Wired, with no Wi-Fi

Submitted by Monica Grover

Gurgaon, India – It was 11:00 p.m. last night when the torrential downpour of monsoon-like rains began ferociously beating against the windows of Global Arts Village’s community center, located in a rural section of Gurgaon, India, on the outskirts of South Delhi. The lights flickered on and off, and then . . . total darkness. Finding myself in the middle of the Village’s center with only the light of my laptop screen, I was grateful to have charged my computer for a few hours before the electricity failed. Five GFC staff members, including me, and some of GFC’s grantee partners are staying at the Village for the GFC/Nike Brain Trust Toolkit Development Workshop taking place in conjunction with the Grassroots Girls Initiative Knowledge Exchange this week.

The Village’s center is the only place on the premises that has Wi-Fi, which seemed especially valuable in the middle of the woods. However, as the rain swallowed the electricity, the Wi-Fi also faded, and I was no longer connected to the outside world. I started to think about what some of our Nigerian partners had mentioned about Internet connectivity and the lack of electricity during my recent trip to Lagos in August. It seemed that the same issues also persist in India. When the electricity and Wi-Fi failed, I stopped tweeting and started writing my daily blog with the limited battery life left on my laptop, hoping that I could capture my experience clearly enough for others to feel it even thousands of miles away—back home in Washington, DC, and in all the other parts of the world where my blog might be read. The rain carried on for a good hour before it softened. I stopped writing and prepared to make a break for it back to my room.

I walked outside and slid on my now rain-soaked shoes, which I was required to leave outside the Village’s center. Traversing the unlit muddy pathways back to my room was somewhat of an adventure—or, rather, an accomplishment, given my lack of coordination on slippery surfaces and in dark spaces. I hoped that the rain would let up long enough for me (and the $5,000 worth of electronic equipment on my back) to make it to my room without getting drenched. For those moments, my sole goal was to protect the digital SLR camera, HD video camera, and MacBook Pro that were required for me to do my job this week (and beyond).

Finally back in my room, I decided to crawl under my mosquito-net-tented bed and try to get some rest after a full day of discussions about empowering girls through media and developing video storytelling toolkits. After I tossed and turned for three hours, it was suddenly 3:00 a.m. and I realized I was completely wired and unable to sleep due to the one too many scoops of instant coffee and hot water I had had that night. I lay in my bed with the still-loud sound of heavy droplets of rain, wondering how I would make it through the intense workshop day ahead of me with no sleep.

With my alarm set for 5:30 a.m., there was no way I would be able to sleep, so I decided to continue writing my blog. With no Wi-Fi in my room, I felt disconnected and spoiled with expectations of unlimited Internet access everywhere. My thoughts were coming out in 140 character tweets and I felt compelled to sign on to Twitter, but I couldn’t. Wired with no Wi-Fi was no fun, but luckily I still had some battery juice in my laptop and Microsoft Word, so I continued writing.

I never really expected that the wilderness and lack of Wi-Fi would be something I would need to think about during my trip to India. I started to reflect on the challenges that GFC program officers face while on the road, and wondered if they even thought that what I was experiencing was actually challenging. I thought to myself that the ability to flow like water is a valuable tool to have when hit with unexpected adventures during travel. “Flow like water?” I thought next. This hippie-esque yoga village commune spirit, along with the 7:00 a.m. dynamic drum beating, jet lag, lack of sleep, torrential downpours, and 12 remaining minutes of laptop battery juice might be getting to me.

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