Monday, April 12, 2010

Comparative Convenience

I set off this afternoon to pay the various utility bills. Bosnia is a cash society – they do not use checks at all. I am told that most Bosnians have a bank account and a debit card, but they don’t have paper checks at all. So when it’s time to pay utility bills, you don’t’ sit down and write a batch of checks, you go to the Post Office and pay them in cash.

I was silently congratulating myself that the previous month I had located a nearby Post Office. Our first month here I only knew where the downtown Post Office was and that was about a 35 minute walk. On the plus side, the walk is all down hill from our apartment. The Post Office I found near our apartment was less than a 15 minute walk, although there was a pretty wicked hill to climb. Still, a much shorter walk.
But here’s the really lucky part. Directly across the street from the Post Office is an ATM machine from the bank we use most often! The US Embassy had advised using only the ATMs from the larger, more established banks. Banking regulations here are pretty loose and some businesses call themselves banks and install ATMs, but can charge enormous transaction fees.

When I made this discovery I could hardly wait to tell Landy about how convenient it would be from now on to pay the utility bills. All I had to do was walk to the ATM machine and get out enough to cover the bills, then go across the street and pay everything at the Post Office. How great is that?!

It was hardly out of mouth when I had to start to laugh. After just a few months in Sarajevo, this was my new idea of “convenience”. Back in Portland I pay nearly all our bills online and I find myself feeling irritated at the “inconvenience” of having to write out an occassional check by hand.

This month I’m back to feeling pretty inconvenienced by life in Sarajevo indeed. After a short walk  this afternoon (uphill) I got to the Post Office and it was closed! State services here all close their doors between 2 and 3 pm. I’d arrived at 3:10 – just missed it. OK, it was fun for awhile, but now it’s not cute anymore.