We had been here for just over a week when the doorbell rang after dinner. It was the "electric man." I don't know exactly how the system works, but he is one of the first to discover when we are back in town.
He knows the least English of anyone we are in contact with here. He hands me a set of monthly bills produced by his hand-held computer and says something in Arabic that apparently means, "You are overdue on electricity!" When I ask for the total, he says 159 in Arabic. I summon Linda to translate. I fish out 160 Egyptian pounds and pay up in exchange for the receipts. The actual total is 158.85 but everyone rounds up here - and I tell him to keep the 1 pound in change. He smiles and is gone for another month or two.
The electric bills are fairly simple to understand once you catch on to reading from right to left instead of left to right. The column on the right, circled in green, holds the current and previous meter readings and the calculated usage. Below that is the fee for electricity; various taxes, fees and the like that are then added and subtracted which raise the amount by around twenty cents. The total is circled in red on the left.
Our bottom line electric charge for the past 11 months was $9.34 which added to our bill paid last February brought the total annual bill to about $23.50.
Next was the Condominium Association fees. My neighbor, Mohamed, knocked on our door last night to see if I recalled when I last paid. We pay 100 Egyptian pounds per month which covers the water, the elevator and the lights in the common area - and, oh yes, the services of Sayed, our bawaab. Mrs. Sayed is outside our door as I write this, mopping the floor. They do this once a week.
This year we had an extra thousand pound assessment for elevator repairs which included new cables as the old ones were getting worn. I am glad Mohammed is in charge. He doesn't scrimp on the maintenance as I am sure others might. That put our annual total at 2200 EGP, or about $129.
The only utility not represented yet is the garbage man. He picks up the rubbish three times a week from outside the door and gets a bit over $1 a month for the service. He collects the fee monthly and will be here shortly after the first of February. (Oh, yes, there is also telephone and Internet but that will get its own post later)
So there you have our living expenses. Something under $180 for the year. We took a taxi up to the supermarket and back this morning for a dollar each way. I picked up a pound of fresh local bananas and two pounds of tangerines for another dollar, from a "green grocer" just down the block.
The temperature is 66 and the sun is shining. Life is good.