It has not escaped our notice, being so far away from friends and family, how fortunate we are that we live in an age of email, text messages, smart phones, digital photographs and even video calls. (Video calls! This is “the future”! When I was a kid, the concept of a video phone was half-joking. And not only can we talk over the computer, but it’s FREE.) It helps us so much to be able to communicate so quickly and easily with everyone back home and with each other. (Being without phones for our first month here, and without internet for a week recently has increased our recognition of how wonderful these things are.)
In the past 72 hours, we’ve spoken by video call with every one of our parents, as well as two of my sisters, and I’ve “spoken” by text to my brothers. Without being able to do that, we’d be feeling even further isolated and distant from our loved ones. We’re able to show them our new apartment as we get things set up, we’re able to chat about everything from the logistics of selling our house to simple things in every day life. (Amanda even tried to teach Benjamin to play the spoons today over Skype, and she and I are playing games with our iPhones from 4000 miles away.) Benjamin is able to keep a connection with his family at an age where memory can be a fleeting thing. He loves talking on the computer to his family — he knows all the sounds that happen when we’re setting up a call and he will excitedly come over and ask, “Mommy, who are we calling?” (which is often then followed by a request list of everyone he can think of). For Liam, some of his first memories of his family may eventually be of talking to them on the computer. And, for everyone at home, as heart wrenching as it may be to see my kids’ progress via computer calls and digital pictures, I can only imagine how hard it would be if the updates came less frequently and vividly.
It’s also keeping me sane — it’s hard not to feel isolated when I’m spending 10+ hours a day at home with the kids. Benjamin is a good communicator for a 2 year old, but realistically, he’s not always listening to me or inclined to respond. And, as much as I love discussing dump trucks or Team Umizoomi, I like a little more variety in my conversation. It’s a nice thing to be able to have a “grown up” interaction, even just by email, during the day. And knowing that, when things get hard, I have so many friends and family out there, willing to talk and be supportive, is hugely comforting.
But, it’s not just talking to people back home. I can look up a map of where I am and where I want to go. I can find a place to eat or a U stop while I’m out and about. I can let Dan know where we’re going and when we’ll be back. I can even look up how to say things, or translate what I hear and see. I have a safety net here, in a strange city, where I don’t speak the language, because I have my phone in my pocket. And, we can coordinate more mundane things, like grocery shopping and dinner plans. I truly have a hard time imagining having taken this on before this type of technology existed — in the same way I can’t believe that there was a time where I went out driving alone in my car as a teenager without a cell phone . . . with the plan of walking to a pay phone if something happened to my car! (Uphill! Both ways! In the snow!)
We are so grateful for technology. It’s keeping us in touch with our families, and it’s making the transition here easier. (I love my iPhone. I don’t care.)