As challenging as Windows 8 has made my life, the remoteness of our journey makes it harder. We travelled to the pueblo of El Remate, Guatemala so that we could venture to the Mayan ruins of Tikal. El Remate is a small town on a lake, swollen from heavy rains. Docks are under water and coconut trees drop their treasures into the murky waters. We are staying at a hostel where the stove is a wood burning fire pit, the shower is outdoors, and chickens scurry about the yard.
The only internet is in the town, which proudly owns two internet cafes. I must walk into town with my laptop to connect for my weekly conference call on Uber. The connection is strong and the calls are successful. But any other work, such as posting to my blog, must wait.
Next we travel to a small seaside village in Belize called Hopkins Village. The town is full of touristas and American and Canadian retirees. Our hostel on the beach has internet, but I am only sporadically able to connect. Thank you Windows 8. The MAC users connect freely and I am forced to borrow someone’s laptop to send email. I am able to connect occasionally, and feverishly send my emails and sync my documents to Dropbox. I am unsuccessful in attempting my weekly conference call and I tell my colleagues there was a power outage in Hopkins Village rather than confess that my Windows 8 laptop is just not up to the task of connecting to the internet in remote villages.
I am excited when we make it to Cancun and I can SKYPE with family and complete my weekly conference call. I have to make the call from the lobby of our hotel because we are on the top floor, with great views from our balcony, but the routers stop at the floor below. I begin to wonder about internet in Cuba. I know that my TMobile Global will not follow me to Cuba because all things American are not possible there. I learn that in Cuba internet is only in the hotels, which we are not staying in, and worry about our time there.
We arrive in Habana (Havana to Americans) and everything I have been told about the internet is true. I can only get internet in the hotels and it is only available from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. We are staying in a “Casa Particular,” the Cubans recent invention to allow some Cubans to make extra money from the budget travelers who venture to Cuba for adventure. For two days I am disconnected from the world and worried about my fast paced project that is hopefully moving forward without me. On day three I make it to a hotel, buy a tarjeta (card) for an hour of connectivity. I am grateful to get my email because the friends we made it Cuba told us email to America is blocked. This is possibly true everywhere but the hotels. I am able to retrieve email, research the address of the restaurant we want to try, and get word out about our arrival in Vienna and back into the free world.
We were detained by Cuban immigration for an hour, our luggage screened and lots of questions asked. The focus seemed to be on electronics. I am later approached by a lovely man who is a teacher, but works in a tourist shop to make extra money, and needs someone to bring in a laptop for his daughter who has just started University. Perhaps I can get word to some lovely people in Washington who have agreed to help. The detention at the airport makes more sense now. Cuba makes less sense. By the way, if the US government is reading this blog I was on an educational mission as part of my exploration of lesbian rights in South and Central America and have a well-researched paper to prove it.
I would love to say I am glad to be going home but I as of yet have no home. I would like to say I am glad to being going somewhere I can speak English, but I am headed to the Czech Republic by way of Vienna. I am glad that I am leaving the world of remote villages, but I must acknowledge that the internet has been plentiful and strong. South and Central America have leapt onto the internet wagon as part of a cellular wave of connection. Cellular has allowed them to bypass their infrastructure problems with telephone communications so that everyone can talk.
We watched Cholas in Bolivia talk on their cellphones on the bus and our snorkeling guide talk to his friend on the boat in the middle of the ocean. Cellular providers sponsor WIFI in many of the parks in the major towns and cities we visited.
Despite my two-week slow down my belief in The Global Mobile Worker Project is strong. I will connect, can connect, and have connected by any means necessary.