In the six days that we’ve been on the island, it’s become obvious that while we’re here we won’t ever have the “normal” to which we were accustomed in the States. And that’s okay. And even good. We knew heading into this adventure that we were leaving America and heading to a foreign country. The kind of normal I’m talking about is a routine. A schedule. A feeling of knowing what you’re going to do that day when you wake up in the morning. Instead, for the first couple of days we woke up thinking “We have no car, no internet, no phone, and low prospects for getting any of them”.
We all felt the most pressing was internet access. It’s amazing how disconnected and lonely you can feel when you have no way to communicate. But getting that connectivity was a mini-adventure of its own, and I suspect a good foreshadowing of what’s in store for the next 20 months.
On Tuesday Cari’s university hosted a business fair where companies that provide services to students come and hawk their wares. Present were two companies that provide internet service.
Caribserve: The lady behind the table was cheerful and pleasant and was telling me all about this great new service they just launched: WiMax. It’s wireless internet that requires no connectivity into your home. (Like Clearwire, if you’re familiar with that service.) The speeds and the prices are better than their normal, wired service.
Then the problem. She asked where I live. I gave her the name of our complex , Rainbow Beach. A strange expression washed over her face and said, “Oh, WiMax is not available in Rainbow.”
I KNEW she was lying. That’s just absurd. Are you telling me it’s available across the street and right next door, but not actually IN Rainbow? The wireless signal doesn’t know to stay out of Rainbow! “Sorry sir. It’s not available in Rainbow.” And she handed me the other brochure… the one with the lower speeds and higher prices.
TelEm: The man behind their table was a classic islander. “How’s it going mon! Happy to help you! Oh! You live in Rainbow? Ya, no problem mon. We’ll send a guy out to see if we can provide service in Rainbow. If we can, you’ll be all hooked up in two to three weeks, hopefully. Maybe a little longer, mon. Just sign right here and give me your credit card number!”
Why Caribserve Lied To Me, and How I Returned the Favor
I wasn’t sure what my next step should be but I needed advice, preferably from someone inside Rainbow who could provide a straight answer. On the way home I stopped by the management office for our condo complex where I learned why Caribserve doesn’t want us using WiMax. They recently put an expensive reception tower on the roof of the main building and then wired every condo from it. And now they are trying to re-coup that investment by not allowing us to use the cheaper WiMax and forcing us to use their more expensive, lower performing wired service.
So I hatched a plan.
The Caribserve office is in Phillipsburg, the main city on the Dutch side of the island. It’s where all of the cruise ships doc and is a minimum of a half-hour drive when traffic is light. Most AUC people avoid the place like the plague. I had no idea where to find the Caribserve office, but I also had no way to call and get directions. (No phone yet). I asked a few fellow AUC people I knew, but none of them had any idea either.
Only one thing to do. Rent a car, drive into Phillipsburg, and do my best to stumble across their office.
On Wednesday afternoon I rented a little piece of junk sub-compact car, drove it through Maho, past the airport, through Simpson Bay, up over the hill, and back down the other side into Phillipsburg. At the first gas station I stopped and asked where to find Caribserve. The toothless employee had no idea. Next gas station was a little better, but not much. “You keep going that way, a long time still, you find the Post Office, it’s right there.” Eventually I zeroed in on their office and walked in just as they locked the front doors and closed for the day.
Thou Shalt Not Lie…. Unless It’s Required to Get Online
“I’m here to order internet service” I told the nice lady behind the counter.
“Of course, sir” she said in a thick island accent. “Where do ya live?”
“Cupecoy.” Cupecoy is our neighborhood.
“Ok no problem, and where in Cupecoy?”
“Cote D’Azure.” Lie. Cote D’Azure is a condo complex very near to where we live. But it is most certainly NOT where we live.
Two minutes later I walked out of their office with my WiMax receiver in hand. A half an hour later I was back in Rainbow Beach where I plugged it in and turned it on. A few seconds later, we were online.
And with that, a little bit of normalcy had finally been found.