Sunday, April 19, 2009

Technical Woes

Sometimes life in paradise is problematic. Sigh. Like this past week.
Our internet service has been quite slow and cranky lately, making some tasks very frustrating and some nearly impossible - like Skype calls. With my birthday falling on Wednesday, I was expecting a lot of family calls via Skype. They all failed. I finally sent an e-mail telling everyone to just wait a day before trying again. But that wasn't the end of it.
Thursday we had no service at The modem wasn't fully lit up, bad sign. I had been experiencing a strange sensation all day whenever I came out onto the deck - all the hairs on my arms would raise up, kind of like when lightening is about to strike. Mighty weird. I called the HughesNet office to request help and was promised a tech after noon. Sure enough, the tech called shortly after noon, and in heavily accented English asked for directions. He said he was at the pizzaria - well, that was easy - just cross the road and drive up the hill to our house, 4th on the right. Nope. Not so easy. I repeated this numerous times and we both became more confused. I finally asked, "are you at Bella Napoli Pizza?", thinking surely he was at the wrong pizza place, but no, he said he was at Bella Napoli. Just then Don returned from picking Kellie up at school and said he would drive down the hill so the tech could follow him back up. So he does, the tech sees him, waves and begins following him. Don gets to the tech. He turns around and goes back to find the tech pulling out of the first driveway...a puzzler, until he explains that his motorcycle motor stopped and he pulled over to try to get it going again. Finally, they both make it to the house.
Of course I'm wondering at this point if this is going to be a good experience. Answer: yes and no. A lot of no. He no sooner began troubleshooting than our power went out. And stayed off. So no more can be done to restore service. Bummer. Now for the good part - we offered a glass of water and he sat down on the deck with us and began telling us about learning to speak English and how absolutely thrilled he was to have found some wonderful people from the United States to practice his English with (meaning us). He loves Americans and wants to learn to speak better but generally has no one to practice with. His wife is not interested in learning and his children are too small yet. So we talked for awhile, and we enjoyed it as much as he did, well, almost; it's hard to match his enthusiasm. Soon he asked if we could be friends. We agreed that we could. Then he asked if he could bring his family to visit sometime, and we said yes. He stayed and talked for about an hour - still no power, so he said he would return in the morning.
Friday morning starts well enough. We have power, the tech returns and gets to work early. By noon he still has not discovered the source of the problem. He phones in for assistance and then says he must take our modem in to the office to be tested. (He doesn't carry much on his motorcycle.) He will return with it in the afternoon and if it's defective, he'll bring a new one.
He doesn't return and doesn't call all afternoon. Finally, around 5:30 p.m., he calls. He was sent out to see another customer but would come to our house then if we wanted. The modem was good; he would have to replace the transmit/receive head. We told him to wait until morning.
Saturday morning the power goes off again. The tech calls and says he'll wait until we have power, then says "we're on our way"...?? He arrived soon after with another tech, apparently a more highly trained tech from the mainland. They get to work replacing the head, but of course, can go no further until the power is restored 3 hours later. They were busy the whole time, in a very slow way. Don had just a little reserve power in the APC which they used sparingly to test the signal. Just as they were preparing to reconnect the modem, the power came on. Wonderful!
Only, it still didn't work. I think at this point they just began replacing everything, cable, connectors, etc. Don was sure it was a lost cause, but no, suddenly it all worked and we had a strong signal. So, after about 11 man hours, all systems were go. Whew.

Ah, but that's not the end of the story...
Our reconnection joy was short lived. Somehow, during the first hour of restored service, we managed to exceed our daily download limit of 200MB. Don't really understand how that could be as neither of us thought we had downloaded anything, although I had done some genealogy work. We had a great long Skype call with Rachel and Lance which went downhill after about 30 mins. and then the problems started. First everything slowed down, big delay in transmission, then disconnects and then by Sunday a.m. nothing would load. Sunday afternoon Don realized that was what had happened. So we had to wait it out. When we exceed our limit, we are "punished" for 24 hours. So, at 6 p.m. last night everything was once again working properly and we were able to call and talk with Dave.

If it sounds like there are often frustrations with living here, there are, but we still find that the benefits far exceed the inconveniences. Everyday is a lesson in patience. Life moves at a slower pace here, giving you more time to appreciate the blessings. And we have now acquired a new friend, who will no doubt be back to visit and practice his English.

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