call. I finally got Scott's modem out of the box
and got out the disk. Then remembered my computer doesn't have a disk
drive. Then remembered that I had borrowed Jessica's disk drive and
hadn't given it back yet. It was a sign! The Internet would be
installed. Then the disc for the modem wouldn't work. Blin! Luckily
though, after the third time trying and wiping it down with a cloth,
it finally managed to get through the set up. Then the guy from
Megaline called and guided me through the process. No problems!

And that's how I got Internet installed at my house.

1 comment:

Becca said...

Oh my god, this is horrifying. I don't know whether to laugh or cry -- but I think cry. :P Will be coming to you when the Megaline gods crap on me when I try to get home internet (hopefully end of the summer)!