Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Like a Zealous Missionary

My new love is not an Indiana Jones-type, nor a tanned Denys Finch-Hatton safari man who roams and shows up when he feels like it, nor a man who can build mansions from Play-Doh while simultaneously nursing a dozen orphaned kangaroos, as are my usual leanings.

No, my new love is Skype.

Unfortunately, Skype is just a piece of software and will not go out to dinner with me. Skype won’t rub my feet, or surprise me with a fresh cup of coffee in the early morning light. But Skype won’t let me down either.

Because Skype is awesome.

My pal Bobbie uses Skype to chat with our mutual friend Kevin Tang, who teaches English in Japan. Her nanny uses it to call home to South America. I nodded when she told me about it. I meant to get around to trying out Skype, but phone cards are so cheap in the US that I didn’t bother. And in Uganda, the Internet connections are sketchy. You need broadband if you want Skype to be faithful.

Signs all over Cape Town backpacker’s lodges and Internet cafes extol the virtues of Skype. I had to change my airline tickets (now flying out of East Africa in time for Thanksgiving, last year’s having been spent at the Barcelona Ikea) and my long-suffering mother has done me enough favors already. So, this morning—the Internet cafĂ© is empty in the morning and I hate other people listening to my conversations plus I figure that the guys at the airlines have nothing else to do at 4 a.m. U.S. time—I paid for a regular dose of Internet and dialed via Skype. I picked up the USB phone that sits in each cubicle.

Incredible. It worked. I could hear them and they could hear me. And since I was dialing toll-free numbers in the US, I didn’t have to pay anything to Skype.

I sat for 45 minutes going over various itineraries—Gatwick or Heathrow, Nairobi or Entebbe, via Madrid or Brussels--with both American and Continental. The total cost for my Internet time? $1.70. Total cost for Skype? Free. What does this have to do with me being in Africa? Not much. But it’s still cool. And I have a South African cell phone now if anyone wants to try it out. And don’t worry if you don’t get around to it this time—there’s a good chance I’ll be working on comics in Kuwait this winter, so put a USB handset on your Christmas lists.

I’ll need a new title, won’t I? “No Hurry in Kuwait” doesn’t have the same ring to it.

1 comment:

Ed Ward said...

Hey, I just got Skype, too, but I think it's disappointing next to iChat's voice hookup. Course, you have to have a mike in your laptop, but I do, and I've had long chats with California and Austin on it. Skype required earphones, of all things, but you can use it cross-platform, and I'm not 100% sure you can do that with iChat. Either way, I like to think of using this technology as sticking it to the Man -- Deutsche Satankom!