The Little Papers Taped to Our Door

Sometime last week, we began noticing little papers taped to our door.  All told, we got three of them.  We recognized our building number and door number so we figured they were specifically and intentionally for us and, as most of the other doors had them as well, we weren’t concerned but were very curious.

Fast forward a week and, with the help of our language/culture helper, Agiimaa, we were able to determine they were basically our water, electric, and HOA bills.

This is a brief tutorial on how to pay these bills but, first: they are tiny pieces of paper with our handwritten address and amount due on them.  Taped to our door.  Fascinating, right?!


This one is the most interesting.  We go into our bathroom and look at the water meter reading for our cold water (located to the left below our toilet) and hot water (located behind our toilet) and text them to the number on the paper.  (I would include a picture but I really need to clean the bathroom first so I’m not going to.  We’re all better off this way, trust me.)

Then we text our meter reading to the phone number on the paper.   The mysterious person who receives that text then updates the bank to let them know how much we owe.

“The bank?” you ask.  Yes, of course the bank.  We need to go to the bank, wait in line, tell the teller we need to pay our water bill, give them the account number and then they tell us how much we owe.  Locals will sometimes bypass cash and just transfer money from their account to the water bill account but we don’t have a local bank account right now, so cash it is.


The  amount we owe is written right on the little paper.  So when we go to the bank we can plan ahead and bring the right amount of cash with us.  I asked Agiimaa if this is how most people pay their bills.  This is how that conversation went:

Me: Agiimaa, is this how most people pay their bills?
Agiimaa: Yes, or they just go to the ATM
Me: Why would they go to the ATM?
Agiimaa: Because if you know their account number you can just use your card to transfer money.
Me (obviously confused): You can pay people at the ATM?
Agiimaa (confused about why I’m confused): Yes, of course, then you don’t have to wait in line.

(I wish I could have included a picture of our furrowed brows as we looked at each other. Then you could maybe feel the confusion better.)

See, I thought ATMs were for getting money out or, sometimes, if you’re willing to take the risk, depositing money. Apparently, they are useful for so much more than that.  But not for me.  Because I don’t have a local account.  So I use cash.

So we went to the bank.  And got a number.  And saw there were 45 people in line in front of us.  And we promptly left, because that could easily be a two+ hour wait and we were not feeling it.  Instead, I’m going to go earlier, tomorrow.  By myself.  What could possibly go wrong?


I’m sure HOA fee is not the right title.  But I think it’s the fee we pay for the person who mops our hallways everyday, and keeps the trash organized, and takes care of other things I’m not even aware of.  And I think our HOA fee is about $12.  Totally worth it.

Tomorrow, when I go to the bank, I’ll pay the HOA fee, the electric bill, and the water bill.  Considering we didn’t have hot water for the first week we were here, or any water for a day and a half, I have a good feeling about the water bill.

Our bills will be cheaper here in Mongolia than they were in the US.  I’m fascinating by the discrepancy in the cost of energy all over the world.  I have friends who live in Haiti and will pay hundreds of dollars a month for irregular electricity.  Our bills in the US were usually less than $100.  I’m guessing here they’ll be less than $25…maybe that will change in the winter.  I don’t really know how that works yet, I’m just a newby.   But I’m learning.

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