Wherever we are--Just can't avoid getting stuck.
I am almost—and I say almost so as to feign some remnants of dignity—ashamed of myself for how much the Internet means to my life, my general attitude and outlook on how things are going. I used to play outside. I used to travel for weeks without checking my email. I used to not even bother bringing my laptop. However, when we moved into our current flat, an Internet connection was the only demand I had. No TV, no bedroom…I hadn’t even checked what appliances were here. Just give me that broadband teat, the WiFi tickle, and I’ll find a way to make do.
There are some pretty viable excuses. I need the Internet to gather facts for articles I’m working on, to research travel sites and magazines that might publish them, to send out articles to make some attempt at a writing career. I communicate with virtually all of my friends and family—those who don’t live in Moscow, which entails every one I’ve ever known until six months ago—via email, Skype, or Face Time. I brag about not having had a TV for the last seven years, but that’s fairly deceptive when you download multiple seasons of whatever shows you want and stream all the LSU football games live. I sometimes do online yoga classes. Work, friends and family, communication, entertainment, exercise—is that too much?
Well, I thought I was done with the list until I reread it and remembered reading. Most of my reading is now done either online or via downloaded e-books. Granted, there isn’t an abundance of English-language magazines in Moscow, but I actually bring the iPad to the toilet with me, a little cyber-something to thumb through whilst doing business. I haven’t held an actual newspaper for months. Emma bought me three paperbacks for my birthday in October, had them shipped from England, and I still haven’t finished them. In the meantime, I’ve read at least three e-books and Rolf Potts’s entire website. What happened to reading what’s available?—everything became available.
Even teaching now, at least here, is centered around a SMART board, where I YouTube! (YouTube! has become a YouVerb!) cartoons and have my students (Yo)use them to practice new vocabulary, do listening comprehension, match the visual to the idea. I Yoused! to Youse! flashcards! Now, we play online language games (check out barryfunenglish.com) and look up stuff on Wikipedia. In any given class, fifty-percent of my lesson might be Internet-based, either active online learning or materials pulled from worldwide sources. There is neither a blackboard nor a once-technologically-advanced whiteboard in my classroom.
Nine years ago, in 2003, I finally broke down and got my first cell phone. I never really adapted to the idea, though I did relent, finding myself talking while grocery shopping, delaying orders at restaurants to answer calls, even drive-dialing old friends while traveling long stretches on road trips. I left the U.S. and my cell phone a couple of years later, living two-and-a-half years in Korea without one, spending the next five arguing with Emma about who has to carry our one, shared, usually nearly dead and out-of-credit “mobile”, which only exists because companies require we have it, ya know, for teaching emergencies. We are so phone dysfunctional that we’ve told work to email us for all emergencies—we are more likely to get it that way.
I don’t know where this leaves me. Torn, perhaps. I think you begin traveling, living abroad, in some sense, to escape these things, get out of the office cubicle, avoid spending your evening mind-numbing in front of the boob-tube. Suddenly, it’s beginning to feel like I’ve simply re-invented all of this, and more, for myself. But, there are blogs to write, fundraisers to conduct, meetings on Skype, courses to take, the newly discovered An Idiot Abroad to watch, an e-library full of classics, and it’s become that much more difficult to lose yourself in the world. Have I essentially made the same old home—virtually? How does one adventure out of a life you carry with you? Stop carrying it, I guess.
I’ve not said this often in the last few years, but I’m just not ready to take that step.