Infrastructure!

The blog is back!

Thanks to all who inquired (through various media) as to whether or not Helen and I were well. We are indeed. We have not been ill. We have not been kidnapped. We have not been the victims of terrorist plots or horrible accidents.

For at least the last 6 weeks, however, we have been victimized—as has the entire internet-using community in Ethiopia–by a network that does not work. Internet services in Ethiopia have been sporadic, unreliable, and often non-existent. There are problems at the local, regional and national level. EthioTel struggles at the best of times to maintain quality services (a constant topic of complaint at all levels of society). Last week the entire telecommunications system–phone, text, and internet–was out completely in Mekelle for at least 6 hours. This is highly annoying, but not unusual. Much of the time the phone services do not work anywhere–even in Addis Ababa (the largest city in the country) you often cannot call another mobile phone. (Fortunately, most of the time text messages get through–I have sent more text messages since I’ve been here than I have made phone calls!)

The chaos this creates in Ethiopia is hard to underestimate. Americans (and others) are accustomed to doing everything by e-mail or “on the web.” Imagine running a business without e-mail services or internet access. Imagine trying to do banking in a country where the network is down, constantly and unpredictably. (A few weeks ago when I went to the Commercial Bank of Ethiopia, there was a line of customers over 100 yards long, winding up three staircases and beyond, because the national network was out and nobody could do banking transactions). Imagine trying to book or coordinate airline tickets with no network. Indeed, imagine trying to check in at the airport when the power goes out…

For most of this time–when we had internet services–we could only log on and keep a connection for about 45 seconds, which is hardly enough time to post a blog or upload a photograph. For the last few days, it seems that these problems have been resolved (at least in Addis Ababa, if not in Mekelle), so we shall sprint forward with updates.

Although Helen and I will soon be leaving Ethiopia, the blog will continue! We have much to share and much to write about and we will make an effort to get past the backlog.

Thanks for sticking with us!

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