can you hear me now?

One of the dilemmas Tom and I faced moving to a foreign country was how to stay connected to family and friends. We rely heavily on email; to that end our computer is 'on' most of the time.

Here in Merida, and on and around the peninsula we rely on cellphones, we don't have a wired landline. Most of the time this is just fine, sometimes it would be nice to have one, but we just can't justify the added expense of both the landline, AND cellphones. And we sure like to be able to make calls when out and about, plus it's comforting to know help is just a call away if needed.

Our 2nd year here we purchased a Vonage phone system which gave us a USofA phone number; a Colorado exchange as that's from where we thought most of our calls would come. Vonage is one of those VOIP (Voice over Internet Protocal) systems; there are many. It relies on an internet connection but doesn't require your computer to be on. In our case we have a phone, a phone adapter, and a router to be able to connect both the phone and the computer to our cable modem. Over the years we have had to replace several adapters AND several routers. You can buy routers with built in phone adapters; we've replaced a few of them as well. These electronics are not cheap, and in most cases can not be purchased here in Mexico as VOIP phones are not sold here. Some sort of control exerted by phone system overlords....

Just recently we started experiencing issues once again with our Vonage phone. We started the standard routine of troubleshooting and found that the phone adapter this time is fine. There is apparently and suddenly some inability in communication between the phone adapter and the wireless router. The wireless router we have now is through CableMas who is our cable service provider. Seemed to make sense to use their equipment and then they bear the responsibility for maintenance and replacement as needed. We pulled out one of our old wireless routers and continued with our troubleshooting. It is indeed the CableMas wireless router.

I haven't called CableMas yet but really need to as our current AND temporary system is complicated. Each time we want to use our 'system' the process is this, turn on the powerstrip that powers the router, phone adapter, and cable modem. We turn all these things off and on at the powerstrip to conserve energy; even turned off all those chargers and adapters pull current, and electricity is quite expensive down here, not to mention the horrible powersurges we have. Anyway, after those things all start powering up you have to press the reset button on the old router then wait again while all the pieces and parts connect and talk to each other. THEN you can turn on the computer, which happens to be connected to a separate and different powerstrip.

With the Old Linksys router connected our wireless network went missing. I think the network is still there, but only configured through the CableMas router. So currently both laptops need to be cabled to the router. Which means instead of me sitting at the dining room table connected wirelessly I am at a small tray table near enough to the router for the cable to reach.

And now to get on with my story - We have the lowest level of Vonage service, I think it's $12US for 300minutes of talk time and add to that all the taxes and fees and we pay just a bit over 20USD per month. Well and add to that the cost of all those replacement electrical components...We rarely, if ever use more than about 100 minutes of time, most of out calls are Vonage to Vonage and with friends here in Merida! No cost against our minutes for calls Vonage to Vonage.

We've tried to get family and friends to connect using SKYPE, but they resist. We have SKYPE, and we've purchased minutes so that we can use SKYPE to make calls. We did this the last time we were having Vonage issues. The only down side is we don't have a US number on which we can receive calls. With SKYPE we can purchase/rent a number for about 6USD per year, plus a plan which I think is what I'm going to do and ditch the Vonage. We can then receive calls; the only downside, if it is one is that the computer has to be on and we would have to be at the computer to talk. You can purchase phones and adapters for use with SKYPE, and yada yada, but that seems like exactly what we have now...more electronics to fail...

The computer Tom uses has built in speakers, microphone, and webcam, the one I use has speakers only so I'll need to get a headset with microphone. Seems do-able.

Some people we know maintain their USofA cellphones and add an International plan to keep in touch with family and friends NOB, makes sense if you travel back and forth alot, I guess. We don't. We live here fulltime and travel a bit around Mexico, but not so often to the USofA, so what to do, what to do....The Vonage is just so darn convenient, but dang the frustration and expense of all this equipment...