It's been quite an education learning to live in the United Kingdom. We have truly fallen in love with southern England, but we are continually reminded that there's a lot more to establishing a long-term life here than we ever imagined! Exhibit A: technology.
Figuring out how to communicate with the rest of the world has proven to be a full-time job. Besides wanting to keep in touch with our family, we've needed to be in contact with several departments in the Church Office Building on a regular basis. For the first couple of months that was nearly impossible. It's been an ongoing challenge.
When we first arrived, while we lived in the little village of Ardingly, there was no satellite reception at all. No cell phone (our only phone), no Internet, no email, etc. No way to contact anybody - even in an emergency. Luckily, we didn't have one :)
Internet access in our Visitor's Centre has been, shall we say, unpredictable. Because of some remodeling/updating that went on in February, we had a couple of months where it only worked when it felt like it. There is no Internet access in The Lodge (where we live), either. Consequently, we bought ourselves a "dongle" - a little handheld piece of equipment that gives us a WiFi signal wherever we take it. You'd think that would be the end of the story.... It ain't that easy.
Here's what we do to communicate (more or less frequently) with the family and the C.O.B. to avoid exorbitant international fees:
- Email? Easy enough if we're near out laptop at home and the dongle is on.
- Text? We have a "text-free voice" number that I can use on my IPad if the dongle is on and I'm where I can find wireless access.
- Phone call? We have a Magic Jack thing-a-mabob that we plug into the side of the laptop, then when the dongle is turned on we can make and receive free calls from the states. We just speak into the computer. Awesome!
- Video call? Skype usually works if the dongle is on.
Notice that the dongle has to be on to communicate in any way, shape or form. Therein lies the next challenge. We pay for it by the gigabyte. When it runs out we either have to make a trip to the grocery store to buy more time, or we go online to "top up." That happens quite regularly. Email, surfing the web, and phone calls don't take many gigs. Skype and conference calls do, but we don't have any way to communicate with anybody without those gigs so we pay for them cheerfully.
Another technological challenge has been learning how to get where we need to go with our "Satnav" (short for Satellite Navigation,or GPS). When we gave up our Smart Phone with GPS in the states, our Swiss friends, the Kopps, donated the Garmin they weren't using anymore to our cause. It has saved us! We'd be permanently stuck going around some gigantic roundabout somewhere without it. Satnav is our new best friend. It's loyal (always available when we need it). It's honest (always tells us the truth, even when we're lost). It forgives us when we make a mistake. It's patient and always gives us another chance. It just recalculates. It's devoted to our well-being.
All this has taught me one big lesson: It's almost impossible for us to function or communicate from this country without Internet access, and that can be a complicated process. So, next time you pick up your Smart Phone and call, text, Skype, email, or surf the Internet, appreciate it!
Me? I'm hoping it's easier in heaven. ~Pat~