Saturday, November 12, 2011

Goal 2.3: technology

The last goal of the health program refers to transferring ICT skills.  I sometimes think of this as the "goal of chance", b/c much like you can't force a cat to take a bath or get your parents to text, you just can't really force technology on somebody who doesn't want it.

I thought I had this goal all lined up when my medical center got a computer last spring, but 8 months later the regional health directorate has still given no instructions as to what, exactly, they expect anybody to be doing with that computer.  Also, their programmer still hasn't been around yet to install internet or any other standard office programs.  (It's okay, we've actually made very good use of the printer it came with for our health education activities, so it's all for the better.)

But early last summer, Olga - the most amazing and driven of my 4 partners - got a laptop.  (Or rather, her husband returned from working abroad with a laptop.)  And thus began my work on goal 2.3.

Fast forward five months and that's how we end up with me spending my Saturday night shouting back and forth over the phone for an hour as we try to work through the notion of an email attachment.  (Shouting is the culturally recommended volume for any phone conversation, there was nothing acrimonious about the call.)

Two 15 minute phone calls, 5 different explanatory strategies, one hour, and 10 synonyms for attachment in both Russian and Romanian later, and we figured it out.  On the other end of the line, I could hear her entire family trying to help, including her 20 year old son who is studying English and Geography at university. (The fact that he had no idea what an attachment is shows that this is more than your standard age gap here...)  Of course, it doesn't help that I don't interact with any of my partners technologically, thus I have absolutely no grasp of this vocabulary in Romanian.  Nor would it have mattered anyway, as my partner's email account is in Russian.  In the end, it took the paperclip symbol and some email attachments I had sent her a couple weeks ago, as well as an intimate familiarity with her file organization to succeed.  (On the upside, I know how to find everything on her computer b/c most things were put there by me.)

It's not as glorious as a multi-million dollar water project, but it's what we do day in an day out in the trenches of development.  Just another Saturday night.

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