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Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Techie Alert

This morning I went walking up the hill, like I’ve started doing almost every day if possible, listening to podcasts on my ipod. As I was qepem- larte [lit: sewing myself up] the twisting cobblestone roads, dodging stares from passersby (crazy! She’s walking for fun?), and grinning my teeth to cut back the pain of my shin splits, I got to catch up on some comical news with Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. All the way to the dilapidated mosque-turned-kindergarten-turned-church in the Dunavat neighborhood, then back down to the house to get ready for a full day’s work.

Morning routine has become something along the lines of: wake up walk (or lately, running around the lake in the morning and hiking back over the hills with Chris, passing through an old military compound where we do exercises on the pull-up bars and ladders, and throw rocks at the angry dogs), stretch, shower if necessary (yeah summer!), tea + muesli, and try to get down to my office by 9:30 or so. Today I had a meeting with an Albanian nursing professor who needs my help filing his Fulbright application. He’s done all the paperwork, just needs an encouraging push and a little support. After that, an environmental lesson with kids from the nearby elementary school, then to the youth center to help translate a grant. Most days I make a trip to the market and stock up on fruits & veggies, and check my email/ download news.

Break! I usually have free time from 2-5 where I go home, or maybe meet with people for whatever help they need, or I just try to put in face-time with friends. Mostly I go home and eat lunch and clean the house (oh god, I AM becoming an Albanian shtepiake!), then get things ready to do at the Red Cross social center. Some nights I also co-teach an English discussions course with Greg at another youth center. And if there are no visitors in town with whom we are cooking/dining with, Chris and I might meet Allan and Greg for a late-night drink up in the Pazar at Hajri’s café. Sometimes. This is a very flexible schedule.

Well anyways, back to this morning. On my way to the office I was listening to NPR’s Technology Now podcast, and I became overwhelmed once again by the incredible advances America and the rest of the world is making (without me!), specifically in consumer goods. I felt this wave of dumbfoundment last fall, when I discovered Twitter. Not that Twitter is useful in any way to me right now, but the whole social-networking phenomenon and its little quirks seem to be both an amazing revolution and a huge waste of time. The latest gadget I heard of that shook me was about phone applications—“Oh yeah, there’s an app for that”. They say you can get an app on your phone for virtually anything—over 160 *pages* of travel-related apps alone. Check into the airport; find the nearest AAA locations; even the ‘Sit or Squat’ app, where you can find ratings on bathroom toilets! (Can I take business leave to document Albanian toilets along the coast?)

I think because I’m in a country where most people do not know how to type their names on a keyboard, let alone search for consumer information or upload a photo, that the conditions to knock my socks off are significantly lower than normal. In any case, I’m thoroughly wowed. I wonder how long after my return home will it take me to give in and buy a fancy smart phone, complete with camera, video, internet, widgets, and yes, dozens of frivolous applications..? What else is being developed? What’s with the new Kindle? Are people really reading books and newspapers on a digital screen? My 3rd grade teacher predicted we’d get rid of school books and paper, now it looks like she was right!

I once had a dream that after the Peace Corps I returned home to discover that everything had advanced to futuristic Jetsons-like society, where everything runs off of a computer and robots do all of our work. For now, I’ll stick with podcasts, trying to stay afloat in the current ocean of technology … :)

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