As I’ve been settling into this wonderful island life, it has suddenly hit me that I’ve made a disastrous mistake. There’s been a lapse in judgment, an oversight made in planning for my rock life future. How could I have missed this? I lament.

What could I possibly be missing on this beautiful Caribbean island, you ask? Certainly not the traffic jams on the freeway, the lines at the mega-box grocery stores, the stressed out people at the banks, post office, and DMV that I left back where I came from. No, what I’m missing is something I thought for the better part of my life that I could survive without: competence in the technology age. Now that I finally have time to use it, I’ve realized that I don’t know how, that I somehow managed to miss the entire flipping computer era!

placencia beach

My predicament is now the mechanics of keeping in touch. And no, I’m not talking about the spotty internet service, dropped calls mid-conversation, electric outages for hours at a time – those are just the realities of technology on a tropical island. I’m talking about the actual logistics of using it.

Granted, the last few years I’ve eased into the iPad, iPhone, and the laptop with help from my grandkids. But let’s be real – I skimmed by. I was no master because I always had younger ones nearby to assist when I needed. Then I move to an island! And now it’s beyond just basic interest – I really need the technology and I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.

With all this extra time on my hands, I’ve tried to determine how I missed something so damned important. When reflecting over my life, it became clear…

Growing up in rural Arkansas, life was simple. To communicate, you talked. You had one house phone, and in rural areas you had a “party line.” This access to technology consisted of the one and only physical phone line that passed near your local farm road. All neighbors that happened to live in close proximity to this single telephone pole that ran through your property was part of this “party line.” If you needed to use the phone, many times you’d pick up in the middle of your neighbor’s conversation and have to politely wait your turn, quietly hang up, wait a few minutes, then pick up again. Common courtesy and unspoken etiquette was appreciating that the click meant someone else needed to use the phone, so you’d end your call. Yes, simply picking up the phone would allow you access to your neighbors conversations. An archaic form of Facebook, perhaps?

operator phone

After high school in the late 70s, I ventured out and left the rural area of Arkansas. We did stay in touch, but long distance calling was a novelty, so you only called about once a week to touch base. If you needed to call and were not near your house, you might use the phone booth on the corner. That required ensuring you had a pocketful of change, of which you would deposit 30 cents for three minutes. For assistance, you dialed zero and the operator was a real person on the other end of the line who was there to help. If you were desperate, you dialed zero and placed a collect call, putting the expense on the recipient of your urgent call.

As the computer age came to be in the early 80s, I found myself busy with what I deemed more important things: getting married (ok… a couple of times…), having children (ok… several…), and trying to get a degree. After 10 years of night classes, I did finally get my degree in Social Work, though I was only required to take a couple of computer classes and typed most of my term papers on – you guessed it – a typewriter.

With the early 90s came more technology that I continued to ignore – computers, video games, those big bulky cell phones a few business execs were using. Soon, my kids became experts at video games, Yahoo mail crept into the one family computer whose sole purpose was mainly making a spreadsheet for monthly bills. By the turn of the century, the kids were graduating, computers were everywhere, personal computers were no longer a novelty, but a necessity – at least for some people (not quite me).

Fast forward – I woke up one day, the kids were grown, the family was overflowing with grandkids, daughters and sons in law, all spread throughout the country, and then I moved to an exotic Caribbean island to enjoy my retirement years. And then it hit me: Dammit, I really should have paid attention to this computer shit.

placencia 2

Computer technology is no longer a novelty, but it is life. My two year old grandchild can use an iPad and cell phone better than his 55 year old grandmother. As I start this new chapter in my life, of being a mother of grown children, of deciding what I want to do with the rest of my life, I realize this technology gap has created a great obstacle that I must overcome.

I love to write. I want to maintain a blog about this great new life I’m living in Belize to share with others. I want to keep up with the kids and grandkids but I’m still struggling with my new iPhone. My grandkids aren’t here to give me instructions on the iPad. I’m not sure whether to upload or download. I can’t figure out how to send a file, send an attachment, forward a document, or copy a document.

I just want to fucking write! I just want to make a simple call! But do I Facebook, Instagram, Tweet, Skype, or wifi it? Is that even the right question to be asking?

So while I contemplate my plan to overcome this major obstacle in my island life, figuring out how to learn all the things without driving myself mad, I instead wonder if anyone might be willing to take a few steps back and meet me in the middle…

Could we possibly consider bringing back the “party lines” islanders? That sounds like a lot more fun to me…

Written By:

Pepper Carpenter

Current Rock of Residence:

Ambergris Caye & Placentia, Belize

Island Girl Since:

2013

Originally Hails From:

Dallas, Texas

After 35 years of raising children (and nearly killing a couple ex-husbands), Pepper can now start to live her life as she’s always dreamed – however the hell she wants! Although at 55, she’s not certain the path is clear, but is certain it’s somewhere near a beach. She wants to fill her days with bike rides through the village, walks on the beach, sunsets with a glass of wine while yes, wearing one of those flowing “moo-moo” dresses she swore she would never wear. Since 2013, that beach has been on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. After falling in love with the area while on vacation, she returned shortly after to house hunt.

Finding a lovely spot to “test” this island life, she decided it was definitely a good decision. Spending the majority of her time in Belize and being able to return to the US to visit kids and grandkids seems to be the perfect combination. Her new motto is, “I’m the captain now!” A couple of days visiting, and she must return to the island!

One small problem: the world is finding this island! Ambergris Caye has grown tremendously in the past couple of years. For investment purposes, this is great, for her grown children who love to visit, this is great – party central! But for this introverted, book-loving, hammock-laying recluse – the island was just getting too busy.

Recently expanding her search to the peninsula of Placencia, Belize, she has found a new home. Although currently hectic with the process of relocating, she is looking forward to the calm of the sea, the kindness of the Belizean people, and those fruity little umbrella drinks that remind her daily that this was a damn good idea! The only remaining issue is whether to tell the children where she moved! (The jury is still out on that one.) You can follow more of her adventures over on her personal blog, Lessons in Belize.

Want to read more posts by this writer? Click here.

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