My mother, Mayla, got onto Skype recently. My sister, who lives in Florida set her up - during the process, it was evident that my sister seriously questioned that decision. Helping my mother with tech stuff takes a lot of patience.
Mom eventually got a reasonable handle on Skype, so she decided to get HER sister, Nour, on it. Her sister lives in Aleppo, Syria.
You can just about imagine where this is going.
It's hard enough to have someone who understand Skype to explain it to someone who doesn't... it becomes almost impossible for someone who only gets Skype because she keeps hitting buttons until it works to someone who doesn't understand Skype. Not to mention the the personalities involved - both women have no patience, are highly emotional, and use their hands a lot when they talk (which means inadvertantly hitting buttons on the computer that they didn't mean to hit).
This morning I talk to my mother over the phone while she is in the process of trying to Skype Nour.
Mom: I can't get this Skype to work! I see her but I can't hear her! Why can't I hear her!
Me: Hear who mom?
Mom: Nour... I see her! Why can't I hear her!
Me: Mom, I have no idea
Mom: I can't hear her. What is happening. Oh... Gaaaad.
Me: Do you have your sound on?
Me: Okay. Don't get mad...
Mom: Well - I am mad! I can't hear her!
Me: Okay. Well, maybe it is something on her end.
Me: I have no idea.
Mom: What could it be?
Me: Mom, I have no idea.
Mom: Well, Yasmine is there helping her. Yasmine is Nour's daughter. I bet she is thrilled right now as well.
Me: Okay. Yasmine will figure it out.
Mom: Why don't you Skype your Auntie?
Me: Well that's fine, but you didn't give me her Skype name.
Mom: I told you it is Nour Hariri.
Me: Yeah. But I told you there are 8 Nour Hariri's. I don't know which one it is.
Mom: It's Nour Hariri. Just Nour Hariri. Nour Hariri. Nothing else.
Me: Yes Mom. I know. There are 8 Nour Hariri's nothing else. You have to tell me how she identified herself. Is she Nour Hariri Syria? Nour Hariri Aleppo Syria? Nour Hariri, nothing else?
Mom: Nour Hariri Aleppo Syria. I told you that.
Me: Okay. I'll try right now.
Mom: But then I have to get off!
Mom: Well then I have to get off now.
Me: Okay, get off. Then I'll call.
Mom: Okay fine. But I want to stay on the line.
I find the right Nour Hariri and call her...
Mom: What is happening?
Me: I am calling her.
Mom: Did she come on.
Me: Mom. I JUST am doing it now. Give me a sec.
Mom: Okay. Okay.
Zayd is standing next to me watching.
Zayd: Who are you calling?
Me: My Auntie Nour in Syria.
Mom: You found her?
Me: No. I'm talking to Zayd.
Zayd: Who is Auntie Nour?
Mom: Did you get her?
Me: I am talking to Zayd, mom. Auntie Nour is Nana's sister.
Mom: Zaaaayydooo! That's my sister!
Me: Mom. He can't hear you.
Me: We aren't on speaker phone.
Mom: What? What? Speaker?
Me: He can't hear you. I am on the phone. Not him.
Mom: Why can't he hear?
Me: Just wait, please? I'll tell you when something happens.
Mom: Okay. Gaaad. You are in a bad mood.
Breath Najla. Just breath.
Mom: Is Zayd excited?
Me: I don't know. Wait mom.
I finally connect with Nour. I can see her, but I can't hear a thing.
Me: Hi Auntie! It's Chino! I wave.
Mom: Is she there?!
Me: Yup. I see her.
OMG - she looks exactly like my mother.
Zayd: She looks like Nana! (snort laugh).
Mom: What did she say?
Me: Well, I can't hear her yet.
Mom: Why can't you hear her? See? That is the same. I can't hear her either.
Me: I don't know why I can't hear her.
Mom: Zaydo! Can you see your Auntie Nour!?
Me: MOM. He is not on the phone. He cannot hear you.
Mom: He can't hear her either?
Me: He can't hear YOU.
Mom: Can he see her?
Mom: What did he say?
Me: Please mom? Let me figure out why we can't hear each other.
Mom: I wonder what is wrong. Deeb (Nour and my mother's brother - who by the way IS tech saavy) told her to buy a microphone.
Me: She doesn't have a mic?
Mom: I don't know.
Zayd: (does his snort laugh) She doesn't have a mic?
I decide to I-M Auntie Nour.
I type: I can see you but I can't hear you. Can you see me? Can you hear me?
Nour (types): Yes.
I type: Do you have a microphone?
Nour (types): No.
Me: She doesn't have a mic.
Mom: I told Deeb to tell her to get a microphone!
I decide to just talk to Auntie even though I couldn't hear her.
I introduce her to my children. Ethan becomes fascinated by all this.
Ethan: Hi Syria! Hi Syria! Can you hear me Syria!?
Zayd: That isn't Syria. Her name is Nour.
Me: It's Nana's sister.
Ethan: Hi Nour! Hi Nour! Nour! Talk to me! I can't hear you Nour!
Which of course sends Auntie Nour into a slight frenzy... she leans very close to the camera and I can see her talking... well.. it looks like yelling.
Me: Ethan. Something is wrong with her computer. We can't hear her.
Ethan: What is wrong?
OMG - don't these people know that if I knew what was wrong I would be fixing it!?
Me: I don't know.
Mom: What is wrong?
Mom: Can you hear her?
Me: No, not yet.
Mom: Why isn't it working?
Ethan: Does she live in Texas?
I think I am going to implode.
I hand the phone to Zayd.
Me: You talk to her.
Paul is in the adjoining kitchen.
Paul: Tell her it's 5 below zero.
Me: It's very cold Auntie. It is 5 below zero.
Paul: Ask her if she wants to see the snow.
Oh. That's kinda a good idea.
Me: Do you want to see the snow?
Nour (types): Yes.
So I pick up my Apple and give her a little play-by-play tour of the house complete with color commentary from Ethan.
All the while I can hear Zayd giving a play-by-play to my mother.
Finally - and honestly I don't know what happened... We hear Auntie Nour. It cuts in an out... but there she is. She tells me she can hear me as if I was sitting in the same room.
Zayd: Oh my God. She sounds just like Nana.
Me: She does, doesn't she?
Me: You look great Auntie! Just like I remember you!
Nour: Oh thank you.
Then she takes her hair out of its bun and fluffs it around.... JUST like my mother.
Ethan: Why is she doing that?
Me: She wants to show you her hair.
Ethan: Nour! Nour! Don't do that! Stop it! Stop it!
Nour: Why do you want me to stop it?
Ethan: Because I don't like it.
She puts it back up.
We talk for about 30 minutes... I heard about how her English was bad -- even though it was really quite good. I hear about how my cousins don't know English because the Syrian government forbad English courses in school while they were growing up. Now that has changed.
She told me she wanted me to come to visit. I told her I would.
Then we said our goodbyes. She was going to try to call my mother.
Nour: But maybe she won't be online?
Me: I'll call her and tell her.
Nour: Okay. Bye! (followed by a dozen blown kisses - Ethan threw just as many back).
I put my computer down to call my mother and my Skype rings.
It's Auntie Nour.
Me: Hi Auntie! What do you need?
She doesn't respond. Hmmm...
Me: Auntie? Auntie?
I hang up.
Three seconds later my Skype rings. It's Auntie Nour again.
Me: Paul? Should I decline it?
Paul: No. Just don't do anything.
I call my mother.
Me: Mom, Auntie is going to call you.
My Skype rings again.
Me: Mom. Call Auntie on Skype, please. Would you?
Mom: But what if she is not on?
Me: She is. I told her to stay on.
Mom: Okay. Did you hear her?
Me: Yes, it finally worked.
Mom: So she has a microphone?
Mom: What was wrong?
Me: Mom, I don't know. Just call her, okay?
Mom: Okay, bye.
That call is going to take a miracle.