Sunday, August 26, 2007

The art of unlocking cell phones

Before I left for vacation, I'd already decided that it was time to upgrade to a better cell phone (not made of cheap plastic and that might actually have a signal while I'm at work). My dream was to have a gsm phone that I could have a US carrier SIM card for, and then just buy a chip in El Salvador. I went all over (Findlay, Detroit, Cincinnati, DC, if you can consider that "all over") and found that pretty much all phones are sold "locked" to a certain carrier. Everyone said to check e-Bay. Not enough time for that. I found one place in Cinti, a half hour before it closed, that said they could unlock a phone for me for a certain cost. Oh well. I resigned myself to the fact that I would have to buy a phone in El Salvador.

So, I went to Tigo, and found a phone I liked at a price I liked, but due to the confusing nature of my job and were I'm paid, I didn't have all the documents that they needed. Okay. Then a friend found a friend that he hadn't seen for a while that works at Digicel, another carrier here. I am now the proud owner of a Motorola PDA/phone, for a mere $40 a month, on only a 12 month contract.

How can this be??!! US carriers always wanted me to sign a 2-year plan, with a phone that I can't use with any other service. I remember those unhappy days of having a Sprint phone. And this Digicel phone, while locked, can be taken on a short trip to see unlocking "professionals" downtown, and can then be used with any carrier. So I can buy a $1 SIM card when I go to Nicaragua next week, if I go back to Colombia I can use my card from there, and wonder of all wonders, can get a chip the next time I'm back in Ohio and use a pre-paid service.

This article in the NY Times this morning talks about some teen that figured out a way to unlock the iPhone so that you don't have to have a contract with AT&T. Seems fair, being that maybe I'd rather stick with T-Mobile or Verizon. And for me, it's not that I don't want the Digicel plan. It's that roaming is expensive and I'm traveling enough to feel like I need a way to call if my car catches on fire in the middle-of-nowhere Honduras and I'm not brave enough to put it out with my handy fire extinguisher.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Back in San Sal

I've been back in San Salvador for a week now, starting my second tour as an English Language Fellow. Our pre-departure orientation in Washington DC was a bit tiring, but good. The airport bit was the most fun...the itinerary I had printed said Dulles, but the flight was actually out of Reagan. So, two taxi rides and $110 later (also discovered that in Virgina they're giving $3,000 speeding tickets and that many people have the same Dulles/Reagan problem), I find out that there's also an embargo on all flights on Delta inbound to San Salvador and Quito, Ecuador. At this point I'm very glad I hadn't bought more books! Note that the person at the check-in counter was very nice and understanding...told me that not even they knew there was an embargo until very recently.

You'd think that Delta would care enough to email you or something. I just searched on their website to see if there was any notices posted, but only found info from 2005. Why an embargo? Apparently everyone brings overweight baggage or an extra piece, so now no one is allowed to do either, even if you pay. Going out of San Sal is not so bad...the only extra baggage comes in the form of fried chicken (really).

But, I got back to San Sal only a little cranky, and with all my baggage, which made me happy. And I have my apartment back again, which was a relief after a long time feeling like I had no home. There were some nice additions made...I now have a toaster and a microwave and another tv, which has more than one fuzzy channel on it! And I found a rolling pin yesterday, which means I can now make is indeed good.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Rest areas of the eastern states

I miss rest areas, really. Driving from Ohio to DC, I saw even had a nice museum connected to it, along with walking trails! My only regret is that I didn't take the free maps; they would have been useful for teaching. On another note, the day when GPS maps take road construction into account will be a happy one. My six hour trip turned into a nine hour one, but I guess I shouldn't be that surprised.