Friday, March 13, 2009

Navigating the Technology Jungle!

Refilwe, an orphanage and community enrichment program located in one of the more rural areas surrounding Johannesburg, loses its power in the Infinite Family computer center every time someone turns on the stove in the cottage next door.

Yes, indeed! Everyday is a new technology adventure with Infinite Family!

*When we teach computer skills at Refilwe, we do it in the dark...afraid to turn on the lights, overload the system and then lose the laboriously typed user profiles the children have been working on.

*Internet Solutions generously donates satellite access to all Infinite Family's computer centers. Which means these hunking-big satellites are attached to tin roofs, concrete block outbuildings and shipping containers masquerading as technology centers. This incredible access to the internet provided free of charge puts the ultimate strain on these less than stable structures. But somehow, these humble dwellings bear the burden of the satellites, beaming the smiling faces of our Net Buddies all the way to outer space and over the pond on a daily basis!

*Nkosi's Haven, a Johannesburg hospice for HIV+ women and their children, stitches together their Infinite Family connection by dangling the modem precariously from a chair...the only way to keep the ethernet wire connected!

And those are just a few of the technology problems in South Africa -- one of the best wired cities on the African continent!

As for the US, you'd think you'd be looking at a fairyland of technological wonders. Guess again!

*100 different users with different operating systems, computers of varying ages and abilities, less than adequate internet connections, modems that are flukey, and speaker/headphone systems that mysteriously want to do something other than work when it is time to be talking to a Net Buddy during a video conference. The US is no technological picnic.

*And in my own home in Pittsburgh PA, if I use my telephone and my microwave at the same time, I sound like I'm underwater and the popcorn won't pop!

Some days, it feels as if technology is a jungle of preying problems waiting to pounce!

And yet, Infinite Family somehow manages to create enduring and special connections between orphans in South Africa and mentors around the world. Mentors and Net Buddies meet every week, sharing their hopes and dreams, their daily lives and funny stories...laughing, creating poetry and chair-dancing to music together...all on this same amazing and frustrating link called technology.

Until of course, one of the kids at the orphanage gives the key to the computer center to a man named David who went away for the weekend...and who conveniently dropped his cell phone in the Crocodile River so he can't be reached. And then you realize even when the technology works, you've still got problems!

Oops!! Gotta neighbor is using his CB Radio and his voice is coming through my computer speakers!!!'ve got to love it!

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