Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Catherine Has a New Cell Phone




The phone Catherine bought in Los Angeles, which she hoped had Global System for Mobile Communication (GSM) capability, turned out not to be able to function in either Rwanda or the Congo. Our many attempts to get it unlocked in Kigali and Goma were unsuccessful. The main reason, we were told, was the unavailability of software designed to unlock that specific cell phone. Needless to say, Catherine and I had to rely on just my cell phone for quite some time. The power outage situation the previous night made me wonder what would happen in case of an emergency, so obtaining another cell phone for Catherine became an urgent priority.

It was not really a headache finding a phone for Catherine, along with a “Zain” SIM card just like the one I was using in my cell phone. There are about four or five major mobile network operators covering the Congo, including Vodacom, Zain, Tigo and Congo Chine Telecom. These networks are so unreliable that most people in the Congo have more than one cell phone, each using a different network. One has to wonder whether this situation has been created purposely to force people to buy more and more cell phones. The power outage situation notwithstanding, cell phone stores are everywhere in Goma. It is important to remember that this is the home of most of the Coltan illegally supplied to the world electronic market. The mines of Bisie in Walikale are just about a hundred kilometers away from Goma.

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