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Halelujah! Satellites Up!

November 21, 2006

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Finally, an answer to our prayer....we are connected to the world and our loved ones! There are very few low priced, mobile means to have 24/7 connection to the internet and we have already discovered that the lack of wifi and internet cafes in Europe when and where you want them and their many limitations are just not good enough for what we need. We had read about it going into this trip, but figured we could make due until we got to Spain. The lack of connection has been the one and only thing that has driven us a little nuts, so we are thrilled to be connected again. It is like coming up for a breath of fresh air after being under water for a very long time.

We actually could have a phone line and internet connection installed here at this house fairly easily (I am told, but who knows the full reality). But we wanted something that we could take with us where ever we went, be it house or RV. It is a bit big for our little RV, but very doable and will probably just ride on the bed when we roam. There are smaller units (many are being used in places like Iraq for media people and such) but they cost a young fortune. Some rich RVers with huge rigs invest in extremely expensive duo satellites, but again that option was way over our budget. I think some smart person should be making a reasonable moveable option and it seems like they would make a fortune as I hear of so many complaints from those on the road and the need for better connection.

It was a semi nightmare getting the satellite up and we still do not have the Mac connected, but it was so great to call home on skype which was one of the first things we did. It costs a fortune on our phone to call home, but I called my mom skype to phone for well over an hour for around two bucks. Compare that to a call Gar made to our satellite installer who lives an hour and half away that was over twenty dollars for twenty minutes with our Telestial quad phone with a UK number. Even local calls on that phone are fifty five euro cents, so we use it as little as we can and now can add skype to our arsenal of choices for long distance and local needs.

My mom still needs my sisters help to use the web cam (even email is a new thing for her as we passed on our old PC for her just for this trip communication), but we did try the web cam skype to skype (which is free) with DaVinci’s sister and brother in law and it worked fantastic.

This kind of connection is really important for our families. Mozart could show her new gap and growing teeth on the bottom and we could see a poster of a new grand baby there in California. These things really are priceless and so necessary for a long trip like this where a beloved grandchild is separated from her family for an extended time. It is just so wonderful to be able to see each others faces in real time and
one can do so much with this “show and tell” version that makes the distance not so far and time away punctuated with many “mini visits”.

As we mentioned earlier we are grateful to the Drapers who have a unit like this and who have been fulltiming in Europe since 2000 for telling us about this possibility because few people know about it and
it is the only thing that works for our kind of mobility that does not cost a fortune. You can only buy them second hand  as they do not make them any more and there just happened to be one for sale near Malaga when we needed to purchase one before leaving California as well as a person who could install it.
If anyone is interested in knowing more it is called a Star Duo system.

We thought it was going to be much easier than it turned out to be. First we had problems setting up the installation since the man who did it lives an hour and half away and has a very unreliable car that broke down at least one of the days expected. We were a little amazed when he arrived with his German helper and he had to jump start his car by letting it slide down our one way cobble stone street the WRONG way (then turned it around) after it conked out on them when they dropped their tools off at our door. He is from the UK and a sweet enough fellow who sure knows his stuff about satellites, but has his own peculiar ways of doing things. We were quite confident talking to him on Skype in California, but the car on its death bed and a few other things gave us some doubts.

They worked for hours on the top terrace and eventually they got it set up, but it was quite dark and late by the time they finished. We were a little leery when he finished because he wanted a lot of cash and even tho he had done his part, we had no “product” so could not test if it was working or not. We were not told about needing it to be cash until the end. We knew people who had dealt with him and were happy, so we decided to take the risk.

Our well known European  internet service provider was the one who was responsible for the actual satellite connection and our installer/salesman has been associated with them for years and said he asked them to connect us ASAP, but that it could take up to 72 hours. He said it would likely connect later in the evening or by ten in the morning at the latest and if not, to call him and off he went with our money.

We checked and checked until we went to bed and again from the time we woke up, looking for skype and windows to download those eagerly awaited familiar sounds and sights. By ten thirty we were calling both our installer and  provider who basically blamed each other.

We were getting no where and the installer would not come back to our house (the hills, endless stairs
plus his bad car did not make our village look inviting to our older, over weight, chain smoking installer)
so DaVinci decided to take much of the equipment to him in the camper in hopes of solving the problem since we had paid the money and had nothing to show for it. Mother nature decided to rain hard that day
to add to the adventure.

DaVinci left around eight in the morning and we hoped he would be back by late afternoon, but things did not go well, so he stayed the night in the camper. He had to take the cell phone, so there was no way for him to call me. I took Mozart to school and picked her up worrying about how it was going there. As the storm got worse around supper time, I got two ominous knocks on my door. The first one was from the caretaker of the village house and the second a few minutes later by our friend who owns the restaurant nearby who we have become friends with. DaVinci had called them and asked them to let me know that he would not be home for the night. It felt strange and vulnerable to be in our ancient village house without him on a stormy night and I did not sleep well not knowing what was going on.

They said that he said he would be home in the morning, but he wasn’t. I decided to let Mozart stay home from school because she had a few sniffles and I thought he would be home early and she missed him, so then they could have more time together. But it was another long day and late into the night before he returned. We were relieved to be back in each others arms and he had some good news and some bad news to share. Mozart was so excited the next morning  to find him in bed as she was long asleep when he got home. “Mommy, Mommy, Daddy is back!” she said with such excitement as soon as she woke up
(not realizing that we talked together for hours last night while she slept).

The good news is we found the problem with the satellite and it was on the providers end and was corrected thru the hub. The bad news was that the installer had some how “smoked” (yes it literally smoked) our new router and its converter with the Spanish electricity which we needed to connect/network our two laptops. So the challenges continued as we needed to find an alternative way to do this as soon as possible. But at least we have one hooked up and are feeling blessed and grateful to have that and connection to our family and friends around the world again.

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