What seems like what should have been a rather simple task has proven to be a trying, soul-searching, several weeks-long event.
A couple of weeks ago, I used this blog to ask for advice about owning a cell phone abroad and didn't get any feedback. If you don't remember, haven't been reading that long and/or didn't feel like reading that post, I need a phone I can use in Mexico to call doctors in the United States and around the world, and the phone needs to have a recording mechanism. My current phone, over there on the right, has no such bells and whistles.
About the same time, I also tried reaching out to the people already working at post in Hermosillo to find out what the spouses do about a cell phone. Unfortunately, I came by the same advice, which was none.
Next, I turned to LiveLines, which yielded a couple of responses, but it came up short on the, "Well, this is what I did when I moved to Mexico," statement I was hoping to receive. As I was awaiting responses from LiveLines, I did some online research, which had the added benefit of locating this Web site, which has more information about Hermosillo than I have found any where else, and it at least got me pointed in the right direction regarding cell phones.
I was getting frustrated because I expected more help from the supposed tight-knit, supportive group that the Foreign Service family is supposed to be. I couldn't imagine that I was the first Entrepenural Freelancing Machine (EFM) to move to Mexico. My fruitless search for advice on this topic has been my worst experience with the Foreign Service to date because it was the first time I've felt isolated and, to an extent, lonely during this process.
(I realize I'm committing a faux pas by saying less-than-flattering remarks about current and future colleagues, and for what it's worth, Natalie isn't thrilled about this posting. But this is my blog about my thoughts, opinions and experiences, warts and all. That said, I'm exercising some restraint so as to not negatively effect her standing with her colleagues in case this gets read.)
So with what little information I had, Natalie and I went to the Pentagon City Mall to buy a new cell phone today. I knew enough from my research to know that Verizon did not have any good Mexican options, but as they are our current provider, I was ready to give them the first chance.
To no surprise, after we explained our condition, the salesman agreed that Verizon would not be able to help us.
So we went to the AT&T kiosk, and described our situation again, and the salesman described some rather undesirablely expensive options. Then he added his two cents that we would probably be best off buying an AT&T or T-Mobile phone, but hold off on buying a service plan until we reached Mexico and then signing a local contract with TelCel. (For full disclosure, AT&T and TelCel have some sort of financial relationship that I'm too lazy to understand, and definitely too lazy to understand and explain it. Also, only AT&T and T-Mobile phones can be used with a TelCel plan, as I understand it.)
I was impressed by both salesmen's honesty on the topic, and ultimately, Natalie and I decided not to get a cell phone for the time being.
But this still doesn't solve my current problem of trying to record interviews before we go to Mexico while I'm freelancing from home. Unfortunately, I can't buy an AT&T phone and use my Verizon plan on it; and doesn't this seem like a monopoly?
So on the way home we stopped at Best Buy to figure out what to do as a stop-gap measure. So I explained yet again my cell phone needs to a saleswoman and showed her my phone causing an audible gasp, a few giggles and perhaps a short look of horror.
After composing herself, she said she doesn't think there is anything that can be done as far as upgrades are concerned and led me to the audio recorders section. "You must really love that phone," she said during the walk. To which I explained that I'm indifferent, but it has served its purposes as a phone until now, which is why I'm ready to part with it.
In the endgame, I still have my same cell phone and will have to resort to putting docs on speaker phone during our interviews, which is not preferred but will have to suffice for a few months.
And I've had the unfortunate experience of feeling let down by the foreign service community, but I'm willing to give everyone the benefit of the doubt this once that perhaps this topic is so complicated and full of bad news that no one wanted to be the bearer of bad news, that there is no simple, inexpensive, desirable way to be a freelancer in Mexico for an international trade journal.
I just hope I don't have too many more experiences with the foreign service community like this one because it did evoke feelings of helplessness.
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