…for such a time as this

Stories about the adventure that is Peace Corps Tonga

foresight and ink

This week has been eventful, very busy. I watched 20something men and women dance the maululu (traditional Tongan dance), something I could never see my brothers doing, I’ve eaten boiled fish head (not bad) and worked with my Tongan teachers to set up our new computer lab with internet (YES!). I have to tell you though about one of the experiences I had in the office of my school.

Printing in Tonga is a tough thing for a billion reasons. Lack of consistent electricity, printer drivers missing (lack of internet to download printer drivers), chords walking away and yes, you guessed it, ink shortages. It’s not like your typical “Let me run over to Staples and get some” ink shortage. When we need ink in Ha’apai, we have to call the Catholic School Education Office in Tongatapu, they “order” the ink and ship it to Ha’apai on the boat. This could take anywhere from a week to a month.

Let me set the scene. I have a meeting at 8:30am at the school across the street from me, of course I wait until the morning to get fully prepared for it. I plug in the flash drive with the paperwork I need to print out, bring it up and walk my laptop into the secretaries office. I see a printer there, it’s not the printer I used yesterday, but it will do. I pull the chord out of the secretaries computer and plug it into mine. Nothing happens. I proceed to ask the secretary if this is a “new” printer. (FYI, I found out that even when you order new computers in Tonga, they are not actually brand new, that seems to go for printers too) She tells me no, that the printer that was there yesterday ran out of ink so she put this one out. Ok. So I ask her where the CD that came with the printer is, she doesn’t know. She gets up and lifts up a sheet (sheets here are used to “protect computers”) and I see 3 newer printers sitting there. “What are these?” I ask. She replies that they are all out of ink. Again, ok. I ask her if she is going to order some more ink for these printers. She looks at me with a puzzled look, insinuating that I just asked a stupid question. She said that she will order ink when all of the printers we have are out. I decide not to fight this fight.

Last month, we went 3 weeks without ink in our school’s copy machine for the same reason. I resigned to writing all of my tests and worksheets instead of typing them and I hope that when I need the printer next, one of those 4 will have ink.

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