27 August 2011

Internet Guilt

 It has been a momentous couple of weeks. We started work, became legal Peruvian residents, and most amazing of all...we got INTERNET. 

I never considered myself a technology junkie. We didn't have a DVD player until I left for college, and when I graduated in 2008 (and for a year or so after that) my mother was still clinging to dial-up internet. In the states I had a 6-year-old laptop, a cell-phone that was falling apart, and I checked my email and Facebook once or twice a day (if I remembered). I never even wanted a smartphone... Enter Peru. 

Communication technology is great, but it doesn't seem all that important in a busy American life where you see most of the people you care about frequently, and it's hard to find enough time just to call a friend on the phone. We take it for granted. When you're 3000 miles away from your loved ones, it suddenly takes on a paramount importance. The internet feels more like a lifeline than a convenient tool. Of course, when you work on a communications team, and you work from home, it's also a very important requirement to do your job. Peru has this silly (read: so logical maybe America should try it) rule about not letting you sign contracts with a com company for them to install internet, phone, or cable until you're actually a legal resident of the country. So, since we left Costa Rica more than two months ago we have not had actual internet. We did get iPhones with international calling, so we haven't been completely out of touch with the world. And, of course, there's always Starbucks! But packing up all of your stuff to camp in Starbucks for a few hours, and praying the signal is strong enough to actually connect, gets old pretty fast. So last week, when we got the call that we could go to immigration and complete the process of getting our residency cards we could only think of one thing...INTERNET! 

We interrupt this story for a stroll down memory lane:
I am thankful that I am old enough, and have lived overseas before, so that the last couple of months without internet really didn't seem like too much of a strain. I was thinking back to the first time I lived in France in early 2005. Only 6 years ago and yet technology has changed so much. Facebook was still just something for select universities, Skype was mostly unknown, and blogs weren't popular with the average Joe. The bizarre French internet in my apartment (ethernet only) wouldn't connect to my Mac, so my only internet access in the house came from my lovely roommate Lori who would let me check my emails when I needed to. 
Dinner with Lori in our apartment in the Marais
Other than that I had to go set up in the drafty creaky library of Reid Hall and was limited to emails and AOL Instant Messenger. I talked to my parents on the phone on Sunday afternoons: we used international calling cards. (Unrelated, but I also didn't own a digital camera. The film developing costs were almost as much as the semester abroad!) 

The courtyard of Reid Hall in the snow. 
Things had progressed when I moved back to Paris in late 2007. Then I had WiFi in my apartment and an internet phone that enabled me to call the states from time to time. Facebook and blogs were mainstream (you can read mine from Paris here), but Skype still required an attached webcam and the connection was pretty worthless. It was still mostly emails and AIM to stay in touch, but at least I could watch foxnews.com videos in the mornings to keep up on things. 
Now back to your regularly scheduled blog:

Claro workers running wires across the street from the top of our building.
Like most things, the process to get internet installed seemed more convoluted than it needed to be, but all in all I was surprised by the efficacy of the company, and by Tuesday evening I was browsing the web from the comfort of my finely appointed bedroom/office. After jumping on my bed and dancing around (shhh don't tell the Baptists) I settled down to catch up on my interneting. Reading blogs of friends serving around the world I began to feel pretty selfish. They serve in places where they don't have real beds, they pay $12 for cereal bars, can't wear blue jeans, only get mail when they travel to a neighboring country, and often have to boil water just to bathe. I read about the places and cultures they work in and I start to feel guilty that I have been called to serve in a fairly modernized city in a pretty safe country with more comforts of home than I could have hoped for. The biggest inconveniences this week have been dealing with the hassles of coordinating internet installation and waking up to a team of plumbers drilling into my walls and a guy installing lovely new curtains in our spacious three-bedroom apartment. Oh, and the grocery store was out of the hot dogs I like. Don't get me wrong, life in a foreign culture and language thousands of miles from home isn't easy no matter where you are or what you're doing. But so soon I forget how good I have it here, especially when it comes to creature comforts. However, I remember something that was said in training, about not being envious or feeling guilty if you are called to serve in a "comfortable" place. It reminds me of what Oswald Chambers writes:

"Abraham did not choose the sacrifice. Always guard against self-chosen service for God; self-sacrifice may be a disease. If God has made your cup sweet, drink it with grace; if He has made it bitter, drink it in communion with Him. If the providential order of God for you is a hard time of difficulty, go through with it, but never choose the scene of your martyrdom. [...] God is working for His highest ends until His purpose and man's purpose become one." 

I don't have to feel guilty that I am serving where I am, but it is good not to take for granted the blessings we have. And it's good to remember others elsewhere that need our prayers and encouragement. I'd love to link you to their blogs, but for security it's best if I don't, so check out this digest of blogs of others serving around the world. Also take a minute to watch this great video about the price that many have paid and the continuing need for work among unreached peoples: Don't Drop the Cross

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