HAVANA TIMES – I’ve only had a cellphone for a few months now and it was a matter of extreme urgency, to tell you the truth, because I always knew that I wouldn’t be able to afford having this device (which is crucial in this digital age and media) with my low wages.
However, I had no other option but to turn to science, in this case a cellphone, to stay connected with the rest of the world, to receive work, read articles on the Internet and also send my own articles.
Getting hold of a cellphone was a lot easier than I thought it would be, and it came right when I wasn’t expecting it. Some friends of mine were changing their cellphone and they generously gave me their old one, which is in excellent condition if I’m perfectly honest.
Signing up and paying for a phoneline was another headache, but luck meant that I was able to get the 30/30 promotion, that is to say, you buy the phoneline for 30 CUC and they give you 30 CUC in credit. (1 CUC = 1 USD) I managed to get the money as a loan and someone I know at the phone company, ETECSA, helped me out so I didn’t have to pay anything extra.
With a phoneline, I mean to say, cellphone in my hand, I managed to sell a part of my bonus credit (at least 20 CUC) and I was able to pay off my debt with other cash.
The first 10 CUC of credit lasted an eternity I believe, and it really did for the first month. However, during the second month, with a lot more people knowing my number, money began to magically spend itself and my desire to throw that phone that ate money as if it were an elephant also grew.
“You’re crazy, how are you going to throw it away? Talk to a friend so they can top it up for you. You can even keep the bonus and sell a part of the credit if you’re in a really tight spot and kill two birds with one stone, you’ll be able to use your phone and have a little extra cash,” a work colleague told me.
Although when I heard her idea, it seemed crazy of me to ask a friend who lives abroad (I don’t have any relatives living outside of Cuba) to top up my phone. I thought it over, and over, and over until I finally made a decision.
My friend received my request really calmly (even though I had spent days going over how to ask him), not making a fuss at all he said, “of course, it’d be a pleasure, give me your phone number.”
The next day, I was super happy with the extra bonus that I received which I wouldn’t spend in a month and enough credit to do lots of things. I was, of course, extremely grateful.
Even though everyone knows how people living in Cuba, especially ordinary Cubans, and the struggle to top up a phone is a monthly struggle (another one of our many fortunes), I don’t believe that the idea of double top-ups should become a way for us to ransack our relatives and friends abroad.
I have heard that some fellow Cubans who live outside of Cuba go offline during the week of ETECSA’s promotions (which is right now, by chance) because they are tired of topping up everyone, their brother, cousin, neighbor, former classmate, former work colleague. It’s incredible, but true.
Obviously, phones are a necessity and it’s very useful when you have to get something done, not to mention that Internet access is an important source of information and also gives us access to services or communicate with others abroad. However, keeping a phone topped up shouldn’t be another person’s responsibility, even if that person is a great friend of yours, like the many friends you have who live elsewhere.