Thursday, August 13, 2009

Computers are Annoying...When the World Becomes Real

July 27. Computers are annoying

It’s Sunday morning. My host family has a computer. I’m trying to drink terere.

I’m all alone outside, with the guampa and the termo.

“Pauli, veni un poco,” (Come here a sec) is the call from inside, to read some kind of error message or tell them what they’re doing wrong.

Vanne is outside with me. She’s 12, and has been bugging me for months to make her an Orkut page, which is kind of like Paraguayan Facebook. I keep saying no, though I don’t really know why. I think it’s because I want her playing in the street, rather than hunched over a computer, uploading photos of herself posing in that sexy head down and tilted to the side way that all the little girls already know how to do.

I’m about to send Oscar an annoyed text to get his butt out here and drink some G.D. terere when he’s suddenly outside, sits down fast as if he’ll need to get up again soon.

We don’t get one round in without getting up. A neighbor friend comes over and asks to use their internet for a second, to check her Orkut. “Pauli veni un poco.”

At all the parties, people whip out cameras and say, “For Orkut!” We were walking one day, in the morning, and my host sister said, “I haven’t checked my Orkut yet today!”


And yes, I had been on the computer all morning, typing my blog. But me, I’m ruined already.

It reminds me of something I didn’t like about this Peace Corps book I read. The girl was in Africa, and she loved the sound out the women working, a kind of bok! bok! sound. Then they got a machine to do the work, but then there was no more bok! bok! Then the machine broke, and no one could fix it, and she was happy, because she liked the bok! bok!, thought it was quaint.

And I thought, Isn’t she putting her own entertainment ahead of the good of the people? Her site isn’t some kind of Epcot village to visit. It’s not a spa. These are these people lives.

Am I doing the same? I don't know.

Sometimes we joke that Paraguay is just the 80s. Computers are new, cell phones are new, fanny packs and mullets are popular. If that’s true, then I am from the future. I see where their headed, just as we were, are, so excited with our shiny new little toys, which overall have just made us a little fatter and disconnected to each other. I can’t help but watch, a visitor from outside the walls of Eden, as they take big bites from the tree of knowledge and think, “Don’t.”

There’s a fear in me, that there will be no sunset left uncrossed by wires. No sky free of antennas. No conversation uninterrupted by the electronic jingle of cell phones.

But here I am, hypocrite, a huge, ugly air conditioning unit installed today, myself hunched over a computer, waiting for my friends to get off the internet, so that I can update the continual existence that I live online.

August 11: When the World Becomes Real (I actually wrote this a while ago, just found it)

I just got done watching the HBO Special “White Light, Black Rain” about the destruction of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the atom bombs.

Hearing the Japanese, I didn’t just tune it out as “foreign”. I listened to it. I think learning Guaraní has taught me that behind even the strangest sounding sounds, there are normal words, normal life. "Ahata almacenpe sapy'ite ajogua haĝua kamby" is just "I'm running to the store to buy some milk." Behind the funny words, the funny clothes, the weird food, it's all the same. When you break through a cultural barrier once to see what’s on the other side, you recognize that behind everything that used to just be “the others” and strangeness, there are humans who are just like everyone you love.

Maybe that’s why I just can’t stop crying, seeing the damage to these people. Everything’s a bit more real to me, now. If that blank spot in the middle of South America can become like home, if its strange people can become like family, then, hey, maybe all those skeletons on the tv from Africa are people too. And those Jews in the Holocaust, let’s take the label off and just call them six million people. And the fathers, mothers and sons and daughters dying right now in Iraq.

It’s all much more intense.

I just feel so helpless to stop it, the war and violence, and I’m worried it’s coming much closer to home. Like if it can happen to them, real people, why can't it happen to us. Sometimes when I want to talk about peace, I hear some jerk-face in my head, saying, “You damn hippies with your heads in the clouds. How else do you suggest we solve the problem?”

The word that comes to mind is education. The more educated I am, (a process I resisted for the first 25 years of my life), the more I find I’m less afraid, I’m understanding, the more I see myself in others.

But all I know is, we can only get so good at killing each other before we succeed once and for all. And I understand more now the "Peace" in Peace Corps. Once you know, for sure, that all people really are people, you'll never say "Nuke 'em" again.

“I do not know how the Third World War will be fought, but I can tell you what they will use in the Fourth... rocks.” -Albert Einstein

1 comment:

Dwayne said...

I had never heard of Orkut until we were in Paraguay last fall. Now we use it and are meeting all kinds of Paraguayans living in the US and keeping up with some of my wife's cousins in Spain and Argentina. We even found a RPCV that I met in Caazapa in 2002.