Wednesday, November 30, 2011

What's That? Wednesday: I love Technology! 11/30/2011

Technology has been a huge blessing!  Emails, blogs and websites gave me an opportunity to learn about Suzhou before we arrived and make new friends.  Now that we are here, Skype and Google video chat have been great to talk to keep us connected to family & friends.

I knew that some websites would be blocked and I was fortunate to discover the power of a VPN (virtual personal network) before we checked out of the hotel.  Once we moved into the apartment I would lose our secure connection and my personal link to Facebook and our blog.  The VPN basically filters everything through a secure connection and I choose the destination of the filter.  If I choose a city in the US, then my internet connection is essentially coming through the US and nothing is blocked.  On a side note, someone I know dressed up for Halloween as the Great China Firewall, hysterical!

Skyping with my dad during our first weeks in Suzhou.
Technology has also bridged the huge language gap.  Our driver speaks no English and, almost five months later, my Chinese is pretty limited.  But cell phones have made up for the lack of verbal communication...almost.  Both our driver and Jamie have applications on their phones that take English/Chinese and translate it to the other language.  Some things do get lost in translation and you have to step back and look for the jest of the message rather than looking at the specifics. Even then I've been known to text "I don't understand" and I have received a few texts like that too.  Now I've learned that if I get a text that says "I went to", that means that our driver is waiting in the garage.  I'm not sure how an essential piece of the text is missing, but it happens every time.

We've also used Google translate to make lists or clarify things for our driver and our Ayi.  I try to stick to simple sentences with subject + verb + object in the hopes that it will translate better.  And most recently, we set up a Vonage account which uses our internet connection for our phone service.  We now have a local Peoria number that people can use to call us without international charges.  For us, we just pick up the phone and call, no dialing country codes.  For some numbers I don't even need the area code.  It's been really helpful when making doctor's appointments or leaving contact information with people in the States.  The best part is that when a caller leaves a voice mail it is transcribed and emailed to me.

For our next piece of technology, Jamie and I have our eyes set on a Slingbox.  The Slingbox would allow us to hook up a box to a cable connection at someone's house (a paid connection, nothing sneaky) and then use our computer to control what is recorded on our DVR.  We could watch whatever we wanted from back in the States.  No more missing The Amazing Race or Illinois football (maybe it's okay to miss that).  Do you think Santa delivers Slingboxes?

I'm so glad that technology has allowed our family to stay connected with friends and family back in the States.  What would I have done if I had to rely on letters and the Pony Express?  Now, if we could only do something about the 14 hour time difference and the middle-of-the night phone calls...

1 comment:

  1. I'm glad to see this post because I had been curious about how you are able to do blogging and Facebook (since I had heard in the news that China blocks sites, etc.) Very cool how all these technological advances are working for you guys!