We were so blessed to have two NTMPNG co-workers visit us in the village to help us to do the things we cannot do for ourselves. Like help get us connected to the digital age, fix broken technology, and give immunizations. As a result, we have gone from living off the grid, to being plugged in to a world half a world away! As one friend said, we are suffering from digital whiplash! Pray that we would have the wisdom to use technology to connect, and not to distract.
Here is a peep at what life was like BEFORE the internet in the bush . . . .
I’m A Jungle Grapevine Being By-Passed On The Super Speedy Information Highway
Do you remember the early days of using a modem, when you could actually hear the modem screeching over the telephone wire as it tried to connect with a server far far away? Do you remember even further back to the days of party telephone lines, where you had to pick up the receiver from the phone hanging on the wall and listen to hear if someone else was using the line before you started to dial?
Okay, if you remember those days, odds are you are over 40 and you have lived in a rural area. So you are in good shape to understand what doing email over the HF radio is like. If you are younger than 40, or have lived in an urban environment all of your life, you are just going to have to use your imagination.
The HF radio frequency is shared with all users, so it is like a party line, where you have to listen to see if someone else is using it first, or you might bump them out of their connection. On particularly busy days, sometimes you have to wait for hours, till it is your turn. And yes, you can hear the modem as radio transmissions are sent and received. When you finally do get to try and connect over the radio, you have to “ping” the server. If the server is free, there is an answering “ping” and you can actually dial in and “connect”.
How fast is this service? Let’s just say that on a good day, just sending and receiving email can take 5-15 minutes. That’s assuming no one else is on. You have a great connection, and not much email. And no one bumps you off. Most days, I could spend 30 minutes to hours and still not be able to send and receive all my email.
And what? You wanted an answer yesterday? Well, I might be able to send it out tomorrow, because my reception has gone completely wonky and I can’t connect to the server at all any more today. But I can’t promise, because if someone bumps me off of the connection, it might not even get out then.
You sent me a 1 sentence email from your Iphone? No, I didn’t get it, because the email was too large! I’m limited to 100 kbs per email, or it takes too long to download. So it’s just sitting far far away from me in the land of the internet, just waiting until I can get access to the internet again. I might see it in 3 months.
By the way, what’s a tweet?
This is not suffering, whining, or complaining. This is just the way life is when you live it unplugged in the bush. Can you live without your smart phone?
What brought about the recent change for us?
After being in the bush for 6 months, and struggling more and more with email in the bush. Anji wasn’t looking forward to having a “break”. At all. She saw that in less than 3 weeks time we had to update three computers and 1 smartphone with 6 months worth of updates, go through over 350 emails which never reached us in the bush, talk with family, do all the necessary paperwork which is now on the web, and all the other incidentals that build up over time. That wasn’t a break, that was computer maintenance and correspondence. And Anji realized that she just couldn’t keep on going the way it was going. Something had to give.
We both realized that things had to change. The world around us has become so instantaneous and internet heavy, that unless we did something different, it was going to wear us out. We had resisted the change for a long time, because we live in an area where there is no mobile phone service. None. And the other option, satellite internet, was extremely expensive, at hundreds of dollars a month.
NTMPNG’s ICT Department helped us out.
So when we sat down with another missionary in our ICT department, he helped us work through what all the costs would be, and what we would have to do to get things up and running. So we gave him the go ahead to start purchasing the needed pieces and parts, and we would see him in 3 months.
He found us a used dish, and traveled across country to get it (no small feat here in PNG). He ordered the parts and refurbished the dish for us so that it would be “As good as new”. In the meantime, we found some river sand which we could use in the bush. After the guys dug a hole for the post and a trench for the cable, they mixed and poured concrete, and set the post.
Then in July, he and his wife traveled with the dish to visit us in the tribe and do the installation. What a huge blessing!
Now we can continue working in the tribe, and actually look forward to time out of the bush! Now we can actually talk to supporters and family halfway around the world. Now a chunk of Anji’s day isn’t lost waiting for the radio channel to be clear so she can send and receive email.
At the push of a button, that email is gone in 5 seconds. That’s amazing.