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Me + the internet

Sunday, March 20, 2011

I am sitting at my kitchen table on a cozy Sunday morning.  I woke up at 8 to the loud rain on my tin roof four feet over my head, but stayed in bed to bask in that delicious, semi-sleep, semi-awake state (I have to say, this country is made for sleeping in: I went to sleep at 4:30 and 2:30 AM Friday and Saturday nights, respectively, which by Chilean standards is a moderately social weekend).  At noon I climbed downstairs to reheat a mega apple pancake I’d saved from yesterday, made from apples from the tree behind the house.  With scrambled eggs with onions, and a piping hot cup of coffee — I admit, I’ve gone from hostile to tolerant of Nescafé– I was just about perfect.  Until THE INTERNET WASN’T WORKING!

This week I’ve endured my fair share of oppression.  I first started using “oppression” with a Smith friend to call out the absurdity of college students complaining about dining hall food– “oppression”, indeed, to have only five buffet menus to choose from at every meal.  We used “oppression” to remind us of privilege.  Similarly, I realize that in the big picture, my temporary lack of wireless does not make a dent in all the good fortune I have.

Here in Palena, we’ve had two days in March where the internet and cell phone service was down everywhere, and this week, the internet was out in our office/ my house from Wednesday morning through Friday afternoon.  This means that I could use the internet at school, but not at home, and I was struck by what a big deal it was.  After dinner, I usually reach for my laptop and browse newspapers, facebook, and recipe blogs.  When it’s time to do the dishes, I turn to youtube for music.  After that, I google around looking for teaching materials, and gphone or Skype with people at home.

Now you know what I’m going to say: in its absence, I realized my dependency on the internet, and found deeper meaning in a return to twentieth century pleasures like reading an actual book and writing in my journal.  That’s true, but it’s only part of the truth.  I did find writing in my journal instead of calling my parents was pretty interesting.  Maybe it’s that every time something good happens, it doesn’t feel quite real until I’ve told someone.  I call my parents for support in the hard times, and to hear about them, but most of our calls are filled with my busy, bubbling chatter of anecdotes of meals and students and friends I am making.  In a way, this hasn’t really changed since I left for college.  My contact with friends is of course much less than it was at Smith, but in a way it is also more satisfying, because all communication is intentional, an affirmation of the relationship.

Put together, I don’t really feel that far away until I see a map in a classroom– or until the internet goes out.  Reading this weekend has been a huge pleasure, but I feel a bit guilty as my reading is also an escape.  Between teaching, reading, and the internet, I might spend half of my day in English here.  I’ve asked several former teachers for recommendations on advancing my Spanish at this point, who have all pointed to reading, but when a friend from home suggests we read this together, how can I resist?  This is why I have a Kindle, after all.  And there is a time and place for escape; in Mexico, I watched Sex and the City online for an occasional relief.

This morning I fixed the internet by simply unplugging and replugging it.  But after building up the anticipation gmail to load and remember me, when it finally did, it wasn’t that great after all.  Sure, it was nice to check my email, but the dishes and lesson planning still need to get done, and I’m still chilly because I haven’t built a fire.  I’d like to try to notice when I have that urge to escape, and to make a conscious choice of when it’s the right time to leave Palena for the world of English and internet and people at home, and when it’s time to stay right here.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. jane woodman permalink
    Sunday, March 20, 2011 3:13 pm

    We skyped a few minutes ago – both with our cups of tea. It’s pretty magical and also strange – but I’ll take it, right? This is the internet in it’s glory. I love the question/investigation of when our choices come from the urge to escape, when redirecting ourselves to the more easily pleasant is in fact wise, and when restraining from our comfort habits etc actually brings us closer to happiness. This is my practice during this week ahead off from work – turning up the dial of awareness. xoxo to you and the community of commenters!

  2. Sunday, March 20, 2011 10:35 pm

    It’s funny how the internet becomes a kind of life line when we’re so far away from home. Technology brings up the “be where you are” issue, even when you’re not as far away as Chile or South Korea. People everywhere are unplugging from the real world that they’re in and texting or surfing the net on their phones. Making a deliberate effort to be where you are is important ANYWHERE, but like your mom says…how magical is skype!?

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