Just before moving to Malawi Marissa and I changed our email adresses from YahooMail to Google's Gmail accounts. I was pulled away from yahoo buy some great new features that Gmail offered and I was worried that Yahoo's beta interface for webmail would not work well on older computers in Malawi.
Since arriving in Malawi however, I have found that my Gmail account is not suited for connecting over the overworked internet connections currently in place here in Malawi. In fact I am almost never able to access my email via Gmail's web interface (so we use POP access instead) during the daytime peak hours for internet usage. At night, when few other users are online, Gmail works fine.
Most time when I try to login to gmail from Malawi I see the following message:
This seems to be taking longer than usual. Your session may have been interupted. If your account doesn't appear in the next few seconds refresh this page in your browser."
Refreshing never helps. I have submitted the problem to Google tech support, and the say that they are looking into it.
Interestingly, YahooMail web interface seems to be more reliable than Gmail during busy times. More often than not, I am able to access my yahoo mail even if the internet connection is being used heavily or is working very slowly. It seems the best bet for those traveling to places in the world where internet connectivity is spotty (look mom, I am speaking British!!), is to obtain two separate email accounts with different providers. Its hard to determine which one will work best until you are in country, but at least this way you will have two shots at reading your email.
Someday, somewhere, someone traveling to Malawi may find this information helpful.