Day 05: Never let your guard down
Wednesday 9 November 2022

The time has come for us to leave San Salvador. 

We like the capital so much and it was the right decision to stop here for our entire first week. We needed time to get organized, get into the right rhythm with all the work we have to do, and reconnect with local friends who are so important for logistical support to our trip.

But enough is enough. We point the nose of our car toward the outskirts of the city and leave its urban agglomeration behind. Slowly, of course, because the traffic in Central America is second only to that of Bangkok or the great Indian cities. It is fun, however, to drive through this hodgepodge of noise and color, once you get used to it. 

The first challenge of the afternoon is to fill up the tank and pay for it in Bitcoin. Who knows why car rentals here have a habit of bringing you the car with the tank half empty. At least, that is our experience, mindful also of the rentals we made last year. Fortunately, it seems that in gas stations they have not lost the taste for accepting Bitcoin. We receive only one laconic no. On the second attempt they fill up our tank and present us with a Chivo QR code without a blow. The Lightning transaction is also quite quick, considering state shitwallet standards, of course.

Speaking of the Chivo wallet. Upon leaving our hotel we experienced minutes of confusion and disbelief. We eat breakfast, go to the desk and ask for the bill, ready to check out in a few hours. At the front desk they provide us with an on-chain address. Great. We take it to our room, and I calmly make the transaction from our BitBox02. I set the fees high, to get a quick confirmation, and without thinking about it I start stuffing our backpacks. 

Just as I am reasoning about how convenient in this case Bitcoin is, allowing me to pay my hotel bill even from the room, without having to be physically in front of the POS with a credit card in hand, I get a Whatsapp message from the front desk. They write to me that the payment transaction is cancelled. Cancelled? A bitcoin transaction? How is that possible? Is it broken? Could it really be dead this time?

I open my laptop and check the status on mempool. I see it there, carved in digital travertine, with already nine mined blocks after the one containing it. So it is not confirmed, it is cemented. I roll my eyes and think that only Chivo can suck so bad.

I arm myself with patience and go down to the front desk. I show the confirmations to the hotel staff. I explain that it is not possible that the transaction appears to be cancelled. There must be a problem on their wallet. The address is correct, the transaction ID is the same. They tell me not to worry, that they will call Chivo customer service with all the details and they will fix it. But before they dismiss me, they tell me, ” You can tell this bitcoin is working really bad.”

Do you understand? Do you also understand where the distrust comes from?

They do not have the tools to understand that Chivo is the problem, it is not Bitcoin. For them there is no difference. They live this hallucinating, shameful user experience, and for them that is Bitcoin. Obviously I’m taking time to explain how it is, and I recommend using another wallet. But those will probably have been words to the wind.

It is really striking, though, how the tool at the center of the Bitcoin operation in this country, the state wallet, more than fifteen months after its launch still manages to perform so poorly. I mean, how does a wallet miss an on-chain transaction? It just has to read.

It will be Algorand’s fault. The queen of shitcoin.