Disconnect for a while

Bakers Posted by Paul and Tania Baker on Mon, 07 Nov 2016 | 1 comments | Bookmark: digg this Post this to del.icio.us Post this to Facebook

There was a Presidential election in Uganda at the beginning of this year. Due to the ongoing political tension in the country, there was a strong likelihood of trouble on the streets, mainly in the capital. We made sure to stock up on food supplies well in advance and avoided travelling to Kampala around election time.

The last election was in 2011, a couple of months after we first arrived at Kiwoko. Tensions were high. Accusations of vote fixing led to fierce battles on the streets of Kampala between rioters (mainly students) and the police. The city was engulfed in an almost constant tear gas cloud. Anyone causing disruption was put in prison without delay. We were told that the prisons were so full that everyone had to stand.

This year, to avoid any such trouble, the army and police presence in the capital was unreal. To back this up the government decided to block all social media internet sites. This was to stop the trouble-makers from communicating with each other to organise the next riot.

A day or two before the election, Facebook, Twitter, Whatsap etc. all went dead. There was mass hysteria. This didn’t last long as most people downloaded an (not necessarily legal) App, which bypassed the block. Of course, I wouldn’t know anything about that.

After about a week, and a relatively peaceful election, social media came back to life.

Being in Northern Ireland for these few months, I’ve realised how utterly internet dependent we all are. This seems to have increased exponentially during our time away in Uganda. Everything is connected to the internet. Besides computers and phones; TVs, cars, fridges and even modern toasters!

It’s all gotten a bit out of hand. I say that… but, we’ve been sucked in. If the internet connection in our rented house went off – Lana wouldn’t be able to watch Teletubbies or Peppa Pig on demand. What would we do!? Is there an emergency service to call when we can’t get online?

I do miss the relative simplicity of life in our wee village in Uganda. Life is lived outside. Social networking doesn’t involve a screen. We have conversations with actual, real-life people. We go outside at night, and under the star-filled sky, build a camp fire and drink coffee and talk about what happened in the day that’s ending.

We have a constant stream of medical elective students visiting from Europe/US/Australia. One of the first things we tell them is – the internet is very slow, but it’s okay – you’re in Africa – get outside, meet people and explore! Their reaction is usually one of shock and confusion but after a few days of cold-turkey, they get it.

Right. I better get away from this screen. This might be the coldest place on earth but there’s a forest down the road that needs exploring.



Alan Curriston said Mon, 05 Dec 2016 05:47PM
Nicely stated, Paul. It's healthy to have more than one perspective and traveling between N. Ireland and Uganda will give you that.

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