Arriving in a new country always poses some communication issues. We've talked about it before. Most countries have their own telecom companies and internet providers. It's our job to figure out what provider offers the best coverage country-wide at the least expensive price. When we arrived in Lüderitz, there were two viable options: MTC and Telecom. We checked out the pricing and the options and MTC seemed the best. So we bought a wifi dongle and signed up for a pay-as-you-go program.
There were a few steps necessary to activate the program. The first required popping a SIM into our unlocked phone. We'd asked the fellow at the MTC store, Romanus, to write down the exact instructions for activation and loading airtime onto the phone … which we would subsequently need to convert to data. Romanus advised of a special reduced price promo which provided 1Gb of data, but which required a second SIM and some scratch-off prepaid vouchers.
We got back to the boat all geared up to use the internet. The phone was already activated, so we carefully followed the instructions for loading the airtime. There were lots of numbers, *s and #s involved. Romanus had explained that even though the program cost N$30 ( about $2.50 USD), there was a VAT to be paid which was not included, so we needed to buy an additional N$5 in order to take advantage of the promo, plus the new SIM was N$7. Okay … we were following so far …. kind of. We got both vouchers loaded on the phone. In another procedure, we attempted to convert the airtime to data time, but got an error message.
No problem. A dinghy ride back to shore and a walk up the hill and we were once again standing in line at the MTC store. Romanus, sick with the flu, was there. We explained the problem. “Ah … you need to activate the SIM in the system by making a phone call before you can convert the airtime to data time.” David called Romanus and all was good. He converted the airtime to data time right in the shop and we returned to the boat.
We took the phone SIM and put it in the wifi dongle, but it wouldn't connect to the internet. It was late in the day and we went without internet till the next morning at which time we dinghied into shore, walked up the hill and waited in line at the MTC shop. Good old Romanus, who was much recovered from his flu, got on-line with the SIM. A screen popped up immediately which allowed him to activate the dongle and it worked perfectly. Hmmm ...no screen had popped up on our laptop. David copied down the IP address and we returned to the boat. With much finagling, we were finally able to access the internet. Whew!
Ah, but there's more. I want to interject that what we call a dongle is called a Wingle here. We got Quick Start Wingle instructions. “Getting to Know Your Wingle” and “Using Your Wingle” had us in stitches. “Insert your Wingle into the power slot” and “Optional accessories for your Wingle” had us rolling on the floor, as did “How to Reset Your Wingle”. We needed a little levity after the stress of getting the internet up and running.
Having been away from the internet for nearly a week (oh, my!), we caught up on e-mails and blogs and uploading photos. The iPads were busy upgrading and downloading and we gobbled through the 1Gb of data time in three days. No problem. We had extra scratch-off pre-paid vouchers ready to go. We followed the instructions carefully, entered our PIN and the voucher numbers for more airtime, but, once again, we couldn't convert to data for internet use.
Back in the dinghy to shore, up the hill, stand in line. Romanus knew us by sight and on a first-name basis at this point. He was feeling much better and he was pretty sure the flu was gone. “Aha … the 1Gb promo is only good for one week.” Well, it had only been 3 days. “Yes, but it is only good for one week and if you use it up in less than a week, you must wait till 7 days has elapsed before you can top up.” Now what? Well, he sold us another SIM and another bunch of pre-paid vouchers and we started all over again.
Back at the boat, we put the new SIM in the phone, loaded airtime with prepaid vouchers, made a phone call to activate the SIM, converted the airtime to data, put the SIM in the Wingle, used the IP address to activate the Wingle and voila … internet. Easy peasy.