I’m not sure how long it will be between writing this and actually posting it, we seem to be having a period of one step forward three sideways at the moment and one of the problems is the internet connection.
When I first came to the village the internet was unheard of, hardly anyone here even had a mobile phone and there was only one public phone for which there was often a queue. Indeed whilst I was still living in England, Neu and I had to arrange a once a week phone call, scheduled for a specific time so that he could be at the phone box waiting for my call. If I managed to get through to him, all the other people in the queue would then listen with great interest to anything he had to say, our conversations were often very brief.
When I came out to live here I had a mobile but it couldn’t pick up a signal in the house and the telecom company had said it would be roughly a year before we could have a land line installed, one friend had a satellite phone but it was prohibitively expensive for us, so we were back to queuing for the public phone. In fact it took three years to get a land line in the house and the phone never worked when we needed it, after a few years of fruitless complaining to the company, we got rid of it.
Now just ten years on, virtually everyone has a mobile phone and many are connected to the internet via their phones or using a mobile modem on their laptop.
Unfortunately there are several signal black-spots in the village and our house is in one of them, we can only get a phone signal in odd spots around the house, like on one corner of the bed or if the phone is propped at a certain angle against a certain table lamp, move the phone and the signal vanishes and it is often not there when most needed.
In order to get a signal for my mobile modem, we had to rig up a pulley system that goes up a pole on a high point on the roof of the house, when I needed the internet I would hoist the modem up the pole on a long cable, not an ideal system as it meant we had to remove a tile on the roof so the modem could go up and down and when it rained the water poured in through the hole, but it was the best we could do at the time.
When Neu decided he wanted to go for a kidney transplant, we knew we would have to resolve the phone signal problem, the hospital need to be able to contact us whenever there is a kidney available, which could be at any time. Some people here have a phone that looks like a land line phone but works with a mobile SIM card known as a rural phone. The phones work with only their built-in antenna or with a further signal boost from an external antenna. It was obvious that this was the answer to our problem, so we saved up for one of them.
On a trip to Fortaleza we bought one, first trying with just the phone, it did work but the signal came and went and so, on another trip to Fortaleza, we bought the external antenna. We also bought an adaptor so that we could plug the mobile modem for the internet into the antenna and get a signal for it that way, no more hoisting it up the pole.
Back home yesterday, Neu spent the morning making a tall mast (using a spare mast from his boat), and then, when we still didn’t get a decent signal, making the mast taller (by lashing extra pieces to the top). Finally with the most enormously tall mast we got a perfect signal, good and strong, phone and internet working perfectly, yippee. Then, just when I was thinking it was all going so well, the antenna connector in the modem snapped and that killed the modem, so no internet!
Well, almost, by putting my modem SIM into the rural phone I can just about get connected but it’s so slow, takes about ten minutes to open an email and doing any kind of research is hopeless.
I’m not sure the modem can be repaired and suspect I shall have to buy a new one, which is more expense that I could do without, but being without the internet is so frustrating, for one thing it’s how I keep in contact with my children, friends and family around the world.
Problem solved, though as usual it is never as straight forward as I would wish.
We had a full day of doctors and hospital appointments in Fortaleza but figured we’d have enough time to get to a Vivo shop (the phone company I use for the internet service). I’d managed to find a shop address in the central area of the city, so we headed off there. We walked half way up the street but in the area where I thought the shop should be but there was no sign of it.
Opposite where we were standing was a large store where they sell phones, we went in and asked if they sell modems? They didn’t. Could they tell us where the Vivo shop was? We were told it was further up the road but a bit of a walk away. I thought this was a bit strange as on the map there only seemed to be two Vivo shops in the center and they were both close to where we were but….. well maybe they’d moved.
It was a boiling hot day, we set off on what turned out to be a very long walk, we asked several people along the way and were told the shop was along here, down there, up there, until an hour later we ended up back in front of the big store where we had first asked for directions and lo and behold the Vivo shop was inside the building opposite the store. After all that unnecessary walking in the heat, we were now hot and sweaty, a little peeved and running out of time.
What I had thought would be a relatively simple transaction turned out to be rather complicated, but finally we left the shop with a new and very fancy looking modem. As we were now running late, we had to walk like the clappers to get back to the car and then had a mad dash to the hospital for the next appointment, arriving there with only minutes to spare.
Back at home I plugged the modem in to my computer, plugged the antenna in and..…..nothing, zilch, nada! The modem only came with basic installation instructions, for more help and trouble shooting you need to have an internet connection, well excuse me but isn’t that a bit daft!
My previous modem picked up a GSM signal but the new one says it picks up 3G and 4G, I couldn’t know if the problem lay in the modem, the signal or something else and wouldn’t be able to get back to the shop in Fortaleza for another 2 weeks. I was so frustrated I could have cried.
The following day while fiddling with the new modem I spotted that under a little cap on its side it had a second antenna connector, I plugged the antenna into that and joy of joys it worked, full internet and slightly faster than before, such a relief.
I use the internet for so much and it’s hard now to imagine how we managed without it, indeed for us here it can literally be a life saver and I am so relieved to be back online.