20 December 2011

Why It's Good to Have So Many Bills

In Bishkek there are lots of bills to pay.  There's the hot water, and the cold water, and the electricity, and the gas, and the phone, and other things that are just basic things everyone pays.  All the typical bills come to your door or get handed to you by the person who runs the show in your apartment building.  For us, that person also sells socks outside on the corner, so she keeps her stack of bills with her and hands them to us when we walk by.

None of the bills are very much, from an American point of view, except for the heating in the winter (which is still a lot less than heating a house with coal).  You usually pay the bills at the post office (or other places- we've just always gone to the post office in Bishkek) and they scan your bill and you pay it and get the ever-important receipt.  It's not too big of a hassle unless you show up when the lines at the post office are long.

One thing that's really convenient about having so many different systems running through the apartment that have to be paid for is that when something doesn't work, it's not the end of the world.  In the US, having the electricity off for a while usually means no hot water, or no water at all, no A/C and possibly no heating, no running any type of appliance, and sometimes more things.  It can be a major annoyance.  Here, the electricity can go off for hours and it's not a big deal.  If the gas goes out in the US, you might not have heating or hot water, and maybe no cooking.  Here, it just means I use the electric parts of the stove.  The hot water is off?  At least there's cold, or the other way around (although just having hot water isn't really fun).  There's always a backup.

And best of all, it's cold enough on the balcony right now that it doesn't matter if the fridge doesn't work.  That's handy to remember since I think we're starting rolling blackouts which is usually attributed to people using space heaters when it's cold.

I won't go into the fact that it is still 10 degrees warmer in your average Bishkek apartment than in your average rural coal-heated house which can't afford the luxury of space heaters.

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