08 October 2010

On living overseas

I'm posting this from my computer. The work computer that I couldn't get to work on Blogger before. The problem, it turns out, is IE's unreasonable assumption that if it can't load a page in 30 seconds, it can't be loaded. Not that it's entirely appropriate to use my work computer to blog in any case, but hey, I'm on my lunch break. And since no one in this country has administrative privileges to this computer anyway, were I to log off no one else would be able to log on.

I won't be paid for September until mid-October. This would be much less frustrating (which is not to say it would be ENTIRELY without frustration) if I'd had some advanced warning. It has to do with the end of the fiscal year, and the way my contract works...and the fact that I live 4 timezones away from my employer's headquarters. Which is, incidentally, another reason why no one else could use this computer if I weren't - the embassy closes at 1230, so my MCC (remember, that's the American side of the organization) coworkers have left. But MCA (the Burkina side) doesn't shut down, and there's a weekly phone call with the Washington folks at noon their time. 1600 our time...but then, I should save my complaining until early November, when you clever folks in the US (most of you, anyway) go on Daylight Savings and I don't. By the way, did you know, dear reader, that while both the US and most European countries use Daylight Savings, we don't switch on the same day? There will be a couple weeks in late October when I'm only an hour off from Paris time (instead of the two I have been), but am still at the same time difference with respect to home. Sheesh.

The inspiration of the title of this post is the phone call I just had with the lending institution to which I owe rather more money than is prudent thanks to a desire whilst in grad school to be able to pay for things like gas and groceries. Ah yes, our higher education and student loan system is a clever one. Anyway, they called me (actually, my parents) a couple weeks after I closed my Peace Corps service to let me know that my loans would go back into repayment. By the way, kudos to you Citibank for giving me a grace month. It's not enough for many freshly returning PCVs, but it's frankly one month more than I expected. Since, upon answering, my parents very modestly admitted to not being me, the loan officer gave them a rather cryptic message for me (have him call this number, then use this code. Very cloak and dagger sounding, no?). I called the number and gave them the code (which was just a string of letters and numbers; I don't see any fundamental reason why it couldn't be something like, "The raven calls at midnight when the full moon is in view," but then I guess romantics make lousy loan officers. At least from the point of view of the bank), and during the conversation mentioned to them that to avoid such back-and-forth in the future, they should just call my phone here (I might have also made this suggestion because since I'm already paying them so much, I feel no need to pay fifty cents a minute to call them when they have a message for me). They agreed. Hooray, problem solved, pack it in, let's go home.
Or not.
I've been trying for two days to log onto their site and pay. The above-mentioned internet problem reared its head - their site is clearly not optimized for speed - so today I brought my personal computer to work. Because, you know, it's nice having a computer that I can adjust basic things on, like how long my browser will try to load a site before timing out. Or adding printers. (**Side rant. Look, USG, I appreciate good security. I'd even go so far as to say I'm more aware of it than many of your employees. Make me change my password because you know I won't otherwise, that's fine. Restrict my access, that's fine I guess, as long as we're both on the same page that it's a little bit insulting to my intelligence, because if you honestly believe I have evil intent then you know that physical access is everything and after spending 20 minutes of googling I could own this machine even though I know nothing about hacking currently, so you have to either be worried that I'm susceptible to social engineering hacks, or worse, you simply think I'm too dumb to be allowed full access because I'd break something. Whoops, that was a side rant to the side rant. Backing up, what I'm getting at is that it's just silly to run an overseas post where EXACTLY ZERO PEOPLE have administrative access to my computer. I'm not irritated [much] that I can't add the office printer to my laptop myself. I'm THOROUGHLY frustrated that NO ONE here can do it and I have to call someone in Washington so they can remotely access my machine to do something so trivial.**) So I finally manage to load up the page...and I can't see my account info because, it says, I need to update my phone number. Whisky Tango et cetera. I call (more money being spent just so I can be allowed to pay them), and find out - after many, many minutes on hold (yet more money I'm spending just to convince Citibank to let me pay them...hm, do they own stock in my cell phone provider?) - that the problem is my new phone number. It's not in the US. Their system can't handle that.
So, long story short, sorry Mom and Dad, you're going to continue to get phone calls about my loans, because otherwise I wouldn't be able to pay them. Which would leave me getting the phone calls, not you, but they'd be much less pleasant ones.


Anonymous said...

Well, like your sister says, "Life's a b****, and when you least expect it, she has puppies." I guess Mom & I are going to get some puppies. But not to worry. My job has retaught me how to be curt - as in: inmate says, "I have a question." My reply, "Sure, what can I say 'NO' to?" Btw, welcome to my world re: pay dates & how soon a check or auto-deposit is available for actual use, such as paying bills. Flip side being we are at least working & getting paid something for our efforts. I'm sure we'll be in touch courtesy of Citibank (like we wouldn't be anyway). Love, Dad

Carson Chittom said...

Firefox will probably install into any directory you have write access to without complaining even if you don't have administrator privileges. At least then you could fiddle with the settings in about:config.

solotoro said...

Carson, maybe that's why they didn't put firefox on this computer. And with no admin priveleges...

I retract the rant though. I called the helpdesk and told them I wanted to connect to a printer. The guy did run a virtual desktop, like I thought they'd have to - but only to give me admin access so I could add the printer myself. My ego is assuaged.

Dad, when will you guys call next? It's been a while now...