We've never explicitly blogged about the work that has gone into enabling us to blog from rural Burundi. Maintaining "reasonable" internet access has been quite a journey since 2013, and though we've made a lot of progress, I'm sure it will continue to be a big issue in years to come. Given the distance between us and many of the people that know and support us and our work, internet has been an essential tool.
I'm only half joking when I refer to it as "the hardest part of my job". Comparing to some of the dramatic hospital experiences we have, it may not seem like much. However, I have felt so ill-prepared to try and handle this technical area that it has, at times, been a primary source of stress for me. My team has always been gracious towards my insufficiencies, but it has been an ongoing struggle for me not to feel their frustrations with our internet as personal failings. But enough about that.
2013: When we first arrived, we hoped to be able to use USB flash modems to connect to the internet via the mobile network. Everyone in the city thought this should be doable, and we talked to several people in the mobile world here to inquire about it. However, as it happened, Kibuye campus was uniquely located in the shadow of a hall that lay between it and the nearest mobile towers. Thus, the signal was limited, and no mobile company seemed to do anything about it. So, the first few months were characterized by long periods of waiting on this little modem to download emails. If you gave it about 15 minutes, it might have loaded a web page. But usually not.
|USB flash modem|
|Our VSAT with nearby lightning rod|
|Fiber optic cable looped over the last tree|
Homes are connected via a combination of directional antennas, CAT-5 cable, coaxial cable, and a cool new unit from Ubiquiti called the AirMax Rocket. They all come together in one of our old container crates, that has been converted into our internet hub: a combination a wires, switches, and multiple layers of electrical protection.
|A converted container crate, now our internet box|
|The Beloved Quinn family with their Knox teammates|