Monday, November 9, 2009

Address Not Found

Part of living in a developing country is not having the easy Internet access you’re used to at home. I knew this before I came here and although I try to be understanding, the situation drives me up the wall.

For starters, I do not have any sort of reliable Internet at my house. Broadband wireless access is available in certain parts of Gorontalo, but of course not where I live. Even if it were available in my area, I would need to get a telephone line installed but was told by the helpful people at Telkom that there are thousands of people on the waiting list already so there’s no chance of me getting a line installed this year. So, instead, I have a USB modem that I can plug into my laptop for a pre-paid dial-up connection. But this connection only works if God is willing, and God is often not willing. More often than not, I am left staring at a screen that says “Address Not Found” or “Page Load Error”. And the minutes on my pre-paid card tick by…

I thought I would outsmart the system by getting a cell phone that could connect to the Internet. Most of the other ELFs bought the cheapest cell phones they could find when we all went cell phone shopping in Jakarta during orientation, but I decided to pay the extra $50 to get a phone that would allow me to check my email and Facebook whenever I wanted because I knew Internet access in Gorontalo would be tricky. In theory this was a brilliant idea, but in practice the browser on my phone is just as fickle as the USB modem. Sometimes I can scroll through my inbox with no problem and other times I’m faced with the message, “Verification of server certificate failed”, whatever that means.

My saving grace, up until this past week, has been my Internet connection at work. I just plug in the LAN cable and I’m good to go. Well, usually. The connection is often strong in the morning and then fades to nothing by late afternoon. But I can deal with this inconvenience because at least I know that I can check my email first thing in the morning and respond to urgent messages. However, plans to catch up on Facebook or upload photos after work are often thwarted by lack of access in the afternoon. I also lose my Internet connection every time the power goes off, which happens at least once a week at school.

But for this entire past week I have had absolutely no Internet connection at all at work. The head of the department said there was a problem with the central office in Manado and the university technician had no idea when it would be fixed. And last week was a particularly difficult one to be without Internet at work. My supervisor at the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta has been sending us ELFs lots of emails about upcoming programs in Malang, Makassar, and elsewhere and expects us to respond ASAP. Workshops are suggested, partners need to found, flight itineraries need to be hashed out and I feel completely out of the loop on this.

Without Internet at home or at work, I’m forced to find other solutions. There are countless Internet cafes, known as warnet, in town, but ever since I picked up a local virus on my flash drive that deleted all my lesson plans of the past couple years, I have decided to avoid these warnet like the plague. Luckily, a student was able to restore my files, but I have been sufficiently scared now that I have decided to only use my flash drive in my own computer.

One place I can go to use free wireless is the Quality Hotel. This is the fanciest hotel in town, has English speaking staff, and even the occasional Westerner passing through. There’s a nice lobby with air-conditioning and comfortable chairs and it would be an ideal spot to catch up on emails, if only the wireless actually worked. It only seems to work about every other time I go there. Not being able to use the Internet whenever I want is just one example of how in Indonesia I don’t have the same amount of control over my life that I am accustomed to.

1 comment:

  1. (almost) quality internet in Quality Hotel. It's a start.