camacuá y bonifacio

I went out to pay the phone bill. Today is the last day. Nora who cleans and washes and keeps all in order crosses the road ahead of me. "Nora! wait up." We chat. "Lots of noise from the builders drilling," she says "And the street being dug up," I say. "But what about the Germans?" she asked. "What?.. oh, no.. no problems this year," I tell her. We stop outside the pago facil (the irony) It's locked up - something about the system being down, but there's a notice about a new place to pay. "I'll go back and find it," I tell Nora. "Chau, chau, hasta mañana"

Back track one block but the new pago facil is not yet open.

OK, so Disco supermarket is my best bet I figure. I retrace my steps, cross the road by the flower stall on the corner. Walk to Disco. "José! Professor!" I touch the sleeve of his blue cotton jacket, "Hola, cómo está?" I often see him out and about, completing routine tasks or enthusiastically debating a theological point with a student. José heads out, and I breath a sign of relief that the checkout queues aren't long. At the one till where it is possible to pay bills, a man in front of me points out to the cashier that she has only entered 5 of his 6 bills. It's my turn. "Just the phone bill" I say hopefully. The bar code won't scan. She tries to enter the barcode manually and the numbers stream across her till-screen. No luck. "Maybe the systems down.." she says. "But today's my last day to pay!" I plead with her not to give up. And then, it goes through. Hurrah.

I'm at the locutorio and see Hugo. Hugo is golden - dependable, helpful, everything you want at the front desk. "Hey," he asks, "Have those Germans been bothering you?" I laugh, "Nora just asked me. But no, this year's volunteers have been fine. Not like last year. I had to get up in the middle of the night and yell at them to stop banging saucepans!" We get to the door and Hugo stops to finish his smoke.

Evenings are quiet. I write and email, drink cups of tea and follow the medal chasers in Beijing. But soon there come the rubbish trucks, and the motorbikes; and in the morning, the drilling and the digging will begin.