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Caribbean and Latin America

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Disconnected and discombobulated

By Paul Knowles

I have been known to heap scorn upon those young people who wander the streets, oblivious to their surroundings, nose-deep in their “devices.” “Addicts!” I have labeled them.
Ah, hypocrisy at its finest. For, spending Christmas week in Varadero, Cuba, I discovered that my phone’s roam-like-I-was-in-Wilmot function did not deliver connectivity, and that wifi was virtually non-existent. I was cut off from my IPhone and my IPad. I was in Iwithdrawal.


The resort – a lovely place, by the way, named Iberostar Laguna Azul – was filled with palm trees, swimming pools, beach lounge chairs, and Canadians desperately looking for anywhere they might pick up a wifi signal.

Now, I have to say that if you had to choose a place to undergo digital cold turkey, I couldn’t suggest a better one. It’s hard to stay anxious when you are lying under a palm leaf cabana, with a book by Terry Fallis in one hand and a rum punch or lime daiquiri in the other. (The book took slightly longer to finish than the daiquiri, of course).

And if the lack of wifi is top of mind while you stroll on the gorgeous beach of Varadero, perhaps you have an even bigger problem that you first thought.

However, like many of those northeners around me, I certainly felt the itch to connect, and frustration when I couldn’t. There was a couple near me at poolside one day who spent at least half the afternoon taking turns, wandering away, hoping a magic connection would show up on their phones. It didn’t. They weren’t happy. And it’s actually pretty hard to be unhappy when a clever young waiter named Lionel keeps offering you free beverages.

There was also a certain sense of mystery and drama, because suddenly, for no apparent reason, the darned devices would work for a few moments. One afternoon, I discovered that my landlady, who was watering my plants, had texted me to say the task was completed. She had sent the text a couple of hours before it arrived. Two hours later, her earlier text also appeared. And once, a phone call got through. But attempts to make calls failed utterly.

After surviving withdrawal for a day or two, I surrendered to the inevitable, and became a shameless beach bum, lazy and disconnected. It felt terrific.

But then I returned home. And from that day to this, I have been unable to shake the feeling that I have missed something, or many things. That the world passed me by for a week, and I can’t catch up. In other words, the addict has returned to his digital connection addiction.

Perhaps I will now be kinder in my assessment of teenagers and their continual texting. But I doubt it.