RIP my erratic HP companion

In May 2010, as I worked daily to rid myself of nearly all my belongings before heading off to Costa Rica, where I thought I would be retiring permanently, I purchased a laptop. This was to replace the desktop Mac I had because carrying a desktop on the road was not a viable option (obviously). I had never owned a laptop but it was going to be a necessity in my new life.

I forget if it was Circuit City or Best Buy where I evaluated my choices, becoming totally confused by the options and prices. I finally decided on an HP model, with 15-inch screen. It was perhaps larger than some people would choose, but I envisioned watching a lot of video on this machine and I wanted as big an image for that purpose as possible.

Now I’m not going to give the HP laptop a ringing endorsement. It did have an excellent screen, but it was heavy and there were periodic difficulties with it shutting down for no apparent reason. (I’m using the past tense in this post for reasons that will be known later.)

The first problem I encountered was shortly after my arrival in Quepos, Costa Rica, on the Pacific coast. Quepos is a very small town that was about to become larger due to a massive marina being built on what had been a nice beach. As much as anything, the marina was why I moved to Jaco up the coast after a month.

Anyway, one day without notice the laptop went dark. There was one computer shop in town and, fortunately, the owner was able to get the HP working again.

I did not encounter another problem until I moved to Croatia. On the bus ride from Zagreb to the coastal city of Zadar, where I thought I would be staying for three months, the HP went dark again. Restoring it would be my first priority and was quite the story, already described in this space. When I finally found a computer repair shop in Zadar, they turned the HP on and it magically was working again.

The HP then traveled with me to Rome and to Catania, Sicily, before we both ended up in Batam, Indonesia. It wasn’t long, however, before it went dark again. Apparently, it didn’t like the travel.

Batam has an HP computer shop and they fixed the unexplained problem once again. It was then that a new friend in Batam gave me an extra laptop he had as a substitute, eventually to become a backup. A year later, the HP went dark again and I bought a new laptop. I had hardly broken the new one in, when the HP rebooted. And then a guest stole off in the middle of the night, accompanied by both the new laptop and my Nikon 35mm. There went $1,000. But I still had the now-working HP and the backup.

A few weeks ago, the HP again went dark, was brought in for repair and was working fine. By now, I had spent maybe $200 or so on repairs.

The backup stopped working last week, and then, days later, the HP went dark again and would not turn on. I suspect it will reboot at some future date, but I had had enough of its unreliability and decided to buy another one. And this was fun.

Dewi and I went into Nagoya to the mall, where half the bottom floor is devoted to phone, camera and computer stores. I knew what I wanted inside a laptop and about what I was willing to pay, and just walked into one of the stores randomly. They did not have what I was looking for at the price I was willing to pay (up to $500).

So we tried another store next door. The price was too high by a lot. So to a third store, where I had purchased the computer a year earlier that ended up being stolen. Here I found what I was looking for at the right price (Rp 4.7 million – about $480). I gave them my credit card but they wouldn’t take it – because it is primarily a debit card and they would not take a debit card. Again, this was the same store I bought a laptop from a year earlier. I could have gone to an ATM machine but there was a principal involved here, as I had been using a debit card for four years without a problem. So I said never mind and went to the store right next door.

This next shop also had what I wanted – in fact, the exact same model I was ready to buy in the previous shop. Here, however, they were glad to take my card. And the price was lower by Rp 300,000, or $25, than the previous shop. With the 3% surcharge added for using a credit card, the total came to about the same as the base price of the previous store. A copy of Windows 8 was loaded and I was told they would transfer my data from the HP to the new Lenovo laptop when I brought in the HP (which I forgot to bring with me). They also said they would add a pirated copy of Microsoft Office.

Dewi took both computers to the store this morning and will bring them back this afternoon before she goes to work. Then I will need to spend some time setting up the new laptop. For the geeks, my requirements were 4 megs of RAM, 500 GB of storage, and 2.4 ghtz throughput.

And as for my long-time companion HP laptop, I truly expect one day when I press the start button it will come on again, just like it has in the past. But I will find it a new home anyway. In fact, my taxi guy, Eddie, has already put in a claim for his son, even though it doesn’t work. Dewi would like the backup, which is smaller, if she can find a friend who can fix it for free. And I’m sure there is someone working at Smiling Hill or Goodies who would like the HP if I offer. I’m sure both will find good homes.

I hope, though, that the new Lenovo will not provide me with as much fodder for this blog as the HP did. It’s very disconcerting to have your computer go on the fritz when you are in another country.

Leaving Catania

The waiting is the hardest part. Catania has given me rain and cold for my final two days. No walking. No exploring. Can’t even dry my last batch of laundry. Damp clothes going to Indonesia. It’s Monday and I’ve been packed since Saturday. Still have lots of food to deal with. Was going to pack it all up and give it to a woman who sometimes panhandles outside the grocery, holding her baby. But the rain has kept her away. Guess I’ll leave it for Giuseppe.

My flight is at 9:40 in the morning (Jan. 17), so I plan to try to get a cab about 7. Hope they’re working then. The first leg on Alitalia takes me to Milan. I have a 3-hour layover there before boarding a Qatar Airways flight to Dohar, the capital of Qatar on the Persian Gulf. That is an almost 6-hour flight. My next flight, also on Qatar, leaves Doha at 1 a.m., which I think would be either midnight or 11 p.m. Sicily time, and 5 or 6 p.m. East Coast U.S. time. Flight time to Singapore’s Changi Airport is 7.5 hours. I arrive in Singapore at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

From the airport, I take a taxi across town to the ferry docks. From there, I will be entering a different country (Indonesia) so I will have to go through all the same screening as at the airport. I have to buy a round-trip ferry ticket. Everywhere I go, I have to buy a round-trip ticket. My ticket to Singapore is round-trip. I’ve learned, though, that it’s actually cheaper to buy a round-trip ticket than one-way. I don’t know why.

Once I check my bag and clear security, I’ll have about an hour boat ride to Indonesia. I hope the strait is calm, as I really don’t do well on boats. If possible at the Singapore dock, I’m supposed to SMS Doug, my new boss, to tell him which ferry I will be on (they make the crossing every hour). He plans to meet me at the designated ferry terminal on the Indonesian side (there are several terminals). Of course, the only way I can send him a message is if I can find a Wi-Fi hotspot, or I might ask another expat at the terminal to give him a call. Apparently, I shouldn’t have too much trouble finding an English-speaking expat at the terminal. In case I can’t message Doug, he plans to meet the two ferries he thinks I will most likely be on. I tried to tell him I’ve done this before but he wants to be there to welcome me. It’s only about a mile or so from the Indonesia terminal to Smiling Hill.

Once I arrive in Indonesia, I have to complete an immigration entry card and pay for a 30-day visa ($25). A longer-stay visa will be secured for me later. Interestingly, Doug had told me to NOT list my profession as “journalist.” Apparently, that sends up a red flag in Indonesia. I’m supposed to list myself as an “IT and promotions consultant” coming to work for Smiling Hill.

In retrospect, I have to say my time in Catania was not as fulfilling as I had hoped. The weather kind of hampered my ability to explore other towns. I’m glad, however, that I was able to complete the circle for my mother, whose father came from Sicily. Finding relatives, though, would have been impossible in the short time frame I had here; plus, the family name is Ricci, which is very common here. But I made it, mama! If she’s watching, she’s smiling.

And Rome was awesome!

The one regret I do have about moving to Indonesia, hopefully for a long time, is that I planned to visit the U.S. after my Greece trip, which is, of course, on hold indefinitely. It will now be somewhat longer before I can see my daughter and granddaughter in Asheville.

On to Indonesia. And aren’t I glad I kept a lot of my clothes from Costa Rica? Back to t-shirts, shorts and sandals, baby!