For those of us from developed nations, it’s unusual to think about our world without the “basic amenities” in life. By “basic amenities” I mean technology and Web 2.0. They have undeniably become our source of information, formed our social cohesions, and kept us engaged with the onslaught of our friends’ Facebook status updates. As Global Communication students, access to technology is at the very heart of our academic and professional existence.
But what happens when you’re living in a developing country far away, and you happen to be in the midst of a natural disaster? How do you remain informed and able to carry out tasks when needed? That’s what happened to us last week. On the night of December 29th, Auroville and the surrounding area witnessed one of the worst storms in decades that leveled villages, destroyed 70% of the natural vegetation, and left us completely off the grid.
There we were, a group of communications students incapable of beginning our projects because we lacked the necessities needed to see us through our work. Without electricity we can’t charge our computers. Without computers, we can’t work on our projects and utilize the Internet. Without the Internet…well, we might as well be drawing paintings on a cave wall. As the days dragged on, some of us began to develop a type of “island fever.” With trees knocked-down, blocking access to the outside, we were in a sense, trapped. “Why are we even here?” some of us began to ask ourselves. We found ourselves questioning whether or not our projects would even commence, and a feeling of uncertainty began to linger in the air. What about food; would we eat that day? –Not a concern. Was there enough water to shower, let alone drink? –It didn’t matter. Our main priority was getting ourselves back on the grid.
In retrospect, it’s weird – almost embarrassing to be so preoccupied with feeling inadequate due to lack of technology when there are villages less than 3km away lacking food, water and even shelter. But should we feel bad? We were here for a specific purpose, so what do our needs have to do with the needs of others? Is it my fault I was born an American, automatically making my values different from others in this situation? These are questions I asked myself with nothing to be done but stare at the flame of a burning candle.
Unfortunately, this story ends well only for the Practicum students. While our technological amenities were eventually restored, we don’t know if those most in need received their real amenities. And you know what – we probably never will.