It is not true that our extended family gets seriously ill whenever we're far away. But it is true that because we never manage to live close to them, we're always far away when they get sick.
So when my brother got very, very sick earlier this week, I found myself thinking a lot about the ways we stay connected to far-away family while we're here in Bosnia. Luckily, my husband figures all of this out for us, because I wouldn't have a clue. Here is my primer on wouldn't-live-without resources when we're far away:
1) Internet connection. Nine years ago, it was rare in Sarajevo to have internet connection in homes. We used to use David's office connection after-hours to send and read emails. Today, thankfully, home Internet connections are the standard.
2) Magic Jack. This snazzy little connector let us connect an actual telephone with a US phone number to our computer. When people called that US number, the telephone would ring in Bosnia. BUT...our computers are all laptops which we carry around from room to room, and this connector broke after only four months. (Takeaway lesson: these should be used with desktop computers, not laptops.)
3) Magic Talk. When our telephone connector broke, we switched to an online telephone program. Theoretically, any program would work. In practice, we can't get Skype to work part of the time (perhaps a problem with our connection?). GoogleTalk is not yet operational in Bosnia. And we had the Magic Jack phone number already. So people can still call our US number and our computer instead of our telephone rings. Which means we need...
4) Good headset. We tried using cheap headsets. It has been totally worth it to have a good headset when this is our only contact with family. We are using a Plantronics headset. And...
5) Speaker. So that we can all hear the news at the same time. Our iLuv speaker has met our needs perfectly.
In the case of my brother all the news we're hearing now is good. Thank goodness his heart is behaving itself again since we sending our hearts is the one thing we can't do very well over the Internet. But we would if we could, Jim.