When Steve and I were first married, we each travelled abroad for business. In those days, the 80’s and early 90’s, technology was in its infancy stages. When we traveled we would communicate with each other through hand written faxes that, at the time, was really high tech. I still have every one of those faxes that we shared. There were very few phone calls, the cost was prohibitive, and email was unpredictable. We managed, and I remember waiting with great anticipation for those hand written “letters” to arrive. We couldn’t keep each other informed with phone calls twice a day or emails recounting the days activities as they happened. Things have changed and now we have email, SKYPE, Facetime, Facebook and IM. We can contact each other at any moment. Until now! Ubud simply is not plugged in. Although there is Internet access at my cottage it hardly comes in and I realize that I’m used to instant gratification of staying connected with the outside world. That includes reading and seeing the news around the world as it‘s happening which, these days, can only bring stress and sadness. The absence of that stress and sadness might account for some of the joy these people seem to have. I had a friend who once said she doesn’t read or listen to the news. I asked her how she stays connected and informed; she responded that if there was something she really needed to know she would hear about it. I thought that was a rather unsophisticated way to exist but now I’m not so sure. I haven’t read a paper or seen the news in more then two weeks and I still know about the tragic shooting of a 12-year-old black boy in the US. and some of what’s going on in Ferguson. In one of Andrew Weill’s books he recommends, I’m sure to western audiences, not watching any news for one day a week. He espouses that this small change can bring more peace to us. I guess he thought that asking us to stop watching the news, even for a week, would throw most people off.
Is my experience diminished by this lack of connection? At first I was so frustrated, being so used to instant gratification of high speed Internet. But now after a few weeks I have settled into a wonderful routine of self-reflection and self-reliance. I send emails when I can and SKYPING is a rare and wonderful moment for Steve and me to share an experience long after it’s happened. Has technology enhanced our lives? I know on so many levels that it has. I love the idea that in the midst of a conversation with someone if we are unsure about a fact or a name we “Google” it. I know that I can talk to friends and family and see them even when I’m 1000s of miles away. I wouldn’t want a world without it. It has made the world smaller and so much more convenient. What price have we paid for this? I walk by cafes and restaurants all over the world and I see the same thing; people on their cell phones, computers, iPads and whatever devices they have, people sitting with friends, no one making eye contact or talking, just checking email and who knows what else?
Once I return to the high speed, high tech world of South Korea, I wonder if I’ll be right back at it- maybe not with the same need I had before I left. Each experience brings a new awareness and the lessons come faster as my time on earth diminishes. I simply can’t put anything off.
Each morning, the elderly man who owns Sama cottages, now run by his son, comes by my cottage with a burlap bag and picks up all the flowers that fell to the ground the night before. These flowers are then placed around each cottage when the rooms are cleaned. I doubt that he races back to his cottage to plug in to technology. He smiles and greets me every morning and I am humbled by his “work.” I head back to Korea in a few days and I hope the lessons come with me.
Stay in touch and I will too.
With love and gratitude,