Bilingual soda machine. Korea, January 2010.
“How’d you get around?”
“Um…I used a map.”
Ah yes, I remember those days – just barely. Days when part of the adventure was being in seriously unfamiliar territory, wandering and wondering if you were still in the same country, let alone headed in the right direction. International travel is much easier today, and the technology has crept up on us so that it’s hard to remember when it wasn’t there. It’s so easy, in fact, that it almost doesn’t feel like I’m gone.
Here in Korea I don’t have a rental car, but this fall when I was in Germany it was built into my dashboard, and I was even able to configure it to speak to me in English! Boy, was it ever easy to get around. I plugged in the address or, if I didn’t know it, I just searched for the business I needed, and in no time I was driving through the streets of Regensburg as if I owned the place.
So far I have been very comfortable navigating my way around Korea, but of course didn’t you know that, at least in Seoul and around U.S. installations, English is like an unofficial second language? I press a button on the subway ticket vending machine and all of a sudden I might as well be underneath Times Square.
If you wanted to call me right now, you could. My cell phone works internationally, but who needs to pay AT&T $2.29 per minute when for a small fee, I can just forward my calls to Skype? If you call me and I’m on the computer, I will take your call. Texting is just as instantaneous halfway around the world as it is halfway across the house. Then there’s Facebook, Twitter, the blogosphere, and pretty soon it’s like I’m not even gone.
At the nearest shopping center I can buy Fanta, Snickers, North Face clothing and Nike shoes. The Korean on the soda can strikes me for a moment as quaint, until I remember whose country I’m really in.
The world is getting smaller…or is America just getting bigger? I mean, a Danish or Balinese traveler would not have the same experience, would she? Her travel would be purer somehow, at least to whatever extent American culture has not infiltrated and diluted her own home culture. I kind of envy that purity, although I’m not complaining about the comfort afforded me by the way things are today. I love that I can call Eric a couple of times a day, or chat with Martha or Stacy on my lunch break, or see my niece and nephew grin at me on Skype. But my mind does love to ponder.
What do you think of all this? Do you remember when it wasn’t so easy? Do you not remember a time when it wasn’t like this? Lay it out, baby. I want to know what you’re thinking.
Oh, and if you miss me, call me. It’s not so far from there to here.