The past few weeks have been challenging. There are a lot of wonderful things happening in Musho: the acceptance of our grant application to work in the primary school on a healthy, green schools project, planting a vegetable garden behind the health post, and starting a crafts group with a group of mothers, to name a few. However, as ridiculous as it feels to state this, the challenge is that my computer is broken. Never, dreaming and planning for Peace Corps, did I imagine bringing a computer, but, looking at advice, I did. Then, never during training did I imagine having easy internet access; I had wireless (ok, the computer could only be in one spot in my window and it was slow) in my room. To face facts, I´ve been spoiled. Now, with no computer, I miss my family more than ever, typing documents, proposals and homework assignments is a afternoon of internet café, and, some of my favorite time wasters (food blogs, nytimes.com) are out of reach. But really, I live in an Andean village and am complaining about lack of computer access?
The truth is, my community is in a fascinating place: in between traditional ways of life and modern technology. At my primary school, there are plans to build a large computer room, with 20 computers, internet, a multi-media projector, and other gizmos. At the same school, some days there is no running water, and, in the students´ houses, they cook with wood and go to the bathroom in their fields. Once, the director and I sat in the computer lab and eavesdropped (accidentally) on two little girls who were exploring the internet. They found Porky Pig on you tube and began to chat excitedly about it—in quechwa “shumac!” (pretty).
The fact that Porky Pig is commented on in quechwa is a beautiful, shumac, thing. It´s exciting that such a rural traditional community is able to access advanced technology. 10 years ago, some areas did not have electricity (still some houses do not), and now people have knock off iphones and send their children to the internet café (ok, café is perhaps too kind—imagine an adobe room and dirt floors, with computers in it) to do homework. Of course, by homework, I mean play violent games, in English, four or five to a computer, crammed around the screen.
What does this accelerated access to technology mean, though? It is certainly an opportunity, but I feel it skews priorities (just like in the States, right? How many college or high school students would rather buy a new video game or dvd and survive on ramen than buy more expensive, healthier food). My host dad, who does not have glass in his bedroom windows, whose pregnant wife has to work sometimes 12 to 14 hour days in the fields, who eats meat less than once a week, is considering buying a computer, and has asked me to compare prices.
What do I say? Thoughts of Paul Farmer and his dismissal of the term “appropriate technology” fleet through my mind, but it is more my natural shyness and slightly strange role in the family that keeps me from voicing my opinion on the value of a computer. Instead, I did as he asked, looked at prices in Huaraz and Lima, and feel as though I am sitting back to enjoy the slightly bumpy ride as the Andes enter the age of information.