Monday, November 14, 2011

I is for Internet?

We have it here in the Gambia. Sort of. Let me go over your options (assuming you're a PCV)...

1. The Peace Corps Office/Transit house.
your best bet, security-wise. could be the fastest, depending on the day/what everyone around you is down-loading.
pros-you can use pandora because it's on an american satellite.
cons-one location, can be lots of wait, no privacy for skyping (even though it's the best place for it)

2. the kombo (urban) internet cafe (byo laptop).
fancy. sometimes air-conditioned. a place to relax and use wireless from a sort of comfy chair or couch. often are in locations with delicious (yet expensive) food. as with all other internet here, can have really REALLY good days and really dismal ones.
pros-cute passwords (chocolat at the french bakery, etc)
cons-white collar bumsters (see earlier posts) who know how to find you on facebook

3. the kombo internet cafe (sans cafe).
clean(ish). rarely air-conditioned, though sometimes there will be a fan. internet here is reliably slow (open on tab at a time, give yourself 10 mins for attachments minimum, etc). you can gchat on a good day, i've even seen people skype.
pros-conveniently located next to major shopping districts
cons-hackers know it too. isn't it weird that all your contacts suddenly think you're stranded in nigeria and need 13,000 USD?

4. the up-country internet cafe (with dust!)
as dirty as you are from the travel it took to get there. give yourself an hour to wait and see if the current will be on today. if the electricity is there, the internet may also be there. hourly rates are cheaper than kombo ones, but you pay for it in time. it takes awhile for even emails to open, attachments? maybe if you've got nothing else to do that day.
pros-closer to site than kombo
cons-it's possible to wait all day and never get internet, meaning you left site for nothing

5. the stick (for the pcv on the go)
recently, 2 of the major cellphone networks here have come out with portable internet sticks. you plug them into your USB drive, and they connect to the internet via signals from the cellphone towers (aka there's a tiny man inside each stick on an even smaller laptop that invents everything you think the internet would tell you). these are apparently magical for volunteers who have a reliable laptop-charging source around their site and a little extra cash (like the phones here, you buy credit and pay as you go, so you can use it all up on one download). coverage can be sketchy but it beats trekking around, especially if you are working on your own computer and don't wanna travel with it.
pros-you can email your program manager about how hard you're working without getting out of bed
cons-even if you have to patience to load a youtube video, you definitely don't have the dalasis.

6. super-fancy internet phone
yes, they have them here. and i would assume they work exactly like they do in america, except a lot more slowly and a lot of incomplete coverage. all i know is they make people less social and squint a lot.
pros-a phone like that can probably also play akon
cons-crow's feet.

So there you have it. I is for Internet indeed. unless this post fails to load, and then i'll just have to write another one, i is for irate.

ps. my brother gets here today!! it's going to be quite an adventure. i will let y'all know how he likes the gam.