Getting Things Done (in Nicaragua)
This is an explanation of how something might get done in Nicaragua. It is not intended to be one of those I hate Nicaragua posts. Bottom line is I don't. There are lot of good things from the weather to the government generally not being in your face that more than compensate. It is just intended to help someone understand that things will be different. (Note that i wrote this on 29 May.)
I have what one might call a creative Internet connection. Because of where I live, there was no option whatsoever without a bit of creativity. It boils down to three pieces:
- An Enitel wireless link from their tower to a friend's house in San Nicolas.
- My wireless link to a location on the property here that has a clear view of the friend's house. That link is about 5.5 km.
- A wired link (and power run) through a forest to my house. That is about 500 meters.
Lightening storms have destroyed assorted equipment so I am upgrading the connection. (I actually did have some other stuff including a wireless link covering part of the 500 meter run but that equipment is now all toast.)
My solution is as follows:
- Install some reasonable speed wired modems to cover the 500 meter run. (This is pretty much like DSL.)
- Add commercial weatherproof enclosures for these modems. (I am sick of removing families of spiders and bugs from the home-made box that had the current modem and radio power supply inside.
- Bury all the data cable in electrical conduit from my house to the radio location in the forest.
- Add some lightening arrestors on the data cable and the Ethernet
- Replace the Ethernet cable from the radio to the modem with a shielded variety.
There is noting surprising about this. I just listed it so you will understand what I am buying and how getting it works.
Getting The Pieces Here
I found the enclosures I wanted. They (like everything else) are made in China but the supplier I found is in the US. I had them sent to my "mailbox" in Houston as they don't ship internationally. The cost with shipping for the two plus two shielded Ethernet cables was about $95.
Once they got to Houston I had them re-packaged (they were in two boxes which would have cost more to ship) and had them mailed to my Estelí PO box via Priority Mail. It cost something like $50.
I got a notice in my box that I had a package in customs in Managua. As usual, they wanted a receipt. As the number of the priority mail tracking number did not match the tracking number for the package sent from California to Texas, we got to figure that out.
There was no pretty paper receipt because I ordered it on-line, the first step was to just forward the one I had in email. Then Ana got to fight with them on the phone because they wanted an original invoice. We are used to this and, eventually, the person talked to her boss and they decided they would accept it.
Today the package was in Correos in Estelí. Customs had decided we needed to pay almost C$1000 duty and handling. That's about $40. You used to just pay the duty in the Post Office but now you get to go to a particular bank (Bancentro) fill out three forms and pay. Ana did. We now have those boxes.
In Parallel, I found the wired modems I wanted for about $250 a pair. I ordered them and some assorted lightening arrestors. The total was close to $400. The problem with this stuff is pretty much anything that has a connector other than a power jack on it is considered communications equipment and needs a TELCOR permit. (Note that a regular wired telephone requires a TELCOR permit.) If I had sent this like the two boxes I would have had to go to Postal Customs in Managua to get the paperwork, then to TELCOR in Managua (Note that Correos is actually part of TELCOR and there are TELCOR folks in Estelí but they don't do anything.) to get the permit (TELCOR has a cashier so I don't think I would need to go to the bank to pay), then take that paperwork back to Correos in Managua so they could process the package and send it to Estelí so I could get the paperwork and pay in the bank like with the other box.
I went for Plan B. I had the company ship to TransExpress in Miami. That is sometimes problematic as I don't have any credit cards with the Miami address on it but, this time, it worked -- probably because they use Google Checkout which actually works. TransExpress in Miami does the right thing and the box is sent to Managua.
Now, it is flown there but I usually don't hear from NicaBox, the Nicaragua piece of TransExpress for a while. It was about a week. Then I get an email (in English which surprised me) asking for an invoice. I email it. The next day I get asked for a copy of my cédula and I email it. Finally, I get told that they need to get a TELCOR permit and I say go ahead.
A week later I email them asking what has happened. No reply. About five days later (yesterday) I get email (from another person, this time in Spanish) telling me that the package is ready and I need to pay $94. She sends me their bank account number -- the usual way to pay. I ask if they can send the package to Estelí, telling her where and she says "of course". So, Ana goes to the bank to pay that.
Tomorrow is a holiday (Mother's Day) but, with any luck, we will have the modems by the end of the week. I still need to decide what wire to use, buy the PVC conduit and find someone to dig the ditch. But, we are close. Elapsed time is only about a month. What is more interesting is human time.
- Search on-line, find the products I wanted and get them ordered/sent to their destinations. About 30 minutes.
- Dealing with the Houston and Miami mail forwarders. About 5 minutes.
- Dealing with Correos, Postal Customs, the bank, ... to get the two boxes. About 6 hours.
- Dealing with Nicabox to get the modems. About 3 hours (including the bank line).
In any case, the pine trees are really nice here. It is raining but about 22C. The air is clean. Huge avocados are about $.20. And, while I don't have Internet because there was a thunderstorm and the electricity is off in San Nicolas right now, I am writing this off-line using my reliably locally-produced power.