There are lots of romantic ideas about letter writing – packages taking a year to get to you – sending mail with exotic postage – phone calls once a month... or less..
In reality it is really easy to communicate cross continent in the year 2013. Even to the third world.
As a Peace Corps volunteer in Benin I generally get to speak to my family every week. Mail moves much quicker than expected and rarely (but sometimes) gets lost en route. Technology advances have made communication seem almost science fiction – for example when I am using my MP3 player to have a face to face conversation with someone on the West Coast USA.
The reason for this post is I recently (within the last month) discovered how to use the “FaceTime” technology on my Ipod – and it has changed my life. Skype chat never works with the internet here – but for some reason FaceTime works great!!!
Skype: Skype doesn't always work as well as you would hope. Ipod FaceTime works much better. Skype is really great for chatting and having conversations with your friends. It is just nice sometimes to have a free conversation in real time. The face to face thing -- not so much.
Internet/Email: We live in the day and age of “internet keys” a usb internet device that you charge with phone credit and then plug into your computer allowing you (sketchy but doable) internet access to your email and facebook accounts. Just be sure that you load everything in the html or mobile versions or else you will end up spending a fortune. The internet doesn't always work.. but it still allows many of us to check in with family and friends at home way more often than we had ever dreamed possible. Well at least for those of us who get good enough “phone coverage” in our villages. (It also lets me to communicate home with things like.. this blog!)
Cell Phones: Everyone in Benin owns a cell phone. Every volunteer owns a cell phone. Most of us have multiple numbers (one for work and one for other volunteers) – this also allows us to still be connected to the outside world if one of the networks goes out or we are in a dead zone. This wonderful device not only keeps us connected to home but also connected to other volunteers in ways that would have been really difficult if we had been volunteers just decade or two earlier..I can't imagine living here without my little nokia flashlight phone.
Snail Mail: aka snack food delivery system. With all this technology and communication you would think that the old fashion snail mail wouldn't make the list.. but really there is nothing like a hand written letter to give and get updates. We all are way more connected to home than we ever thought we would be, even just with the ease of cell phone use – but letters are still nice.
Sometimes I wonder, based on the technology here, if when I get home everyone in the States will have advanced to telepathic communications.
Either way my mind will be blown by things like voice-mail and fast speed internet.