Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Paying Your Bills in Africa

The satellite cable went out a few days ago. Nothing seemed to be wrong with the connection, and everyone else on the compound has their TV working. After calling, it seems we were shut off because we didn't pay our bill. We never received a bill. Of course not, there is no mail here. There are no bills, you need to go to the office and pay your bills directly. Fortunately, they sent a guy over to pick up 6 months worth of cash. Of course we had to pay a set-up fee again. 3rd world infrastructure combined with 1st world fee structure.

Thankfully the State Dept takes care of the lease, water and electricity or we would end up waiting in line with a bag of cash to pay the bills (or you can pay someone to wait in line for you).

Gabon, similar to many countries on the continent, is basically a cash society. Sometimes you'll find a place that accepts visa but you can forget about your Amex. There is actually a large Citibank that I noticed here, but no ATM and no tellers. They only have one client, the President. We cash checks at the embassy. Visitors can use the ATM at the Laico, one of two big hotels here. Just don't get distracted by all of the prostitutes at the bar, it's better to go during the day.

Regarding the prostitutes, you will often see young women dressed to the nines in any bar where expat men congregate, especially French military and businessmen.  These women are not prostitutes, but they are definitely looking for a sugar daddy.  Here in Libreville, a sugar daddy refers to someone who is definitely white, usually bald and fat, often unattractive and can afford to eat out at a restaurant...any restaurant.  We often notice young beautiful local women with an unattractive white man on one arm and a baby on the other.

After 10PM, you will often see women gathering on street corners in close proximity to one of the hotels.  These women are more interested in a direct cash transaction rather than a relationship.  The oldest profession.

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