When I enrolled at Science Leadership Academy almost four years ago, my friend Jacob assumed I decided on SLA for the free computer. I’ll confess that it was a perk, because I was certain a Macbook Pro was on the way. We all know SLA is a school founded on technology, it’s our way to ensure every student receives a laptop to complete most of their assignments. Our technology gives us a chance to collaborate, one of our core values, and get a better taste of the world right from the classroom.
In my experience besides math classes it is vital to have a working laptop everyday. When the internet is very slow, or even disappears, the classroom becomes desolate. So you can imagine how I felt when I couldn’t get immediate access to the internet. All of a sudden we were Internet-less and terrified. My brothers and I went hunting for internet, it became our sole objective.
That Sunday we left my grandfather’s house to go across the country. My mother has been trying to give us the most authentic experience so we had an all day adventure to reach our destination. I endured a bus and boat ride for ten hours worried about my incoming emails, feeling as if I was letting down my classmates and teachers with my unexcused silence. The worst may have been missing my favorite team, The Pittsburgh Steelers playoff game.
When we arrived in Bluefields, I thought I was saved from a deserted island, seeing a router in the home in which we stayed. But to continue my unlucky weekend, there was a power outage. If you’ve ever visited a developing country, especially in remote areas, you would know that power outages are fairly regular. Have you ever seen the episode of Spongebob where they got lost and stared into the woods expressionless and absolutely stuck? My brothers and I felt that way.
In Philadelphia that Sunday it would have been 11:30 p.m and I had not known what to do about my assignments, nor did I know the outcome of the football games. My mind was racing in the worst way. At the time I had no light, I kept telling myself “9329560aaa3”, the lengthy password for the wifi in anticipation for the lights to return. When the lights came, the internet was slow, but at least it was something.
Despite more power outages and internet with the speed of a tortoise, I learned a lot about myself and people who live and die by technology in the process. We have become captive to our devices. Without them, your afternoons become barren, and even your pockets feel incomplete.
Excessively using your devices is an addiction just like drugs or gambling. And it was an addiction I never knew I had until I was stuck in Nicaragua. All I could think about when there wasn’t internet; even on the plane rides, was when the hell I would get my next “fix” of internet. My next meal didn’t matter. All I would do was think of elaborate plans to load the next page.
I cheated myself out of a vacation. We all did. Dessler, Luke and I saw the worst in everything as we were blinded by the only thing our minds could care about. When we would leave the home with internet, we couldn’t leave our phones behind, just for the slim chance we might get another taste of access to the world.
Before this trip, if you had asked me what basic needs were, I would have said food, water and shelter. I now have to extend that popular phrase to food, water, shelter and around the clock internet access. I’m ashamed that I rely on a commodity, a privilege that most of the world hasn’t come to receive. All I could think about was getting back to Philadelphia, where I know my odd addiction could be fulfilled.