Coming back from Haiti the last time, I walked through Boston airport, the subway, our rent-a-home, in an extended sort of trance. I was distracted, embarrassed, and thankful for the myriad little things around me: running water, flush toilets, showers, streetlights, clean. The “necessaries” remaining on my list were abundant: Power, Transport, Communications, and Safety. My trance lasted for weeks.

Flick a switch, a light goes on. Take out your mobile, there’s a strong signal and the calls are pretty much free. Make a mess and the faucet comes on. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t suffer for the lack of these things that much. (Okay, not being able to reach my wife and daughter was tough.) But the contrast was striking, and as I said, embarrassing. For months I couldn’t drive past a floodlit parking lot or office building without thinking of the milliamp-hours of waste.

Power: In Matènwa, power was a constant concern. The electricity for the school came from solar panels. Our excess of laptops, our projector, taxed their batteries to the limit on a near daily basis. Whenever I plugged in my Mac, my cell phone, my cameras, I was very aware of the drain I imposed. Even when in places that had apparent abundance, I was aware of the constant truth: everything I used was another’s expense. Being a traveler in post-earthquake Haiti, I was a burden, however helpful.

For this next trip, power looks easier. Petite Rivière has been fine. Mirebalais is next to a hydroelectric dam. John has access to generators. Léogâne may be tricky, but the pilot seems to have enough for the laptops. All of this can change in an instant, of course, but unlike the mentor workshop, loss of power won’t interfere much, except when upgrading and backing up the laptops.

Communications: I need connection for three things: reaching my family, making logistics calls, and posting to this blog. Other than these short bits, I’m happy to be unplugged. In Maténwa, I was disconnected for days at a stretch. Internet was metered and frequently overlimit. Mobile phones rarely had signal. I made a habit of climbing the roof in hopes of a call.

The mainland is much better, though expenses will mount quickly if I’m not careful. For an extra $20/month, AT&T offers 25 cents a minute phone calls and 50 cents a megabyte data transfer. Looks like I’ll be relying on the 10 cent text messages as much as I can instead. My 3G modem for my laptop needs a whopping $200/mo before I can get 400 megabytes! Yes, I can get a local mobile for much less, though for a two week trip, I’m dubious.

Anyway, this post is getting long, so I’ll click “Save” and transfer these few kilobytes without worry of the cost or quality of the connection. Transport, Translation, and Safety tomorrow.

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