Monday, October 25, 2010

"Have you turned it off and on again?"

Fans of “The IT Crowd”, a hilarious British comedy about a 3-person IT department at a corporation, may recognize the title of this post as being the way that Roy answers the phone. (Thanks, Janssen, for sharing this bit of your culture with me.) In the short time I’ve been here, I have had need to start employing that phrase myself, as I’ve become the local IT guru, both for my GSK colleagues at my house and the teachers in the school system.  My struggles with wireless Internet are a perfect example of why the title of this post is accurate. Every time I try to associate my computer with a new wireless location, my PC seems to want to be shut down first.

Given my routine association with people who trouble-shoot networks and sling code for a living, I sometimes forget that I have some mad IT skills compared to the world at large. In grad school, I voluntarily learned how to build a PC (thanks, Chris) and maintained the wireless network for any set of roommates I had. Since getting an iPhone, I’ve been even more of a Google addict than before, immediately going to the Net to solve any dilemma that I may have. All this experience is really paying off in my current role as the IT support for the start of the Kumasi-NYC School-to-School project. During the workshop, I had plenty of opportunities to exercise these skills, starting from sorting out wireless card software and installation issues to using CNET to find good anti-virus software to fix the raging viruses and worms. Liz was very appreciative of my help and made sure that the US-based project director knew it.

In my first week here, I realized how dependent I’ve become on one particular technology: the mobile phone. It astonishes me that less than 10 years ago I got my first cell phone, a Sprint the size of my glasses case, and now I feel like I can’t live without a mobile phone. When I first landed in Accra, I had a cell phone with me but it had no SIM card. During the week it took to get a SIM card and get it registered, I felt completely and utterly. Simple tasks, like deciding when we should go into the school for the training course, were made impossible by the lack of a way to communicate with Liz. I’m not an Apple fangirl, but I terribly miss my iPhone and all its capabilities. Having landed in such a foreign place made the absence of my electronic leash even more painful. I was unbelievably happy to have gotten my work phone activated and can’t imagine how I survived that week without it.

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