What I looked forward to most upon my return was writing about my volunteer experience in Ghana, yet it’s been repeatedly forced to the bottom of my to-do list. For now, I offer you this excuse – I mean exercise – in frustration.

I reached home on August 2nd, eager to compile all I had learned and desperate to empower my new Ghanaian friends. To do that would require money. To raise money required awareness. I got right to it and made this video of my time spent with the children at Have’s RC Primary School.

I put this, my first film, together in about three days and downloaded software to convert the file format.

All was going well until…

The first on-screen message announced an incompatible codec, that thing that compresses the video file from one format to another. Windows tried to barf it up. When that failed, my poor, poisoned laptop suffered a complete system shut down. Before it went into a brief coma, up came the screen “Windows has unexpectedly shut down and will now attempt to find a solution to the problem.” Solution, my ass. Rather than offering up anything helpful, ANYTHING, it quit on me, shut down, died.

I nudged it with the power button. Nothing.

Then, slowly, it strained to get up. The OS rebooted and said, “The previous session of Windows did not shut down properly. Would you like to restart in safe mode?”

“Hurrah! You’re back!” I selected normal startup, hit enter and watched events unfold with moist palms.

The sign-on screen appeared. I fed it my password, logged in, and behold! Something! … until that same false promise appeared about a solution. Another shut-down, restart, the message. Shut-down, restart, the message, looping to infinity. It needed no input from me anymore. It had a psycho will of it’s own.

My information held captive inside the brain of a dying body, I sprung into Safe Mode, or heart pills for hard drives. I cut the power, rebooted…

Seriously, how does this loop continue IN SAFE MODE?!!

Somehow, I had to get inside the brain before the OS could spasm once more. I pressed F 10 or 12 (I forget now), and ran through every pre-boot test made available to man. Tests came back negative. Lies!

I tore my house apart looking for the Windows Vista repair software on the misplaced installation disk. Finally… Found it! I popped it into the drive, booted from the disc and guess what… The lather, rinse, repeat loop kicked in again.

In a heap of defeat, I grabbed the phone.

Dell technical support. This is Michele speaking. How can I help ya?

Hoping for the warm, welcome words of hopeful, helpful advice, I got this instead:

It happens in safe mode? I’m sorry. You’ve done all you can. Are there files you need to retrieve or should I walk you through a complete re-installation?

I hung up, sick over the loss of precious Ghanaian notes, photos and video. I made weekly backups at first but was then faced with to options:

  • Waste time backing up my technology and writing about the days I had already experienced, or
  • Fully experience the time I had left, take a million pictures, videos and note and hope to remember the nuances later.

I opted to live the experience – technology be damned. And so it was… damned that is.

Geek Squad to the rescue. 2 weeks later, the recovered files were in hand. This was great, considering the alternative… you know, the one where I lose everything… obviously not the one in which it could have been fixed.

With a fresh Windows install, I was running for about a week. In the clear, I deleted the 70 gig retrieval file. A day later, tragedy struck once more. I learned that entire folders of waterfalls, monkeys and monuments were lost in the transfer. Downloading miracle software – the kind that finds and restores deleted files – I revved it up, hit scan, and it shut down. Then I tried again, the program aborted. I screamed. Tech support still hasn’t responded – for two weeks.

Another day, another dollar or two, and a download later and I’m in. It took two days to scan 44,812 deleted photo files. The names were erased and assigned numbers. I had to manually open each one to search for what I had lost.

Three days later…

I found and retrieved 928 photos, all but one rooster in a fruit tree and family photos of my fellow farm worker, Felix. Hugh Grant’s line in Four Weddings and a Funeral came to mind,


Corel Photo Album 6 then slammed its door in my face. I tattled to tech support. They won’t support a program with a newer version is on the market. The new version came out three days ago. Too bad. I begrudgingly bought the new version. The naming function I use most has been stripped out. Seriously? I’m asking for my money back.

Then… yesterday my laptop didn’t want to play nice with the scanner. I shoved a new driver down it’s interface and the two started talking again. Then, when I tried to print what I had successfully scanned, the laptop needed a bit more attitude adjustment before the two were back to being BFFs.

That’s when I saw them. Bugs in the system… No really. My bugs weren’t figurative. They were literal.  Little red ants marched out from under my keyboard. Little red ants from Africa were eating my computer from the inside out.