(Rainbow over Ibillin, Galilee)
I recently returned from twelve days in Israel/Palestine, a mother-daughter trip that was chock-full of incredible landscapes, mouth-wateringly fresh local produce, a fascinating array of history and culture, and immeasurable hospitality. But while getting my bearings back in the office this week, I read Adriano’s post from Wednesday and realized how large a role technology also played, perhaps ironically, during our time in such an ancient land.
On our way, eventually, we found the JFK terminal stocked with iPad stations. (right)
Visiting an 11th-grade English class, I bonded with a shy group of boys by pulling out my new iPhone and talking apps and the 4S vs. the 4 (which one of them had). Tip: from the number of iPhones I saw throughout our trip, you could probably bond with a lot of people there this way.
Touring the school, we saw some flatscreen TVs, a well-equipped computer lab, and a physics lab with an interactive whiteboard. This particular school is known for using a wider variety of teaching methods than most—and achieving some of the best test scores in the country.
While I spent an evening with my nose buried in a book, my mom chatted on Facebook with several junior and senior students—with impeccable English—who have gotten to know her on her past visits. They had known to look for her when we were at the school because, of course, they had also kept in touch on Facebook in the days leading up to our visit.
iPhone + Skype app + wifi = I was able to talk to my fiance on the phone almost every day. For FREE. (Seems like that should be a Mastercard commercial: iPhone, $200. Skype app, $0. wifi, $x/month. Keeping in touch: priceless.)
After checking email once from an Israeli computer and realizing that the Hebrew and Arabic right-to-left orientation doesn’t work so well for communication in English, my phone became my sole device for email. It also served handily as a backup camera on the days when my real camera’s battery went from “full” (sarcasm implied) to flashing-red-empty within minutes. Or when there was a photo that I wanted to email or upload to Facebook that same day, such as me at the Mediterranean the day that my family in Wisconsin got snow. It also took all the photos included here.
But. There is also something to be said for a more traditional technology: a good book. I gave a Lerner book, a Country Explorers title on Cuba, as a gift for the sons of one of our hosts. Written at a third-grade level (for native English speakers), the text was far too advanced for the youngest, 7. Yet we saw him excitedly paging through, opening it again and again, examining the photos of the land and its people. Notably, he wasn’t begging for his dad’s iPad during that time.
And yes, certain events (like moving) might make one long for an e-reader. But other times make one smugly satisfied to carry around the weight of a book, such as taking off in an airplane, when the flight attendant informs passengers that all electronics must be turned off for the first 30 minutes after takeoff. “This includes Kindles.”
I will keep my technology old and new, and remain fascinated at the way it all builds bridges between people and places all over the world.