If I understand, what you were told is you will need a blackberry data plan if you want email. Understand that with the blackberry there is voice and data. Text messages a la SMS is not billed as data. Look around the forum re discussions about using the blackberry with/without data plan. I think some are able to do some things with opera mini without the blackberry data plan, but I never paid attention to the details so can't adequately repeat here. Best advice is check the FAQ...your answers are there.
By the way, welcome to the group.