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Friday, June 11, 2010

This isn’t your daughter’s Peace Corps

Okay, this is my version of the challenges of living in Indonesia. I am absolutely sure that this reflects only my opinion and not that of any other volunteer, Peace
Corps staff or government official.

Since joining Peace Corps I have learned how to blog, how to get data into a flash disk, into a computer and back out again, how to take pictures from the camera, put them in the computer and onto places on the internet, how to get on face book, how to buy a cell phone, install a SIM card, how to text, how to text with the dictionary, how to add words to the dictionary, how to use an ATM card. I’ve bought a new laptop computer, figured out how to use the finger keypad and find the new and different programs to do the things which I used to be able to do easily. I’ve learned how to set up a skye account and I’ve talked to my grandchildren and watched them in their living room while they watched me in Indonesia (for free!) on the computer. I’ve figured out how to install a modem, how to switch SIM cards from the cell phone to the modem, how to buy pulsa for the cell phone and the modem. (I still don’t know what pulsa is but it costs money and lets you do electronic things and when you run out all your electronic things stop. It might be how much signal time you use for your signal using things.) Now Peace Corps wants me to use a new ATM and I have to figure out why the bank won’t activate it. It’s using up all my pulsa trying to call the bank. I think it has something to do with the fact that the SIM card from my cell phone had to be switched with the SIM card from my modem. That’s the glitch that I can’t fix. (Which doesn’t work, by the way. The internet connection worked for a few days while I was here but has now disappeared. I’ve tried it in various different locations in the house.) The end result is that the phone number I submitted to the bank is now a screen in my computer and I have a new phone number.

Before Peace Corps I was just a grandma who didn’t know how to turn on the TV so her grandkids could watch videos, never rented a video in my life, didn’t use an ATM card – I went to the bank to get money, why use an ATM card? I could read and send email and talk on the phone. Texting (they call it SMS here – short message – I keep getting confused and calling it MSM but it’s not a messaging machine.) seemed crazy – something high school kids did. (Same with face book.) When ever I needed a new computer my kids helped me with it. I even shared a cell phone system with my daughter. I had no clue how to use a modem.

My Peace Corp application stressed my low tech life experience: giving birth to a baby on a dirt floor, living without electricity or running water and using an outhouse. I graduated from college 40 years ago. I’m 61. All the other volunteers in this country are 22-25 years old! I had no clue that Peace Corps service would require me to become techno savvy beyond my wildest dreams.

Thirteen year ago, when my daughter was in Peace Corps in Africa, she didn’t use a cell phone, didn’t text, didn’t use a computer, didn’t download pictures, didn’t have information to and from Peace Corps on a flash drive, (thumb drive - I think they call it a finger here and I know which finger!) She got her Peace Corps pocket money from a bank, not a machine. She didn’t have to buy pulsa or activate an ATM card.

You think adjusting to the heat and the humidity, the earthquakes, the new boss, the new co-workers, the new family, the new food, finding your way in a new town, meeting the new neighbors, figuring out what to wear that lets a little air in and still is respectful might be hard. Try doing all that with out being able to talk! Okay. I can talk a little. (Smile) Actually I’m surprised that most people do understand what I’m trying to say.

But I long for a conversation in English and it’s beyond frustrating that the only conversation I get to have in English is all about the technology which isn’t working and I don’t know why! My apologies to Evelyn. I have met 500 new people this past week: teachers, students, shop keepers, new family members, friends of new family and police officers and when she says “This is Evelyn,” all my memory banks go into overdrive to try to figure out who is this woman who is talking to me in really good English. Finally I figure out its Peace Corps and there’s MORE frustrating technology stuff I have to do because the previously frustrating technology got fixed with duct tape and now that seam is coming apart.

I’m LOL. Seriously, laughing is the only thing that seems to help. I have no clue how to get an Indonesian bank to understand what I don’t understand. I tried to uninstall the phone SIM card from the modem and use it in the cell phone but the signal in the sky knew I was doing something wrong, gave me one phone call and then refused to co-operate. But I did learn how to take the phone and the modem apart, rearrange them and put them all back together the right way. Laughing seems like the best option at this point!

This isn’t your daughter’s Peace Corps!

1 comment:

  1. Yeah...I would love to chat with you on skype or facebook....Im an RPCV from Africa living in Bandung. :)