I have a short story about Wi-Fi but first a photo taken from my apartment window. These two boys were balanced on the ledge across the alley about 8 feet above the ground. Their mother was on the ground below but not near enough to help if they fell. What were they doing? Collecting flowers from the hedge to sell. This is a common sight here but usually what you see is a woman with a large bag shedding flowers from all sorts of bushes and hedges. They don’t usually employ their children to climb walls and defy gravity. I have no idea how much money they can make at this endeavor.
My reception in kampung bule has never been very good and I’ve dealt with low bandwidth, constant shut-offs and little ability to watch video. When I moved one floor down, however, the situation because much worse. It had become almost impossible to do my work.
The new problem was that my move had brought three additional concrete and rebar walls into play, meaning the wireless signal now had to go through several barriers before reaching my laptop. The solution seemed to be a Wi-Fi extender but no one I talked to had any idea where to purchase one. One person said he had to bring one back from the UK. I couldn’t wait until my next visit to the U.S., however.
Finally, I was able to get the phone number for the man, Lo, who assists Smiling Hill with computer and other IT tasks. I hadn’t seen him in almost a year and he probably thought I had left Batam, but he remembered me when I called. While he did come a day later than promised, he did finally arrive with a new Wi-Fi extender.
But there still were some configuration problems, as there was no direct line of sight available because of the hallways and corners involved. Lo spent maybe an hour trying to figure out the best way to solve my problem, finally setting up a new account that gives me five bars of reception. He could have settled for a lesser solution but that’s not his style.
What did all this high-tech help cost me? The extender was Rp380,000, or about US$30. And for his time, Lo charged Rp50,000, About $4.
Let’s put that in perspective. In the U.S., such a service would probably require a two-week wait for a service technician. I’m not sure how much an extender would cost but probably much more that $30, unless I purchased it myself. And the fee for that technician to set up the extender would have been how much? $50? $100?
My $34 was well spent. I can probably even do Skype calls now. Or watch video. Or do my work faster.