“How does it feel to have internet access at your house? Handy? Too distracting? A nice balance?” – Jessie
My goal for this trip was to write a blog post a week. I wanted to keep people updated without writing gobs of emails, and I wanted to spend intentional time on my writing. I had no idea what sort of reliable wifi internet access I would have at home or in town, and my SST experience in 2011 consisted of very limited access on a weekly basis for the 3 months I was in Tanzania. Internet cafes with spotty electricity provided a chance to write email updates and quickly catch up on stories from home and on Facebook. It was a stressful and frustrating experience, but I had hopes that this time would be much different.
With the last five years of modern advances in smartphone capabilities and their almost ubiquitous status even in Tanzania, my plan to use cell data as my primary internet connection has worked wonderfully. I rely on data I purchase in monthly plans or via weekly vouchers that keep my smartphone humming along with its TZ SIM card. I have respectable wifi at my house during buissness hours for V4Y research and writing, and my phone provides remarkably reliable internet around town and as a hotspot for my computer. I spend about $15 a month for 10 gigs of data, not too shabby.
I haven’t had a hot shower in my house yet, but by golly I can surf the web whenever I please.
To answer the above question, it all feels very normal. I can carry certain habits over from America very easily. And similar to my electronically dependent life back in the States, I have to make daily effort to temper some of those habits.
Facebook is an ever present distraction for everyone here. Especially since Vodocam (a big TZ SIM card carrier) provides free data for Facebook…it’s a little ridiculous. And just like at home, I get real time notifications of every email on my phone. Thankfully my inbox has become much less lively since I’ve left many of my responsibilities at home. I’m equally temped here with have full access to all the articles, surfing, and entertainment that the World Wide Web offers.
I’m frequently reminded of the need for balance. There is really no point in me coming here and cutting myself off from technology and communication. It is a wonderful thing that I frequently stay in touch with new and long time relationships. Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger, Skype, email, and my blog are all readily accessible. And a lot of what I do for V4Y involves research and writing presentations on my computer. But I also want this year to be a time of being present in this time and space, and being mindful of how I use my time.
I occasionally scan Facebook, read an article, or listen to a podcast while I’m on a long slow bumpy daladala ride across town, but often I put my screen away and just sit and take in the wild world of Arusha. And I have absolutely loved reading lots of books (fiction and non-fiction) here rather than keeping on top of the next Netflix show.
Though the 9,000 miles from home feels much closer with all the threads of connection modern society provides, I am 10 hours ahead of my CO home which makes the distance very tangible. I feel much less connected with friends and family than my European friends here who are only off by a couple hours. For me having a chat via Whatsapp or Facebook and calling home are treats due to the challenging schedule conflicts that living ten hours in the future brings up.
Overall, I really enjoy and am thankful for my ease of technological connection here in Arusha. I am reminded that I shouldn’t just rely on occasionally removing technology to give me a chance to evaluate things or feel less distracted. I must make the effort to moderate my use of this wonderful resource because it’s only going to be more present in my life. Hopefully I can continue to find ways to make my use of it beneficial and life giving rather than just distracting and entertaining.
And of course I love that I can hear from and connect with all of you! I still welcome questions, comments, email updates, and Whatsapp texts anytime!