Living in Canada and being surrounded by technology, I'm so used to various technological tools - from something as basic as the Internet, to connected everything the house, including light switches, a thermostat, and even my slow cooker; along with Alexa-enabled macros, and TVs set for THX or SMPTE viewing distances.
Flying to Indonesia to visit my parents' old house that doesn't have anything like that became a bit of a shock. Even 35 years after the house was built, I can never get used to the 8,000-square-foot size. Every wall was built with brick, and the floors are made of marble, which makes it virtually impossible for a Wi-Fi signal to go anywhere. Then, the next "problem" is the Internet speed. My parents have the 10Mbps option (compared that to my Rogers 1 Gigabit!), which is fine for them since they only use the Internet to read their e-mails. But for me, it feels like I'm using dial-up.
Light switches are another problem. My room's switch is located next to the door, about 20 feet away from the bed. And it's the only light in the room. This means that at the end of each day, I have to walk over to the light switch to turn it off, and then use my phone's flashlight to light the way back to my bed. (I know, I know: first world problems.)
While I've become used to being able to remotely turn on my AC so I can return home to cool and comfortable temperatures, my parents' house has one air conditioning unit for each room. Sure, they have on and off timers. But with unscheduled daily activities and traffic jams, sometimes these don't quite jive with my schedule. Of course there is a workaround: having helpers in Indonesia is commonplace, so I could just call home and ask them to switch the AC on for me at the time I desire. However, having lived more than 75% of my life abroad, I don't like asking for anyone's help for something as trivial as that. (Again, I can already hear the mutterings of "first world problems.")
I've also gotten used to the luxuries of home security back home in Toronto. There are high rates of crime in Indonesia, and while my parents' home is in a lower crime rate area, they have some form of low-tech security. To gain entry, you need to open the main gate with one key, then enter the garage with another key. (The house is old, so it doesn't have a motorized garage door opener, and the garage door is about 3-4 times heavier than Canadian garage doors). Finally, enter the house itself with another key. It's quite a process, actually. Far too much work for a potential thief, so why bother with high-tech security?
So what is the point of this article? We in Canada (well, at least me) are pampered with all the conveniences provided by interconnected smart devices. I only have to say "Alexa, start my day" and Alexa will turn on my lights, tell me the weather, switch the TV to CP24, and activate my coffee maker. At the end of the day, I only need to say "Alexa, lights off" and it will turn off all lights and start a two-hour sleep timer for my TV. It's in such stark contrast to what I'm experiencing now during my travels.
Do all of these automated things in Canada make me happier? I thought so, until I arrived in Indonesia. Only then did I realize the difference between what I need and what I simply want. OK, so I do feel like I need the light at the end of my room to be remotely controlled. But that's about it. My life so far is running perfectly well without any of those gadgets.
Photo by David Susilo