The Only "Fundamental" Thing I Believe in: Net Necessity
March 23, 2007

What do you do when you have no Internet access and you can't go to work for three days solid in Kabul? I'm now most definitely caught up on sleep.

I'll say it again - thank goodness for L'Atmosphere and its wireless network, and for Sonia for taking me there my first week so that I knew about it. I think I have, at last, found what I'm going to do every Friday - go there, or Chaila, have a nice lunch and play on the Internet all day long. But as for Thursday nights at l'Atmosphere - I finally went, and I didn't like it at all. Too many people, too much smoke, too much of a hookup scene. Any night but Thursday, I'll consider going.

A huge thank you to Jerry in Oregon, who, years ago, made me a bunch of CDs with MP3s of old radio shows, everything from Abbot and Costello to detective stories to scary stuff. I never had a chance to listen to them before. Now, I do!! I've really enjoyed them. This makes long non-electricity times and non-Internet times bearable. Only problem is that some of them... well, some of them are scary! I love movies, truly I do, but there is something about hearing the horror instead of seeing it that makes it so much more frightening...

BTW, my iPod broke just a few days before I left. I killed the battery by running it out completely. It's an "old" iPod (a whopping four years old, gasp, it's ancient), so thank goodness for eBay, where I quickly found a new battery. It arrived back in Germany recently and has been installed by that really smart mechanical engineer I know, and I will be able to bring me olde iPod with me after my first R & R back home. Although, to be honest, I haven't yet missed it much, other than on the plane rides over and a few nights when I would have liked to just lie in bed and listen to music before trying to sleep. Even on my long ride to work, I don't want to listen to it - the Bollywood music or Islamic prayers that our drivers prefer go perfectly with what I see out the window. And on the ride home, I'm usually with several other people, and we talk the whole way.

When the Internet is working, I don't want to leave my computer. I want to skip meetings, skip lunch, skip dinner, skip sleep, skip whatever, and just work on the Net as long as I can. I hate walking away from a working Internet, because always, when I come back, it's down. I get "page cannot be found" over and over again for every web site, even if the Dell computer happily tells me that the connection is working just fine. Not that it's the computer messing up the connection, but I would think it could give me accurate information about the connection working or not. Have I mentioned how much I hate this computer? I got almost 200 copies of one virus, and I think I'm still under attack, although the virus software the IT guys here seems to be fighting it off okay. At work, we have to transfer files via memory sticks, because our Internet access is so unreliable (you can't be sure someone is going to get a file quickly if you email it to them) and because we don't have a server/Intranet to share files - and that's how non-Macs get viruses, over and over again. Virus protection software just can't keep up with it all.

True, I'm in KABUL, and that I have a computer and the Internet at all (however rarely) is a miracle, and in stark contrast to the rest of this country -- but I really was lead to believe the Internet was much more reliable at work and my guest house than it's turned out to be. I'd say it works in either place maybe 50% of the time. So far, I've had things to do sans Internet at work - filling out yet more forms for the UN agency I have my contract with (no, I'm still not officially on board), following up on other forms I've filled out ("um... who has my passport?") and going through hundreds and hundreds of digital pictures from the past four years and trying to organize them and, ultimately, find ways to use them.

Regarding the photos: Most were taken by just one person, a Japanese lady who used to do both my job and that of my office mate, and many are really terrific. As I mentioned in my last blawg, I created an account on Flickr for the government office I support and have started posting the very best ones. Now, you too can experience Afghanistan the way I have so far: through other people's photos.

I've also been working on a presentation on tips for taking pictures in the field, which I hope to get to deliver in person to staff soon, and to get translated into Dari for distribution to all Afghan nationals in my program. I LOVE to train, and really hope I get to at least a little during my brief time here. In fact, my other goal is to create a training for my female co-workers on public speaking. I wrote several Muslim American women groups to ask them for any resources or materials they could suggest, and Women in Islam has been GREAT. They seemed thrilled to provide me with suggestions.

And I must add: this experience regarding the Internet has lead me to believe, more firmly than ever, in the importance of NOT overloading a web site with graphics and photos and java script and flash and whatever, preventing millions of users from really being able to use a site. To sit here with supposedly the latest versions of browsers, and broadband, when it's working, and to still not be able to access certain extremely high end sites.... It's sad to be denied essential information just because a web designer wants to play with fancy schmancy tools.


If you have read this blawg, PLEASE let me know.
Comments are welcomed, and motivate me to keep writing --
without comments, I start to think I'm talking to cyberair.

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