So, one week back to work after leave so how has it been? Not brilliant, to be honest with you.
With about a month to go before I return to Tanzania - I hope, ticket rebooked but no residency permit as yet - I need to start working again from the UK. Now, from one point of view, working remotely is nothing new to me, the job requires a certain amount of travel, and staying in touch while away is entirely normal.
But this is rather different to anything I've done before. Spending an hour or so a day catching up with emails when teaching North West Uganda is one thing, doing the entirety of the job from several thousand miles is rather another.
I decided I needed a temporary office, and found one a short bus ride away in the Windrush industrial estate heading out towards Burford and then onto Cheltenham eventually. Decided I needed a portable printer and found one on the Internet, that was fine. And starting to get to know some of the people in the offices round abouts me which is great.
So, what's the problem? Well, several, actually. I seem to have been besieged by technical difficulties all week. Firstly it took a little while to connect up to the Internet - but once that was sorted I have had the best speeds I've ever experienced (but then I don't get out much). Then my printer, which started off working fine, decided that communicating with the laptop was a bit like hard work and I have seen 'error 306' more times than is good for anybody, conjuring up memories of Violet Elizabeth Bott in the 'Just William' stories declaiming, "I'll thcweam and I'll thcweam and I'll thcweam until I'm thick - I can you know." Eventually phoned the "help lines" - using the term in a purely technical sense - as the printer people blamed the laptop and the laptop people..... You get the idea. And then on Thursday for some strange reason the whole of MS Office stopped functioning, thank you to James back in DSM for sorting that out for me!
But it's more than that. I send out emails and get no replies. I send out further emails and maybe hear something. Back in DSM I would be wandering corridors, speaking with people, seeing who's around, discussing what needs to be done. But all of this is cut off from me. And not withstanding some conversations with people around, it's a little heavy working by myself in a little office with no direct human interaction right through the working day, and chasing things up without being able to speak with people directly really is not much fun.
I was speaking recently with somebody considering doing Bible training, maybe up to masters level, on a distance learning basis. One of the things I was saying was that it's really good to be doing the same courses at the same time with somebody you can talk to face to face for two reasons, one is to discuss the content of what you're studying, the other is to bring a bit of peer pressure to bear in terms of keeping to deadlines, this kind of thing. Pure online study, like pure online work, is not easy for many people. My own view here is, however used we become with computer technology, the need for direct human interaction in studying and working context is always going to be with us, an 'eternal verity' to use a rather neat phrase I got from Professor John Visser (whether it's original to him I don't know, I'm sure he would tell us if we asked!).
So, is it the case that if one has an Internet connection one can work from anywhere in the world? This depends, I think, on a number of factors - the nature of the work, the mindset of the person doing the work, the mindset of the other people involved, to name but a few. My answer to the question? No, I'm really not happy that I'm able to do my job properly without actually being in Dar es Salaam, and look forward to being back as soon as reasonably possible. Meanwhile, I'm doing the best I can, thank you to Neil and others who are doing things on a face-to-face basis on my behalf back at the ranch, hope to be able to return the favour at some stage in the not too distant future!