Saturday, July 5, 2008

Life in the fast lane

Life in the fast lane…

…hmm, life in the fast lane. Not sure why, but that old tune has been rattling around in my mind for a while now. I guess going from spending several hours a day on the internet to spending one hour a week on the internet will make one question a few things in life, like, “what did I do before the internet?” I suppose there was a time that I was more patient and either asked my questions to teachers, professors or supervisors and colleagues. It wasn’t even that long ago that I consulted encyclopedias for answers to my nagging questions. Here in Paraguay and more specifically, here at CHP (the name of the organization responsible for our training) we like to rely on something much more innovative: Google unplugged. The term was coined by one of the trainers and seems rather apropos given our limited internet connections. Actually, considering the limitations that still exist in many countries, we are rather lucky. Nearly every medium-large sized town has at least one internet café (called cyber here, they pronounce it seeber) and it costs around 5,000 Guaraní’s per hour (not too expensive by our meager stipend standards). At any rate, Google unplugged works like this: you think of a question and then ask a person to see what they say. Like any Google search, you usually have to check a few sites and so with unplugged you ask a few different people. Usually the answer reveals itself after about the 4th or 5th person. It’s either majority rules or what makes the most sense to the person asking the question. Overall, it’s rather similar to the WWW’s version of Google.

I think the thing that surprises most of all (aside from the fact that Google unplugged actually works) is that even with checking email only once a week (although a few of us are still addicted and check much more often than that, those these are always the people that end up with little to no money on “pay day), there isn’t usually anything in our in-boxes that is really all that important. Oh sure, hearing from you – our friends and family is great, but while our lives are full of new friends, information, skills, foods, etc, we somehow expect that there is that much going on back in the world we left behind. Often we find that nothing really new is happening. And that’s not to say your lives are all boring, not at all, just that feeling disconnected we seem to expect that somehow all of these things are happening back home without our knowledge – when in fact, most things are as we left them (and thank goodness for that). I notice that when one of us has actually spoken to a friend or family member back home and the question, “what’s new with them,” the response is almost always, “nothing.” And that’s the way it goes. I guess the most ironic part of this is that we all generally always have 50 or more emails in our inboxes and that most of our one hour on the internet is spent not answering, but deleting emails. And a small plea here to all of our good friends and family: please don’t send us any forwarded messages, while we all love those PowerPoint messages with beautiful songs and images and appreciate the poems and prayers that remind us how loved we are and how many friends we have and that we’ll only have good luck if we pass the messages along, it really costs us a lot of money to view, read, download and pass those messages on! So while we thank you, we also ask that you limit those kinds of emails until we’re back in the States and able to check email every few hours instead of every few days!

What else, well, just got done with celebrating the 4th of July at the American Embassy in Asuncion. Where do I begin? Well, there´s too much to tell, stay tuned....

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