DAY 5 – It is not worth it to pay $40 for internet access

DAY 5 – It is not worth it to pay $40 for internet access

My biggest challenge in quinoa research is the extreme use I have of the internet.  It is easy to overlook ones constant reference to the internet for work and communications when in a hyper-wifi country such as the US.  Even living in rural Vermont, where internet service is slow and sometimes non-existant, a quick stop in any coffee shop or public library will give one immediate high speed access, for free.  In Bolivia this is not so.

Bolivian internet cafe - dark, noisy (even with headphones) and non-wifi.

Bolivian internet cafe – dark, noisy (even with headphones) and non-wifi.

While cell service is pretty inclusive and has far reach, Wifi is sporadic, nonexistent, slow and somewhat of a mystery to most folks.  Though most urban people know what Wi-Fi is, it is usually used in reference to video game parlors which have sprung up across the country in cities and rural areas alike and is more of a reference to internet access than actual Wi-Fi – since most places don’t even have a modem.  Wherever there is even the smallest amount of internet access, there will be a dark shop of rows of computers on desks pushed up against the walls, shaded form the sun with tinted windows and curtains, with kids, sometimes two to a computer,  glued to a haphazard array of flashing screens and a cacophony of sounds of shouts, revved motors, machine gun fire, explosions and video game music accenting the excitement of it all.   Keyboards that have bene so used that the letters are no longer visible on the keys.

I have my favorite café in La Paz city which has amazing wifi and for the cost of an expensive 14 Bs coffee in Bolivia ($2 in the US)  I can spend the day there rapidly cruising the airwaves and maintaining all sorts of intentional connections and academic research that we I so take for granted.  I discovered I had high speed wifi at my Aunt’s house in El Alto too – where her sons run a communications center in their corner store.  But alas, my study center is in Oruro.  Here even the main telecommunications center, Entel, looming large over the plaza in the center of town does not have wifi.  El Gordo, a Peruvian lunch chain understands he importance of wifi and offers some access but they are busy, noisy and with yellow plastic McDonald’s style seating, not a conducive place for long term internet surfing.

A friend mentioned that the hotels in Oruro have excellent Wi-Fi.  I always stayed with family in the Oruro and most of Bolivia and did not know much about hotels anywhere.  So my daughter and I started visiting hotels with WiFi, located near the plaza.  One that cost $10 a night admitted to having intermittent wifi.  The fancier $40 a night hotel swore their internet was the best.  So I splurged a booked a night at high speed paradise ($40 is a half week’s earrings for a rural family).  However, upon waking up at 5am to get a “head start” on my online postings, work and interactions, I found that the internet not working.  Now it’s at .84 for download speed and .42 upload with a PING of 57.  Sigh.

Next time I’ll save the $40 and opt for a $2 coffee instead!