Oh boy, there’s nothing like three days of single parenting in a foreign city where I don’t speak the language to erase all thoughts of early morning meditation! I have a renewed appreciation for my husband and the skill set he brings to our family. Things went quite sideways…no hot water in the flat, my youngest was quite sick (throwing up sick), and the internet stopped working the minute he left town.
The latter is causing me to reflect on how life has changed since 1999 because me and my not-yet-my-husband took leaves of absences from our respective jobs to travel that year. Email, the internet was quite new but an internet café (dial up) could be found anywhere to email friends and family. But there was no googling anything. This is relevant because my entire plan for entertainment once Gervase (my husband) left was to google some fun kid things – where to go swimming, best museums, English-language movies…things like that. Tourist information offices I have found, are not helpful when it comes to kid-friendly things.
To put this technology thing in context, in 1999 we left home with one laptop computer for a year. This trip, for three months two adults and two children have left home with two cell phones (not working yet), one ipad, one tablet, three ipods, three kindles, a nintendo 3ds, and three laptop computers. Not included in this list are all the adapters, cords and chargers that accompany this mélange. So getting this equipment up and working in a flat in Milan that has no internet has been no small feat and my husband took this on.
Upon arrival two and a half weeks ago, getting “hooked up” to the world was our priority through the fog of our jet lag. Plodding trips to neighborhood internet cafes revealed we couldn’t use our own computer in them. Every sightseeing foray was accompanied by searches for cell phone stores. On day 2, I think, we found a vodaphone store and they sold my ecstatic husband a “hotspot” for $140 that came with 5 GB of data. All of this is meaningless to me except I know when this gizmo is turned on in our pockets or at the flat, the computers and phones turn into internet-friendly devices. And my son is happy because one of the joys of his life is googling various you tube jokes and videos that amuse him.
We all proceed to have a “fest” of you-tubing, emailing, googling…you name it. After an hour of this we discovered that the you-tubing had to stop since that activity alone used up half a gigabyte of data and no one seems to be able to tell us how much data we have used or is remaining. We don’t know when it’s going to run out and my husband’s greatest fear is that it will suddenly run out when he needs it to call a cab at 5am for a business trip or something vital. So now there is a moratorium on internet usage!
But, oh no, we quickly start to depend on this little hotspot thing. It’s like a lifeline to the outside world. It allows this blog to stay alive. We use it to google the best hotel for us in Verona. We use it in Venice the minute we get off the boat, carrying our luggage, with only an address for our hotel. We use it to find good restaurants and train schedules. It’s become important!!
So now we’re hooked. One might even say “addicted”. Instead of going with the flow and getting lost in the warren of Venice streets, gazing in wonder as tourists have been doing for generations, we have our faces planted in the smartphone waiting for it to tell us what to do next.
However, we have no idea when it will stop. As the days go by my husband is ranting at full throttle about Italian bureaucracies. His fuel for this rant is his version of what he calls “silly little rules”…all he really wants is to be able to give Vodaphone (the provider of our hotspot) his credit card to keep us connected, seeing as no one can tell us how much data is being used from the precious 5 gigabytes. “No sir, we can’t do that.” So then what he wants to know is how much usage he has left. He can’t find that out through the web-based account he spent an hour setting up, he can’t find it out after waiting in line for 30 minutes in the vodaphone store, and he can’t find it out after talking to a nice vodaphone representative on Skype. Any information any of them has given him in pursuit of those goals has proven useless. My husband considers this experience a metaphor for the economic situation of Italy in the 21st century which he reads about intermittently when he gives himself permission to use that much bandwidth to read a newspaper on his tablet.
Like I said, my husband brings a really great set of skills to our relationship that was sadly missed when he was gone. This set of skills allows me to meditate on Italian lifestyle as I sip my cappuccino at a local café. And in considering my husband’s position on all of this, it allows me to reflect on how much he is not embracing the point of my last blog!! The irony is staggering.
So for the moment we live in a very internet-deprived state and fear for our lives if we can’t get a taxi to take the four of us, our eight bags, and all our heavy technology to the train station at 5am this coming Sunday so we can catch the bus for the one hour ride to the airport for the 7:25 am flight to Denmark. There’s another whole story about budget air travel within Europe that is best saved for another time. For now, just know that we have to be up at 4am, our 8 bags can’t weigh more than 80kilos in total, and the airline wants us to be there at 5:25. We won’t be. We’ll be lucky to be there for 6-something.
But no matter how this turns out, my husband is a great guy and I love him.